Winston Churchill once said, "To improve is to change."
The hospitality industry in Washington state is improving. And local restaurants are finding ways to embrace big changes. With the passage of the minimum wage increase in Seattle, many of the city's restaurants are making significant changes to their business models that have garnered media attention. Now, restaurants are announcing another big change.
"We are in support of an increase in minimum wage done the right way. We have learned through local discussions that there are ways to support neighborhood restaurants and raise compensation for employees," says Anthony Anton, Washington Restaurant Association (WRA) president and CEO. "However, our state now has multiple different minimum wages with the likelihood of many more to come. It's creating a checkerboard of wage laws that are difficult on everyone. We are looking for a positive statewide solution. Restaurants are calling for local and state lawmakers to join together to find an answer."
Currently, Washington state's minimum wage is $9.47 per hour. But in Seattle and SeaTac, the minimum wage is already higher.
"The City of Tacoma has had robust debates about paid sick leave and minimum wage. My City Council colleagues and I believe these important issues need solutions at the state level," says Tacoma mayor Marilyn Strickland. "Statewide policies will benefit workers across the entire state and provide certainty and efficiency for businesses. This will eliminate confusion for consumers and taxpayers because it will allow one organization to enforce and administer the law."
City governments realize that restaurants are vital to communities and local economies. When it comes to wages, restaurant owners, employees, and customers are in a symbiotic relationship. Finding a solution that works for businesses, employees, and customers is key for the health of a city.
"I am concerned about Washington businesses competing on a level playing field. I'm equally concerned about establishing a unique city-by-city wage and benefit regulation and the complex burden that will create for businesses across the state," says Spokane mayor David Condon.
Anton acknowledges the changes will not be simple and there will be many challenges in adapting to a statewide solution for increasing the minimum wage.
"While business models will have to change to adapt we are already seeing how some restaurants are making innovative changes," Anton says. "This coming year, we will see the birth of a new business model in our state. We will be trailblazing and finding ways to do business better—not only to keep our doors open, but also for the growth of our employees and strength of our communities. But if we are going to be successful in this new direction we will need clarity and certainty in this new environment. Washington's restaurants need state legislators to lead the way for the health of our state. Now is the time."