Urban centers are in danger of becoming vast wastelands. Many smaller businesses will not be able to jack their prices up high enough to pay the new wage. So the rich get richer and the poor simply disappear.
Seattle is about to embark on a civic experiment that most experts predict will be an economic disaster; a $15 an hour minimum wage is set to go into effect on April 1st. And some restuarants in the city have already shuttered their doors and are either going out of business or moving to friendlier climes.
This was entirely predictable – and was predicted when the measure passed the Seattle city council. Restuarants are particularly sensitive to this sort of increase in wages since most of their employees are paid at the minimum, and such a large percentage of their operating costs go to labor.
“Washington Restaurant Association’s Anthony Anton puts it this way: “It’s not a political problem; it’s a math problem.”
“He estimates that a common budget breakdown among sustaining Seattle restaurants so far has been the following: 36 percent of funds are devoted to labor, 30 percent to food costs and 30 percent go to everything else (all other operational costs). The remaining 4 percent has been the profit margin, and as a result, in a $700,000 restaurant, he estimates that the average restauranteur in Seattle has been making $28,000 a year.
“With the minimum wage spike, however, he says that if restaurant owners made no changes, the labor cost in quick service restaurants would rise to 42 percent and in full service restaurants to 47 percent.”
Restaurant owners, expecting to operate on thinner margins, have tried to adapt in several ways including “higher menu prices, cheaper, lower-quality ingredients, reduced opening times, and cutting work hours and firing workers,” according to The Seattle Times and Seattle Eater magazine. As the Washington Policy Center points out, when these strategies are not enough, businesses close, “workers lose their jobs and the neighborhood loses a prized amenity.”
A spokesman for the Washington Restaurant Association told the Washington Policy Center, “Every [restaurant] operator I’m talking to is in panic mode, trying to figure out what the new world will look like… Seattle is the first city in this thing and everyone’s watching, asking how is this going to change?” The Washington Policy Center,