S.F. Restaurant Staffs Are Costliest in the Country

The cost of employing a waiter in 2010.
The cost of employing a waiter in 2010. Photo: WSJ/Full Plate Consulting

It’s old news for San Francisco business owners, but the Journal today takes note of the huge disparity between what it costs to hire a waiter here compared to anywhere else in the country. The city boasts the highest minimum wage in the U.S.: $9.79 an hour. But for small businesses and restaurant owners, this means spending three times as much per employee (around $20,000) as their counterparts in New York or Chicago, and four times as much as in Boston.

Why so much costlier in California? The state doesn’t allow restaurants to subtract tips from workers’ wages, and local ordinances in SF require restaurants to provide health care and paid sick leave to all full-time employees. The laws make life as a server in SF cushier than elsewhere, but the economics of staffing a restaurant here leave little room for slow months.

Vital Signs: Full Plate of Expenses