MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After making headlines by raising their starting wage to $10 an hour for employees, Punch Pizza was recognized Tuesday during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.
Punch Pizza founder and co-owner John Soranno and star employee Nick Chute were guests of First Lady Michelle Obama.
“Nick helps make the dough,” the president said during his speech. “Only now he makes more of it.”
Obama said Punch’s decision to raise its minimum wage eased workers’ financial stress and boosted their moral.
“We are honored to be recognized by the President and First Lady,” Soranno said in a press release. “As we continue to grow Punch we recognize that only the most dedicated employees will position us to compete and maintain the highest quality food and the best service in the market.”
While Punch owners say they refuse to talk politics, raising the minimum wage was a key point in the president’s address. Opponents of raising the minimum wage say that doing so could rock an already fragile economy.
Punch announced its plans to raise its minimum wage in November. At the time, the owners of Punch Pizza said it’s a business risk, and they expect a short-term financial hit. The previous minimum wage at Punch was $7.50.
Still, they said they were focused on the long-term benefits to the company and their employees.
As part of Punch Pizza’s investment, all pizza cooks are paid $12-$15 an hour — the most skilled cooks are paid at a level equivalent of more than $30,000 a year.
New managers are paid more than $50,000 a year, with an experienced general manager receiving a pay of $100,000 a year.
Punch opened its eighth store in Woodbury last year and will open another store in Maple Grove this May.