Over the course of the past few years, our professional staff at the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association has traveled around the state holding regional meetings with Oregon's small businesses operating within the hospitality industry. As a result of those experiences we know firsthand the degree to which our small businesses feel challenged by the United States Department of Labor's 2011 rule.
As costs rise within restaurant operations, Oregon's restaurants must in turn raise prices. The result of those realities is a growing disparity between Oregon's front-of-the-house workers and back-of-the-house workers. Many operators are paying back-of-the-house workers at rates of $15-17 an hour given the marketplace demand for those positions. The front-of-the-house is typically making Oregon's minimum wage plus tip income which can result in an hourly wage of $30-$50 an hour and sometimes more. We routinely receive reports that front-of-the-house workers can make as much as three times the wage as those working in the back-of-the-house.
In Oregon, the minimum wage will continue to rise every year on July 1 through the year 2022. What we're hearing from our industry is that something must be done to stop the regulatory forces that are driving wages and people further away from each other within the walls of our restaurants. If something is not done our wage gap between workers who are all working together to service the customer will continue to grow and result in cultural, workforce, and small business challenges that escalate and make Oregon a more difficult place to operate a small business.
We know the average small business restaurant in our great country makes 2-5% profit meaning for every $1 million in sales, the restaurant owner makes $20,000 - $50,000 in profit. Our industry operates in one of the slimmest profitability environments in the country. At the same time, restaurants in our country provide one of the best places to build skills and values in a professional setting. Many restaurant operators are proud to provide Americans with their first job or their second chance. They pave the way for career building opportunities and provide employees with the opportunity to build a strong work ethic, a keen attention to detail, and the ability to hone their interpersonal skills.
Rescinding the 2011 rule would be a decision to sustain the viability of Oregon's small business full service restaurants. We know already that if this were to happen, many operators would implement a modest tip pooling arrangement as the minimum wage continues to go up for Oregon's front of the house workers who aren't making minimum wage. As the minimum wage goes up for servers (even though they aren't making anywhere close to minimum wage) operators would have the ability to modestly increase the tip pool with back of the house workers to counteract the server wage increase. Those actions can create higher wages for Oregon's very crucial back of the house workers, keep Oregon's servers at significant wages, and allow the restaurant operator to continue pursuing their goal of 2-5% profit on overall sales.
There has been significant impacts on Oregon's restaurants as a result of the 2011 rule and we hope to have the opportunity to assist our small business operators in their efforts to build a culture that showcases the value of all their workers through the payment of more balanced wages.
For questions, contact Jason Brandt, President & CEO, or Greg Astley, Director of Government Affairs, at 503.682.4422.