People are willing to pay higher prices for restaurant food

The wait staff at restaurants have much lower mandated minimum wages than other workers, based on the argument that tips supplement their income. Whenever the issue of raising their wages comes up, the argument frequently given by the restaurant industry is that doing so would increase prices and drive customers away and thus actually harm the workers, though it is clear that the real reason is that it might affect profits.

The National Restaurant Association commissioned a survey by Republican pollsters Frank Luntz, hoping to get results that would bolster their case. But Lisa Graves and Zaid Jilani obtained a leaked copy of the survey results and what it found was that a solid majority of people were willing to pay higher prices if that was what it took to pay workers a living wage.

Conducted by GOP pollster Frank Luntz’s firm LuntzGlobal on behalf of the other NRA — the National Restaurant Association — the poll found that 71 percent of people surveyed support raising the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour.

The NRA has long claimed that increasing the government wage floor would “ratchet up restaurants’ labor costs and result in thousands of jobs lost,” but these results show that the NRA’s rhetoric on the minimum wage is failing to move the American public. Indeed, as Democrats embrace a $15 per hour minimum wage ahead of the 2020 presidential campaign, the NRA is moving in the opposite direction.

The leaked NRA poll is the first instance of a known national poll commissioned by the industry itself that shows how widely popular raising the minimum wage is and how small the opposition is, even though other published national surveys have shown a similar level of public support.

The leaked poll also sheds new light on arguments the NRA has made through its local proxies in its campaigns against raising the minimum wage.

One of the arguments routinely made by industry representatives is that raising the minimum wage will raise the costs for customers. But, the NRA’s own poll shows that, by an overwhelming majority, customers are willing to pay more to support a “fair wage.”

In the words of LuntzGlobal: “They want the INCREASE in spite of the costs.”

I am surprised that Luntz and the NRA are surprised. Most people have a basic sense of what is fair and not fair, especially in concrete cases. I think most people realize that eating in a restaurant is a luxury and not really a basic necessity and so rising prices in that area is not a major source of hardship. They also know that wait staff are paid very poorly and often treated very badly. So this result should have been expected.


  1. jrkrideau says

    @ Tabby Lavalamp

    Restaurants Canada seem similar. Minimum wages, perhaps, a few cents an hour and there is basic healthcare. Still, IIRC, the RC fought tooth and nail against an increase in the minumum wage in most provinces.

  2. Roj Blake says

    Never understood this whole tipping thing, and the American antipathy to paying decent wages.

    It is obvious to me that customers are (mostly) prepared to pay higher prices because that is what they already do via the tip. With the elimination of tips, restaurants could raise their prices by around 15-20% and the customer would still be paying the same.

    If tipping is so good at increasing productivity, why not make all jobs tipped? Your car would be fixed faster, your taxes lodged sooner, your leg amputated with greater care …

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