Blue Bridge Hospitality recently switched West Pac Noodle Bar, from full-service to counter-service and eliminated five employees due to rising wages.

Blue Bridge Hospitality recently switched West Pac Noodle Bar, from full-service to counter-service and eliminated five employees due to rising wages. Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle.

In late August, just a little over six-months after opening, West Pac Noodle Bar, a casual Asian-fusion restaurant in Coronado, cut five front-of-the-house employees and switched from full-service to counter-service, which means patrons walk up to a counter and order their menu selections there as opposed to having a server wait on them. Those behind the decision say it was an attempt to keep costs down as minimum wage and overall labor costs continue to increase in California.

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David Spatafore and Tim Kolanko of Blue Bridge Hospitality say the company has made several changes to keep costs down, including consolidating management positions and having order takers use handheld electronic devices.

According to an analysis of federal payroll data by Lynn Reaser, chief economist of the Fermanian Business & Economic Institute at Point Loma Nazarene University, nearly 4,000 food-service jobs may have been cut or not created in San Diego from the beginning of 2016 through February of this year.

Data by San Diego-based nonprofit Center on Policy Initiatives shows that the food segment in San Diego County employed 185,921 individuals in 2016, making up 13.2 percent of total employment. Mark Perry, economics and finance professor at the University of Michigan, wrote in an April 2017 blog post that the San Diego area was losing food service jobs at a rate of almost 200 per week.

Institute at Point Loma Nazarene

University, nearly 4,000 food-service jobs may have been cut or not created in San Diego from the beginning of 2016 through February of this year. Data by San Diego-based nonprofit Center on Policy Initiatives shows that the food segment in San Diego County employed 185,921 individuals in 2016, making up 13.2 percent of total employment. Mark Perry, economics and finance professor at the University of Michigan, wrote in an April 2017 blog post that the San Diego area was losing food service jobs at a rate of almost 200 per week.

Losing Jobs

Experts in the industry believe the restaurant industry is losing jobs as a direct result of recent minimum wage increases. On Jan. 1, 2017, the minimum rate of pay increased to $11.50 from $10.50 per hour, and on Jan. 1, 2019, the minimum rate of pay will increase to account for inflation each year. According to the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, that number is supposed to increase to $15 by 2023 for the entire state. Now, restaurants in the county are getting creative to keep costs down or to keep from closing altogether.

Chris Duggan, director of government affairs of the California Restaurant Association, says there are four methods that most restaurants are employing to combat the higher wages.

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