Waffle House is increasing base pay in the U.S., starting at $3 per hour

 


After five years of planning, Waffle House says it is raising the base salary of its workers—to $3 per hour.

The company will set the new floor for base pay this month, gradually increasing it to a minimum of $5.25 per hour by June 2026, CEO Joe Rogers III announced in a video to employees.

The video was released in May but has come to light only recently. Rogers called the move “the single largest additional investment in our workforce in the entire 68-year history of Waffle House.”

The federal minimum wage in 2025 is set to hit $15 per hour. Tipped employees, though, are often not covered by that figure.

Base pay is just part of a worker’s salary at Waffle House. Tips are on top of that (and the company ensured its workers that there would be no tip-sharing or tip-pooling as part of the new compensation—each worker would keep the tips they earned). Staff will also receive a tenure bonus, based on how long (cumulatively) they have worked at the company. Starting this month, waiters and waitresses will receive the same tenure bonus as grill operators.

Workers who have spent three years or more with Waffle House are eligible for the tenure bonus, which initially adds 50 cents per hour to their salary. Workers who have booked more than 30 years with the company earn an extra $3.20 per hour.

Waiters and waitresses who work shifts where tips are historically lower will earn either 50 cents or $1 more per hour on top of their base pay.

Base rates, the company says, will rise over time, with three different categories. By June 2026, one will have a base of $5.25 per hour, another will hit $6.25 by February 2027, and a third will grow to $7.25 by June 2027.

No immediate changes will be made in states where there is already a base rate mandated by law. Rogers said no one would see their base rate lowered.

To pay for the higher wages, Waffle House plans to increase menu prices.

McDonald's has informed franchisees that it is ending an artificial intelligence drive-thru order-taking program, a report says. 

In a message obtained by Restaurant Business magazine, McDonald’s USA Chief Restaurant Officer Mason Smoot said "After a thoughtful review, McDonald's has decided to end our current partnership with IBM on AOT [automated order taking] and the technology will be shut off in all restaurants currently testing it no later than July 26, 2024."

More than 100 McDonald’s locations were testing the technology, dating back to 2021, according to the magazine.

"While there have been successes to date, we feel there is an opportunity to explore voice ordering solutions more broadly," Smoot reportedly added, noting that the company will make "an informed decision on a future voice ordering solution by the end of the year." 

McDonald's drive-thru in Florida

A McDonald's drive-thru at a restaurant in Sanford, Florida. The company reportedly has announced that it is ending an AI drive-thru ordering program. (Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images / Getty Images)

McDonald's told FOX Business in a statement Monday that "The goal of the test was to determine if an automated voice ordering solution could simplify operations for crew and create a faster, improved experience for our fans.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
MCDMCDONALD'S CORP.253.51-0.07-0.03%
IBMINTERNATIONAL BUSINESS MACHINES CORP.169.50+0.29+0.17%

"Through our partnership with IBM, we have captured many learnings and feel there is an opportunity to explore voice-ordering solutions more broadly," the company continued. "After thoughtful review, McDonald’s has decided to end our current global partnership with IBM on AOT beyond this year. IBM remains a trusted partner and we will still utilize many of their products across our global system.

McDonald's drive-thru in California

A drive-thru menu is seen at a McDonald's restaurant in California. McDonald's partnered with IBM for the AI program. (Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images / Getty Images)

"As we move forward, our work with IBM has given us the confidence that a voice ordering solution for drive-thru will be part of our restaurants’ future," McDonald's added. "We see tremendous opportunity in advancing our restaurant technology and will continue to evaluate long-term, scalable solutions that will help us make an informed decision on a future voice ordering solution by the end of the year."

IBM told Restaurant Business that it "developed automated order-taker technologies with McDonald’s to support the emerging use of voice-activated AI in restaurant drive-thrus." 

exterior of a Mcdonald's in california

McDonald's says it envisions AI being part of the company's future, according to Restaurant Business magazine. (Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images / Getty Images)

"This technology is proven to have some of the most comprehensive capabilities in the industry, fast and accurate in some of the most demanding conditions," the company said in a statement. "While McDonald’s is reevaluating and refining its plans for AOT, we look forward to continuing to work with them on a variety of other projects." 

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