Jan. 24, 2018 By Tara Law
Restauranteur Willie “Jack” Degel, who owns a restaurant and bar in Astoria, has come under fire after criticizing minimum wage increases and complaining about employee “entitlement” in an appearance on conservative talk show FOX & Friends Monday.
Degel, who grew up in Queens, is the owner of five restaurants in New York City, including Uncle Jack’s Meat House at 36-18 Ditmars Blvd in Astoria. Degel made the comments in a segment on the impact of minimum wage increases across the country.
Degel, a vocal critic of minimum wage increases, has been accused of failing to follow labor laws in the past. Degel agreed to a settlement in 2014 with more than 50 employees who said Uncle Jack’s Steak House locations failed to pay the minimum wage and took their tips, along with other accusations.
Speaking on FOX & Friends, Degel blamed the wage increases for causing restaurant closings.
“If I try to raise prices I have less guests, and they’re getting insulted and they’re not coming,” said Degel. “They [consumers] are not educated. They don’t understand what’s happening.”
Degel then went on to discuss the experience and work ethic of employees in the restaurant industry.
“Younger people, they’re not used to working,” he said. “They’re starting later, they’re going to school and then they don’t want to work and it’s tough because you meet someone who’s 23 years old and they’ve never really had a job.”
He said that workers attitudes have also changed.
“They used to be servants years ago,” Degel said. “People took great pride in being a servant. They have a more sense of entitlement.”
A number of social media users took to Facebook and Twitter to express their anger at Degel.
“Good people of NY should tell @UNCLEJACKS Jack Degel that they’re not stupid & they know he can afford 2 pay his staff a living wage w/out raising food prices,” wrote Melody L. on Twitter.
Degel responded to his critics on Twitter.
“Today on Fox I was trying to explain how my guests do not know about all the new laws, regulation, compliance, wage increases that has been forced on my industry, I love my staff yet today is very different then years ago,” he wrote.
In 75 Seconds
This Fox & @foxandfriends guest (the CEO of an NYC restaurant chain)
1. Calls his customers dumb
2. Calls his waiters entitled
3. Complains about his waiters going to school pic.twitter.com/iuRHi2HrAn
— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) January 22, 2018