Local restaurant owners weigh in on minimum wage increase taking effect in 2024

BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) — Starting in the new year, some people across the state will see a boost in their paycheck. The minimum wage across Western New York will increase to $15 an hour. 

Local restaurants, including Mooney’s in Kenmore and Hofbräuhaus in Buffalo, say they’ve already been paying their workers well above minimum wage. Owners say that’s the only way they can hire quality cooks and servers, but by raising the minimum wage, they’re going to have to raise wages across the board.

“I think New York State is already a difficult environment for a lot of small businesses and the increase in minimum wage in general makes it even more difficult,” said Edward Arnold, who runs Hofbräuhaus.

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For workers who rely on tips, such as bartenders and servers, their pay goes up to $10 an hour, including $5 an hour expected in tips.

“They’ll make more an hour, but if that price that gets passed down to the customer results in fewer customers, they’re going to make a lot less,” Arnold said.

Chris McCann of Mooney’s says running a locally owned business has its set of challenges. He’s not sure if raising the minimum wage across the state is the best idea. 

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“You can only take so much as an owner and business before you have to raise your prices,” he said. “The thing about it is, food costs are going to go up, because the cost of producing the food is going to go up, the trucking is going to go up, the people stocking the shelves is going to go up. Everything is going to go up across the board, which raises my price for everything, which is going to raise my prices for the customers.”

Fred Floss, an economics professor at Buffalo State University, says he believes increasing the minimum wage has more positives than negatives for the local economy. He says raising wages could help people rely less on government-assisted programs.

“For individuals who are making less, it’s going to mean they’re going to have more money in their pocket,” Floss said. “For the government, if this starts to move people out of poverty that means that they’re going to have less to pay in food stamps, less to pay in [Home Energy Assistance Program].”

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Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter and Buffalo native who has been a part of the News 4 team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.

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