Wednesday May 31, 2023

These restaurant chains have raised wages or offered bonuses

An Olive Garden restaurant in Times Square in New York.

Richard Levine | Corbis | Getty Images

As bars and eateries struggle to staff up, several large restaurant chains have announced higher pay to entice workers to apply and stick around.

Eating and drinking places added more than half a million jobs from March through June, according to the Department of Labor. But the unemployment rate for the industry remains elevated, hitting 10% in June, up from 9% the previous month. And warmer weather typically ushers in higher demand for restaurant meals anyway, putting more pressure on employers to add to their workforce.

Enrique Lopezlira, the director of the low-wage work program at the University of California Berkeley Labor Center, said that the lack of access to child care and safety concerns are keeping many workers out of the labor force, particularly women.

“Raising wages is good, and it will attract workers, but we’re also seeing in the data, higher rates of quitting in these jobs,” Lopezlira said. “Long term, I think these employers need to improve the overall quality of these jobs.”

Some retailers and restaurants have tried to take steps to do just that. Walmart and Target, for example, are opting to keep their stores closed on Thanksgiving so employees can stay home for the holiday. Best Buy improved backup child-care benefits, and expanded access to caregiver pay benefits.

However, most companies are sticking to just raising wages or offering bonuses for now. As of June, average hourly earnings are up 0.3% across all industries compared with the month prior and 3.6% compared with the same time last year, according to the Department of Labor.

On the flip side, rising labor costs in recent years have also motivated restaurants chains to invest in automation technology, like self-order kiosks or artificial intelligence software that can take a drive-thru order.

Here are the restaurant chains that have hiked hourly pay this year or started offering bonuses:

Papa John’s

The pizza chain plans to spend about $2.5 million on the initiative for the remainder of 2021. While it’s a hefty price tag, giving out bonuses allows the company to give its workers more money temporarily in place of permanently changing its wage structure, just in case finding employees is easier next year.

About 14,000 Papa John’s workers will be eligible for the new bonus program. Roughly 18% of the chain’s North American restaurants are operated by the company rather than franchisees.


Darden Restaurants

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Texas Roadhouse


The burger chain went public in December through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company. Ramirez said that the company is offering restricted stock units to restaurant managers and assistant managers as well.

“If we grow, and our stock price grows, everyone wins,” he said.

P.F. Chang’s

The Asian-inspired restaurant chain is offering referral bonuses. Additionally, P.F. Chang’s is taking steps to improve the work-life balance for its workforce. CEO Damola Adamolekun told Bloomberg that the company gave its employees the Fourth of July off so they could spend the day relaxing and enjoying the holiday.

Despite these efforts, the privately held company still has about 2,000 unfilled job openings across its footprint.


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