Minimum Wage Hike Makes Denver’s Zorba’s Stop Dinner

(Daniel J. van Ackere/America's Test Kitchen via AP, File)

It may seem small but a decision by Denver’s City Council to hike the minimum wage drove Chef Zorba’s Authentic Greek Cuisine to serve diners only for breakfast and lunch but stop dinner service after the costs led to layoffs.
Owner Karen LuKanic told WestWorld that, “it wasn’t an easy decision for us. We had to do layoffs and went from 35 to about 27 people because of it.”

The city raised the minimum wage from $11.10 to $12.85 an hour for non-tipped employees beginning Jan. 1 but she said workers at the restaurant were already being paid at least 25 percent above that because otherwise she couldn’t get qualified help.

LuKanic said there’s a separate minimum wage for tipped employees, which must be no more than $3.03 less than the non-tipped rate, so raising the minimum wage led to raising salaries for others, making it prohibitive.
She said the average guest check would have to go from $13 up to $23 in order to cover the cost of giving all front-of-house employees a 22 percent raise. “Would you be willing to pay $23 for pancakes and coffee?” she asked.