Joel Panozzo W Farmer Melvin 2018 MI

I own and operate The Lunch Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I have worked minimum wage jobs throughout the industry, from delivering newspapers starting at 11 years old to slicing pizzas at 16, to line cooking at 25. I have worked for employers who have acknowledged the importance of a fair and equitable wage and have work for others that have placed profits over staff.

As a business owner, I think it’s important to pay all employees a living wage and that paying a living wage means actually respecting my employees. The restaurant industry is growing and changing. Now more than ever, there is money to be made in food. There is no reason that a person at each level of the restaurant operation can’t take home enough money to put food on their own family’s table. The industry is resilient and adapts to change all of the time. In the same way, a restaurant can immediately adapt to the latest food trends, they can adapt to equitable wages for their employees. We have found equitable wages as a growing desire of our clientele. Not only are our guests interested in what is organic and gluten-free, but they also want the person slicing their tomatoes, washing their dishes, and delivering an appetizer to their table to be healthy and paid a living wage.

Working towards a livable wage was a conscious business decision that we made over time. We decided the initial sacrifices would, in the end, be the best for the business. The story timeline of our business reflects a similar timeline of wages being raised in the original ballot proposal language. In the past seven years, we have not only been able to assure every employee a livable wage, but also matching retirement plan, earned time off,  free usage of the public transportation system and a platinum health and dental plan that only requires a $100 a month buy-in. I directly attribute our growth and continued turning profits to providing these benefits.

One of my number one stresses as a small business owner is hiring and training new staff. We have seen a large increase in employee retention over the years. My staff comes to work motivated and invested in the business’ success. When a business owner is able to retain their staff, they can focus on growing their business and investing in their local community.

If someone is working a 40 hour work week, they should no longer question their take-home pay. A 40 hour work week should mean a paycheck where an individual can pay their rent, feed their family and possibly even visit the restaurant they work at as customers.