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NYC’s Trying To Help Ease Restaurant Woes With Advice From Big Name Chefs

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Big wigs like David Chang and Union Square Hospitality are offering tips

Má Pêche
[Momofuku’s Ma Peche]
Daniel Krieger

Chefs and restaurants have been complaining about the same issues over and over again for a while — fewer people to fill jobs, higher minimum wage costs, red tape to get restaurant doors open. Now, New York City’s local government is trying to work directly with some of the city’s biggest chefs and restaurants in hopes of easing some of the problems. Chefs like David Chang and Amanda Cohen and top executives from companies like Union Square Hospitality Group and Le Pain Quotidien are on the advisory board for New York’s new NYC Food and Beverage Hospitality Council, created by the NYC Department of Small Business Services. The goal — address those big issues like the labor shortage.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the restaurateurs have already asked for a couple things. For one, they want the right to add surcharges to bills to offset costs like the increasing minimum wage. It’s currently illegal to add an extra charge, but people have tried. Steakhouse chain Hillstone briefly added a 2 percent surcharge to offset the new $15 minimum wage laws, and Brooklyn pizzeria Franny’s added a 3 percent one to pay for rising healthcare costs. Both restaurants removed them after backlash. But now, the city is looking into making those surcharges legal.

The council will also be trying to help the labor shortage by creating a culinary training program for unemployed young people, ages 18 to 24. After the classes, the trainees would work in restaurants of the council members for on the job training, and the restaurants would split the cost of salaries with the city, though they still haven’t decided what the split will be, according to the Journal. It’s a move intended to both help with the quality labor shortage in the hospitality industry and create jobs in the city.

New York has more than 19,000 restaurants, and the new council looks like an attempt to ease relations with an industry that’s getting hit particularly hard by new regulations. Besides the push for higher minimum wage laws, Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to introduce a bill that will also minimize last minute scheduling for restaurants and retailers — a move that would help stabilize employee lives but adds another regulation to the businesses. Many big restaurateurs have followed the suit of Danny Meyer and are bracing for higher labor costs by doing things like eliminating tipping. "The industry has faced multiple and concurrent headwinds recently," Altamarea Group CEO Ahmass Fakahany says in a statement, "and partnering with the city to proactively address the impact of these headwinds is encouraging and welcome."

Here’s a fuller list of the star-studded advisory council, led by hotel industry veteran Michel Mroue:

Ahmass Fakahany President & CEO, Altamarea Group
Jimmy Haber, CEO, Esquared Hospitality Group
Marc Murphy, Chef & Owner, Benchmarc Restaurants Group
Alexandra Inzunza, Director of Operations, Benchmarc Restaurants Group
Doug Satzman, President & CEO, Le Pain Quotidien
Scott Milford, Vice President of Human Resources, Le Pain Quotidien
Ben Feilen, Vice President, NY Operations at OTG
Sabato Sagaria, Chief Restaurant Officer, Union Square Hospitality
Diana DeCicco, Training & Compliance, Union Square Hospitality
Martin Shapiro, Managing Partner, Myriad Restaurant Group
Eric Kaplan, Executive Vice President, Patina Restaurant Group
Geoff Gljiva, Vice President of Operations, Patina Restaurant Group
Philippe G. Massoud, CEO/Executive Chef, ilili & ilili Box
Peggy Rubenzer, SVP Human Resources, Shake Shack Burgers
Julia Heyer, Principle, Heyer Performance
Justin Morel, Vice President of Operations, Crafted Hospitality Group
Josh Siegel, Vice President of Business Operation and Legal, Momofuku Group
Evan Darnell, Managing Partner, Carla Hall Southern Kitchen
Anna Castellani, Managing Partner, Foragers
Rajan Lai, Vice President of Human Resources, Batali and Bastianich
John Rigos, CO-CEO, Aurify Brands
John Meadow, Founder & President, LDV Hospitality
Dean Martinus, President, Great Performances
Joann Makovitzky, CEO, One Five Hospitality
Mindy Birnbaum, General Counsel, Great Performances
Jennifer McMahon Elliott, Director of Business Operations, Great Performances
Paul Neuman, President, Neumans Kitchens
David Chang, Celebrity Chef, Momofuku
Will Guidara, Co-Owner Made Nice NYC (Eleven Madison Park, The Nomad)
Claus Meyer, Celebrity Chef, President & CEO, Meyers USA
Jens Baake, COO, Meyers USA
Jeremy Merrin, Founder & CEO, Havana Central
Anita Lo, Celebrity Chef & Owner, Annisa
Amanda Cohen, Celebrity Chef & Owner, Dirt Candy
Stephen Goglia, President & CEO, Craveable Hospitality Group
Cleo Clarke, Vice President, Human Resources, EATALY
Amy Scherber, Owner, Amy’s Bakery
Gregory Zamfotis, President & CEO, Gregory’s Coffee
Lena Khoury, CO-Owner, Fika Coffee
David Mancini- Managing Director, Le-Bernardin
Vittorio Assaf, President & CEO, Serafina restaurant group
Leith Hill, Owner, Ellary's Greens
Cameron Clark, Vice President & General Manager, Hornblower Cruises
Steven Kamali, President & CEO, Steven Kamali Hospitality
Andrew Rigie, Executive Director, The NYC Hospitality Alliance
Keith E. Durst, President & CEO, Durst Consulting Group
Kevin Dugan, NYC Regional Director, NYSR