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‘Geek’ bar and cafe coming to Minneapolis is making $15 an hour its mission

A new “geek” pub with food, beer and board games is opening in downtown Minneapolis next year and every employee working there will make $15 an hour.

Travis Shaw and Mark Lowman are the two founders behind Byte MN, which is on schedule to open March 1.

Shaw and Lowman have backgrounds in the restaurant and hospitality industry as chefs. Shaw said the idea for Byte sprouted from their frustration of a majority of restaurant employees not being able to earn a livable wage.

“This was what motivated us to start out on our own,” Shaw said. “I’m passionate about food, but more passionate about the system and business that can sustain its workers.”

Byte will have around a dozen employees to start off, each one will make $15 an hour with benefits, plus vacation time.

Just about every aspect of Byte will emphasize efficiency to save on costs and overhead to pay the employees their wages. There will be no table servers and meals will be prepared meticulously to minimize any food waste.

Byte will be part bar, part cafe and part coffee shop. It will have a fast-casual-style front counter with food and a bar area in the back with board games.

“It’s going to have a lot of geeky board games. It’s what we’ve always loved to do with our friends when they come over,” Shaw said.

The menu at Byte is inspired by global street food. Menu items will include a chicken curry wrap, rice bowls, paneer bites and chopped salads. Byte will be at 319 First Ave. N. It will be around 2,900 square feet with indoor seating for 100 people.

Shaw also hopes Byte will spark a trend for other local restaurants to pay their employees higher wages.

“This is also to show other businesses they can take the initiative to do this, as well,” Shaw said. “Hopefully others will follow suit. We can only support a handful of people, but we’re hoping this takes off and can start something.”

Byte isn’t the only Minneapolis area business setting higher wages for its employees. Other employers, such as Punch Pizza and Target Corp., have also kept their pay above the state minimum.

Photo: Byte MN co-founders Mark Lowman, left, and Travis Shaw. BYTE MN – FACEBOOK

Dan DeBaun covers food companies, restaurants and retailers.

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