Chicago’s recent minimum wage increase has caused multiple long-established and relatively cheap Hyde Park restaurants to raise their prices.
Rajun Cajun and Cedars on 53rd Street and the Nile on 55th Street all raised prices following the July 1 minimum wage increase from $8.25 an hour to $10 an hour. Snail Thai on 55th has not yet raised prices but may do so as the minimum wage continues to rise, according to the owner, Marisa, who declined to give her last name. The minimum wage will increase 50 cents each year until 2019 when it hits $13.
Trushar Patel, manager of Rajun Cajun, explained that the restaurant’s 30 percent price increase has not affected the business so far. “We were so underpriced in Hyde Park anyway, and still are,” Patel said. “So far nobody is complaining.” He says that following this change and the “big jump” in minimum wage from $8.25 to $10, prices will remain stable even with the 50 cent wage increases, at least until minimum wage hits $13.
Rajun Cajun also closed for two and a half months this summer to undergo renovations. Patel says that the renovation itself had no effect on the price increases. However, he explained that the price increase was partly due to the fact that the restaurant had not raised prices in 12 years.
Cedars also has not experienced much change in business, after raising prices about 10 percent. “People like our food,” Chef’s Manager Illias Seddol said.
The Nile has experienced minimal changes in business, having raised prices for the first time in four or five years by 20 percent, according to manager Chyna Shahandeh. “A lot of our customer base is university students and we see the reactions a little in their business. For example, sandwiches which were once five dollars are now seven, but it’s no great loss.”
Snail Thai increased prices two years ago, and may raise them again soon. Owner Marisa believes this is necessary to survive as a business, “to survive for repairs, wear and tear, and everything.” She explains that although she does not want to increase prices, it will probably be the best option for her business.
“People who work with me have been with me for more than 10 years, so they deserve to get paid and get vacation, and this is what I can offer them while still being competitive,” Marisa said.
She thinks a price increase at her restaurant would be reasonable, especially when compared to other local restaurants. “We give big portions and I don’t think we make it hard for the customers,” she said.
Not all Hyde Park restaurants have raised prices. For example, Valois, Harold’s Chicken, and Yusho have remained the same.
In spite of having to raise prices, each of the managers believes the minimum wage increase is fair.
“I’m trying to do the best I can,” Marisa said. “I put in 16 hours a day to ensure that we have a good restaurant and give good food to the customer, but the people who work with me aren’t supposed to be poor.”