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Waffle House customers to see higher prices as company increases worker pay

Restaurant chain Waffle House announced it will increase worker wages after months of labor disputes — but it will come at a price to customers.

In a long-awaited announcement video, CEO Joe Rogers III said the company would be raising base pay to at least $3 in June and eventually to $5.25 in two years, while menu prices will increase, varyingly, across the country.

“We need to increase menu prices to pay for this journey, and we have more ability to do that in some places and less ability in others,” Rogers said.

This means menu items in bigger cities like Atlanta or Austin may see a bigger price hike than in more sparsely populated areas. Rogers did not clarify in the video what the new prices will look like.

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The announcement comes after a year-long dispute between the union representing employees, the Union for Southern Service Workers (USSW), and the restaurant chain over wages, benefits and safety.

In recent years, the USSW has held strikes at Waffle Houses across the country to demand better pay, 24-hour security, and an end to the company’s practice of automatically taking out $3.15 from worker paychecks to cover employee meals.

Customers exit a Waffle House restaurant as the moon sets on March 29, 2021 in Bessemer, Alabama (AFP via Getty Images)
Customers exit a Waffle House restaurant as the moon sets on March 29, 2021 in Bessemer, Alabama (AFP via Getty Images)

Waffle Houses, which are mainly found in the Southern and Midwestern United States, are notorious for their cheap menu prices compared to other restaurant chains.

Rogers said that “edge” they have over competitors will “shrink” over the next few years but is ultimately worth it.

The higher menu prices will also contribute to better overall service in Waffle Houses, including cleanliness and portion sizes.

“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 realities either,” Rogers said.

Rogers said as part of the new compensation package, Waffle House will be adding tenure bonuses and premiums for later shift workers. The base pay increase will also not include workers’ tips which is how most servers make money.