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Local restaurant industry prepares for minimum wage increase in 2022

Shell Beach Brewhouse

Starting Saturday, minimum wage across all industries in California will increase. Employers with 26 or more employees will now have to pay $15 an hour.

According to the California Restaurant Association, tipped employees garner the greatest financial gains when there's a minimum wage increase.

And starting this Saturday, California will now have the highest statewide minimum wage in the country.

“This was part of a series of raises over the last few years, so there are no surprises," said Bill Hales. "Like anything, anytime your cost goes up, you have to plan for it, you have to make adjustments here and there.”

Hales is owner and partner of several San Luis Obispo County bars and restaurants, including Mason Bar, Rooster Creek Tavern and Shell Beach Brewhouse.

Hales said he’s been preparing for this increase, but is hoping California will cap wage increases on tipped employees at some point.

“The bartenders and the servers do well, and I don’t want to begrudge them," Hales said. "But this is one of the few states that actually minimum wage kind of…doesn’t stop.”

Unlike other states where tipped workers are paid lower wages, California requires the same pay across all industries and sectors.

Hales said customers may notice an increase on their dining bills, but not just because of the minimum wage increase.

He said operating costs have been going up during the pandemic, and protein is becoming more pricey, so they’ve been trying to get creative in their menus.

“We’ve added more vegetarian options at a couple of the places, and they’ve done really well," Hales said. "And now we are able to buy from some of our local farmers a little bit more aggressively than we did before.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, restaurant prices spiked 5.8 percent over this last year, but for those hoping to curb spending by turning to home cooking, grocery prices are also at an all record high, jumping 6.9 percent in the last year.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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