Chick-fil-a understands the need to shift public perception of food service and hospitality employment as being just a “McJob,” i.e. a transient position that offers little opportunity for advancement and no long-term viability. Despite being an individual owner/franchisee model, they place company-wide emphasis on leadership skills training, invest millions of dollars in college scholarships for their workforce annually, and gather real metrics around advancement from team member to restaurant owner (although the timeline is unclear). With industry-wide turnover rates exceeding 70%, the latest push for wage increases could help improve employee recruitment and retention.

One Chick-fil-a location in Sacramento, CA, is raising the stakes and raising employee wages by $5, bumping hourly pay to $17-$18. The increase goes well beyond state minimum wage provisions, which will rise incrementally to $15 by 2022. So why the sudden hike? Eric Mason, the owner of this location, is looking at the bigger picture: if you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of the customer. It’s a good faith gesture that’s sure to help retain a motivated workforce that feels valued; maintain consistent, high-quality customer service; and ensure loyal employees and repeat customers.

Through this move, Chick-fil-a aims to exceed expectations by elevating the dialogue from a minimum wage to a living wage—one that will empower employees to grow in their careers. Of course, compensation alone won’t get the job done. But combined with other vital elements, such as personal career development plans, team building and employee recognition, Chick-fil-a can establish a strong company culture where employees are truly “living” beyond former preconceived notions and limitations attributed to the food service and hospitality industry.

Michael Savage, the Director of Employer Brand at JWT INSIDE, is a communications strategist, storyteller and business partner. He has collaborated with executive leadership across a wide range of industries to develop employer brands that align workforces, attract talent and drive business forward. These employer brands have inspired enviable online and offline experiences – conversations, cultures and causes that employees and candidates alike want to join. Contact Michael at Michael.Savage@jwt.com.