The Harma Hospitality Group in Morgantown bumps its minimum wage to $16/hour following the COVID-19 pandemic.
This story has been edited to clarify the way tipped employees are compensated.
Harma Hospitality Group is making headlines in Morgantown following their May 8 announcement that they would boost their minimum wage to $16/hour for qualified employees. We caught up with Harma Hospitality President Bron Kayal to learn what this will mean for the Morgantown restaurant industry.
What is Harma Hospitality Group?
Harma Hospitality Group is a food service and management company. We own and operate full-service restaurants and organize, operate, and develop restaurant brands. Our mission is to positively influence every life, enriching the lives of our people and the people we serve. We aim to be the most employee-centric and customer-focused company in food service.
Harma was formed last year during the pandemic, and we are a management team that is responsible for different aspects that help restaurants run smoothly. Harma started with Crab Shack Caribba and Dockside Grille but has quickly expanded to include two more restaurants under the umbrella with the recent addition of Nonno Carlo Italian Deli & Imports and Sugar Bar Sweets + Coffee.
What made you want to increase your minimum wage to $16 an hour?
There is a labor shortage. We also knew a regular minimum wage is not truly a living wage, so we knew we had to change something.
We rely on the people who work at our restaurants and vice versa. We know good people are hard to find, and they’re often over-worked and underappreciated. We believe great work deserves recognition, and our goal is to create a positive, fulfilling, and rewarding community where people genuinely love to work and have room to grow.
How does your announcement change compensation for your employees?
Labor laws dictate that if you do not make $8.75 an hour between your hourly rate and your tips, we the employer have to make up the difference. We are setting that minimum wage standard for us, Harma Hospitality Group, at $16 per hour. Before our announcement, our employees made anywhere from $11 or $12 to $25 to $30. With our announcement, all full-time employees, which is an employee that works 35 hours or more per week year ’round, will be compensated at a minimum of $16 per hour. This includes full-time tipped employees—bartenders, servers and bussers/barbacks.
How many of your employees are full-time?
Under the Harma Hospitality Group umbrella, we employee about 110 to 115, and we have 25 to 30 full-time employees that this has immediately affected.
That leaves a lot of people who aren’t affected by the wage increase.
All we can do is start somewhere. We are starting small and making changes and taking risks in our business.
Do you think this do-able for all restaurants?
Every restaurant is very different and restaurant profit margins are very small, so I can’t speak for other businesses, but we hope that more businesses will follow suit. I will say it’s a risk for us, but we’re willing to take it for our employees.
Will we see a price increase?
We are trying our best to keep prices the same. But shortages in the supply chain can sometimes make that difficult. Restaurants are paying 100% more for their supply because of COVID. For now, we’re hoping to not see any price increases.
Follow Harma Hospitality Group on Facebook @harmausa.
Interview by Savannah Carr