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Two Seattle-area restaurant chains are raising wages in hopes of attracting new workers

Renton-based Taco Time and Seattle's Dick's Drive-In are both raising wages for their employees, hoping they can attract and retain new workers.

SEATTLE — Two western Washington restaurant chains are hoping to stay competitive, which means raising wages for workers. 

Renton-based Taco Time is raising wages at three locations to $20 an hour and Seattle's Dick's Drive-In began paying workers on Monday a starting wage of $19 an hour.

Both companies are working to fill dozens of positions.

Taco Time announced the change as part of a pilot program for two of its locations in Issaquah and one in North Bend. The company said those locations are looking to fill 30 positions. 

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The announcement from Taco Time comes just two days after Dick's Drive-In increased its starting wage to $19 an hour. The wage will automatically jump to $20 after the employee completes a skills test. The restaurant said the test can take an employee an average of 12 weeks to complete. Employees will also get overtime if they work more than 32 hours in a week. 

"Any of our employees who are running the grill have been with us at least a year, and anyone who's what we call a 'grill expert' has usually been with us for two. So, these are not necessarily just summer jobs, couple-month jobs" said Jasmine Donovan, president of Dick’s Drive-In, "We need the best employees in the market, and to do that, we have to pay the best wages and benefits." 

Prior to the announced changes, Dick's Drive-In and Taco Time offered a starting wage of $18 an hour. 

The pay increase means both companies are offering what is considered a living wage for King County. 

According to a Living Wage Calculator, created by Dr. Amy Glasmeier and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a living wage in King County for a person with no children is $19.57. The data shows people with kids will need to make between $36.53 and $60.62 to support their families. 

Donovan said for her restaurant, news of the change is getting people's attention and bringing in new applicants. Dick's Drive-In is working to open a new location in Bellevue, and Donovan said they plan to hire 50 new employees for that location. 

"We'll see. We'll see if this helps. It's certainly going to help the employees who are working for us now," said Donovan.