Red Robin is giving the chop to busboys (and girls) at all of their restaurants in an effort to save money following rising minimum wages nationwide.
The move may impact your dining experience a little, but young people will suffer a lot from fewer opportunities for a first job.
Red Robin is eliminating the busboy position at each of its 570 restaurants nationwide. The move is meant to save $8 million this year for the company which is reportedly worth $711.8 million.
The company’s leadership didn’t hold back at an industry event:
“We need to do that to address the labor increases we’ve seen,” Red Robin’s chief financial officer Guy Constant told attendees at the ICR retail conference held here.
The American chain of casual dining restaurants headquartered in Colorado is known for its gourmet burgers, brews, and bottomless fries.
This is not the first cost-cutting measure impacting workers for Red Robin though. Last year, they rolled out “restaurant pods” or restaurants that only deliver. Customer seating is ripped out and there’s no need for waitstaff in this concept – just delivery drivers and food preparers.
Again, Red Robin’s leadership pointed to rising labor costs along with dwindling customer traffic as the impetus to shift from casual dining to delivery for some of its restaurants, which are mostly located in suburbs near shopping areas:
“Labor costs across the country are going up, and that’s clearly putting pressure on all restaurants,” says Jason Rusk, Red Robin’s vice president of innovation. “Ideally, we’d like to go into low-rent warehouse spaces with our delivery concept.”
Waitstaff and other existing staff are expected to take over the duties of busboys, which could lead to longer wait times for tables – cutting into service.
Busboys (or bussers) join servers as an entry-level position in the foodservice industry. In addition to clearing and setting tables, bussers may be responsible for assisting servers in delivering food to tables and pouring water along with basic duties in the back of the kitchen.
These positions don’t require formal training for previous kitchen and dining room experience, which makes them perfect starting jobs. It’s also great for those who need flexible hours. It's not surprising that busboy positions are often filled by high school or college students.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2.5 million American workers are waiters and waitresses earning an annual median wage of $24,400. The states with the highest employment level of waitstaff include California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Some 18 states and dozens of municipalities hiked their minimum wages at the start of 2018 – many with the goal of hitting $15 per hour. As they push for more bigger paychecks for workers, employers are responding by cutting hours, cutting jobs, eliminating positions, increasing prices, replacing positions with automation, or shutting down. These are particularly in industries that employ women such as retail and food service.
A higher minimum wage is a shortcut to adding a few more bucks in the paycheck of low-wage workers. But over time, those workers will lose out as they see opportunities disappear. Our youngest and most vulnerable workers need greater opportunities to gain experience and skills to move up into better-paying jobs. Minimum wage hikes make that path upward narrower and harder.