It's a sweet start to 2016 for McKenna Haley, an employee at Molly Moon's on Capitol Hill.
"I'm getting a raise today. It's really awesome. I get a dollar more and I didn't even have ask for it," Haley said Friday morning.
Seattle's minimum wage started rising in April as part of a new city ordinance and 2016 brought another increase. In the new year, companies with 500 or more employees must pay a minimum wages of $13 an hour, and smaller companies without benefits are up to $12 an hour.
The increases will continue until the city's minimum wage reaches the full $15. Smaller companies have more time to reach that mark, until as late as 2021 in some cases.
"I think all of my peers in the food industry are nervous; we're all figuring it out," said Molly Moon Neitzel, owner of Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream.
However, Moon Neitzel said she's committed to hitting the $15 minimum wage target within the five-year window, even though she owns a smaller company. Additionally, she plans to do so without taking tips or benefits.
"I really feel strongly that a wage is a wage is a wage, and so we are not taking a tip credit, or a health insurance credit," said Moon Neitzel. "I feel like it's every employers' responsibility to do as much as we can without going out of business, and it's a balancing act."
Moon expects to raise prices 4.5 cents a year to make up for some of the cost.
Seafood restaurant Ivar's announced in late March it would increase the price of menu items by 21 percent; however, customers no longer need to tip separately.
Ivar's raised its workers to the full $15 an hour in April.
Meanwhile, other restaurants have made changes to workers' benefits. In April, Icon Grill reduced paid vacation time to just one week.
While economists disagree on the ultimate consequences of the wage hike, critics worry it could result in some job loss, or jobs not being created, as well as fewer opportunities for younger, less skilled workers.
The Washington Restaurant Association said most restaurants haven't seen drastic changes yet, due to the phased-in wage increase calendar.
"However, many restaurants are looking for innovative ways to deal with future increased labor costs now," said WRA spokeswoman Stephanie Davenport. "The impacts from the increase will be more clear as time goes on."
"It is nerve wracking, honestly, even for me, and I believe so strongly that we need to raise the wage floor in this city. But it's a strategic balancing act to make it all work in the time frame that we have," Moon Neitzel said.
However, she said keeping her employees happy is a key ingredient to her success, especially in an expensive city like Seattle.
"Rent is definitely the most influential on my budgeting," said Haley, who is paying off student loans while pursuing graphic design on the side.
As of New Year's Day, she is making nearly $13 an hour and said every bit helps.
"A dollar more an hour can go a really long way when you think about it, so I think it will be a really positive thing," Haley said.
In November, voters in Tacoma approved a graduated increase to $12 an hour starting in 2016. Employees who work at least $80 a year within the Tacoma city limits, will make $10.35 an hour starting on Feb. 1.
The statewide minimum in Washington is $9.47 an hour for the second year. It will no longer be the highest in the nation, as Massachusetts and California are both increasing to $10. Alaska's minimum wage also is higher than Washington's, going up to $9.75 an hour on Friday. Other states with higher statewide wages include Connecticut and Rhode Island.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.