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Foodie Words That Must Be Banished Now

Let's start with "foodie."

But while many see a pay increase as a positive step toward reducing income inequality, the restaurant industry worries that operators will have to raise food prices to respond to the higher labor costs. The National Restaurant Association reports that a higher minimum wage could lead to more expensive food, fewer employees, a drop in the quality of food that is served and fewer franchises.

The minimum wage is currently determined at the state level, and many state governments have already raised it or pledged to raise it above $7.25 an hour to adjust to a changing economy and the cost of living. Texas isn't yet one of those states.

Along with pledges to raise the minimum wage come talks of raising the tipped minimum wage as well, from $2.13 an hour to as much as $5 an hour. Because of this possibility, it's not just major fast-food-chain operators who are voicing their displeasure. It's the owners and operators of much smaller restaurants as well.

Hey, they said it, not me.
Hey, they said it, not me.
Pita chips pair nicely with a salad made at Salata.
Molly Dunn
Pita chips pair nicely with a salad made at Salata.

Currently, if a tipped waiter or waitress doesn't make an average of $7.25 an hour with tips and the $2.13 wage, the restaurant is required to pay the difference. With the non-tipped minimum wage likely to increase in many states, some lawmakers and restaurant-worker advocates are calling for the first increase in the tipped minimum wage since 1991.

Tom Harkin, a Democratic senator from Iowa, has proposed to raise the minimum wage nationwide to $10.10, continually adjust the minimum wage to respond to inflation and raise the minimum tipped wage to 70 percent of the minimum non-tipped wage. He pointed to concerns raised by the restaurant industry in 2007 about the minimum wage increase and noted that the previous raise didn't seem to hurt the industry at all, contrary to what the National Restaurant Association might claim.

Still, restaurateurs large and small say that any wage increases will mean they'll have to cut their labor force and raise prices, even though a recent report from Piper Jaffray restaurant analyst Nicole Regan Miller suggested that the status quo could be maintained with little change to restaurant structure or quality.

"On a broad level, we recognize additional labor costs as an added stress to restaurant operators," wrote Regan, "but ultimately believe potential impacts should be manageable through a combination of menu price and/or operational efficiencies."

Even though Texas hasn't made any headway toward changing the minimum or tipped wages, what do you think is the right way to go?

Should the minimum wage be raised? Should the tipped minimum wage be raised?

And would you be willing to pay more for your Big Mac in exchange for the peace of mind that your server is able to pay her bills?
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Restaurant News

Openings & Closings
Ranch Bakery returns, and a beloved food truck will soon be back.

Molly Dunn

It has been quite a slow week for restaurant openings and closings. In fact, there weren't any notable closings that we heard about. So let's get right to the openings.

CultureMap Houston's Eric Sandler reports that Ranch Bakery has reopened inside Cypress's The Backyard Smokehouse. The bakery reopened on February 1 serving its signature Texas kolaches filled with savory ingredients such as bacon and cheese, brisket, and an­douille, as well as a variety of sweet fillings like bourbon peach, salted caramel apple and cherry compote. And don't worry; Ranch Bakery still has its famous soft pretzels stuffed with bratwurst and mustard, pepperoni and mozzarella, and so much more. Barbecue and Southern pastries, sweets, and breads make one heck of a combination.

CultureMap Houston announced that Joshua Martinez, co-owner of Goro & Gun, will bring back his food truck, The Modular, and that he already has plans to serve meals at Mangum Food Park and Liberty Station. The truck should be up and running within two weeks. Eric Sandler writes that the truck will serve a mix of menu items from Goro & Gun as well as dishes the food truck used to sell, such as the lobster risotto and roasted bone marrow. Remember when the food truck was featured on Cooking Channel's Eat St.?

The newest Hubcap Grill will be here faster than we can say, "One Greek burger with fries, please." Eater Houston reported that Ricky Craig's restaurant will open in Kemah by April. This Hubcap Grill — the third one — will be near the water, making it a relaxing place to have a craft beer and one of Craig's signature burgers. No fish or shrimp burgers at this location, however. Craig tells Eater that he will serve beef burgers, just as the downtown and Heights locations do.

Swamplot noted that the spot previously occupied by Red Lantern (917 Franklin) will become a "Creole, Cuban and Caribbean" restaurant from Arena Theatre chef Mark Latigue. One can only wonder what the menu will include at this fusion restaurant.

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