Batali’s Del Posto Raises Prices & Wages (Updated)

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Mario Batali’s most expensive restaurant will soon start charging its customers more and paying its staff more.  

Del Posto, the chef’s Michelin-starred Italian spot in Manhattan’s West Chelsea district, will raise its minimum wage to $10 for non-tipped employees in October, general manager Jeff Katz tells The Price Hike. Because of the higher labor costs, and because of rising food costs, Del Posto will increase the price of its five-course dinner menu to $126, an $11 hike, and its tasting menu to $179, a $14 hike. Lunch will remain at $39.

"If you have a dishwasher who’s making eight bucks, that guy’s going to a see a $2 increase," Katz said, adding that the raise will be "sizable for a lot of the people it’s going to affect."  

The new minimum will mainly benefit dishwashers, porters, prep cooks, butchers and those who handle linens, said Katz. “We hope it can help us reward some of the staff that had been with us for a long time and just get closer to the living wage, which, depending on who you ask, $10 is that number.” The new minimum does not apply to tipped workers at Del Posto, who already “do quite well,” according to Katz. 

Individual restaurants don’t typically release pay data for competitive reasons, but Katz’s remarks generally fall into line with wage estimates calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. 

The Bureau estimates that dishwashers in the New York-New Jersey Metropolitan area earn a mean hourly wage of $9.59/hour, or $19,950 over the course of a year. Barbacks, table setters, and those who pour water or replenish condiments are estimated to earn a mean hourly wage of $10.14/hour, or $21,080 yearly.*

Average wages for other non-tipped restaurant workers in New York, and tipped waiters, are estimated as:   

  • Cooks: $13.71/hr (mean). 
  • Cold food prep, meat slicing: $11.87/hr (mean).
  • Hosts: $12.42/hr (mean). 
  • Short order cooks: $11.59/hr (mean). 
  • Waiters: $11.76/hr (mean, tipped). 

Del Posto’s move to publicly raise wages arrives at time when compensation for hospitality industry workers, some of them Batali employees, has come under increased scrutiny. Last September, Batali and his partners agreed to pay $1.15 million to 31 workers at Del Posto to settle a 2010 labor dispute. The settlement resolved claims alleging racial discrimination, misappropriation of tips and lost minimum wages and overtime. 

U.S. president Barack Obama asked Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $9/hr hour in his 2013 State of the Union Address in January. Certain municipalities already have higher minimums than that. Workers in Washington State must make at least $9.19/hr, while San Francisco has the country’s highest minimum wage at $10.55/hr. New York sets its minimum wage at $7.25/hr, the federal minimum. 

Sushi Yasuda and Per Se, two high-profile New York City restaurants, have adopted European-style service-included policies where prices are reflective of tip, in order to help reduce the wage disparity between tipped employees like waiters, and non-tipped employees like cooks, who typically can’t partake of gratuity pools.

Katz, in an email, wrote that Del Posto has “thought about” service-included or service-added models, but that it’s a “huge change from the staff’s perspective and the guest’s perspective.” 

Del Posto is the crown-jewel of the Batali & Bastianch empire of restaurants. Former New York Times food critic Sam Sifton awarded the venue four stars, his paper’s highest rating. 

*This post was updated to reflect new wage estimates. Previously, we used estimates from New York State, which we indicated in the original post. The new estimates reflect the New York-New Jersey Metropolitan area. These estimates are slightly higher. 

— Ryan Sutton is the founder and editor of The Price Hike and The Bad Deal. He is also a restaurant critic for Bloomberg News, where he works full time. Contact: ryanpsutton@gmail.com or rsutton1@bloomberg.net.  

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