Three ways restaurants try to save money

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Not every restaurant owner is a dishonest, greedy bastard, but plenty of them do seem to fall into that category. How do they (try to) save money? Well, just look at the three biggest costs of doing business: rent, labor, and food costs.

Vendors to the restaurant industry have their biz figured out: wholesale accounts pay a lot less than grocery-store retail, but they do have to pay cash. Whether it’s osso buco or Manila clams, the driver gets a check. (Now, from time to time a dude shows up with a case of lobster tails that fell off a truck. Yeah, right. But he wants cash, too.)

Next, labor. Your cooks, your waiters. The watchdog here is the Washington State Division of Labor & Industries. Shortchange your staff, and it’s wage theft, a felony. That goes for back-of-house workers (who may be undocumented), even if you pay them in cash. That goes for tips, too. In this state, tips belong to the employees, not the owner. The problem is that most tips these days are put on credit cards. Owners should release them within three days but often hold onto them much longer. Not legal. Technically, wage theft.

And the third big budget item: rent. There’s a reason most landlords require a personal guarantee from restaurant operators: it’s all to easy to let rent payments slide. The latest example (all from the same operator in West Stattle) is recounted in Seattle.Eater.

But hey, it’s Christmas, and every one is merry. Right?