Boston-based restaurant and food truck company Bon Me announced Monday that earlier this month it had raised the starting wage for its employees from $11 to $13 an hour and intends to raise all employees to $15 an hour by the end of 2018.
Mayor Marty Walsh called it an “incredible success story,” not just for the local, small business but for the entire city.
Walsh said Bon Me’s decision to pay a “living wage” is an example for other businesses to invest in their workforce, which he says will improve the city overall. In Greater Boston, nearly 200,000 workers earn a median wage of less than $15 an hour, he said.
“We’re becoming a city of people who can make it and people who have to move out,” Walsh said, “and we have to do better than that.”
Bon Me chef and co-owner Alison Fong made the announcement outside of the company’s commissary kitchen in Roxbury to a crowd that included Walsh, Boston City Council President Michelle Wu, members of the Fight for $15 movement and Bon Me employees.
“Our successes could not have been possible without the hard work of our employees,” Fong said. “We are proud of this choice because we want Bon Me to be a business that takes care of our people by helping them provide for themselves and for their families.”
Fong pointed to several of her employees whose loyalty has contributed to the comapny's success, one who has been with her since day one and another who started working for Bon Me as a freshman in college and is now a manager.
“As small business owners, Patrick [Lynch, co-founder and business partner] and I have a lot to learn about management, but we’ve seen how low wages and high turnovers are just an all too common trap in our industry,” she said.
In planning the change in wages, Fong worked with the Restaurant Opportunity Center, Raise Up Massachusetts, and the Chinese Progressive Association, which Fong has been connected with since she was in high school.
Angel Castro, 22, started working for Bon Me at $10 an hour about a year and a half ago. His recent pay raise to $15 an hour will make it easier for him to continue going to Roxbury Community College where he’s working toward a degree in business management.
“I’m finally able to afford to pay all my bills and support my mother and my two younger sisters” Castro said. “I can focus more in school.”
Bon Me began as a single food truck in 2011 with six employees. Now, the company has six trucks, five restaurants, and 165 employees. A higher wage, Fong hopes, will show that Bon Me is willing to invest in retaining and attracting employees.
“If a small business can do this, there is no question and no reason big businesses can’t do this,” said Suzanne Lee, president of the Chinese Progressive Association.