Watch Chef Mario Batali tell the truth about $15 minimum wage; bad news for restaurants and foodies

Celebrity chef Mario Batali thinks a minimum wage of $15 could lead to the demise of many restaurants.

While raising servers’ wages to $15 per hour is “a fascinating way of looking at raising quality of life,” Batali said at Recode’s Code Commerce conference on Wednesday, it would not be something he feels smaller restaurant owners would be able to sustain.

“There’s no question that raising minimum wage is a faster way to get people more money very quickly,” the host of “Molto Mario” responded to a question from Buzzfeed News. “I think the result of that, will be that quite quickly, the prices in restaurants who hire are supported and basically run by people who [make] minimum wage will raise their prices.”

Raising wages is “not without cost,” he added. “That’s all I’m saying.”

Batali, who co-owns more than two dozen restaurants throughout the United States, Singapore and Hong Kong, settled a lawsuit in 2012 when employees accused his company of withholding tips. He settled out of court and paid the employees $5.25 million.

The cookbook author and former “Iron Chef” regular believes restaurant owners who already operate on slim profit margins could see a “30 percent increase in costs for the restaurant” with a $15 wage.

He cited a number of restaurants in San Francisco owned by friends that were forced to close down as the city’s minimum wage rose toward $15 and their margins shrank  from 10 percent to 3 percent and even to zero.

“It’s a very difficult thing for restaurateurs to deal with,” he said. “Eventually all these things will be settled.”

But Batali believes the industry will eventually have to eat the extra costs and raise prices.

“At the end of the day, they will settle quickly and things will find some resolution,” he said. “It’s gonna happen. It’s gonna cost 50 bucks to go to a restaurant pretty soon in America.”

Watch Batali at the conference in the video below with relevant remarks beginning at the 31:40 mark:

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Frieda Powers


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