Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Focus: Restaurants respond to wage hike with dining surcharge

“I can’t get to sleep at night wondering where in the heck am I going to get the dollars I need to pay all my employees,” said Rick DiRienzo, owner of Rockin’ Baja, which operates three restaurants in San Diego County, is about to open a fourth in Mira Mesa, and also has one in Newport Beach.

While the kitchen staff already is paid above minimum wage, their monthly income is dwarfed by that of the servers, who, like tipped workers at most restaurants, are paid no more than the minimum wage. That’s because a sizable portion of their earnings comes from tips.

“My servers are making incredible tips — between $20 and $30 an hour -- and with this increase, I can’t continue on and expect to make a living,” DiRienzo said. “Of course, I’m worried about a backlash (from diners), but I can’t think of anything else to do other than raise prices and I’ve already done that for the last two years.”

San Diego's series of wage hikes come amid a parallel move by the state to eventually boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022.

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