“And in that case,” Smith explained, “you’re going to be looking for more experienced people. I’m afraid maybe you price high-school students out of jobs.”
In fact, she said, when restaurants are pressured to raise minimum wages, it begins to shut off other traditional forms of opportunity in the business. “We may start a cashier out at minimum wage,” Smith said, “but soon they may move into a shift-lead position and be earning significantly more than minimum wage.”
Long-term, the restaurant business is a great employment opportunity for many. People can start out at minimum wage but “with our growth at Buffalo Wild Wings, for instance, we’re always looking for managers. You can rise rapidly through the company to much higher income. A former server is now our vice president of international operations.”
Many CEOs might relate to another point by Smith: that even if they leave the food-serving business at some point, having served as a bus person, or cook, or dishwasher, or valet was an early point of real-life exposure and training for many Americans who went on to have successful careers in other fields—some running businesses. And who knows how many people might be robbed of such opportunities as a result of forcibly high minimum wages?
“Our industry essentially trains America’s workforce,” Smith declared. “Maybe 50% of Americans have had a job in the restaurant industry at some point; often it’s their first job. And I’d like to think that, in the short term, we train people how to show up on time and be dressed appropriately and interact with the public.”