A Texas-based chain of chicken restaurants is reportedly promoting teens to general-manager positions that pay more than $50,000 a year in a bid to keep talent amid the recent labor shortage.
Garrett Reed, the CEO of Layne’s Chicken Fingers, told The Wall Street Journal that he’s had to train workers in their late teens and early 20s to run his new stores because he can’t find or afford workers with more experience. The company runs six restaurants across The Lone Star State.
“We’re so thin at leadership that we can’t stretch anymore to open more locations,” he told the Journal. “I’ve got a good crop of 16- and 17-year-olds, but I need another year or two to get them seasoned to run stores.”
Reed noted that Layne’s had lost some workers to larger employers such as Walmart and McDonald’s.
He added that he has deals to lease four more locations in the Dallas area for restaurants, but he’s holding off on signing because he’s worried about staffing.
“The biggest challenge for small companies to grow right now is your labor force,” Reed told the Journal. “We’d be growing at twice the rate if we had more people.”
“There’s only so much I can pay and remain profitable without raising prices too much,” he added said.
Layne’s did not return The Post’s request for comment.
Businesses across various industries have bemoaned a nationwide labor shortage that economists say is caused by a variety of factors, including child-care concerns, fear of catching COVID-19 and federal unemployment benefits that dole out an extra $300 per week.
The worker shortage means that some businesses are caught unable to expand or ramp up operations in order to meet the demands of customers, recently emerged from the pandemic and ready to spend.
The labor crunch comes even as more than 3.5 million Americans remain on traditional state unemployment and as job openings nationwide hit a record-high of 9.3 million in April.
And weekly new jobless claims surprised economists last week by rising, shattering six straight weeks of declines.
Some economists have expressed hope that the labor market will tighten once the federal unemployment benefits program is ended. President Joe Biden confirmed earlier this month that the program will cease in September.
In the meantime, to try to recruit new workers, nationwide chains like McDonald’s and Chipotle are becoming more flexible where possible and boosting wages.
But with wages rising and supply costs also surging, some businesses are now passing those extra costs on to customers, sending the prices of food and other goods up.