Monday, April 6, 2015

To See the Effects of the Minimum Wage Hike, Follow the Pho

A bowl of Pho.

Some important coverage from Thanh Tan on the impact of the minimum wage hike on Seattle's  Vietnamese restaurants:
Pho is best experienced fresh, in a dining room that’s synonymous with the small immigrant-run family business. That means an auntie cooks, and the server or dishwasher is often the owner’s kid or nephew.

Like any other business, these mom-and-pop shops are contending with an initial wage adjustment per employee, from $9.47 an hour to $11 an hour as of last week.

Some restaurants might respond by adding service fees and increasing menu prices. Ivar’s recently announced plans to end tipping and pay all employees $15 an hour.

A seafood mainstay can do that. Pho is different. It exists to be large, tasty and cheap.

Quynh-Vy Pham’s family owns four Pho Bac restaurants in the city. Her parents opened the original shop at the corner of South Jackson Street and Rainier Avenue South in 1982.

Pham says they will hold on to current prices — $7.75 for a small bowl, according to the restaurant’s website — as long as possible. Like so many other pho proprietors, their restaurant is not designed to be an Ethan Stowell or Tom Douglas establishment where customers expect to pay premium prices.

“It’s hard for people to pay $15 for a ‘to pho,’ ” Pham says, referring to the Vietnamese translation of a bowl of soup. “The culture of Vietnamese restaurants means we have to be price aggressive.”

Pham says they are considering scaling down employment, possibly ending sit-down service and transitioning to a “fast-casual” concept to cut down on labor costs.

1 comment:

  1. That is a shame. One of the best parts of a pho restaurant is the sit down experience. You can be seated, order, and receive your food and be done in about 20-25 minutes. It really is a unique experience to get fresh soup with vibrant flavors in a very short time. It is healthy fast-ish food. Another perk is the price. $8 for a large fresh bowl of soup is a great deal, at least for me.