Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Restaurant Armageddon

Matt Bors is a God of Cartoonists
I think it would be a lot of work to own a restaurant.  I imagine this is even true when owning a franchise. And I suspect that, for a lot of individually-owned restaurants, labor costs are some of the highest costs.  And yet--it's hard not to notice that the owners often drive new BMWs while the workers take a bus or ride their bikes to work.

I work near a restaurant-supply grocery store, and it's open to the public, so I sometimes go there to buy some stuff for making lunches.  I see restaurant owners there--you can tell they are owners because they treat the folks who work at the grocery store like crap.  People who do service work for a living (who aren't also owners) generally treat other service workers at least moderately well.  And you can tell they are owners because they are putting their restaurant groceries into expensive SUVs, the payments for which they are undoubtedly writing off on their taxes. 

I know some restaurant owners are kind-hearted people who really want to treat their employees with respect, and would love to provide health care--but it is expensive. But I think (educate me if I'm wrong) these folks are the exception to the rule.  I work at a small company, and a huge part of my compensation are my health benefits.  I know it's expensive. But the folks I work for want to treat me like a human being who deserves health care. I really appreciate that, and it is part of what keeps me working here--not just the money that it represents, but the feeling behind it. Owners of companies who don't want to pay for health care because it cuts into their profits, but who still want to pretend they respect their workers while they themselves live in the Oakland hills and put their kids in private school and the like, these folks just don't make sense to me, and they make me angry.

My last job was at a corporate coffee shop. I had a regular customer who created restaurants and then "flipped" them for profit. He had already done so with a couple of restaurants when I met him. At the time, San Francisco had just voted to increase the minimum wage of any workers in the city, and he was talking restaurant Armageddon--he would go out of business, most restaurants in SF would go out of business, he said. I told him I doubted that. He said he knew, because he was in the biz. A year later I asked him about it, after he had sold another restaurant, and he shrugged it off. I suspect a lot of the hand-wringing around health care by corporate CEOs of chain restaurants is more of the same.


bellajeanne said...

Well said. I think restaurant owners will claim the end of their financial world, but in a few years might find even harder working, more dedicated employees because the employees feel the same way that you do at your current job: valued. Employers have no idea how important that is to employees.

bellajeanne said...

Well said. I completely agree that restaurant owners will claim their financial world is caving in on them at first, then find it's no big issue in a few years once they've discovered their employees are even more dedicated thanks to feeling more valued by their employer with the addition of health benefits. I know I would feel the same way. The school district where I work only hires staff for 19 hours a week to ensure they don't have to pay health care, but that's a whole other battle.