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Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer says $15 minimum wage is 'probably a good idea'

Donovan Russo
·3 mins read

Earlier this decade, fast food workers began a nationwide campaign of strikes demanding a $15 minimum wage. They now have at least one ally among quick-service executives: Danny Meyer, the founder of burger chain Shake Shack (SHAK), who suggested in a new interview that he supports a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour.

“It's probably a good idea,” says Meyer, CEO of restaurant management company Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), of the wage hike.

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. It is unlikely to pass the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate. Seven states, including New York and California, have passed laws that will gradually increase their minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The $15 minimum wage bill passed on Thursday in the U.S. House, called the “Raise the Wage Act,” would also do away with the sub-minimum wage allowable for tipped workers.

In 2016, the USHG launched an initiative to eliminate tipping from its New York restaurants in an effort to “compensate the restaurant team more equitably and professionally,” according to the USHG website.

“One of the great things about eliminating tipping is we've been paying way above $15 an hour anyway. So each time the minimum wage goes up, we're kind of immune to it,” Meyer tells Yahoo Finance.

“And every time minimum wage does go up, if you still accept tips in your restaurants, you will continue to raise your menu prices. And you, the guests, will continue to pay a higher tip on top of that.” he adds.

Meyer made the comments to Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in a conversation that aired on Yahoo Finance in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

Many Republican members of Congress have opposed raising the federal minimum wage, arguing that it would damage the booming economy. Data from the Congressional Budget office predicted last month that increasing the minimum wage would reward 17 million U.S. workers with a raise. However, it could also cost 1.3 million people their jobs, the report found.

Minimum wage in the US
Minimum wage in the US

Meyer and the USHG run a number of high-end restaurants in New York. In addition, they founded the public company, Shake Shack, a fast-growing burger chain with about 220 locations worldwide.

Meyer wrote a book in 2006 on business principles called “Setting the Table.” The restaurateur has gained recognition beyond the food sector, including a spot on Time’s “100 Most Influential People” list in 2015.

In the interview with Serwer, Meyer said a $15 minimum wage would level the playing field in the industry.

“We're up for any law that affects all of us equally,” Meyer says.

“What I don't really like is why some employees make $15 and others make $2.13, depending on you, the guests, to pay them a tip. I think it's my job to be your employer,” he concluded.

Donovan Russo is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him @Donovanxrusso.

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