This pizza chain owner who pays $16 an hour says there’s no labor shortage, just a shortage of businesses willing to pay a decent wage

Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Co-founder of &pizza Steve Salis (left) and CEO Michael Lastoria (right).

  • The CEO of restaurant chain &pizza says there’s no labor shortage, only a wage shortage.
  • He’s been paying employees $16/hr since before the pandemic and says he’s fully staffed.
  • He said he’d received more than 100 applications for each job this year.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Business owners say they’re struggling to find staff. Not so the CEO of &pizza, a restaurant chain in Washington, DC, who claims that he’s been bombarded with job applications.

Michael Lastoria told Insider that business was booming at the pizza chain’s 51 locations and all were fully staffed. He said that the secret was paying staff a proper wage.

The crippling US labor shortage has been felt in all corners of the economy, including hospitality and ride-hailing. It’s caused some businesses to slash opening hours, cut production, and raise prices. Nearly half of US restaurant owners said they struggled to pay their rent in May because staffing shortages hurt their revenues.

But it hasn’t knocked &pizza, Lastoria said.

While opening 12 new locations this year, Lastoria said he’d received well over 100 applications for each job. “Our new locations are fully staffed and we plan to open another 15 by the end of the year,” he said.

Lastoria said he’d been able to dodge the labor shortage by leveraging an employee-centric business model that involves paying staff $16 an hour on average, among other benefits.

“We are living proof that the claims that business owners are making about the impossibility of paying people enough money to live on are false,” Lastoria said. Those claims were designed to protect the old corporate mindset that permits shockingly high executive pay and staff exploitation, he said.

Employees working at &pizza are entitled to benefits such as paid leave for activism and healthcare, Lastoria said. “We built this company around taking care of workers because without them we wouldn’t exist,” he said.

The fact that the average minimum wage worker has to work 79 hours a week to afford rent for a one-bedroom apartment is the real crisis, Lastoria said. “There isn’t a labor shortage, there is a shortage of business owners willing to pay a living wage.

“The idea that wages couldn’t possibly rise even once over the past 12 years while prices went up, while inflation went up and while the cost of living went up, has resulted in the ‘shortage’ [business owners] are experiencing today.

“Higher wages lead to greater consumer spending and greater workforce productivity, things every company benefits from.”

A competitive labor market has led to workers “rage-quitting” their jobs to protest poor pay and working conditions. A former employee at Dollar General recently told Insider how she rage-quit her job in the spring of 2021 because of the fraught work environment. Similar incidents have occurred at McDonald’s, Chipotle, Hardee’s, and Wendy’s locations around the US.

Lastoria said: “If you aren’t paying your employees enough to cover basic survival costs, what possible incentive could a person have to take that job?”

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The labor shortage is causing havoc in the Hamptons, with understaffed restaurants, beauty salons booked up for weeks, and no one to mow the lawns

The Hamptons in summer
People wearing face masks walk by Main Street n Southampton, New York.

  • Hamptons residents and businesses say they can’t find enough workers.
  • Soaring rents and a ban on visas for temporary workers is making it hard to live and work there.
  • A restaurant owner is doubling as a handyman. A resident said he’d taken to mowing his own lawn.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Hamptons residents and businesses are scrambling to find workers during the growing US labor shortage – and one said he had to take off his $800 sneakers to trim the weeds because a landscaper didn’t show up.

“I had to buy a lawnmower and cut my own lawn. I wanted flowers planted behind the pool. The landscaper didn’t show up. I had to do it myself,” one Hamptons resident told Vanity Fair. “My brother just showed me how to use the thing that trims the weeds. Yesterday, I finally did that. I had to take my $800 sneakers off first, but it was actually satisfying.”

A combination of soaring rents across Long Island, laws that crack down on shared houses, and a previous ban on visas for temporary workers has made it difficult for people to live and work in the area.

Local businesses such as restaurants and beauty salons say they can’t find enough workers to do the job.

Eric Lemonides, co-owner of Almond restaurant in Bridgehampton, told The New York Times that he’s had to close his restaurant two days a week because he can’t find enough cooks.

“It’s just been harder than it’s ever been before,” he told The Times.

He’s taken on multiple other roles – power washing the sidewalks and becoming the restaurant’s handyman – because “there is no one else to do it,” he said.

Demand is also sky-high at the moment. Zach Erdem, who owns Southampton hotspots 75 Main and Blu Mar, said he’s been completely booked out since he reopened at the start of June.

Other businesses say they have weeks-long waiting lists.

Annie Barton, owner of The Salon & Day Spa in Amagansett, told Vanity Fair that “the phone is ringing off the hook” and her employees are working “nonstop from the minute they arrive to the minute they leave.”

“Everyone’s going for the natural look this year,” one East Hampton resident told Vanity Fair, describing how impossible it is to get a booking at a beauty salon this summer.

If you are a business struggling to find workers please contact this reporter at mhanbury@businessinsider.com.

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