It wouldn't be my first choice of name for a restaurant that could ignite a social revolution, but Moo Cluck Moo it is, and what they're doing might well be giving Ronald McDonald the shakes.
Moo Cluck Moo, a Detroit-area burger and chicken fast-food joint... is aiming to do something revolutionary: pay far more than the minimum wage. In an industry that treats labor as a commodity, co-owners Brian Parker and Harry Moorhouse decided to turn the conventional wisdom on its head. They'd start workers at $12 an hour, and design their business so that it could run profitably at those wages. Rather than take advantage of the epic slack in the Detroit-area labor market, they'd aim to set a slightly higher standard.How, might you ask, can they afford to pay such outrageous wages?
Now, Moo Cluck Moo is doubling down on its high-wage strategy. Brian Parker says that beginning October 1, the company will start employees at $15 an hour. That’s a 25 percent increase from $12, and it represents the living wage level that workers are demanding and that many critics regard as foolish.
Parker believes higher wages lead to better results. "We've had very low turnover," said Parker. "Of the people that are working for us, we don’t have anybody disgruntled." Over the weekend, three customers came up to Parker, without prompting, and thanked him for the quality of the customer service. Paying people more means you spend less time firing, hiring, and training...Well, their math might be a little fuzzy or the reporter didn't quite get it (it might be the cost of two transactions per hour, but it's not likely the profit on two transactions per hour), but it seems to be working...
At any given time, five people are on the job. So increasing the hourly wages from $12 to $15 will mean boosting the hourly cost of operations by $15. That’s basically the cost of two transactions per hour. Parker and Moorhouse are wagering that productivity, the quality of customer service, and the publicity they can buy with that extra $15 an hour is a decent investment.
Parker said this fall Moo Cluck Moo will likely being expanding.Does it cost more?
There are no $1 McItems, but the menu seems reasonably priced: Burgers are $3 or $5, a breaded chicken sandwich $6, and a combo burger, fries and soda can be had for as little as $5.50.
If I ate fast food, which I rarely do, I would be more than willing to pay these prices to avoid joints that paid their workers starvation wages and force many of them to be subsidized by government programs like SNAP. You probably would too. In fact, lots of people would, I'm guessing. Enough to give such places a steady stream of customers.
Every day Moo Cluck Moo is open, it stands as a rebuke to an industry that says it can only function by paying crappy wages.Moo Cluck Moo.
The name is growing on me.