Jack Kelly, Senior Contributor
July 14, 2021
Not too long ago, companies executed massive layoffs in the restaurant, bar, hospitality, food, travel and other customer-facing service sectors. Now, it's the opposite. Both small mom-and-pop shops and large multinational chains are in desperate need of workers and are aggressively trying to hire people, in an effort to keep up with customer demands.
Now that millions of Americans have been vaccinated and states have reopened, people are eager to dine out at fast-food restaurants, stop for a few drinks at the local bar and take the family on a vacation. The catch is that there aren’t enough workers available to meet this increasing demand.
A combination of the fear of Covid-19, the emergence of the Delta variant, a desire to leave low-paying retail and food services jobs, child-care issues, concerns over what to do if the schools don’t reopen in the fall and enhanced unemployment benefits are contributing to a workers’ strike.
In Lincoln, Nebraska, a photo posted of a Burger King sign, reading, “We all quit. Sorry for the inconvenience,” went viral. Former general manager Rachael Flores said about her staff and the sign, “They wanted to put up a sign to say, you know sorry there’s really not going to be anyone here.” It was posted to be “just kind of a laugh to upper management.”
Flores was surprised at the attention, stating, “That got put up yesterday before we opened, and I didn’t think anybody was going to notice it, because we did just one sign, and then it went pretty crazy on Facebook. I got a call from my upper management and they told me I needed to take it down.”
Flores shared the collective experience of many fast-food and service-industry jobs, stating that there has been a large turnover of managers and staff, which have made for unpleasant working conditions. She cited an example of being forced to work in 90-degree temperatures after the air conditioning broke, which led to her going to the hospital for dehydration. Flores tendered her notice—part of the Great Resignation—and at least six of her fellow workers followed her lead out the door.
Burger King released a statement regarding the situation. “The work experience described at this location is not in line with our brand values. Our franchisee is looking into this situation to ensure this doesn’t happen in the future,” it read.
To find workers in the food, hospitality, travel and other areas that were hit hard during the pandemic, but are now enjoying a resurgence, businesses are trying to make it more attractive to work for their respective companies.
McDonald's, one of the largest restaurant chains with 800,000 workers and 13,450 United States locations, has enacted big changes to entice people to join the golden arches. In the U.S., the fast-food outlet plans to boost pay, provide back-up emergency child care, give paid time off and kick in for tuition costs. For an entry-level person, they would earn around $11 to $17 an hour. Shift managers will get about $15 to $20 an hour.
The company said in a statement that McDonald's-owned restaurants already offered eligible employees paid time off, access to education, employee assistance, a 401(k) plan and other rewards programs.
As a leader in its space and an iconic American brand, it's likely that other restaurants and businesses will follow McDonald’s lead and also offer higher wages, incentives and better working conditions to win the war for talent. Those who don’t, risk losing employees and will suffer reputational risks to their brand.
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