Minimum Wage in Virginia: A Guide for Restaurants in 2023

July 13, 2023

The minimum wage in Virginia is a critical topic for restaurant owners and those planning to open a restaurant in the state. It directly impacts labor costs and, consequently, the overall financial health of your establishment. Understanding Virginia's current minimum wage rates for 2023 is crucial for effective financial planning and ensuring that your employees are compensated fairly.

In this blog post, we will dive into the specifics of the minimum wage in Virginia, explore the differences between state and federal laws, and provide valuable insights for restaurant owners to adapt and thrive in the face of these changes.

What is the Minimum Wage in Virginia?

Effective January 1, 2023, Virginia's minimum wage stands at $12.00 per hour. Tipped employees, those consistently receiving over $30.00 a month in tips, have a special minimum wage rate of $2.13 per hour. However, the total income from an employee's hourly wages and tips must meet or exceed the Virginia minimum wage of $12.00 per hour. Employers are obligated to bridge the gap if this threshold isn't met. Virginia's minimum wage is set to rise incrementally, aiming for $15 per hour by January 1, 2026, ensuring fair compensation for all workers.

Historical Minimum Wage Rates in Virginia

Let's take a look at the historical progression of the minimum wage in Virginia over the past few years:

  • 2018: Minimum wage was $7.25 per hour.

  • 2019: Minimum wage remained at $7.25 per hour.

  • 2020: The minimum wage was still $7.25 per hour.

  • 2021: Minimum wage increased to $9.50 per hour from May 1, 2021.

  • 2022: Minimum wage rose to $11.00 per hour from January 1, 2022.

  • 2023: The most recent increase brought the minimum wage to $12.00 per hour, effective January 1, 2023.

Source: Virginia Minimum Wage by Labor Law Center

Virginia State vs. Federal Minimum Wage

In the United States, minimum wage standards are delineated by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a federal law that establishes essential labor standards and safeguards for employees. The FLSA provides the framework connecting the state and federal minimum wages, allowing states the flexibility to either adopt the federal minimum wage or establish a higher minimum wage applicable solely within their borders.

Federal Minimum Wage: $7.25 per Hour

The bedrock of minimum wage, as set by the FLSA, is $7.25 per hour. This federal standard ensures that covered employees receive a minimum compensation of $7.25 for their regular working hours. It serves as the baseline, applicable nationwide, including Virginia.

State Minimum Wage in Virginia (2023)

Like many states, Virginia exercises its authority to set its unique minimum wage. As of 2023, the state's minimum wage surpasses the federal benchmark, reflecting the region's cost of living and economic dynamics. Employers within Virginia must comply with the state-mandated minimum wage, which takes precedence over the federal standard.

Preemption and Minimum Wage Compliance

Restaurant owners must recognize that the federal rate binds employers if a state's minimum wage falls below the federal threshold. This legal principle, known as preemption, ensures that regardless of the state's minimum wage, the FLSA safeguards employees from receiving less than $7.25 per hour. However, in Virginia's case, where the state minimum wage exceeds the federal rate, restaurant proprietors must adhere to the higher state standard.

How is the Virginia Minimum Wage Set?

The minimum wage is influenced by various factors, and three core variables that often dictate the minimum wage are:

1. Local Living Expenses: The cost of living reflects the money needed for essentials like housing, food, healthcare, and transportation in a particular area. When the cost of living is high in a region, there's a bigger chance people will ask for a higher minimum wage to cover their basic needs properly.

2. Demand vs Supply in the Labor Market: The state of the local labor market significantly impacts the minimum wage. In a robust job market with a shortage of workers, employers may offer higher wages to attract and retain employees. In contrast, in a sluggish market with high unemployment rates, there might be less pressure to raise wages, even for minimum-wage positions.

3. Local Inflation: Inflation causes the prices of goods and services to keep going up, which reduces the purchasing power of money. To maintain the value of the minimum wage over time, it should be adjusted to match inflation. Not doing so would make it difficult for workers to afford the same goods and services as before, leading to a declining standard of living.

Are There Plans to Change the Minimum Wage?

The path ahead for Virginia's minimum wage doesn't end in 2023. It involves further increments until it reaches $15.00 per hour by 2026. However, additional increases beyond this point require lawmakers' approval. Democrats are actively pushing for a $15 minimum wage in the near future, a move that underscores Virginia's commitment to fair labor practices.

Implications for Restaurant Owners

As a restaurant owner, these changes in the minimum wage have significant implications for your business. Here's what you need to consider:

1. Labor Costs

With the minimum wage increase in 2023 and the scheduled hikes in the coming years, your labor costs will rise. It's crucial to factor this into your budget and pricing strategy. Ensuring that your employees are fairly compensated while maintaining profitability is a delicate balance.

2. Employee Compensation

For those with tipped employees, monitoring and guaranteeing that the combined income (hourly wages and tips) meets or exceeds the state minimum wage is essential. Failure to do so will require you to make up the difference. Proper training and communication with your staff can help achieve this goal.

3. Financial Planning

Having a clear understanding of the minimum wage rates and their future trajectory is vital for financial planning. It allows you to make informed decisions on staffing levels, pricing, and potential adjustments to your menu to accommodate increased labor costs.

4. Compliance

It's your responsibility as an employer to ensure compliance with the state's minimum wage laws. Failure to do so can result in legal issues and penalties. Stay informed about any changes in wage rates and update your payroll systems accordingly.

Ways to Pay Staff More

In today's competitive restaurant industry, finding innovative ways to compensate your staff better is crucial. Implementing modern technologies and adopting strategic approaches can significantly enhance your employees' earnings. Here are some effective methods to consider:

1. Utilize Table-side POS Service

Investing in modern technology like handheld tablets and table-side POS systems can revolutionize your restaurant operations. These tools not only streamline the ordering process but also enhance overall sales. Additionally, they provide added convenience for guests, speeding up service and leading to higher tips for your staff. Embracing this technology is an investment in both customer satisfaction and employee earnings.

2. Spend Extra on Hosts and Hostesses

Your front-of-house staff plays a pivotal role in shaping the guest experience. A warm greeting not only sets the stage for a delightful meal but also increases the likelihood of generous tips. Allocate resources to ensure you have an efficient and friendly host team. Customers expect short wait times, acknowledgment of reservations, and attentive service, especially during peak hours. By investing in your host staff, you're investing in higher customer satisfaction and, consequently, increased tips for your employees.

3. Encourage Credit Card Tipping

In today's fast-paced world, convenience is key. Encourage credit card tipping by offering a quick and straightforward payment method. This not only enhances the guest experience but also significantly boosts tips. Furthermore, it improves overall sales and service efficiency, creating a win-win situation for your staff and customers.

4. Always Upsell

Upselling is an art that can significantly impact your bottom line. Train your staff to employ restaurant upselling techniques effectively, guiding customers towards higher-margin items or enticing add-ons. A well-designed menu can also encourage upselling organically. Increasing the bill by just 10% can ensure a 10% higher tip for your staff. Proper training and menu design are essential components of a successful upselling strategy.

5. Embrace Modern Restaurant Technologies

Beyond table-side POS systems, several other restaurant technologies can enhance your operations and increase staff earnings:

  • Mobile Point of Sale (mPOS): Utilize mobile devices for seamless order processing and payment, reducing wait times and increasing table turnover.

  • QR Code Menus: Implement QR code menus for a contactless dining experience. This enhances safety and provides an interactive way for customers to explore your offerings, potentially leading to increased spending.

  • Online Ordering: Offer online ordering services, allowing customers to place orders from the comfort of their homes. This expands your customer base and increases sales, leading to higher tips for your staff.

  • Self-Service Kiosks: Integrate self-service kiosks for quick and convenient ordering. This not only improves order accuracy but also frees up staff to focus on enhancing the overall dining experience.

  • Tablet Ordering: Implement tablet ordering systems, empowering customers to customize their orders efficiently. This technology boosts sales and ensures that staff can focus on delivering exceptional service, leading to higher tips.

Incorporating these technologies into your restaurant improves efficiency and creates more opportunities for your staff to earn higher tips. Embracing innovation is the key to adapting to the changing landscape of the restaurant industry.

More Margins = More Opportunities to Pay More

If you can afford to pay more, you’ll generally hire higher-quality staff who stay longer! But your thin margins will make this difficult. Improving margins opens up more opportunities for competitive compensation in the restaurant industry.

Use POS Tech to Boost Margins: Embrace advanced technologies like point-of-sale systems, online orders, and reservation platforms to streamline service efficiency. Implement intelligent staff scheduling during peak times and cost-effective labor management during slower periods.

Micromanage Your Costs: Take a proactive approach to managing food and beverage costs by closely managing inventory, minimizing waste, negotiating with suppliers for favorable deals, and considering bulk purchases. Regularly review the menu to make necessary adjustments to account for changing ingredient costs.

Smart Menu Design for High Margins:

  • Analyze which menu items bring in the most revenue and give them prominence.

  • Consider incorporating popular or unique ingredients to justify higher prices for certain dishes.

  • Adjust prices, portion sizes, and ingredients to maximize profits while ensuring customer satisfaction.


The minimum wage in Virginia is a dynamic topic, with changes that directly impact restaurant owners. With the minimum wage gradually increasing to $15.00 per hour by 2026, adapting your business strategies to these changes is essential. By understanding the current minimum wage rates, planning for increased labor costs, and ensuring compliance, you can navigate these changes successfully and continue to thrive in the restaurant industry. Stay informed and stay ahead in Virginia's evolving landscape of labor regulations.

Remember, your POS system is at the heart of these efforts. To learn more about POS systems and find the right fit for your restaurant, consider booking a demo/consultation with Chowbus, the #1 POS tech system for US-based restaurants. 

Embracing these strategies and technologies will keep you compliant with the law and position your restaurant for success in a competitive market.

Frequently Asked Questions About Minimum Wage in Virginia

In this FAQ section, we address common inquiries about the minimum wage in Virginia, covering topics such as server wages, employer obligations, legalities surrounding walk-outs, changes in minimum wage rates, and reliable resources for staying updated on Virginia's minimum wage regulations.

Do Waiters Make Minimum Wage in Virginia?

In Virginia, waiters typically earn a minimum wage, which varies based on whether they work for a small business or qualify as tipped employees. Employees at small businesses are generally entitled to a minimum wage of at least $12.00 per hour. On the other hand, tipped employees, who consistently receive more than $30.00 per month in tips, may be paid at the tipped minimum wage, which is $2.13 per hour.

Is it Illegal to Make a Server Pay for a Walk Out in Virginia?

It is not illegal to make a server pay for a walkout in Virginia if they have agreed in writing that their employer can deduct from their pay for the mistake. According to Avvo.com, this practice is permissible only if the server has provided written consent allowing their employer to make deductions from their wages in such situations.

Can I Pay My Employees Less than the State-Mandated Minimum Wage?

No, paying employees less than the minimum wage set by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry is illegal. Always ensure your employees are compensated at or above the minimum wage.

How Often Does the Minimum Wage in Virginia Change?

The minimum wage in Virginia can change based on legislative decisions. It's essential to stay updated with the latest news and regulations to comply with the current rates.

What Resources Can I Consult for the Latest Updates On Virginia's Minimum Wage?

For the most recent updates and detailed information on Virginia's minimum wage laws, visit the official website of the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry or consult legal and financial professionals well-versed in state employment laws.

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