Our Take

Musings on the Foodservice Industry

Stimulating Sales: Sex and the Minimum Wage

Mar 09 2015

When the feminist movement was reignited in the 1960s, the ardent proponents of equal rights for women probably did not have steamy Super Bowl ad from Carl’s Jr.® in mind. 

In the ad, a voluptuous woman appears to be naked as she strolls through an outdoor market. The sexual innuendo – tomatoes in the shape of a butt, giant onions shielding her breasts – is unmistakable.  http://www.justjared.com/2015/02/01/carls-jr-girl-super-bowl-commercial-2015-watch-now/ 

We all know that sex sells, but I am not quite sure what the “All-Natural” ad has to do with selling burgers (well, actually I do get it but am too demure to talk about.).  Carl’s Jr., which paid millions to air its ad, has at least carved out a niche for itself in the competitive burger arena. 

Meanwhile, at the Oscars, Supporting Actress winner Patricia Arquette ended her acceptance speech with a strident plea for equal pay among women that had Meryl Streep yelling, “You go, girl!” Minimum-Wage

The argument for equal pay may now be hotter than a well-done Carl’s Jr. burger. 

The outcry for an increase in the minimum wage is resonating from Washington D.C. to state houses across the country.  Did you know that over half of the people receiving federal minimum wages of $7.25 per hour work in food and dining?  Facts surrounding the minimum wage debate show:

  • Women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers. Twenty-two percent of minimum wage workers are women of color.
  • A woman working full-time, year-round at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour earns just $15,080 – about $4,000 below the poverty line for a family of three.
  • The federal minimum cash wage for tipped workers is $2.13 per hour.  Women are two-thirds of workers in tipped occupations.
  • Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would boost earnings for nearly 28 million workers, 55 percent of them women, and help close the wage gap. 

That is not to say that all foodservice operators do not pay their employees a living wage.  Chipotle employees are paid an average of $9 per hour and have access to a 401K plan and health insurance. Something like 98 percent of store managers began as staff.  Another example is at Boloco in New England no one makes less than $9 per hour.  

Two thriving burger joints, In-and-Out and Shake Shack, put their competition to shame.  At the place famous for its Double-Double, associates start at $10.50 per hour, while at Shake Shack they have a Shack Bucks program that has employee incentives which include giving them a share of monthly sales. 

We all know about Starbucks®, whose CEO Howard Schultz is a strong advocate of raising the minimum wage.  Schultz instituted a College Advancement Program that pays for college for thousands of employees. 

Such programs provide valuable marketing and create a culture that is productive and profitable.  Such programs are also highly beneficial to a company’s employees and the country at large. 

Meanwhile, Andy Puzder, the CEO of CKE which owns Carl’s Jr., decried the move to raise the minimum wage, saying it “will destroy the restaurant industry.”  Puzder, along with many others in the fast food industry, thinks the increase in pay will cause companies like his to fire more people than they hire. 

At a time when McDonald’s® is looking for ways to get out of its sales doldrums and fast foodies like Carl’s Jr. are resorting to blatant sex as a way to sell burgers, their bosses might want to look for guidance from Chipotle, Starbucks® and Shake Shack  whose businesses are skyrocketing. 

 What do you think would have happened if Carl’s Jr. had taken the money it spent on their Super Bowl ad and passed it on to its employees? 

That’s the kind of stimulation the foodservice industry truly needs.

penned by – Richard Leivenberg. Rich is a foodservice professional and Vice President at The Food Connector.  Please reach him at rich@thefoodconnector.com