MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Punch Neapolitan Pizza announced that all starting positions will receive $15 per hour and all current employees will receive wage increases as the company builds for the post-COVID-19 future.

Punch co-owner, John Puckett, said their employees are key to the companies success.

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“We think our employees are our number one asset,” said Puckett. “When we ask customers why they return to Punch the top two answers, closely ranked, are the quality of our pizza and our engaged, friendly employees.”

Punch is one of the first Minnesota restaurant companies to make this leap to a $15 minimum wage.

Along with the increase in the minimum wage, punch has also implemented raises for those making above minimum wage, and it’s expanding its training programs to put more people in management.

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The company says an employee at Punch can now move into management within two years of employment and earn more than $50,000 per year.

The company also boasts that most senior store managers at Punch make almost $100,000 a year; this position requires no accreditation, credentials or minimum education levels.

“One of Punch’s key business strategies through its 25 years of operation has been to pay our employees more than our competitors as a critical part of our Mission: to Delight Every Customer,” Puckett said. “This investment will decrease profits in the short term, but over the long term we have demonstrated that investing more in our employees pays off with higher customer loyalty, better quality and service, and ultimately higher sales.”

A $15 minimum was already a talking point before the pandemic across all service industries. The main opposition against $15 is cost. Businesses are concerned they’ll have to pass that price tag along to the consumer by raising prices. But Puckett says he raises prices according to inflation, every few years.

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Punch was recognized by President Obama in the 2014 State of the Union address for their pay well above minimum wage.