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Fast Food Wage Hike Impacts Fresno Restaurateurs of All Menu Types and Sizes
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 2 months ago on
April 9, 2024

California fast food workers got their wish on April 1, 2024, a minimum wage of $20 an hour. The 25% hike is forcing Fresno restaurants of all sizes and menus to change how they operate, operators say. (AP File)

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The Central Valley restaurant industry celebrated its own Monday night. But the new minimum wage increase for fast food workers was on the mind of many restaurateurs.

“We are all competing for the same labor pool. That includes retail, that includes classified employees in the school systems. It affects everyone.” — Lorraine Salazar, co-owner of Sal’s Mexican Restaurant

Robert Harper, president of the Fresno chapter of the California Restaurant Association, told the approximately 700 people gathered at Table Mountain casino, that they can “adapt to any situation.”

“Regulations? I say, ‘ehh.’ We are now becoming amateur lawyers. Raising wages, soaring food prices, inflation crushing us … and in every aspect of our operations, we are the quintessential definition of logistic experts. We can adapt to do far more with far less. We are survivors,” Harper said.

Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer briefly mentioned the minimum wage law in his comments.

California’s minimum wage law for fast food workers went into effect on April 1, giving most an automatic hourly 25% raise — from the regular state minimum wage of $16 to the fast food wage of $20.

While the law applies directly to most workers in the fast food industry, operators of traditional restaurants say they are feeling the pinch as well.

‘It Affects Everyone’

“We are all competing for the same labor pool. That includes retail, that includes classified employees in the school systems. It affects everyone,” said Lorraine Salazar, co-owner of Sal’s Mexican Restaurant.

Salazar said she’s had to increase compensation to her employees, institute tip sharing and raise menu prices. She expects customers to decrease discretionary spending.

“There’s other inflationary factors that are causing them to look at their budgets. Just as food prices, which are affecting all of us, utility and energy prices … now they really have to watch their dollars,” she said.

Salazar says a consequence is that fast food restaurants will hire fewer employees to keep costs down. Finding efficiencies, new technology and using third-parties — such as a delivery drivers who would not be covered by the minimum wage increase — are ways the industry is adapting.

‘Everyone’s Fighting for Kitchen Staff’

Lewis Everk owns The Woodward and several other restaurants and nightclubs. He finds himself competing with fast food for labor.

“When you have people making that wage at other establishments, it’s definitely a trickle down to the restaurants because everybody’s fighting for cooks, everybody’s fighting for kitchen staff,” Everk said.

“We’re all fighting for like the same 500 guys that are in the business,” he said.

Like Salazar, he instituted tip sharing.

“We’re eating it right now. We haven’t done a price increase, probably in two years. So I think that it’s definitely going to be warranted, but it’s just another struggle for business owners in California,” Everk said.

He is concerned that he may price himself out out of the market if the hikes are are too much for the customer. In the end, the “secret sauce” of restaurants is service, he said.

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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