Restaurateur Tom Douglas has removed a 2 percent minimum wage surcharge a day after implementing it, saying he will incorporate any increased labor costs into his menu prices.
Renowned restaurateur Tom Douglas has removed a 2 percent minimum wage surcharge a day after implementing it, and also removed from his company website an earlier blog post about the surcharge, which he referred to as a “2% Wage Equality Surcharge (WES) for funding the Mayor’s Seattle livable wage initiative.”
In a new blog post that went up Thursday evening, Douglas acknowledged that “since posting my comments on 3/31 I have had many people tell me that they would prefer a clear picture of the debate and not my political comments that were unnecessarily snarky and snippy. I agree with you and have reframed my blog post to just the facts.”
At Douglas’ restaurants, which include Dahlia Lounge, Palace Kitchen, Lola, Serious Pie, Etta’s and others, “we are immediately removing the 2% wage equality surcharge we instituted on 4/1 so near future labor increases will be reconciled in the menu price increases as many of you have suggested you would prefer,” Douglas wrote.
He and his team had come up with the now-defunct surcharge idea as a way of remaining competitive “until all restaurants in Seattle are on the same playing field,” Douglas wrote.
The City of Seattle’s minimum wage law, which kicked in Wednesday, puts larger businesses (such as Douglas’) with more than 500 employees on a faster track toward reaching the $15/hour minimum wage goal. Douglas felt that was unfair, writing in his blog post that: “this is a multi million dollar discrepancy between large and small employers.”
Douglas’ earlier blog post (which reader Alec Matias saved a copy of, and which was not particularly well received on various community sites) had noted that all of the 2 percent surcharge would have been “distributed to our staff in either wages or benefits, with any surplus distributed to hourly staff at the end of the calendar year.”
Various restaurants are trying different ways in response to the minimum wage law. Pho Cyclo Cafe is cutting its hours and moving toward more automation. Ivar’s Salmon House (and Acres of Clams when it re-opens) is paying its workers a flat $15 minimum, with no tipping, and making up for the lack of tips by sharing the amount brought in by a menu-price increase. Ivar’s management has said that under the new system, it expects its workers will end up making the same, or more, than they did last year.