$15 an hour!!! $15 an hour!!! $15 an hour!!! That is the new mantra for restaurant workers. Well, time to splash some cold reality on their fantasies as Wendy's CEO Emil Brolick and other company officers told the truth about what will happen if the minimum wage is raised to $15 an hour on a recent quarterly earnings conference call:
Todd A. Penegor - Chief Financial Officer & Senior Vice President
Yeah. So we continue to see pressure on wages two fronts, one is minimum wages at the state level continue to increase, and as there is a war on talent to make sure that we're competitive in certain markets. So we've made some adjustments to that starting wage in certain markets. The impact hasn't been material at the moment, but we continue to look at initiatives on how we do work to offset any impact to future wage inflation through technology initiatives, whether that's customer self-order kiosks, whether that's automating more in the back of the house in the restaurant, and you'll see a lot more coming on that front later this year from us.
John William Ivankoe - JPMorgan Securities LLC
Okay, understood. I mean there is obviously a lot of discussion of wage prices, wage costs and that there would be increased pricing at the franchise level to offset those increased wages, especially in markets like New York for example that are going to see some very severe increases in wage costs. So can you juxtapose the franchisees' desire and/or need to take pricing at the store level with what sounds like an increased focus overall for the brand on value, can those two things be achieved simultaneously?
Emil J. Brolick - President, Chief Executive Officer & Director
Yeah, John, this is Emil. And our franchisees, I find them to be very astute business people, and they have a great sense of their trade areas where their restaurants are and a great I think understanding of what the competitive environment is in terms of their capacity to price. I think the reality is that what you will see in like some of these markets, the New Yorks, where there is these very significant increases, is that they will be – our franchisee will slightly likely look at the opportunity to reduce overall staff, look at the opportunity to certainly reduce hours and any other cost reduction opportunities, not just price. There are some people out there who naively say that these wages can simply be passed along in terms of price increases. I don't think that the average franchisee believes that, and there will have to be other consequences, which is why we have pointed out that unfortunately we believe the some of these increases will clearly end up hurting the people that they are intended to help.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page said:
Last week the Wendy’s Company did a public service on its second-quarter earnings call by explaining how mandated wage hikes will lead to fewer jobs for the low-skill workers that progressives claim to be helping.
First, CFO Todd Penegor talked about the pressure to pay higher wages and said that “we continue to look at initiatives and how we work to offset any impacts of future wage inflation through technology initiatives, whether that’s customer self-order kiosks, whether that’s automating more in the back of the house in the restaurant. And you’ll see a lot more coming on that front later this year from us.”
So the company will now use machines to do jobs that used to be done by people who have become too expensive to employ. We keep hearing that these minimum-wage laws benefit restaurant workers. But since many will no longer be working in restaurants at all, the reasonable conclusion is that the activist campaigns to raise the minimum wage are mainly intended to benefit the unions that back them.
On last week’s call with securities analysts, Wendy’s CEO Emil Brolick was asked how the franchisees who own and operate Wendy’s locations could raise prices to offset the higher wage costs in places like New York. He replied that “our franchisees will likely look at the opportunity to reduce overall staff, look at the opportunity to certainly reduce hours and any other cost reduction opportunities, not just price. You know there are some people out there who naively say that these wages can simply be passed along in terms of price increases. I don’t think that the average franchisee believes that.”
Mr. Brolick elaborated that “we believe that some of these increases will clearly end up hurting the people that they are intended to help. And we continue to believe that one of the great opportunities you have in a business like ours is that an entry-level person, in a very short period of time, can rise to become a manager in a restaurant, and have an income above the median household income in the United States of America.”
We see here again the vast gulf between progressive claims and progressive reality. Remember last year when McDonald’s then-CEO Don Thompson, amid protests over entry-level wages, agreed to President Obama’s idea for a wage hike? Then came news of new automation plans at McDonald’s. Just what struggling low-wage workers need. Another law that prices them out of a job. Editorial
Numbers? It is all about the numbers. Forbes crunched some numbers:
It’s also true that Wendy’s can’t actually cover from profits the sort of minimum wage rises being talked about in this manner. Profits are around $120 million for a year, there’s 37,000 employees, if they all work 2,000 hours a year then the profits can pay for a $1.62 an hour pay rise and no more. Sure, play around with those numbers. But there really isn’t enough money in those profits to cover a $7.25 to $15 an hour rise, is there?
So, it will be shorter hours, more automation and some measure of price rises: all of which will reduce the amount of labor employed.
Yep, as we’ve been saying, a rise in the minimum wage leads to job losses. Rest of column.