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The Yankee Express

Hiring headache real at restaurants, including Bentley Pub

A turkey burger plate at Bentley Pub in Auburn.


Life for restaurateurs like Steve Bingham of Bentley Pub in Auburn is about to get even more difficult in the days ahead, Stephen Clark, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association says.
Recently, Mr. Clark told a gathering of business leaders at the University of Massachusetts Club, as reported by the State House News Service, that profitability for restaurants is down in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the biggest impacts stemming from inflation and labor costs.
Now, there is a move afoot to raise the Commonwealth’s minimum wage still again, by another dollar, from $15 per hour. This would translate into a $1000 increase per employee, which would have a “cascading effect” for all workers in the industry.
“I don’t have any minimum wage issues,” Mr. Bingham told The Feisty Fork on June 1st. “I have no employees working at minimum wage. I do have servers working at $6.75 per hour.”
Bentley Pub’s more pressing challenge is on the hiring front.
“Very difficult,” Mr. Bingham said, of finding people to work. And it’s across the board at Bentley Pub, wait staff, line cooks and so on.
The MRA’s Mr. Clark does not believe the minimum wage fight will resurface this year, but it could in 2024.
The Raise Up Massachusetts coalition—a meshing of organized labor and community groups that influenced passage in 2018 of the “grand bargain” law, setting Massachusetts on the path to a $15 minimum wage—now has its sights set on another hike. The coalition is backing legislation that would gradually increase the minimum wage to $20 by 2027 and nearly double the minimum wage for tipped workers to $12 an hour. The latter move would definitely impact Bentley Pub.
In the interim, Steve Bingham says the minimum wage issue is undoubtedly of more concern to “consumers” in Central Massachusetts. “It doesn’t affect me as much as the person who pays $30 for a meal at McDonald’s,” he says.
The Raise Up people filed paperwork in March exploring an initiative petition, the goal of which, they say, is “building shared prosperity in the Commonwealth through higher minimum wages and fair and adequate taxation.”
Small businesses should be forewarned, if this were to advance to become a ballot question in 2024, Steve Clark says.
Ballot questions are “very expensive to defend,” he said.
Hiring challenges, inflation, labor costs and steep health-insurance costs are battering small businesses; on top of this, nearly 60% of Bay Staters support a minimum wage increase to $20 per hour.

Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.