2 of the 5 restaurant owners featured in KUOW scare story on $15 are actually opening new restaurants this year

1 raised wages early, 1 hasn’t made any adjustments, and the 5th is zpizza

Unmentioned in this weekend’s KUOW scare story about the $15 minimum wage law: two of the restaurant owners who are featured worrying about the impact law are actually opening new restaurants in Seattle this summer. A third adjusted their model so they could move to $15 early and report they’re doing fine. The fourth owner hasn’t made any changes at all yet. Which leaves just one example: a single franchise pizza joint in one of the fastest-growing parts of the city that’s closing in the midst of a Seattle pizza and restaurant boom. And their story has already been thoroughly debunked.

It’s remarkable enough that NPR thinks it’s appropriate to do a story about the impact of $15 on restaurants without talking to a single restaurant worker or restaurant customer. But it’s even more amazing that they apparently didn’t bother to google the names of the restaurant owners either.

Because a simple google is all it takes to uncover some important context about the restaurant owners that the news report inexplicably left out:

  • Tom Douglas, who expresses concern that higher wages might force him to shut restaurants, is in fact opening a 19th restaurant, the Carlile Room, on July 1st. And if his concern trolling about wages sounds familiar, that’s because he stoke the same fears when Seattle passed paid sick and safe time. To his credit, he later admitted his prediction was wrong — though to NPR's discredit, their report doesn’t mention any of this.
  • Jeremy Hardy of Coastal Kitchen, who is quoted fretting over how he can keep that restaurant in business, also happens to be opening a third outlet of his Mioposto pizza shop this summer. And his second opened last yearafter the $15 law passed. He also has taken a political position in the debate — he donated to Forward Seattle, the failed fringe effort last year to repeal Seattle’s minimum wage law. The report doesn’t offer any of this context.
  • Bob Donegan of Ivar’s raised wages to $15 ahead of schedule and replaced tipping with a shared commission system. He reports the experiment is going well. Though the NPR story doesn’t note it, Ivar’s was also a major opponent of the $15 law in SeaTac, so his about-face on this issue is especially interesting. The misleading subhead “Eliminate Tipping” is as scary as this part of the story gets.
  • Manu Alafu of La Bodega says he isn’t yet making any adjustments. As the owner of a smaller independent business, the Seattle law gives him more time to see the benefits of increased consumer demand before getting to $15. He does expresses general worry about what things will be like in a decade, as one assumes any business owner would, at any time, over any issue.
  • And Ritu Shah-Burnham of zpizza repeats her decontextualized scare story blaming her business problems exclusively on the minimum wage, even though the reality is that plenty of pizza joints are thriving while hers struggles. More on zpizza here.

So the actual count in this report is: 2 restaurant owners who are opening new outlets this summer; 1 who raised wages early and is doing well; 1 who hasn’t needed to make any adjustment, and 1 debunked pizza chain proprietor. 

And what’s missing, besides context on these owners: even a single voice of a restaurant worker, or restaurant customer. 

Is this an NPR report or a Washington Restaurant Association press release?