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waffle-house-wage-increases.jpg Waffle House
Waffle House this month began phasing in a new worker pay plan.

Waffle House this month starts phasing in wage increases

Restaurant CEO Joe Rogers III says tiered system was five years in the making

Waffle House, which has about 2,000 U.S. restaurants, plans to increase employee wages in most regions over the next three years, and some workers may see raises of a few dollars an hour, the company CEO said recently.

In a video, cited earlier by HuffPost, CEO Joe Rogers III explained to employees that the pay increases had been “over five years in the making interrupted a few times a global pandemic and massive inflation being a couple of those interruptions.”

Rogers, in a video outlining the program for employees, said: “This is the single largest additional investment in our workforce in the entire 68 year history of Waffle House” and it affects “every single salesperson at Waffle House.”

A Waffle House spokesperson, contacted by email, said the company had nothing else to share beyond the video, in which Rogers said the increases would start this month in the hourly rates in most states and lean into continuous service and shift premiums, which would be grandfathered into the program.

“Rest assured,” Rogers said, “no one's pay is going to be negatively affected during this journey toward higher earnings.”

After consulting with Waffle House workers, Rogers said the company has determined tips remain an important part of compensation.

“It would be crazy if we went down the road of service charges instead of tips like some other restaurant brands have tried or if we did something like tip pooling,” Rogers said in the video. “We have learned from y'all that you for the most part greatly value your opportunity to earn tips and to keep those tips you have earned for yourself instead of sharing them. So rest assured one of our main goals is to preserve your tipping opportunity as it exists today.”

Rogers said the compensation plan has three components: base salary rate, 10-year bonus and shift premiums.

“There will be different base hourly rates out there determined by the location of your restaurant,” he said, adding that charts of the compensation plan were posted at every restaurant.

“Once fully rolled out next January, beginning at three years of service every salesperson in the Waffle House company system will receive an additional 50 cents per hour that is added to your base hourly rate and this increases by 10 cents every year thereafter,” he explained.

Wages in such states as Colorado and Florida, which have enacted their own base rates, are not included in the plan, Rogers said.

The compensation plan will rely on menu price increases, he added, and those vary by locale.

“We need to increase menu prices to pay for this journey,” Rogers said, “and we have more ability to do that in some places and less ability in others. Units in Atlanta, Ga., and Dallas, Texas, are a lot different than our more suburban or rural locations.

“[Costs of] housing to food prices are typically much higher in big cities than they are in suburban or rural communities,” he said.

Waffle House is also adding information to its pay stubs to explain some of the changes.

“Many of you in our focus groups were quick to tell us we have an opportunity there,” Rogers said, “so more to come on that.”

Rogers added: “I don't see many others in our industry doing things like this. We need to ultimately get ready for what sort of expectations come with both rising pay and rising prices.

“You better believe our customers are going to expect more when they pay more, and we don't want to hurt your tip qualities either,” he said. “This means that our levels of hospitality and service the cleanliness of our units and the preparation and portion size of our food, among other things, all need to elevate to a new level if we are going to be successful in this journey.”

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on X/Twitter: @RonRuggless

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