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Restaurant Owners and Workers Sound Off On Chicago's Minimum Wage Hike

Management bemoans the increased costs while employees plea for competitive pay.

Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

In the wake of Tuesday's City Council vote, fast-food workers early Thursday morning descended upon the Rock 'N' Roll McDonalds to show their support in raising the city's minimum wage.

If the council's vote holds true, the hourly wage would rise from $8.25 to $13 by 2019. Tipped employees would see a $1 increase, from $4.95 to $5.95.

By 8:30 a.m., there was no sign of the demonstration, as today's plan continued with a march downtown. The protests coincide with a series of nationwide fast-food strikes planned for Thursday.

Though the council overwhelming approved the measure, with a 44 to 5 vote, there's been a variety of opinions about the potential increase. Owners don't want their budgets to increase. Workers want better pay. Politicians want their constituencies to like them. Here's a smattering of chatter on the issue from various media outlets:

"I anticipate this even getting more quicker the pace of eliminating servers; number two, eliminating dishwashers and busboys, and going to disposables. These are what's happening in the real world." – 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney, former chairman of the Illinois Restaurant Association and owner Ann Sather Restaurants [CBS Chicago]

"We believe that any minimum wage increase should be implemented over time so that the impact on owners of small and medium-sized businesses – like the ones who own and operate the majority of our restaurants – is manageable." – statement from McDonald's USA [EaterWire]

"I'm already charging $9 for a sandwich. I can't be charging $11, $12 for a sandwich. No one's going to pay that." – Mason Green, owner of Bourgeois Pig Cafe, 736 W. Fullerton Ave. [DNA Info]

"While tip workers can make a living wage as bartenders and servers, this is in fine-dining positions where white workers are twice as likely to be hired than women of color. Women and people of color mainly work in fast-food, casual dining." – Nataki RhodesRestaurant Opportunities Center United. [Sun-Times]

"I think we have a great product, but at the end of the day, can I charge 10, 12, 15% more than the guy down the street? I don't know and that's what scares me." – Dan Costello, owner of Home Run Inn Pizza, and supporter of the increase. [WBEZ]

"This isn't about sound economic policy, this is about the election cycle." – Hank Meyer, owner of BJ's Market and Bakery, who supports the increase. [Tribune]

"How much is a cone going to cost for a family that comes in? I'm a businessperson trying to make a living and stay here." – Lynn Sapp, owner of Beverly's Original Rainbow Cone. [DNA Info]

There are those who claim restaurant businesses will leave or avoid Chicago due to the wage increase, like this DNA Info report that claims a Panera Bread will leave the south side, in part due to the wage hike. That's not what they found in Seattle, as a report from the pro-labor Seattle Income Inequality Advisory Committee found "businesses absorbed the costs through lower turnover, small price increases at restaurants." [Seattle Times via Media Matters]

Bourgeois Pig

738 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 (773) 883-5282 Visit Website

Home Run Inn

, , Illinois 60804


, , IL 60654 (312) 644-2090 Visit Website