Chick-fil-A store owner raises minimum wage to $17 an hour "living wage"

By Kate Gibson

/ MoneyWatch

Wall Street bonuses outpace minimum wage

The owner of a Chick-fil-A location in Sacramento, California, calls it a "living wage." In Eric Mason's view, that would be $17 or $18 an hour, which is what he vows he'll be paying his workers, starting Monday, June 4. The rate represents a sizable increase for employees now making $12 to $13 an hour.

"As the owner, I'm looking at it big-picture and long-term," Mason told a local news station. "What that does for the business is provide consistency, someone that has relationships with our guests, and it's going to be building a long-term culture."

The idea, Mason said, is to hire workers — he prefers "hospitality professionals" — who will stick around, a worthwhile goal for a brand known for its customer service that's in an industry that had a 73 percent turnover rate in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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"What we are going to be looking for is people trying to raise families," Mason said. "Maybe they can work just one job."

The median hourly pay for fast-food employees in the U.S. is $8.26, according to PayScale, with many making ends meet by working multiple jobs or even relying on public assistance.

Mason's new gold standard at his Chick-fil-A store comes in a state where the minimum wage is currently $11 for businesses with more than 25 workers — and will increase a buck a year until it hits $15 by 2022.

As union-led protests that came to be known as the "Fight for $15" were sweeping the nation in 2015, McDonald's said it would set starting pay for 90,000 workers at company-owned stores at one dollar above the minimum wage. Yet the fast-food giant didn't keep pace with local wages, and recently said it never intended the increase to be "a policy thereafter."

There are more than 2,200 Chick-fil-A restaurants across the U.S., most of them owned by franchisees. A Chik-fil-A spokesman noted that Mason's $17 to $18 an hour wage floor was his call, not the company's.

"Chick-fil-A restaurants are individually owned and operated, so wage decisions are made at the local level," the spokesman said, adding that "many of our owner/operators began their careers as hourly team members."

Surprising facts about your favorite fast food chains 18 photos

First published on May 30, 2018 / 2:23 PM

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

Surprising facts about your favorite fast food chains

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