This Toronto coffee shop owner just bumped up his staff's minimum wage

Jan 3 2019, 11:40 pm

Everyone’s heard the phrase, “happy wife, happy life.”

But how about “well-treated staff, successful business?” It has (significantly) less of a ring to it, but it almost certainly holds more merit.

While the provincial government scrapped the minimum wage increase planned for January 1, Jimson Bienenstock, co-owner of HotBlack Coffee, did not.


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The Queen West spot that confidently boasts the “Best. Coffee. Ever.” has bumped up their starting wage to $15 per hour.

And all staff who weren’t making minimum wage got a $1 pay increase as well.

When the minimum wage increase was announced a year and a half ago, Bienenstock promised his staff that they would all see their wages increase by an additional dollar on January 1, 2019.

“Does the politics really make a difference to the promise that I made?” he asks.

Clearly, it doesn’t. Because Bienenstock cares about his people. But there’s more to it than that. He explains that the pay increase is just one part of a more complex package.

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The choice stems from an ideology, which Bienenstock says isn’t about politics. It’s about maintaining the overall quality of the coffee shop.

“I want to do whatever I can to take away [employees’] problems, so they can focus on what needs to happen,” Bienenstock told Daily Hive.

“What needs to happen” meaning: making excellent coffee and providing a high-vibe atmosphere to patrons.


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“It’s all about the experience,” he says. “The coffee, the service, the layout, the wifi… and honestly, for me, it’s cheaper in the long run to pay people better and have less turnover.”

When there’s less turnover with staff, the ambiance of the space is maintained. Baristas remember regulars’ orders, and nobody is miserable to be at work. In fact, they’re happy to be there.

And that’s exactly the goal at HotBlack.

“What is this with Friyay?” Bienenstock asks. “Shouldn’t you just change jobs, if you’re saying Friyay?”

When employees want to change jobs, customers are impacted. A spot can’t genuinely offer Toronto the “Best. Coffee. Ever.” if staff feel undervalued.

So ultimately, Bienenstock’s choice to pay staff higher wages is a small price to pay to ensure HotBlack can offer an ultimate coffee shop experience.

Call it a return on investment, if you will.

HotBlack Coffee

Address: 245 Queen Street West
Phone: 416-840-6141


Kayla GladyszKayla Gladysz

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