Burger giant McDonald’s says it “is looking to fill 20,000 roles” across the UK and Ireland this year as part of plans to open 50 new outlets.
However, boss Paul Pomroy has warned it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit, echoing problems in the wider restaurant and hospitality sector.
He told the Sunday Telegraph it “is getter harder and harder to recruit”.
Also on Sunday, restaurant chain Itsu announced a five-year expansion, with 100 new outlets creating 2,000 UK jobs.
McDonald’s already has 1,400 restaurants across the UK and Ireland employing 130,000 staff – which it calls “crew members”.
The firm insisted the new roles were not to replace jobs lost throughout the pandemic, but to prepare for the re-opening of the economy after lockdown.
It said the new posts were driven by both the new restaurant openings “and the fact crew capacity will increase alongside government restrictions relaxing”.
A spokesperson said: “The business voluntarily closed ahead of the first government lockdown, and then reopened the majority of sites carefully.”
Mr Pomroy, McDonald’s chief executive for UK and Ireland, added in a statement: “It’s fantastic to be able to offer an additional 20,000 people an opportunity to work with us.
“There is no doubt the pandemic has had a huge impact on many people’s employment opportunities and threatened the future of High Streets up and down the country.”
But Mr Pomroy told the Telegraph that attracting the right “talent will be critical”. McDonald’s said it pays everyone under 21 more than the national minimum wage, and everyone over 21 more than the national living wage (£8.91 an hour).
The US is also seeing a staff shortage in some areas, and in May McDonald’s said it would raise the hourly wages for its company-owned restaurants by an average of 10%.
As part of the expansion, McDonald’s said it would add more restaurants “in the regions” of the UK, although a spokesperson did not expand on the details.
Despite changing working patterns and debate over the future of the High Street, Mr Pomroy told the Telegraph that the High Street would continue “to be part of the fabric of the UK”.
He said: “It’s up to us to make sure there are reasons for people to visit.”
In addition to opening more outlets, McDonald’s said it was introducing new menu options, including a Grab & Go set breakfast option.
The company also said in a statement it was “trialling more flexible restaurant layouts to adapt to the different ways customers use its restaurants at different times of the day”, but gave no further details.
Itsu – which sells sushi, noodle soups and other Asian-inspired meals – is also expanding, with new backing from investment firm Bridgepoint.
Itsu’s founder, Julian Metcalfe, said: “We’ve spent months in lockdown working with [Bridgepoint] to ensure Itsu will be well-funded for long-term growth”.
Bridgepoint previously invested in Pret-a-Manger, another pre-packed lunch chain, founded by Mr Metcalfe in 2008, which he subsequently sold on.
Itsu said Bridgepoint had bought “a meaningful minority stake” in the group, which was recovering from the impact of lockdown measures.
“We are slowly getting back to pre-pandemic customer visits. Outside London, we are already busier than before,” Mr Metcalfe said in a statement.
But he said the industry was facing “the looming challenge of a severe shortage of young European chefs and huge food inflation”.
Benoit Alteirac, partner at Bridgepoint, pointed to the focus on healthy food, in particular the high proportion of plant-based food on Itsu’s menus, as one reason they were backing the company.