Salad drive-thru Baby Greens is closing this month. The last day of the 10611 Research Boulevard restaurant in the Gateway neighborhood will be on Friday, October 7.
Owner Sharon Mays said she had to close her business because she “no longer had enough employees to run the restaurant,” as she explains in the Instagram video post announcement. Starting earlier this year, she said that she has been losing lots of employees because they’ve been leaving Austin to live in comparatively more affordable cities and areas.
“I’m literally having to turn down money-making opportunities because I do not have enough employees,” Mays tells Eater. She was at the point where she’s been toeing the fine line of staying just busy enough to operate with a small team and making enough money while not becoming too busy that she and her employees get overwhelmed.
Mays notes that her starting wages are $17 an hour, has been recruiting nonstop, and offered signing bonuses. “All of these things should be working on paper, but there’s more to it than this,” she says. “Nobody is showing up.” To make up for her small staff, she’s been putting in 12- to 14-hour days alongside her employees.
But Baby Greens’s higher wages didn’t fix Mays’s problem. “If we’re at a point where $17 or $20 dollars an hour is not enough for a person to have a normal life, then what happens?” she asks. “Who do we become as a community and the industry?”
This staffing issue coupled with the increasing lack of affordable housing and the growing higher cost of living in the city are things that Mays believes the restaurant industry needs to get more serious about. She doesn’t understand how people can even start out in Austin without not-crazily-priced rents and homes and decently-paying jobs.
May reminisces about starting the original Baby Greens back in 2004, and how it was amazing to see all the restaurants, food trucks, and consumer packaged goods companies flourish in Austin. “But I look at our industry now, and I wonder what’s going to happen to everybody?” she asks. She also asks, “What does it mean for Black and brown kids who aren’t on college paths?” noting that usually first jobs are all fast-food and fast-casual restaurant chains, but if they can’t find jobs that help them afford and jumpstart their life, what will happen to them and those jobs and those restaurants?
Mays first opened Baby Greens in 2004 and expanded with several locations throughout Austin, all of which closed in 2009. She revitalized her restaurant in 2016.
Baby Greens will continue to honor catering jobs through the end of the year. Its current hours are from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.