Proposed bill would raise minimum wage for tipped employees in Tennessee

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Some Tennessee lawmakers are looking to shake up the way restaurants operate by changing the minimum wage for workers who get tips.

Senate Bill 1851 would raise the hourly wage for restaurant servers, or anyone who relies on tips, to $7.25/hour plus tips.

Whether this would be good for restaurant owners, servers, and customers is the question some are asking.

“Absolutely, that’s good. Who can survive off 2 dollars an hour?” Eugene Jackson told FOX13.

Every restaurant customer FOX13 spoke with about the proposed bill said they’re all for a pay increase.

That includes Jackson. He said he understands servers rely on tips, but still doesn’t see that as fair.

“What if you’re not having a good day? You go home and you’ve only an 8-hour day, 16 dollars. You might have made 30-40 dollars in a day? Who can survive off that?" Jackson said.

FOX13 tried calling more than a dozen restaurant managers and owners to hear their perspective. Some said they were busy and couldn’t talk, but many said they were not interested in getting in on the debate, calling speaking on the subject a ‘lose-lose’ for them.

That could be because restaurants would theoretically have to pay their servers up to a 250 percent increase in salary – something sure to have an impact on the bottom line.

But folks outside of the restaurant industry said they’re willing to pay a little more.

“Cost of living might go up a little, but I think minimum wage could be a little better, so people could have a better life, pay their bills and survive,” Nadine Saunders said.

“I never go anywhere and eat without tipping. Ever. If I don’t have money to tip, I’m not going out to eat,” Jackson said.

Senate Bill 1851 was proposed by Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis). This bill was introduced and passed on first consideration Monday.

FOX13 reached out to Senator Akbari to see what she has to say about restaurant owners in this situation. We’ll share her comments when they become available.