The owner of a California Chick-fil-A restaurant has decided to hike employees' wages from $12.50 or $13 an hour to $17 or $18 an hour, KXTV-TV reported.
Eric Mason, who owns the Sacramento Chick-fil-A, called the substantial increase a "living wage."
"We're looking for people trying to raise families, improve their lifestyle," Mason told the news station.
The state's minimum wage currently sits at $11 with $1 an hour increases through 2022, bringing it to $15.
The new wages for its "hospitality professionals" go into effect June 4 at Mason's restaurant. All employees will also receive paid sick leave, and those in leadership roles will receive paid time off.
What's the economic impact?
It's not clear whether $18 will be the highest wage in the country for a fast-food worker, but it could set a new marker for such employees.
"We’re seeing a lot of operators that are in that $12 to $15 range, especially in higher-priced areas like California, but that’s sort of a new threshold," David Henkes, a senior principal with Technomic, told The Washington Post. "In an era of 3.9 percent unemployment, restaurants — which typically are not seen as the most attractive of jobs — are struggling to not only fill jobs but then retain workers."
Technomic is an Illinois-based restaurant and research firm.
Low unemployment rates, fewer teens wanting fast-food jobs, and tighter immigration laws have contributed to higher demand for unskilled workers, according to Henkes.
"As the owner, I'm looking at it big-picture and long-term," Mason said. "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."
A Chick-fil-A spokeswoman told The Post that the chain leaves all wage and benefits decisions up to each store's owner.
"Chick-fil-A strives to create a compelling employment value proposition," the spokeswoman wrote, adding that the chain will be awarding employees with nearly $15 million in college scholarships.
But restaurant chains often operate on tight margins and have high turnover rates, which means higher costs may be passed on to the consumer through price increases.
Mason told KXTV that he would have raised hourly wages regardless of the increases mandated by the state of California.
"The people is the real key component to successful businesses. We're looking for people who are looking for long-term opportunity," Mason added.