Comparing the way a big franchise pays their employees vs doing the same for a single unknown restaurant is apples and oranges. Franchises can afford to do that because they have deeper pockets for advertising to bring more customers in to offset that. An unknown place on the other hand should be pumping their money into advertising to get their name out there because the 1st few yrs are critical. Obv u want good employees but with the way the economy is right now most people are happy to just have a job.
I clearly remember making minimum wage at Pizza Hut and McDonald's, while making a hair or two over minimum wage at Donatos, Damon's, and Max & Erma's, then finally getting paid a little better at Da Vinci Ristorante. Recap: That's minimum wage at two of the biggest chains on the planet, better wages at smaller chains, and even better wages at an independent, single-unit restaurant, which probably blew the others away in sales.
Originally when I wrote the previous paragraph, it was one sentence long, and it ended at "Pizza Hut." Then I realized that my entire wage history, regarding chains vs. independents, completely counters your assertion. I'm not BSing; I'm just telling you the truth. I made $4.25 at McDonald's in 1990. I never made more than $4.50 at Pizza Hut between 1992 and 1994. I took my first job at Donatos because I knew they paid better than Pizza Hut, which is where I worked before quitting to work at Donatos. At Max & Erma's, where I worked as a line cook in 1995-96, I think I made $6. I quit that job to make salads at Da Vinci's for $7.
Trend: Biggest player paid me the least, while the smallest player paid me the most.
So it looks like you're right and you're wrong. Yes, big chains can afford to pay their employees because they have deeper pockets. But they don't pay their employees. Consequently, everyone who works there hates their job, and they don't stay for long, which is hell for the manager, who also doesn't stay very long for the same reasons. So your assertion that the big chains can pay their employees doesn't really counter my assertion that it's best for an independent pizzeria owner to hire good employees and pay them well.
In addition to the foodservice jobs I mentioned above, I've also done some work for independent pizzerias, sort of on a consultancy basis. And when I've done this, I've either gotten completely ripped off or I agreed to work for the gas money it took to drive to California and back to Ohio. But I wasn't working for the little guy
in these instances so much as I was working for the stupid guy
(usually). That is, I was trying to help people keep from going out of business. I sought out these kinds of places specifically because I don't really have anything to offer pizzerias that are already making money. I did it because if I can help a struggling pizzeria owner become a profitable pizzeria owner (instead of going out of business), then I'll be able to command real money as a consultant for others.
What I've learned over and over from these experiences is that most of these people cannot be helped. It's not because they offer crappy food. It's not because they're in bad locations. It's not because they're the little guy. And it most certainly is not because I lack the knowledge to help them.
It's because they: a) are nutjobs; b) are stupid; c) have huge egos but nothing to back it up; d) don't invest any of their time into the business; e) don't know why they're in the pizza business; f) started making pizza a week before they started selling pizza; g) want to take without giving anything in return, from both customers and employees; h) have never worked in a functional, high-volume pizzeria or restaurant, which means they know NOTHING about operating one; i) use a cash register instead of a POS system; j) make everything more difficult than it needs to be.
I could easily go on and on with this list, but some of these things are beginning to merge with others.
It's not apples and oranges to compare how different pizzerias pay their employees; it's more like small apples and smaller apples. However, it usually is apples and oranges to compare how they operate. If you run a business effectively and efficiently (apples), there is plenty of money available for payroll. If you don't (oranges), there's not.
If you hire the right people and pay them what they're worth (which is sometimes referred to as "making an investment"), there's a good chance you're also running your business effectively and efficiently.
The main difference between the operations of a chain store and the operations of an independent is that the independent owner generally does things inefficiently and trains their staff to do things inefficiently. These owners think they know everything, even though they don't know sh!t. Their egos influence their business decisions much more strongly than their desire to succeed by doing what the market dictates.
If you want to compare apples to oranges, compare successful pizzerias to unsuccessful pizzerias. But if you do this, you're not comparing the game they're playing; you're comparing how they play it, because they're all playing the same game. If you play it right, you win.
In-N-Out Burger is a ridiculously successful chain because every unit operates like a successful independent restaurant.