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ORDER OF BUSINESS: NEW MINIMUM WAGE LAW IS FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Restaurant employees who already earn a wage greater than the minimum also feel they deserve an increase in pay rate when those they work with get one, said Sampson.

An October survey, in which 600 restaurant operators were polled, conducted by the National Restaurant Association, showed that consumers may end up paying higher prices in restaurants if minimum wages are raised, while employees could see their jobs eliminated or hours reduced.

The survey found that 41 percent of family dining and casual restaurant operators would cut jobs, and 40 percent of operators said they would postpone plans for hiring. Nearly nine out of 10 restaurants said they would raise menu prices.

"Restaurant budgets are similar to family budgets; they operate on a very slim margin," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of Research and Information Services for the National Restaurant Association, when the survey was released. "When they are hit with increased costs, they have to make painful decisions. Unfortunately, in the case of a minimum wage hike, everyone pays."

And, Sampson noted, when menu prices increase, so do the tips left behind, meaning that in addition to the hourly wage increase, waitstaff makes even more money and customers are left giving more, something that may have restaurantgoers think twice before heading out.

"The biggest competition we have is eating home," said Sampson.

Sampson said there is a way to remedy the problem: "The solution we have always looked for is to exempt tipped employees from minimum wage increases."

For example, Sampson said, for a restaurant with 30 servers on staff, each working 40 hours a week, and getting an increase of 25 cents per hour, that restaurant would be paying out $300 extra a week. That money, he said, could be better used going to the often low-paid table bussers and dishwashers.

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