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View Diary: Dear Food Service Employers, (239 comments)

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  •  So no one should work? (1+ / 0-)
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    So instead of hiring 80 people and paying them a wage they can accept, you would rather they hire just a few so just a handful can make more to live on?

    A business can't pull out more money than it brings in. Restaurants and other food-based businesses have very thin margins.  To pay staff a wage where they can have full benefits and raise a family is impossible.

    Raising prices is also impossible. Restaurants are already suffering decreasing visitors because they had to raise prices when food became more expensive -- and it's not possible to raise prices enough to give workers owner-sized salaries.

    Consider this: labor costs for Darden restaurants (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Lone Star Steakhouse) as a percentage of sales were 31 percent during the last quarter. This is not miniscule.

    For every item you buy at one of those restaurants, 31 percent of each one of your dollars goes into labor costs. That's just a minimum wage job!

    You can imagine the food, land and property take even more of the percentage of every dollar. When you look at it this way, you can clearly see the razor-thin margins. In fact, investors never know if Darden will make money or not, quarter by quarter and always seem surprised when they do.

    To prefer a business shut down because they can't afford to pay every employee a wage that keeps them working the same job for the rest of their lives isn't fair to Americans who want the experience and knowledge of working in a restaurant.

    •  Bullseye (0+ / 0-)

       You've pretty much hit right on the real meat and potatoes of this issue (if you'll excuse the pun). The labor cost paid by a restaurant is the single most important factor that determines it's profitability and it's continued existence, and also largely determines how it's perceived by the consumer market at large, for better or for worse.    
        This is an issue that affects all restaurants, whether they're part of a franchise chain or not, and no matter what kind of food they serve, or where they're located. No restaurant owner can jeopardize the very existence of his own business by paying wages that are so high that they make it almost impossible for the business to clear a profit, but they also can't pay wages that don't attract decent employees who really want to contribute to the business and keep customers coming back to it on a daily basis. It's a very tricky balance, and people today, for whatever reason, just cannot seem to get a realistic grasp on simple business economics without introducing all sorts of inappropriate expectations or conflating socioeconomic issues that aren't necessarily as closely related as they would appear through the haze of the consumer transaction process.
        Do we want our restaurant employees to have a decent standard of living? Of course we do. But do we want them to work in the same industry forever because there's no economic incentive for them to ever look beyond the next horizon? No, hardly.
        Personally, I think the real reason Americans pile so many unrealistic expectations on the restaurant industry is simply because we love to eat, and we expect that our fascination with food will be reciprocated by high wages, which is not necessarily appropriate. We love the whole restaurant experience so much, because it feels like the reward we've earned by being good obedient worker bees, that all sense of economic proportion regarding the transaction as a whole just goes right out the window. And this is all symptomatic of the whole 'carrot on the end of the stick' mentality that we as Americans have adopted through many decades of capitalist conditioning.
        Anyway, I could go on all day about this issue, because I've worked in the foodservice industry for many years, at all points on the ladder, from dishwashing up to management, and I've gotten a pretty thorough education on the whole restaurant customer mindset.  The point I'd just like people to take away here is simply this: take your food seriously, but don't expect too much from the restaurant industry. Cook your own food, and treat it with respect. And don't expect any one industry to assuage your concerns about the whole state of the world today, because that's never going to happen.

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