A Toronto restaurant publicly shared all its employee salaries, from managers to team members, in an effort to increase pay transparency, and break the stigma around openly discussing pay scales.

“Why do we punish people for talking about the thing that helps secure their livelihoods?,” Michel Falcon, CEO and Founder of Brasa Peruvian Kitchen, told CTV News Toronto on Wednesday. “Why do we say we’re transparent, but just not about [salary]?”

Falcon said the idea has been percolating for years, but he hadn’t been able to do anything about it until he launched Brasa in 2021.

When he first introduced this idea to his staff 30 days ago, Falcon said he held his breath.

“I was like, ‘This might blow up in my face,’” he said. “They all understood it, but there were two individuals who direct messaged me on Slack, and in short, I’m paraphrasing, they said ‘I’m proud to be working for this company.’”

On Monday, the local chain, which serves bowls, salads, and smoothies with Peruvian flavours, publicly posted how much each worker was making at all restaurant locations.

Brasa's hourly employees make anywhere from $19 to $21, while salaried employees earn somewhere between $60,000 to $75,000 a year.

The company's starting hourly wages are set higher than Ontario’s minimum wage standard of $15.50 an hour, as per the pay transparency document, though the lowest end of the company's current hourly range, $19 an hour, trails behind Toronto’s living wage rate of just over $23 an hour.

“There are companies that exploit minimum wage, just full stop,” Falcon said. “That is nothing I want to ever do. I will shut this business down if I ever paid minimum wage, I will never start a company that ever pays minimum wage.”

Instead, Falcon pays his staff “starting incomes” which don’t rely on collecting tips from customers and provides all of his employees – both part-time and full-time – with benefits right on their first day.

Falcon says the company includes employment duration data and lists employee accomplishments alongside salaries in the document to help the public understand why some staffers may have higher wages than others and encourage others to follow in their footsteps should they want to advance in the company.

“Naturally, somebody’s going to look at their peer and think, ‘Why does Samantha earn more than me? I’ve been here longer, or we’ve arrived at the same time,’” Falcon said.

“So, if somebody goes onto the document, and sees that their peer is earning more than them, well, we should preemptively paint a picture of ‘Why is that?’”

Under Falcon's name, a salary of $0 is listed. In the document, the owner wrote that he is more focused on building a strong, long-lasting company than earning “a comfortable salary today.”

“Now, on the surface, a cynical person in my industry would say, ‘There’s no way he’s making money,’” he said. “Our net profits are higher than the industry. Now, why is this? It’s because we hire good working people, and we don’t need a lot of them because their output is greater than a person who is paid minimum wage with no benefits.”

Falcon says he is also providing education to his team members on how to successfully ask for a raise.

“This is how we secure our livelihoods, and we’re not teaching people how to ask for raises. It’s a taboo topic, similar to pay transparency.”