Can Restaurants Afford A Living Wage?

Apr 3, 2015

The Federal government mandates that all states must pay their employees at least $7.25 per hour.  Many states exceed the mandated rate and increase their minimum wages, but North Carolina has set its minimum wage right at the federally mandated minimum of $7.25 per hour.

However, an even lower minimum wage applies to what are called "tipped workers."  If you receive tips while you are working, your employer can legally pay you as little as $2.13 per hour, on the logic that the difference will be made up in tips.

Several local restaurants have decided that $2.13 an hour, plus tips, is not enough.  Rob Gillespise and his wife Lindsay Moriarty own Monuts, a bakery and cafe in Durham.  Gillespie says Monuts employees earn $12.33 per hour, which is what the Durham Living Wage Project describes as a "livable wage."

Rob Gillespie and Lindsay Moriarty own Monuts in Durham.

Gillespie says he and his wife were determined to pay their employees a living wage from the very beginning, "we weren't going to do it if we weren't doing it right."

"We took a different approach... We looked at it and said 'is it possible to have a restaurant that can pay a living wage to every single employee?' And we kind of structured the book around that."

Monuts currently employs about forty people, Gillespie says, and they will be hiring more for the summer. Not only does he believe that the higher wages contribute to employee satisfaction, he also says that Monuts is able to attract better employees.

"I think at the end of the day if you are a community focused business, and a lot of businesses in Durham try to be, it pays off when people know that you're doing right by your employees."