Dec 8, 2023 - News

Atlanta restaurant wage growth fares better than U.S. average

Data: Square; Note: Earnings include base wages, tips and overtime; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Square; Note: Earnings include base wages, tips and overtime; Chart: Axios Visuals

Metro Atlanta restaurant workers are seeing a little bit more money in their paychecks.

Driving the news: Wage growth for this industry rose slightly to 5.8% in October, up from 5.2% in September, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Alice Feng report.

  • But that's down from a peak of ​​12.5% in February 2022.
  • The data comes from Square's new third-quarter restaurant industry report and includes base wages, tips and overtime.

The big picture: Nationally, restaurant workers' wage growth has slipped considerably, falling below pre-pandemic rates.

  • Restaurant workers' wages grew 4.9% year over year nationwide in October 2023.
  • That's slowed from peak growth of 10.5% in December 2021, when the average base wage was $12.60 and average hourly earnings totaled $15.85.

Why it matters: It's a sign that restaurants are no longer quite as desperate for workers as they were coming out of the pandemic shutdown, when many struggled to replace employees who had left for other industries.

  • It's also a reflection of inflation's impact on restaurants and consumers alike.

What they're saying: "We realized that in order to compete with tech giants for skilled workers, we needed to provide more attractive and competitive packages," Ayman Kamel of K5 Hospitality Group, which owns 5Church Midtown and Buckhead, and AltaToro, told Axios.

  • The company eased expectations for applicants' experience, paid hourly workers higher wages and boosted insurance and vacation benefits.

Of note: Waffle House cooks and servers in Georgia are organizing to demand higher wages and better work conditions, including security in the 24-hour restaurants.

Be smart: Wage growth is best considered alongside inflation — if your wage grows 3% but so does inflation, your wage didn't grow at all.

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