Celebrity Chef Declares California Has ‘Opened the Gateways’ to a Minimum Wage ‘Problem’ in America

By: Georgia | Published: Apr 17, 2024

Celebrity chef Robert Irvine has stirred the pot with his take on California’s new minimum wage law. 

“This is Robert Irvine predicting we’re going to lose about 20-plus percent of our small, mom-and-pop business because what California has actually done is going to enable other states to do the same thing,” Irvine warned during an interview with Fox News Digital.

Nationwide Impact Feared

Irvine sees the wage increase as a broad issue, not just for California. 

Chef Robert Irvine, wearing glasses and a chef's jacket with his name embroidered on it, is speaking into a microphone while making a hand gesture as if explaining a concept, standing on a stage with a blue-lit background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

“I think it is a broadband-spectrum problem that’s across the country, not just California,” he explained, suggesting that other states might follow California’s lead, thereby opening the floodgates to similar economic pressures across the nation.

Tech to the Rescue?

In response to the wage hike, Irvine has noted a significant uptick in tech integration in the restaurant industry. 

Two self-order kiosks with digital screens displaying a "Start Your Order Here" message are set up in a fast-food restaurant

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Since California enacted its minimum wage rise, Irvine said that he and restaurant tech outfitter GRUBBRR have seen a 77% increase in service requests ,highlighting the rush to adapt through technology.

A Digital Lifeline for Diners

Irvine believes technological upgrades could be crucial in saving restaurants from closure due to increased labor costs. 

A close-up of a Hawaiian style pizza with a golden crust, topped with melted cheese, ham, and pineapple chunks, served on a white plate positioned on a marble table

Source: Wikimedia Commons

These innovations aim to streamline operations and reduce the financial strain imposed by higher wages.

The High Cost of Living Wages

The celebrity chef sympathizes with the need for a livable wage but points out the timing issues with the current economic climate. 

A gourmet double cheeseburger with melted cheese, two beef patties, bacon, and red onion on a glossy bun, presented on a wooden surface with a dark red background

Source: Manu Ros/Unsplash

“I believe that everybody should be able to make a livable wage. And up until this point, it’s been tough. Restaurant workers have suffered. But it comes at a really bad time because the inflation is very high, food costs are very high,” Irvine shared.

The Price of Increased Wages

Irvine said, “The increase of wage plus the food cost is putting small, mom-and-pop operators out of business because they cannot afford $20 an hour, $27 an hour in some places.” 

An array of fried chicken pieces with a crispy golden coating, served on paper linings in a metal serving tray, showcasing various cuts including drumsticks and breasts

Source: Brian Chan/Unsplash

This paints a grim picture for many small business owners struggling to keep up.


Big Names Turn to Tech

Unlike smaller establishments, major fast food chains are adopting technology to cope with rising costs. 

wo modern touch screen self-ordering stations in a fast-food restaurant with "Order Here" prompts on the screens, a mobile ordering advertisement, and the restaurant's entrance visible in the background

Source: dslunceford/X

“Fast food chains, think of the McDonald’s and the Yum! Brands and all those kind of folks, are turning to technology to offset that human being,” Irvine said.


Innovating to Save Jobs

Fox News reports that despite not owning any California-based restaurants, Irvine is actively planning new, tech-focused ventures in other states. 

Chef Robert Irvine stands confidently with one hand making a thumbs-up gesture, wearing a white chef's jacket with his name and the logo of 'Robert Irvine Foundation' on it. He is in front of a blue stage background with soft golden curtains to the side

Source: Wikimedia Commons

He aims to use technology not to replace workers but to enhance their roles and reduce errors and inefficiencies.


A New Era of Dining

Irvine is not just talking about change; he’s implementing it. 

Robert Irvine, dressed in a casual grey t-shirt, speaks with a serious expression, gesturing with one hand in front of an audience. A USO banner hangs in the background of the tented venue

Source: Wikimedia Commons

“I’m using that in my own restaurants. I’m putting a restaurant of the future together right now, which is technology-driven. So, is there a way to do it? Absolutely. Should people worry about jobs? Absolutely not,” he confidently stated.


Tech's Benefits

Looking forward, Irvine predicts a tech-savvy future for the restaurant industry. 

Several self-service kiosks with digital screens that read "Order Here" are arranged in a fast-food restaurant, with condiments and napkin dispensers in between them

Source: yiIingIaozus/X

By the end of this year, Irvine estimated that 44% of quick-service restaurants will have adopted technology in either the front or back of the house, which could significantly enhance operational efficiency and profitability.


Boosting Earnings Through Innovation

Irvine argues that technology doesn’t just save costs; it increases revenue. 

A lineup of identical white self-service kiosks, each with a digital screen and payment terminal, is ready for installation, positioned in a manufacturing facility

Source: lei_alisa/X

“So you’re actually making more money, which, in the long run, you can pay more money to your staff [and] keep them happy in the jobs that you want them to do,” Irvine explained.


Embracing the Future

For those worried about the spread of minimum wage laws and the potential closure of more businesses, Irvine advises a proactive approach. 

Workers in a fast food restaurant kitchen, wearing red uniforms, are preparing burgers in an assembly line process. They are adding toppings like lettuce and tomatoes to the burgers, which are lined up on a metal counter. In the foreground, a container of chopped grilled onions

Source: Marcel Heil/Unsplash

“Technology is not going away. It’s only getting better. So I would say to those hesitant, you really must focus, figure out what your operation needs, and then find somebody like a GRUBBRR or a technology company that comes in and listens to what you need and what your vision of your business is,” he concluded.