Challenges and Consequences: Navigating Minimum Wage Hikes in the Fast Food Industry

by Nick

The impending implementation of California’s new minimum wage law has sparked concern and debate among fast food franchise owners, shedding light on the complexities and consequences of legislative decisions on wages. Kerri Harper-Howie, the owner of 21 McDonald’s franchises in California, finds herself at the center of this contentious issue. While the wage hike is aimed at providing much-needed relief to lower-income workers, its implications for franchise owners like Harper-Howie are significant and multifaceted.

Frustration Amidst Change

The state’s new minimum wage law, Assembly Bill 1228, promises fast food workers a wage of at least $20 an hour starting April 1, a notable increase from the current rate. However, Harper-Howie and many others in her position feel frustrated, not necessarily due to opposition to wage increases, but rather due to the selective nature of the legislation. They question why the burden of wage hikes falls solely on franchise owners, rather than being applied universally.


Assemblymember Chris Holden, the author of AB 1228, emphasizes the positive impact of the wage hike, highlighting its potential to improve the lives of workers and their families. However, franchise owners like Harper-Howie feel excluded from the decision-making process, lamenting their absence from negotiations that directly affect their livelihoods.


The Franchisee’s Perspective

Harper-Howie’s journey as a franchise owner is emblematic of the American dream, rooted in risk-taking and resilience. Raised by parents who ventured into franchise ownership, she understands the challenges and rewards of entrepreneurship firsthand. Her commitment to her employees and her community is evident, reflecting the values instilled in her by her family.


As the wage hike looms, Harper-Howie faces tough decisions regarding pricing and profitability. While some franchise owners opt to raise menu prices, she remains determined to keep her offerings affordable for her core customers, exploring alternative strategies to mitigate the impact of the wage increase. Despite the financial implications, Harper-Howie remains committed to her employees, willing to absorb lower profits to support their livelihoods.


Industry Challenges and Crossroads

The fast food industry finds itself at a crossroads, grappling with the economic realities of wage hikes and the imperative to maintain affordability and competitiveness. While price increases may seem like a logical response, industry observers like consumer reporter David Lazarus advocate for a return to the industry’s roots, emphasizing volume-driven strategies to offset rising costs.

The recent controversy surrounding Panera Bread’s exemption from the wage hike underscores broader concerns about transparency and fairness in legislative negotiations. Harper-Howie views this as an opportunity to advocate for greater transparency and accountability in future policy discussions, ensuring that all stakeholders have a seat at the table.


As California prepares for the implementation of its new minimum wage law, the fast food industry faces a period of uncertainty and adaptation. Franchise owners like Kerri Harper-Howie navigate these challenges with resilience and determination, balancing business imperatives with a commitment to their employees and communities. As the industry evolves, transparency, collaboration, and equity will be essential principles guiding future policy decisions and initiatives.


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