Three Years in the Making: Illegal Pete’s Fulfills Its Commitment to Industry-Leading Living Wage

  • Illegal Pete’s Tipped Employee Minimum Wage grew from $9 per hour in 2015 to $15 per hour in January 2019
  • Each employee makes an average of $12,000 more per year
  • All while:
    • Company had 16% Average Unit Volume increase annually
    • Company grew from seven to 11 locations

Press Release – DENVER, Colorado – Dec. 27, 2018 – Illegal Pete’s, in fulfilling its mission to nourish and sustain its stakeholders–employees, customers and communities–will complete its Living Wage Initiative in January 2019: to raise its minimum starting wage to $15 per hour, as well as raising every wage level above, including salaried management positions.

Pete Turner, Founder and President, says, “We began our Living Wage Initiative in June of 2015, and we’re proud to say that we’ll hit our goal starting in January of 2019.” In just over three years, the company raised its tipped employee minimum wage from $9 to $15, putting an additional $1,000 a month into employees’ pockets. Turner accomplished this feat while maintaining a healthy cash flow: Illegal Pete’s locations grew from 7 to 11 units, and increased its AUV, or Average Unit Volume, by 16% annually each year. “While we’re investing an additional $3 million annually in our employees,” says Turner, “We’ve now proven we can absorb the expense–even thrive.”

Offering $15 for a starting tipped hourly wage (plus industry-leading benefits) puts Illegal Pete’s far ahead of state minimum wage laws, which are raised to $8.08 in Colorado ($8.00 in AZ) for hourly tipped employees beginning this January (2019).

$15 per Hour
+ $4.72 in Tips (Company Average)
+ Medical, Dental, & Vision Insurance
+ 401(K) Plus Matching
+ Paid Time Off
+ Paid Sick Time
+ Food & Drink
= $46,000 Starting Tipped Employee Minimum Annual Compensation

Turner, who was asked to speak on the topic of a “Living Wage” at’s Annual Executive Conference in October 2015, posits that just as the fast casual segment of the restaurant industry has shown national and industry-changing leadership in sustainable animal-husbandry, packaging, and waste solutions, so too can the segment show leadership in how it treats its human capital. “What about the sustainability of our people?” he asked attendees in 2015. Three years later, he’s able to show that it is possible, and in fact, profitable. (Click below to view his speech).

Turner defines a Living Wage as a full time wage able to provide the necessities and comforts essential to an acceptable standard of living, including: housing, food, clothing, healthcare, education, savings, leisure and free time/vacation with family and loved ones. Turner has since begun speaking of a sustainable or “Contributing American” wage, one which adds additional saving and career planning for a future with clear career goals and support.

According to Nation’s Restaurant News, one in 10 United States employees works in the restaurant industry. This ratio continues to expand, growing from 14 million to nearly 15 million working Americans since Illegal Pete’s began their initiative in 2015. Turner imagines the impact of the industry paying a sustainable wage to all its employees, asking, “Can we help rebuild the American middle class with the service industry jobs that replaced traditional middle-class employment? More than 50% of Americans’ food dollars are spent out of the grocery store, and this number continues to grow; so this industry will also continue to grow. Imagine the transformational impact our industry could have in our communities, in our country, and our citizenry.”

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