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Paying for a Higher Minimum Wage

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Well, the day that we have been talking about and planning for has arrived. For the next two months business owners in Oakland will be running cafes and restaurants with the highest minimum wage in the nation. As my wife said, it's kinda crazy and kinda cool.

My wife and I run a community-based coffeehouse in Oakland, carrying on a family business that my father started 26 years ago in San Francisco. We wanted a space that offered quality coffee and food, a good work environment that treated employees fairly and paid well, and with affordable pricing. As you can imagine, this is no easy task in the Bay Area. And on March 1, that vision became even more challenging when Measure FF increased minimum wage 36 percent in Oakland.

With that said, we believe in this wage increase. It's good for Oakland's economy and we believe in paying our employees a fair wage. However, simple economics are at work here. To raise wages, we need to generate more revenue. To make this happen overnight, we must raise our prices. A cup of my coffee was $2 and now is $2.50. Overall my prices are up 10 to 15 percent. Businesses like mine are asking Oakland to come together and support the cafes and restaurants in this unprecedented position.

Restaurants operate on razor-thin margins and payroll is our biggest expense. To stay afloat, we must raise prices.

While some businesses were cool to Measure FF, a small group of like-minded restaurants and cafes embraced it. We came together to figure out how to continue running profitably and support our workers by paying them a fair wage without sacrificing quality or customer experience. These cafes and restaurants are what make Oakland great. Collectively, we create a culture and buzz in the city and we are grateful to be part of it.


Citizens of Oakland were right to raise wages here. We ask them now to support the businesses doing what's right for their employees and creating a vibrant Oakland.

With a Perspective, I'm Chris Hillyard.

Chris Hillyard owns Farley's, a coffeehouse in San Francisco, Oakland and Emeryville.

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