The legal minimum wage for New York City employers with 11 or more workers rose more than 15 percent on Dec. 31, 2018, to $15 per hour from $13, giving fast-food, retail and other employees a bump in pay. But some New York City restaurant owners say the latest minimum wage hike is forcing them to cut workers’ hours just to stay afloat.
It’s the third rise in the city’s base wage since Dec. 31, 2016, when it went to $11 an hour. The latest increase is part of a plan that phases in minimum wage hikes across New York state, with amounts and effective dates varying by region and industry. It’s not just a New York phenomenon, however: Minimum wages with the new year, forcing businesses across the country to grapple with higher payrolls — and compete for workers with giants like Amazon that are already offering $15 an hour.
Jon Bloostein operates six New York City restaurants that employ between 50 and 110 people each. The owner of Heartland Brewery and Houston Hall, Bloostein said the effect of the higher minimum wage on payroll across locations represents “an immense cost” to his business.
“We lost control of our largest controllable expense,” he told CBS MoneyWatch. “So in order to live with that and stay in business, we’re cutting hours.”
Bloostein said he has scaled back on employee hours and no longer uses hosts and hostesses during lunch on light traffic days. Customers instead are greeted with a sign that reads, “Kindly select a table.” He also staggers employees’ start times. “These fewer hours add up to a lot of money in restaurants,” he said.
Bloostein said he has increased menu prices, too. “So as a result [of the minimum wage hike], it will cost more to dine out,” he said. “It’s not great for labor, it’s not great for the people who invest in or own restaurants, and it’s not great for the public.”