California Pizza CEO 'a little concerned' about worker shortage amid revival

·Reporter, Booking Producer
·3 min read

As worker shortages hit companies of all sizes, California Pizza Kitchen is facing challenges of its own when it comes to staffing.

However, the fast casual restaurant chain's CEO believes they're in a better position than others in the industry, even as many are rapidly hiking wages in order to attract workers.

"It's really tough right now...everybody's struggling, we maybe had a little better start than most," Jim Hyatt, CEO of California Pizza Kitchen, told Yahoo Finance Live in an interview on Wednesday. 

He said turnover at the company has been "very low" and believes the company exceeded "a lot of our restaurant partners out there" when it comes to retaining its staff members. 

The California-style pizza chain, which bounced back relatively quickly after filing for bankruptcy last year, is "ready to rock and roll" into the fall according to Hyatt. Yet he argued the post-pandemic era will require "everyone's absolute 'A-Game'" to provide services to guests. 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 17: California Pizza Kitchen sells groceries to stay afloat in reaction to the coronavirus on April 17, 2020 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 17: California Pizza Kitchen sells groceries to stay afloat in reaction to the coronavirus on April 17, 2020 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

Still, the CEO admitted it's been a challenge and he's a "little concerned" about the impact of staffing issues leaking into the supplier side. Hyatt is optimistic that wages at the restaurant chain for staff members "remain competitive" compared to the market to attract, maintain and keep them on board.

"We've had wages on our table, on our plate, for a long time now we're over $15 an hour as an average," Hyatt said. He added that it will take more than just pay to get workers to stay.

"They want to work in a great environment...have a management team that they appreciate and take care of each other...there's a lot more involved than just pay," he said, but admits wages are "on top of everybody's mind right now." 

California Pizza Kitchen is not alone in that, recently fast food companies like McDonald's and Chipotle hiked its minimum wages. 

At McDonald's (MCD) U.S. locations company-owned restaurants is raising hourly wages by 10 percent. The fast food giant said increases have begun and "will be rolled out over the next several months." They will include "shifting the entry level range for crew to at least $11 - $17 an hour and the starting range for shift managers to at least $15 - $20 an hour based on restaurant location." 

Also, Chipotle (CMG) announced all restaurant wages will be an average of $15 hourly by the end of June. 

Among other benefits the fast casual burrito chain is pushing include the potential to earn $100,000 a year in a general manager position "in as little as three and a half years," and a $200 dollar employee referral bonus for crew members, and a $750 dollar bonus for General Mangers' apprentices.

Still, Wall Street is less than optimistic as Main Street is about soaring labor costs that will likely cost consumers even more.

In a research note to clients, Jefferies restaurant analyst Andy Barish recently wrote that "wage inflation is real," alluding to the potential harmful impact on these restaurant's profit in the upcoming quarters. 

Brooke DiPalma is a producer and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma or email her at bdipalma@yahoofinance.com. Check out her latest:

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