The Best Fast Food Chain To Work For?

Workers earn up to $17 an hour and have 'relaxation lounges.'

Boloco looks to raise worker standards in the fast food industry.Should fast-food chains pay workers more than federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour? As fast-food workers and labor activists threaten yet another big walk out for next week, there is one fast food chain that already has the answer: It's a resounding yes.

Boloco, a Boston-based burrito chain, pays entry-level floor workers $9 to $10 an hour, with some veteran workers make up to $17 an hour. And as of this year, the minimum starting salary for a restaurant manager is $70,000 a year. The cost of the meals are in line with other fast-food chains, too, running from $4 to $7. Business is thriving, with 464 employees and 21 outlets sprinkled from Washington D.C. to Rhode Island.

To Boloco CEO John Pepper (pictured above), the pay, however, is a matter of fairness. "How could I justify as low a salary as the minimum wage?" he said in an interview with AOL Jobs.

Pepper said he actually feels he should be paying all his employees even more -- the "living wage," which MIT notes is the "hourly rate that an individual must earn to support their family, if they are the sole provider and are working full-time." For Suffolk County in Massachusetts, that is around $12.85 an hour for a single adult, according to MIT's living wage calculator. But Pepper said he "feels the same pressure to get the right bottom line. So it's about finding the right balance -- and that includes doing the right thing."

Boloco also tries to make working conditions appealing. There are "relaxation lounges" that contain flat-screen televisions, a $50 monthly transportation budget for each worker and subsidized English as a second language instruction, as the Washington Post reported.

"The hypothesis is that you if you pay it forward, you'll have loyal employees who will help improve sales," he said.

Doing 'right' means lower profits
Pepper conceded he isn't yet consistently reaching profit margins of 20 percent or higher, which many other fast food chains have. On average, his company is closer making a 17 percent profit a year, he said. But he is happy with that, and he says his restaurants have seen an increase in same-store sales every year since the chain's inception, save for 2003 and 2009. And he believes his model will "one day mean higher profits," he confirmed by e-mail.

Turnover is also much lower, thanks to the higher wages. The restaurant industry as a whole however, experienced a turnover rate of 95 percent for hourly workers back in 2011, as the industry magazine QSR reported. His turnover last year was about 64 percent. "Turnover is expensive and we are able to avoid some of it."

Pepper's not alone in trying such a "good jobs" model. Shake Shack, the hamburger chain, gives employees a monthly bonus of up to 1 percent of total revenue, merit bonuses and medical benefits and a 401(k) plan for anyone working over 25 hours a week. Mexican eatery Chipotle provides benefits and two-weeks paid vacation for entry-level workers, and also has an intensive promote-from-within culture. The company's restauranteurs also enjoy an average salary of $60,000 a year.

Moo Cluck Moo, a burger and sandwich chain based out of Detroit, pays its employees, called "culinarians," a starting wage of $12 an hour, which increases to $14 an hour after employees spend six months on the job. Workers also are provided with specialized training towards an internal baking certification.

Check out the slideshow, "How Much Fast Food Jobs Pay."

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I think this restaurant owner is awesome and obviously cares about his employees. We do not have a Boloco in my state, but if we did, my teenage daughter would be working for this company and I would be a regular customer. Someone who treats their workers like humans is a restaurant that I would be a proud patron of.

October 11 2013 at 8:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have never heard of this fast food company, but it sounds like the CEO has the right idea. You get what you pay for. If you want quality employees then you need to pay better wages and provide incentives. Sounds like a great company to work for and I applaud Mr. Pepper for showing the big fast food chains who make millions of dollars off of consumers that fair wages and job incentives can be done and still make a profit.

October 11 2013 at 7:42 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I like this guy's attitude and scruples!

He's OK in my book! Carry on ... and expand!

October 11 2013 at 7:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Never heard of this company, but this man has the RIGHT idea. Treat people like people and not under-appreciated slaves like the "big names" do.

These fast food conglomerates make millions upon millions of dollars a year. They wouldnt miss any of it by paying workers REAL wages for that kind of stress and hard work. Yes, food, along with retail is a HIGH STRESS environment, and people should get paid for it. Other jobs out there get stress pay and danger pay, why not ALL jobs?

Fast food and retail places also "nickel and dime" you to death with so-called "raises". A raise is at least $1.00 per hour, NOT 5 cents per hour!!! Thats an INSULT, not a RAISE!

September 10 2013 at 10:02 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I guess I\'ll re`read or read the rest or over again once I finish my OPINION !?! ... which is: BECAUSE THEY ARE A PART OF A TEAM OF WORKERS AT ANYGIVEN TIME THAT FAST FOOD WORKERS work !\"?\"! ... Now if they follow the correct training they\'d been given !?! & is enjoying working for or under the people they work for or with !?! Just might make business run more pleasantly !?! \" PIZZA IS INDEED A MOST AMAZING DISH/FOOD/STUFF\" in >My< opinion.~ !!! ;-[} .,.r\"R\"r .,.

August 30 2013 at 12:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I had the utmost pleasure of working for this company back when I was in college in Boston. It honestly was the best and I enjoyed every minute of it. The best part of Boloco was the interaction between workers and the big bosses, everyone was so much fun and laid back. When I had to choose between being an RA or working a part time job (we could not do both) Boloco helped me make sure I kept both. :) Boloco was my second family and I miss them so much. Thank Mr. Pepper for all that you have done. Words cannot describe how thankful I am. Now please, allow me to open one in Jersey for you!!

August 28 2013 at 9:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Timothy Carignan

And if minimum wage gets raised to $17... suddenly these people make minimum wage. No quicker way to hurt these hard-working people than to raise the minimum wage. Happens every time they do it - quick political points, a long struggle to regain their progress.

August 27 2013 at 1:26 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Timothy Carignan's comment

I agree raise the minimum and next thing you know there's a whole new "class" of working poor. Everytime they've raised the minimum I've lost income because I own my own business and the prices go up...costs go up but I don't pass that on to my customers because I'm in a fixed pricing business. People don't realize we're living in a capitalist economy....but then again people forget that China is communist country...yet we support them more than we do our own country. People's way of thinking in this country are so out of whack it's not even funny.

October 11 2013 at 9:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Japanese have been doing this for decades. Wake up America!

August 27 2013 at 1:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Open some stores down here in Florida, Bucky...

August 27 2013 at 7:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hey Mz.Munoz

Says chipotle pays 8.36 an hr.....We've never seen 8.36 an hr at the chipotle i work at...

August 26 2013 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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