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Chef Garces' Restaurants Defend Not Raising Minimum Wage09:45
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Chef Jose Garces leads the Seasonal Vegetables-Spanish Lens class at The 8th Annual New York Culinary Experience Presented By New York Magazine And The International Culinary Center - Day 2 at New York Culinary Experience on April 17, 2016 in New York City.  (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for the New York Culinary Experience )
Chef Jose Garces leads the Seasonal Vegetables-Spanish Lens class at The 8th Annual New York Culinary Experience Presented By New York Magazine And The International Culinary Center - Day 2 at New York Culinary Experience on April 17, 2016 in New York City. (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for the New York Culinary Experience )
This article is more than 4 years old.

Last week in Cleveland we met with a local family that’s struggling to live on $1,400 a month. The family said raising the minimum wage to $15 would help them get by. But many businesses can’t afford it.

This week in Philadelphia, Here & Now's Robin Young visits the restaurant group overseen by Jose Garces, famous for his appearances on the American version of the Food Network program "Iron Chef." The group doesn’t want to see a mandated $15 wage, but instead rewards employees with opportunities to advance instead. Scott Steenrod, chief operating officer at the Garces Group, talks with Here & Now's Robin Young.

Scott Steenrod, chief operating officer of the Garces Group, stands in the kitchen of the Olde Bar in Philadelphia, which is part of the Garces Group. (Peter O'Dowd/Here & Now)
Scott Steenrod, chief operating officer of the Garces Group, stands in the kitchen of the Olde Bar in Philadelphia, which is part of the Garces Group. (Peter O'Dowd/Here & Now)
The kitchen of the Olde Bar in Philadelphia. (Peter O'Dowd/Here & Now)
The kitchen of the Olde Bar in Philadelphia. (Peter O'Dowd/Here & Now)

Interview Highlights: Scott Steenrod

On why Steenrod says his company is against an increase in the minimum wage:

“The issue of minimum wage really is, in our mind not what’s at heart here. It’s really about our ability to be the company that people chose to come work for because of the culture we have, and the entire reward structure that we provide, the career growth opportunities, etcetera.”

“You can’t succeed in the business if you’re not training people effectively. That’s the real reality. This industry grows as people grow. We cannot open new restaurants without our employees growing into new roles, where they’re learned in their previous role and are capable of stepping up into the next one. And that comes with wage growth.”

“If we’re stuck in a situation, or if we’re imposed with a situation where we not able to control that growth cycle on our own, ultimately what’s going to happen is that growth will be stifled.”

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Why not raise all the wages then? Start at $15, and then go to $16 or $17?

“It becomes a little bit of an economic issue then. Because with the raising of the wages is going to come an impact ultimately to the consumer. Our fear is that will stifle growth. Now, none of our employees today are working at minimum wage. We’ve always, because of our commitment to doing the right thing, stay ahead of that.”

“The range is really what the market dictates it needs to be for us to be the leading employer. The minimum anybody in our company would make would start around $11 or $12 an hour and would go up from there.”

“In a market like Philadelphia, where there are so many restaurants, so many options, the market determines those rates.”

On how a national minimum wage could disrupt local economies from setting their own locally competitive minimum wage:

“There’s microeconomics and micro-factors to any employment market. If the federal standard is mandated across the country, I think that could be more impactful in other areas where it’s really not needed.”

Guest

Scott Steenrod, chief operating officer at the Garces Group. He tweets @scottsteenrod.

This segment aired on July 26, 2016.

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