You know you’ve made an impact when when the newspaper publishes an entire Sunday op-ed that tries to score points on your several-months-old blog post counting pho shops in Seattle. That's exactly what showed up in the Seattle Times, so we're flattered.
Riffing in part on our blog post, the Sunday op-ed claims to “follow the pho" as well, attempting to make the case that it's still too soon to judge the overall impacts of minimum wage in their entirety. Fair enough, but that misses the entire premise of the initial follow-the-pho piece in the Seattle Times, which started it all back in April 2015 just as the minimum wage phase-in began. Its first sentence:
"If you want to gauge the impact of Seattle’s new $15 minimum wage in the coming months, follow the pho."
"Months." That was the timeline set for when disaster would arrive. And while it certainly is too soon for the local economy to experience the full boost to demand from 100,000 people getting a substantial raise and then spending that money at local businesses, it's not too soon to judge that the apocalypse flat-out didn't happen.
We know because we took up the mandate and followed the pho ourselves. We ran Yelp searches over the course of the past year, and found a net of four new pho shops had opened up as of January.
That's clear enough, but it gets better. Several new pho shops have opened up in Seattle in just the last few months since that blog post, with more on the way:
(Those last two feature more and less fancy multi-ethnic fusion pho, so count them as you see fit.)
The op-ed writers used a different methodology on a different time frame to conclude something else, maybe? It's a little hard to tell, because they cite variously the numbers 66, 53, 10, 5, 2, make some phone calls, and then get to 50. Fifty versus what? They don't really say.
Maybe it's too soon to be sure, but there are some early indications that the writers might not have worried too much about whether their math or comparisons could be successfully tracked because they were just building up to the line where they compared minimum wage increases to smoking and cancer. (For real. It's there in the 10th paragraph.)
Finally, while the op-ed certainly emphasizes that "it's too early" to determine much of anything, the authors do make a point of turning up a 12% price increase at one Seattle location of a local pho chain (whose owner serves on the board of the state's restaurant lobby group), and then suggest that the increase is tied to minimum wage.
What they seem to miss is an identical 12% price increase at the suburban Bellevue location of that same chain — where Seattle's minimum wage law does not apply — from $8.10 for a large bowl in 2014 to the $9.05 posted today. And note that the current price in Bellevue is the same $9.05 as it is in Seattle.
It's almost enough to finally conclude that no matter what timeline you use, maybe the sky is going to remain aloft after all.