SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Big changes are happening now in San Diego's restaurant industry, and one of them isn't good for job seekers.
Local restaurants aren't hiring like they used to. More than 125,000 San Diegans work in the industry, but jobs just declined over the year for the first time since 2010.
A new study from Point Loma Nazarene University is linking a large part of the drop-off to the minimum wage increase in the city of San Diego.
In July 2016, voters in the city decided to raise the minimum wage to its current $11.50 an hour. That's $1 to $1.50 more than the rest of the county.
Ultimately, the minimum wage will increase to $15 an hour statewide.
Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Point Loma Nazarene University, tracked restaurant job growth in San Diego County versus the state. She found the drop-off started soon after the vote.
"We've already seen some experiments with robots, more efficient menu taking, iPads, electronic devices, and that will only accelerate," Reaser said.
Nathan Huckabone, general manager of North Park's Safehouse, said the restaurant eliminated its wait staff about a year ago in anticipation of the increases. Now, customers order food at the bar.
"The cost of business is going up and if we don't adjust we're not going to be here," he said.
Huckabone also said there's a side benefit -- less turnover and a higher quality staff. While servers make much of their money in tips, the extra $1.50 amounts to more than $3,000 extra per year.
Reaser said while jobs are harder to come by, those looking to break in may want to look outside the city limits, where there are more entry level jobs.