Del Posto, the priciest restaurant in the New York branch of chef Mario Batali’s empire, is boosting wages for some staff and prices on its high-end dinner menus.
The Michelin-starred Italian spot in Manhattan’s West Chelsea district will raise its minimum wage for non-tipped employees to $10 an hour beginning in October, general manager Jeff Katz said in a telephone interview.
Because of the higher labor costs, Katz said, as well as rising food costs, Del Posto will raise the price of its five-course dinner menu to $126, up from $115, and its tasting menu to $179, a $14 hike. Lunch will remain at $39.
“If you have a dishwasher who’s making eight bucks, that guy’s going to see a $2 increase,” Katz said, adding that the raise will be “sizable for a lot of the people it’s going to affect.”
The new minimum will mainly benefit dishwashers, porters, prep cooks, butchers and those who handle linens, Katz said.
“We hope it can help us reward some of the staff that had been with us for a long time and just get closer to the living wage.”
The new minimum does not apply to tipped workers at Del Posto, who already “do quite well,” according to Katz.
Individual restaurants don’t typically release pay data for competitive reasons, but Katz’s remarks generally fall in line with figures calculated by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor statistics.
The bureau estimates that dishwashers in the New York metropolitan area earn a mean hourly wage of $9.59 an hour, or $19,950 per year. Barbacks, table setters and those who pour water or replenish condiments are estimated to earn a mean hourly wage of $10.14 an hour, or $21,080 yearly.
Del Posto’s move to publicly raise wages arrives at a time of increased scrutiny of compensation for hospitality-industry workers. Last September, Batali and his partners agreed to pay $1.15 million to 31 workers at Del Posto to settle a 2010 labor dispute. The settlement resolved claims alleging racial discrimination, misappropriation of tips and lost minimum wages and overtime.
In his State of the Union address in January, President Barack Obama asked Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour. Some municipalities already have minimums exceeding that. Workers in Washington state make at least $9.19 an hour, while San Francisco has the country’s highest minimum wage at $10.55. New York State sets its minimum at $7.25, the federal minimum.
Sushi Yasuda and Per Se, two high-profile New York City restaurants, have adopted European-style policies where prices are reflective of service, which can reduce the wage disparity between tipped employees like waiters, and non-tipped employees like cooks, who typically are excluded from gratuity pools.
Katz, in an e-mail, wrote that Del Posto has “thought about” service-included or service-added models, but that it’s a “huge change from the staff’s perspective and the guest’s perspective.”
(Ryan Sutton writes about New York City restaurants for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Tumblr at www.thepricehike.com or www.thebaddeal.com.)
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