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Local restaurant operator will try to raise employee salaries to $20 an hour

Ayr Muir, founder of Clover Food Lab, says it's been bothering him that some of his full-time workers don't make enough to live on in Boston. So he writes today he's going to experiment with gradual price increases over the next couple of years to get all of his workers up to at least $20 an hour.

I think we can't build a long-term sustainable food system without changing our labor practices. I think we can do this, but I need your help. We ask a lot of our customers, we want to know what we can do better, we want to know what you think of new menu items. We even ask you for recipes and ideas for the next sandwich. We ask you to tell everybody you know about Clover. Now I want to ask you to help us pay more. ...

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Comments

I'm not, at least not very often. At that price, I'll do a better job of bringing in leftovers from home. (shrugs)

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I can't argue with you about your budget and priorities. I'm just wondering if you are a regular customer now, and if a $10-$11 price is what would prevent you from continuing to be a customer in the future.

I don't think the competition is between Clover and brown-bagging -- you'll do a lot better brown-bagging than buying your lunch anywhere. In the neighborhood that Clover operates, many of the alternatives are in the $10-$11 range (LaGrassa's, for example), and many more that are just a buck or two cheaper. Plenty of people are already paying that much for lunch, so the math says it won't ruin their business.

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A sandwich from LaGrassa's is enough to feed 2 people. Clover, not so much. Yes, a doubled price for the same product would cut down how often I eat at Clover (drastically). Realistically you need to improve the product, wether it;s quality of ingredients, portion, etc. if you're going to double prices. I have been a low paid service industry worker, so any effort to improve wages is welcome. However some of these initiatives seem to be more about PR that reality lately.

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LaGrassa's was a handy example; there are plenty more in the neighborhood whose offerings are in the same price range, and even more who are significantly more than half the $10-$11 price. For example, Herrera's burritos, not exactly a deluxe item, are mostly about $7, some more, so figure $8-$9 if you buy a drink and/or tip. I wasn't under the impression that Clover's sandwich prices were currently in the $5-$5.50 range; is that really true?

(Also, LaGrassa's sandwiches are not as awesome as they used to be, at least not the pastrami (sob), but I digress)

Realistically you need to improve the product, wether it;s quality of ingredients, portion, etc. if you're going to double prices.

If you really believe that's true, I have some health insurance I'd love to sell you. Seriously, this isn't true. We might reasonably agree that that's what should happen, but "realistically" it is anything but true. People will pay for any number of factors that do not include "quality of ingredients" or "portion" (or will pay for less of the same, again, consider so-called "healthcare" in America). People pay for location, for convenience, for the cachet of a name, for any number of things. I know people who traipse over to the food trucks at South Station and pay nearly double for a banh mi than what they'd pay if they went to Chinatown. You might not do it and I might not do it, but there's a long leap from there to saying whether they can make a go of it without our business.

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How much are you selling this health insurance for? I'm interested.

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The owner plans to experiment with "modest price increases (think $0.25) spread over time (say 2 years)." So it's not like a sandwich is going from $6 (or whatever their typical price is, I don't eat there so I don't know) straight up to $12. It'll be $6.25, then in a few months inch up to $6.50, then $6.75 or maybe $7. Spread it out over time and people will adjust, and new customers won't even know the difference. Heck, Anna's burritos have more than doubled in price since I started going there years ago. I've noticed the small changes but it doesn't stop me from going back.

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I'm certainly in the Clover demographic, and there's one within 200 yards of my work and ~500 yards of my home.

I eat there occasionally. I don't love the food, and the prices are comparable with other places where I eat. If their price goes up to $11/sandwich, I'll eat at those other places even more, brownbag more, and Clover even less.

If, of course, all those other places I eat raise prices too, my personal substitution will be less frequent. Such is the free market (and part of why I support raising the minimum wage).

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you support raising the minimum wage but not the additional cost of the product? I mean...I hear you but how on earth do you expect to have one without the other? Ayr Muir is no Sam Walton.

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If all of the restaurants pay higher wages and raise prices accordingly, then I don't have to choose on price between Clover and the sandwich shop a few doors down.

If they all go up, I'll still buy from somewhere (although perhaps not as often). If just one goes up, I'll end up shopping elsewhere. That's pretty standard, rational behavior in a free market.

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Considering the low overhead once you own the food truck, I think they can make this happen. Clover food is fresh and yummy and developing a following.

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But they are not just a food truck. They have six brick and mortar locations, including some places where rent must be pretty high (Harvard, Central, Kendall, Brookline Village).

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The mere existence of which suggests that their operation turns a pretty handy profit, which means they could afford to cut into it in order to pay workers more.

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A profit, or incoming investment. In either case, ideally livable employee pay would come *before* expansion.

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Restaurants typically work on very small margins which results in many line cooks/chefs not earning strong wages. In such a saturated market, increasing employee wages results in increasing menu prices which will drive people to other restaurants. This is also the same reason wait staff still works primarily off of tips in almost every restaurant. I think it is great that they want to pay their employees a good wage however not a great way to run a business in this market.

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will drive people to other restaurants

Says you. The people I know who eat at Clover, love it. If that is consistent among their customer base, and they support this business decision, they'll support it through both their stomachs and their wallets.

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however, I could not afford to eat there that often (I do not eat there very much now) at $10-11 per sandwich. However, if I treat myself, now and then, I would pay that much - still cheaper than other places around my work area and the quality is great (Kendall Square).

Now I do not know what the owner's net worth is (but he is a Harvard and MIT grad), but I am going to make an assumption that he is doing ok, possibly very well. Alternatively, the owner could decided to have less in his bank account (spread the wealth around) and not charge his customers more for the products. Now that would be really progressive on his part.

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as was posted above, their quality is great. Their value was great too, up until now.

I will still go there, but maybe about half as often. Best of luck to them.

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I think the owner's heart is the the right place but it might be a bit naive. For his staff to live, say in Boston proper, he would have to pay them closer to $40 (around $80,000 per year) per hour. I believe the Boston Globe did a story on this, a few years ago, and $80K was the benchmark to afford a apartment in Boston (I can't remember if 1 or 2 bedroom).

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I have mixed opinions on Clover as a business (based on opinions of friends who have worked there) but I applaud this step in the right direction. Restaurant food is artificially cheap for consumers at the expense of the people who work there. If all food businesses paid a fair and living wage for their employees, $10-11 a sandwich would not be outrageous.

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Restaurant food is artificially cheap for consumers at the expense of the people who work there.

Wagging the dog.

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Minimum wage should be $10.25 an hour in every state. This $15 or $20 an hour would skyrocket the cost of goods, products and food so high that the middle class would become poor.

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{citation needed}

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See: Predictions of doom and gloom every time the minimum wage might go up. Just the predictions, though, don't look at the actual numbers after it happens.

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I say $10.50 an hour nationwide but I would go for your $10.25 an hour. I think more than this to work at a place like Walmart or McDonald's would be outrageous like the $15 suggested. Imagine $30 for a happy meal......lol

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is going up to $10.00 an hour 1/1/16 and the $11.00 an hour 1/1/17.

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Prices of goods will actually not increase as much as the wage increase. This has been studied in detail.

If the price of a sandwich goes up $3 but everyone makes at least $8 more/hour and possibly more, that's a net gain for everyone. (numbers made up for this example - the $3 increase is probably too high tbh)

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How about you own a business in increase your employees wage then not raise the cost of your products then see how long your business last and how much longer your employees would have a job.

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Get rid of the federal minimum wage and let states decide what's best. Costs of living, tax rates, labor markets, and economic activity vary greatly state to state and having a one sit fits some rate set by the feds.

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Middle class will get screwed once their 401k balances start tanking - just look at what's happening to WMT after they bumped the wages by a small percentage.

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Then we'll talk about your remaining locations and trucks.

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Just don't pay any taxes on the income!
Long term, not such a great solution.

(This was true for the Dot location, not sure about the Cambridge one, so no slander intended if they paid up.

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I thought Hi-Fi's solution to keep costs low was to serve a shitty product.

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The amount of booze you'd have to have on board to eat at Hi-Fi (and certainly to remember it with beer-goggled fondness) is substantial, and really not good for your long-term health. That's assuming you didn't get food poisoning.

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ever had a draft beer at Hi Fi (yes they had this). the lines were probably never cleaned. yuck

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Well this will be where the rubber meets the road, where socialism meets capitalism , and other peoples money is now yours and not theirs.......

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You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means...

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it means other peoples money , dont be getting all Political Science on me now.......

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A private business paying its privately employed workers more than a minimum wage.

BTW, how is that pension and SS and medicare doing ya?

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Considering pension funds, SS, and Medicare are all bankrupt IOU's to anyone not already retired NOT WELL

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SS no raise this year , Medicare going up , pension steady, revenue from cranberry bogs flat. I dont often eat in Boston, but when I do , I eat at Haymarket Pizza .But thanx for asking ,

CASH ONLY
$1.50 for a slice of cheese (2-3 minutes to heat-up)
2.00 for 1-Topping slice
2.50 for 2-Topping slice

$ 8.00 Cheese pizza. (10-12 minutes)
10.00 1-Topping pizza
11.00 2-Topping pizza

http://www.yelp.com/biz/haymarket-pizza-boston

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)

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As the cost of living, particularly housing, goes up, businesses that rely on low-wage employees will have an increasingly difficult time finding reliable workers. Those workers will live further away and have long commutes in vehicles that $10/hour jobs support.

Mr. Clover may be nice person, who cares about his employees, but I'm sure that he's already feeling the pressure of bridging the gap between his customers and his employees.

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He balked because he needed to work part-time during the school year, and their "part-time" was more hours than he could handle.

So, if they want reliable people who are not living at home and happen to live in the area to work for them for the number of hours that they require, they need to pay closer to a living wage. If it increases the reliability of their workforce and reduces costly turnover, then it may save them money in the long run (just like Costco saves money in the long run by not flipping workers constantly).

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I find a number of these comments surprising, given the normal leftward lean of the commentariat here. It may just be the famed New England frugality at play, or I may have made some patently false assumptions over my years of following this site.

Regardless, in what may be a counter-intuitive line of reasoning, I am a former Clover customer but may return as this plan gets into motion. I stopped eating at Clover after several acquaintances of mine, employed as Clover managers and staff, left within the span of a few months. Most had similar stories regarding long hours and low wages, on top of being expected to buy into a corporate philosophy of eating and buying local that really only works if you earn about 2-3x what they were making.

I get that low wages are the norm in food service, particularly for fast-turn and takeout dining. However, when a company espouses that they are making radical moves to shake up how they deliver food options, but still hold on to McDonald's-level pay scales, I call foul. That's whatever the business ethics version of greenwashing is.

If this goes forward as advertised, it will greatly improve my perception of Ayr and Clover. I'm interested to see what happens.

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It may just be the famed New England frugality at play, or I may have made some patently false assumptions over my years of following this site.>

Or it may be that some people are hypocritical cheap-ass bastards that don't walk their talk. Or it may be that the people arguing against a pay raise by a private business are a bunch of fact-deficient neocon cranks. Several possibilities here.

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... that a bunch of right-wingers now find this a more pleasant place to hang out in (and sometimes troll) than the comment sections for our local news rags.

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I would definitely pay $10-11 for a Clover sandwich if the portion size was just a bit bigger. I support businesses with solid business practice that are working to create a more just and sustainable food system, and would be more likely to go out of my way to go to Clover (it would, in fact, help me make the decision when considering which truck to go to on Dewey or in Kendall). However, I would need to trust that I won't be hungry an hour later, which often happens for me after choosing Clover. Although I love the salads as a means of increasing satiety, I would be less likely to purchase extras with a higher priced sandwich. Increasing the sandwich size some amount would help this issue, or increasing the protein in the sandwich itself.

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Rather than more sandwich, I'd rather have some of their rosemary fries on the side. I know I shouldn't be eating a whole order of them, so maybe throwing in a handful of fries or offering a mini-order would induce people to spend more.

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I don't have a ton of disposable income, but I would be more than willing to shell out a couple more bucks when I buy lunch if it means that workers are making a living wage. Having friends and family who work in the food industry, I've seen how hard it is to get by on sub par wages.

Clover's food never blew me away, but I will definitely seek them out more often now.

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What people dont seem to recognize is that minimum wage jobs are NOT intended to provide enough revenue to sustain a family. Minimum wage jobs are and have always been intended for are students, people in transition and the retired folks looking to fill their days. If people want to earn revenues that would allow for home purchase, raising children and all the other "American dream" notions, you need to follow the same path that millions before have done since the begining. It all starts with education and training. College OR trade schools are the answer. I'm amazed at people that bang out children without first establishing a secure financial vision. College is NOT for everyone. It was NOT for me. I went to trade school and studied to become an electrician. It was tough, tiring and all you would expect of EVERYTHING worth while. I went to night school 3 nights a week. I worked as an apprentice for over 4 years never making more than $7.00 per hour. I did this knowing (hoping) that one day it would pay off. It did. I got my electricians License in 1990. I literally started with NOTHING. I broke my ass working as I still do now. I now own a home in an affluent suburb thats valued at close to a million dollars. I also own 6 condos in the city with the hope that these will provide a revenue stream for us later in life. My point is that in order to earn well above minimum wage, you NEED to become trained in something that is somewhat specialized and then work HARD. Everyone that I know both white collar and blue collar that have obtained their American dream..ALL have one thing in common. That commonality is that they all work extremely hard and had NOTHING handed to them.

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I hope you had a nice journey!

Welcome to the 21st century, where the middle class is eroding and the ranks of the permanently poor, through no fault of their own, cannot get anywhere near these good paying jobs you fondly remember from your era.

Congratulations on your expensive house and your six condos.Not everybody is so lucky, no matter how hard they strive, and most people who are poor are not poor because they are unwilling to work.

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What people dont seem to recognize is that minimum wage jobs are NOT intended to provide enough revenue to sustain a family.

The commonwealth’s 1912 Report of the Commission on Minimum Wage Boards did not mince words. It said that whenever wages “are less than the cost of living and the reasonable provision for maintaining the worker in health, the industry employing her is in receipt of the working energy of a human being at less than its cost, and to that extent is parasitic.

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