Fast food industry impacted by worker shortage: ‘Haven’t seen anything like this’

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – Fast food restaurants are feeling the effects of an employee shortage that’s impacting the entire restaurant industry, and it could mean changes for your next meal.

The shortage has affected operations and prompted some national chains to hike wages and add new incentives.

“No doubt it’s been a perfect storm for everyone out there, and from a macroeconomic level, this is something I’ve never seen in my career ever before,” said Chipotle Senior Manager of National Recruiting Joe Albano.

Albano said Chipotle is seeking 500 workers at 62 restaurants in the Cleveland area. After the company announced last week it is raising average hourly starting wages from $13 to $15 per hour, Albano said applications have risen 77 percent.

The company is also offering new referral bonuses to employees as it recruits 20,000 workers nationwide.

“We’re getting the word out there we are open, growing and hiring as well as taking care of the people who have stayed with us,” Albano said.

McDonald’s announced it’s raising hourly wages at company-owned restaurants by 10 percent and expects a $15 per hour average wage by 2024. It is currently hiring 10,000 employees nationwide as it works to reopen dining rooms.

“We really haven’t seen anything like this,” said John Barker, President of the Ohio Restaurant Association.

Barker said there are currently 140,000 jobs available in Ohio’s restaurant industry. The shortage of workers is resulting in continued restaurant closures, limited hours and drive-thru only service at some businesses, according to Barker.

“The demand is there right now,” Barker said, noting existing staff is often overworked to make up for the shortage in employees. “If you go to any restaurant and think you’ll get in and out like you used to be pre-pandemic, please be patient.”

Barker said factors in the shortage include lingering concerns about COVID, childcare issues and expanded federal unemployment benefits. In June, Ohio plans to opt out of the federal program that provides an extra $300 weekly on top of traditional unemployment benefits, which some businesses said has deterred employees from taking jobs that pay less than the benefit.

“This pressure on workforce is becoming the number one issue in the industry,” Barker said.

Some states are using federal stimulus money to offer back-to-work bonuses to employees who leave the unemployment program. So far, that’s not happening in Ohio.


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