From the rumblings on The Hill, Congress is quick stepping to resolve the war in Iraq and at the same time, they are focusing on raising the minimum wage across the country.
For many businesses that will not have a traumatic diverse effect. Restaurant owners will definitely feel the hit as it will dramatically increase dining room staff payroll.
I don´t know of any restaurateurs who pay minimum wage for any services other than the wait staff and bussers. In addition, in most cases, bussers are quickly rewarded with hourly incremental increases once they prove their ability, loyalty and desire to move up the dining room chain of command.
The question that we all must face is how do we deal with the increases that could raise dining room payroll by as much as 20%?
It would be foolish to believe we could pass these increases on to the customer by raising menu prices. That can only happen so many times before the customer becomes disgruntled and makes the decision to frequent your establishment less often.
Being pro-active is a good tactic to consider. Begin creating menu items that cost less but have the same perceived value as what you are currently serving. Once the increase is implemented, begin to integrate these items into your menu.
Consider a streamlined waiter system. You may want to discuss the possibility of using runners to deliver the food, and if you are just considering open a new restaurant or your first venue, think about alleviating waiters completely by using the system that FISH in Sausalito, California uses.
One of the best fish houses in the country prides itself on fabulous food at a reasonable price. Yet it isn´t cheap fried fish. The quality is exceptional, the line is always protruding out the door, (since you are overlooking Richardson´s Bay you don´t mind the wait), and once you order at the counter your tray is always sporting a number.
Within moments, you comfortably sit at a table by the fireplace or at the counter and soon your meal arrives perfectly presented, warm and flavorful.
The owners decided when they first opened to make the counter service a trademark of the restaurant and although some of the entrée items can hit the $24.00 mark, nobody cares about the way the service is designed. It could be a country sweeping trend once Congress decides a waiter´s minimum wage should be increased.