Fast food chains are offering cash bonuses, raises, and education benefits in order to hire enough workers

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Fast food chains are offering cash bonuses, raises, and education benefits in order to hire enough workers
AP
  • Restaurants are struggling to hire as COVID restrictions are lifted.
  • Chains are holding hiring events, adding extra perks, and, in some cases, raising wages.
  • Nearly half of restaurants say they're "severely understaffed."

Restaurant chains are rolling out new perks to hire workers as COVID restrictions lift and business picks back up.

But many companies are having trouble finding employees, so they're rolling out extra incentives to draw in workers to deal with the job boom. Even getting applicants in the door has been a struggle in some cases, so some chains are turning to large-scale hiring events to screen swaths of candidates at once.

IHOP is hosting a "National Recruiting Day" to fill some of its 10,000 openings, and Taco Bell hosted hiring parties at 2,000 US stores this week to hire 5,000 employees. The chain even interviewed potential workers from their cars.

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McDonald's is looking to hire 25,000 employees in Texas and 8,000 in Tennessee, while Whataburger wants to hire 50,000 new employees. Even getting workers to apply and show up to an interview is proving difficult. A Florida McDonald's is paying candidates $50 just for an interview and even that isn't creating enough applicants, Insider previously reported.

Read more: These 13 grocery-delivery companies are challenging Instacart for dominance of the $100 billion industry

If these events can get candidates in the door, restaurant owners are hoping new perks can get them to actually take the job.

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Taco Bell recently expanded benefits for managers, adding extra vacation time, parental leave, and short-term disability benefits. Whataburger made a similar move, promoting all managers to "operating partner," and raising salaries to at least $100,000. Chipotle is expanding debt-free degree options for employees to include agriculture, culinary, and hospitality programs.

Other restaurants are relying on different incentives, like letting people apply by text message. Blake Casper, the McDonald's franchisee who paid interview candidates $50, told Insider that he'd had some success with signing bonuses and referral programs.

Some owners are considering raising wages, which may prove necessary to draw workers back into service jobs. Casper told Insider that he currently pays $12, $3 above Florida minimum wage, but he's considering raising starting wages to $13.

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40% of restaurants say they're understaffed, and 80% say that they're keeping at least one hiring roll posted at all times, QSR Magazine reported. Back of house roles are especially difficult to hire for, managers told the magazine, as curbside and to-go orders have grown and increased demand for those spots. Since the pandemic started last year, operators have raised cook wages 18% on average.

Some workers who were furloughed or laid off early in the pandemic may never return to fast food and customer service work. The US added 280,000 jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry in March, according to data from the Labor Department, but still fell short of meeting the hiring needs of restaurants, hotels, and fast food chains.

Restaurants and bars remain 1.8 million jobs - or 15% - below pre-pandemic levels, with many establishments saying they are suffering from a dearth of applicants for a number of open positions.

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"I don't think anything like this has ever happened. Everybody in the world is hiring at the same time" chef and owner of two North Carolina restaurants Katie Button told The New York Times. Chef Hugh Acheson said more than 300 long line cook openings posted in February were still open two months later.

"It's a perfect storm right now," Casper said.

Do you have a story to share about a retail or restaurant chain? Email this reporter at mmeisenzahl@businessinsider.com.

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