Restaurants offer great opportunity
Are restaurant jobs worthwhile?
In the last few months, there have been several rounds of demonstrations in cities across the country including Wisconsin, targeting restaurant chains. Organized by different groups, they are demanding a $15 minimum wage.
While these groups target restaurant chains, any mandated changes regarding wages and benefits would affect all restaurants. That includes small mom and pop operations, independently-owned restaurants and the independent owners of franchise restaurants.
In response, surprisingly, I’m going to channel my inner “Ashton Kutcher.” In August, he gave a speech at the Teen Choice Awards. Obviously, his audience was primarily teenagers. He revealed to them that his original name was actually “Chris Ashton Kutcher.” He then listed a number of entry-level jobs he held including sweeping floors and washing dishes on his way to becoming the wealthy and very successful Ashton Kutcher.He told them “I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job.”To me the message was you have to start somewhere, so get on with it, build your resumé and start on the path to success. You can find the speech on YouTube.I’m sure that many readers have their own similar stories about jobs they held on their own path.I know I do. I was a “soda jerk,” clerk in a pharmacy, laborer in a gelatin factory, a data processor in a university department, painter, dishwasher and a bartender. (The experience was so valuable; I should have been paying them.)These were all minimum wage jobs that I was just lucky to have. I learned more than I produced in each of those jobs, and the money I earned in those jobs paid for my education.If restaurants and other retailers were forced to pay $15 an hour and benefits regardless of experience, the result would be fewer jobs, which has a much higher cost to society.At a certain wage level, technology (for example, touch-screen ordering or automated pizza makers) and workers with higher skills would replace many of those workers. In addition, many who lost their jobs would likely become unemployable.The majority of minimum wage restaurant workers are just beginning their professional lives.According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 47 percent of workers who earn the federal minimum wage are teenagers, while 71 percent are under age 25.At least now, entry-level, low-wage employees have a shot of improving themselves by getting promoted or developing the skills that will enable them to get better jobs within the restaurant industry or elsewhere.The restaurant industry pays a fair wage to employees based upon experience and skill set. Restaurants train inexperienced workers — teaching them the skills they will need to succeed on any career path.In fact, one out of three Americans got their first job in a restaurant according to a National Restaurant Association survey.The restaurant industry is a wonderful industry. We help millions of our employees develop skills, develop pride, build a career and fulfill their dreams. We need not be ashamed. We make our country a better place.Ed Lump is president and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.