MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – During last year’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama gave a shout-out to the owners of Minnesota-based Punch Pizza for voluntarily raising the company’s starting minimum wage to $10 an hour.

Now, the company is raising its base wage again — to $11 an hour.

In a statement released Thursday, the “fine casual restaurant” says the pay increase will start on Monday, and current hourly workers will also get raises, ranging from 7.5 percent to 10 percent of their current pay.

“Our decision to lead the fine casual industry has allowed us to attract the best and the brightest employees,” Punch co-owner and founder John Soranno said in the statement.

The company says the pay hike is an estimated 10-year investment of $4 million, and it includes a new training center in St. Paul called Punch University.

Since Punch raised its minimum wage to $10 an hour two years ago, the company says it’s been able to retain good workers while growing sales.

“Punch’s growth in sales per store has been in the very top in the industry over the last 2 years — our customers clearly prefer to do business with companies like Punch that value their employees,” John Puckett, Punch co-owner, said in the statement.

While Punch voluntarily raised its minimum wage to $10 an hour, legislation later required large employers in Minnesota to pay their entry-level workers $9 an hour. Next year, the state’s minimum wage will jump to $9.50.

Punch, known for its Neapolitan-style pizzas, says that since it started paying workers more, it’s opened a new shop in Maple Grove and announced a location in Eagan.

The company says it’s also added health care coverage for full-time employees and increased store management salaries to $100,000 a year.

Punch currently has 300 employees and nine locations across the Twin Cities.

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