One national fast-food chain is putting their corporate office employees to work in restaurants amid the ongoing worker shortage.
Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers co-CEO and COO AJ Kumaran told TODAY Food that on a business call last week, he had mentioned they were “struggling to have meaningful crew members” in the field.
“Our business is very, very busy and we need more people,” he said he told folks on the call. “It’s very tough. So, before I knew it my phone started blowing up with people asking, ‘How can we help?”
Kumaran said everyone — even at the corporate level — is trained when they start at the company as a fry cook and cashier.
“If you look at my title, I am the COO, CEO, fry cook and cashier,” he explained. “So I said, ‘Well, why don’t we all step in and help group people and help fill some holes?’”
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He said they have 750 corporate employees, with about 500 in their main office in Dallas with another 250 in the field already.
“So we said, whoever wants to sign up, can sign up and just go out there and just do whatever it takes,” he said. In some cases, the employee is helping as a fry cook or on the cash register, but they’re also hosting job fairs, doing interviews and training.
The Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based company has 580 locations nationwide, and it’s looking to hire 10,000 new restaurant workers by the end of November, according to a Bloomberg report.
“What we are doing is kind of like, an all-hands-on-deck approach,” he said.
Raising Cane’s plans to invest almost $70 million in wage increases over the next few weeks for frontline workers, Kumaran said.
“Restaurants are still nearly 1 million jobs or about 8% below pre-pandemic, which is double national employment levels,” Vanessa Sink, a spokesperson from the National Restaurant Association, told TODAY. “Restaurant jobs remain below June 2019 levels in 46 states and D.C.”
Sink pointed to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which showed 1.4 million restaurant job openings on the last business day of June.
It’s something Kumaran knows well. He explained all restaurants operate on “razor thin margins.”
“The wages or the market is very competitive, wages are going up, cost of doing business is going up, the supply chain is a mess, and prices are going up,” he said, adding that he has no idea how mom-and-pop businesses are surviving the pandemic. “These are unprecedented times to say the least. It is my heart goes out to them.”
CORRECTION (Oct. 8, 2021, 4:13 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated that Raising Cane’s has 530 locations — it actually has 580.