As more communities across the U.S. pass legislation to raise minimum wages, some restaurant owners are getting a head start. Neither Portland nor Oregon has passed legislations for a $15 minimum wage yet, but restaurateur Kurt Huffman says he wants to get ahead of the trend. The tipped minimum wage is "a broken model," Huffman tells KATU News. A co-owner of Portland's soon-to-open Loyal Legion beer hall, Huffman is doing away with tipping and increasing wages at his new restaurant. Servers at The Loyal Legion will start at $18 an hour, while other employees will receive $15.
"The way it is now makes for a very absurd inequity between the tip-earning staff and the non-tip-earning staff."
Huffman acknowledges that compared to other fine dining establishments waitstaff at The Loyal Legion may take an pay cut (servers at his other restaurants Ox and Lardo make approximately $30 an hour on average): "To me it just seems a little bit crazy to have one type of employee make $30 an hour and another making $12 to $14."
Studies show many restaurant workers struggle to make ends meet. Huffman says his dishwashing staff often work two jobs to pay their bills. "Our average dishwasher works 60 to 80 hours a week because that's what you have to do to survive," he tells KATU.
To compensate for the hourly increase, beers at the new restaurant will be $6 rather than $5, reports the Portland Business Journal. Gratuity will be included in all prices at the restaurant.
"The current tipping system in Oregon and other states where the tip credit is illegal is just not fair," he says. "The way it is now makes for a very absurd inequity between the tip-earning staff and the non-tip-earning staff."
Huffman one of many restaurant owners who are bucking the tipped minimum wage. On Thursday, Detroit restaurant co-owner and former waitress Luci Carnaghi spoke out in favor of a Michigan bill that proposes doing away with the tipped minimum wage. "Paying employees fairly has benefitted my restaurant, not hurt it. It has boosted morale and reduced turnover, allowing me to retain the good employees who form the bedrock of my business and save money on training," Carnaghi writes. Still, some in the industry are resistant to increasing wages for restaurant workers due to concerns the labor costs will cut into slim profit margins.