Coral Gables restaurants respond to the $15 minimum wage increase

On November 3, Floridians voted to raise the minimum wage from $8.56 to 15 dollars an hour. Starting on September 21, 2021, it will increase one dollar per year.

Five different restaurant workers shared their perspectives on the newly approved constitutional amendment.

Nicole Astete, is a 22-year-old FIU student is the operations manager from Aromas del Peru. She has been working in the hospitality industry for five years.

“The $20,000 rent we pay here in the Gables was never forgiven during COVID-19 by landlords,” said Astete about the struggles the eatery faced during the pandemic. “Restaurants were not ready to go through shutdowns or to become e-commerce.”

She also believes that despite the challenging times, the minimum wage raise won’t really aggravate the situation.

“We view it as a domino effect. In our case, the consequences will depend on what our supplies are moved by,” said Astete. “If my vendors raise the prices of the goods, then I will need to raise the prices on my menu to make enough revenue.”

But the $15 wage is a reality in the Peruvian restaurant. Astete explained that some kitchen employees reach a wage of $17 an hour.

According to John Noble, a professor of the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, the consequences of the increase will finally lie on consumers.

“Changes that affect the customer could increase menu prices, less menu variety, and/or less operating hours for the business,” said Noble. “The natural challenge for most restaurants then is how to offset the increase in their internal costs due to the wage increases.”

Namaste Miami is an Indian restaurant located at 221 Navarrete Avenue in Coral Gables. They recently opened on November 6th. The owner, Shravan Kulshrestha, decided to open his own business after working for 3 years at the Nusret Restaurant in Brickell.

“I took this time as an opportunity to open a restaurant. For instance, landlords are very easy to negotiate with. They are willing to work with you because they stop making revenue for 6 months,” explained Kulshrestha.

He believes that due to the challenging times, the increase will be hard to adapt to, but not impossible.

“Payroll is the biggest expense that you have to take care of,” said Kulshrestha. “Now we are only four in the restaurant, two chefs, me and my partner. If my restaurant is making enough money, and I see the necessity to hire someone, I won’t mind paying 15 dollars.”

In October, the Florida unemployment rate dropped to 6.5%. Additionally, Florida saw an increase of 51,600 jobs, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Isaak Philip is a high school student who will graduate in spring 2021. Four months ago, he found a part-time job at Pasion del Cielo in Coral Gables.

“I’m living with my parents so $8.56 an hour is enough for me,” said Philip. “For my coworkers who are in their early 20’s, this increase will be amazing. They have to work in two or three jobs due to the cost of living in Coral Gables.”

In the case of Gabriel Perez, a Cuban server at Coyo Taco, the increase would help pay his school expenses.

“I’m going to study physical therapy so this minimum wage increase will be great for me. I’m saving money to pay my career,” explained the 20-year-old college student about his personal goals. “I’m finally getting a car now so my expenses will be higher. I think this increase came on time for many of us.”

In fact, John Noble agreed that the amendment will have a positive impact on frontline workers.

”The increase in the minimum wage has a significant positive effect on both the finances and morale of those employees whose wages will increase because of the change,” said Noble. “The change will certainly be welcome by those front-line employees.”

Businesses have close to 11 months to adjust to the first increase. A “bad decision,” according to Mark Wilson, President and CEO of Florida Chamber of Commerce. He explains that the amendment will hurt local businesses trying to survive the pandemic.

For more information about this law, the Florida Chamber of Commerce has released an initial guide of “Five Things You Should Know” about this amendment.

Jueisy Nicolle Garcia is a senior journalism student minoring in marketing. Her area of expertise is the entertainment. As she strength her investigative skills, she dreams to work abroad and become a war audiovisual reports developer. A Peruvian talent hungry for adventure.