California Fast-Food Managers Earn Hefty Raises as Restaurants Increase Prices, Close Shops in Response to $20 Minimum Wage

By: Georgia | Published: Jun 18, 2024

California’s fast-food managers are smiling all the way to the bank. While employees cheered the new $20 minimum wage law, managers are cashing even larger checks. 

This change spiked their salaries by a whopping 25% to at least $83,200 annually.

Raising Cane's Raises the Stakes

Over at Raising Cane’s, general managers in California are now enjoying salaries that can soar up to $174,000 annually. 

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Close-up of a meal from Raising Cane's, including chicken fingers, crinkle-cut fries, coleslaw, Texas toast, and a branded red cup with a sauce container

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This boost includes hefty bonuses tied to how well their stores perform. This substantial increase is a result of the recent wage law overhaul, reports The Wall Street Journal.

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More Money, More Milestones

Monique Pizano, a general manager at Raising Cane’s, saw her paycheck bump up from $79,000 to $85,000.

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Interior view of a Raising Cane's restaurant, showing a colorful and vibrant decor with wall art and a map of the USA in the background, tables, and seating area

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And that’s not all—she could add up to $7,500 more each month in bonuses. “It’s been life-changing for my family,” Pizano shared with the Wall Street Journal.

California Dreamin’ or Dining Dilemma?

While managers count their extra cash, some chains are feeling the pinch. 

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California Governor Gavin Newsom speaking passionately at a podium during the California Democrats Convention

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The introduction of the $20 minimum wage has led to increased menu prices and even some store closures. It’s a mixed bag of fortunes in the fast-food lane.

Customers Cut Back on and Costs

A Placer.ai study reveals a downturn in diner visits.

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Exterior of a Wendy's restaurant featuring the brand's iconic red and white logo and a sloped roof

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Post-wage hike, foot traffic at Burger King, Wendy’s, and McDonald’s has dipped by 3-4%. It appears the higher costs might be driving customers away.

Rubio’s Retreat

The wage increase has hit some harder than others.

Front view of Rubio's Coastal Grill, showcasing its casual, beach-themed facade with a sign promoting fish tacos

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Rubio’s Coastal Grill cited soaring operating costs as a reason for shutting down several California locations and even filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

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Fosters Freeze-out

Another casualty in the fast-food scene, Fosters Freeze, had to close a Fresno outlet.

Exterior view of Foster's Freeze showing the front of the restaurant with a tiled roof, prominent signage, and colorful window posters advertising chili dogs and sundaes

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The franchise owner cited the impossibility of meeting the payroll demands under the new wage law.

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Pricey Burgers

In the months leading up to the wage law, fast food joints hiked prices by around 7%. 

A Wendy's meal on a metal tray featuring a wrapped hamburger, a cup of fries, and a drink in a branded cup with the Wendy's logo

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Places like Wendy’s and Taco Bell nudged their menu prices up to 8%, prepping for the payroll increase.

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In-N-Out Tweaks Its Prices

Even In-N-Out Burger hasn’t been left untouched; the chain has had to raise its prices in response to the wage changes.

Nighttime view of an In-N-Out Burger restaurant illuminated by bright red neon lights

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In LA County, the price for a double-double burger combo now stands at $11.44, up by $0.76 from last year.

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Automation on the Rise

As labor costs climb, more fast-food chains are turning to technology.

Interior of a fast-food restaurant with multiple self-order kiosks featuring digital screens and promotional signs

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Self-serve kiosks are increasingly common as these establishments look to streamline operations and keep costs down.

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Mixed Effects of the Wage Increase

The increase to a $20 minimum wage has brought mixed results. 

Inside an In-N-Out Burger kitchen showing staff in white uniforms and red aprons busy preparing food and serving customers

Source: Wikimedia Commons

While it’s a boost for employees like fast-food managers, it has introduced challenges for businesses, leading to price increases and some closures.

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What’s Next for Fast Food?

As California navigates these changes, the rest of the industry watches closely. 

Inside view of a KFC restaurant showing the order counter with menu displays overhead and promotional materials on the counter

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Will other states follow with similar wage increases, and what will that mean for our fast-food favorites? Only time will tell how this big bet on higher wages pans out.

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