There's a Gigantic Income Gap in the Restaurant Industry

Matt Berman

It's not really surprising to learn that full-time restaurant employees making minimum wage aren't doing too great. What is surprising—and reasonably jaw-dropping—is just how much more money CEOs at the largest restaurant companies made in 2012 than those employees.

A new study from the Economic Policy Institute's Ross Eisenbrey shows that a minimum-wage employee makes in a full year much less than an average top restaurant CEO makes in one day. The actual numbers: A full-time minimum-wage employee made $15,080 in 2012. The average top restaurant CEO earned $11,884,000. That's 788 times as much as a minimum wage employee made.

The average CEO data comes from the S&P 1500. As a chart from EPI shows, this trend is only getting more extreme:


(Economic Policy Institute)


The National Restaurant Association, which represents the CEOs, is no fan of a minimum-wage increase, as Eisenbrey notes. Just this past March, the association took that message to the Senate, with a New Jersey restaurateur telling the U.S. Senate, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee that increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour would cut jobs and hurt small businesses.

The Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would increase the federal minimum to $10.10, was introduced by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. Both bills are in committee.

Update: This story has been clarified based on new information from EPI.