Starting this week, Louisiana-born fast-food chain Raising Cane’s will deploy half of its corporate staff to work in restaurants across the U.S., Bloomberg first reported, citing a challenging hiring market and staff shortages across its 530 locations nationwide. In other words: the general premise of Undercover Boss just became part of the company’s working business model.
Corporate employees will fill roles as cooks and cashiers at Raising Cane’s restaurants, according to the report, as well as work to hire staff, as the company launches a recruitment plan to hire 10,000 new restaurant employees in the next 50 days. The Baton Rouge-based company told Business Insider this week that at least 200 people from its Dallas office were being relocated to work in restaurants, and that 250 members of the company’s marketing and training staff were being deployed as part of the hiring plan. The company’s co-chief executive officer referenced a “challenging hiring market” in a statement earlier this week, and said that, “Ahead of our massive growth next year, having the support we need is critical. We are all in this together.”
Eater has reached out to Raising Cane’s for details of the plan to hire 10,000 workers in less than two months, specifically employee wages and benefits. According to a study from One Fair Wage released in September, there’s recently been a small shift in the restaurant industry toward livable wages — it documented more than 1,600 restaurants “that have raised wages to pay the full minimum wage with tips on top, with an average wage of about $13.50” across 41 states — states that were found to have a majority of restaurants paying a subminimum wage of $5 or less earlier in the year. The study also found that “nearly 8 in 10 service workers [78 percent] report that they would only stay in restaurants or return to work in restaurants if they received a full, livable wage with tips on top.”
Pandemic-related labor shortages have been well-documented, both nationally and at restaurants here in New Orleans — a predicament that likely can’t be attributed to any single factor, even pay. A study published in February by the University of California, San Francisco found that line cooks had the highest rate of mortality of any workers during the pandemic; beyond safety concerns, workers are leaving the industry after the social justice reckoning in 2020 helped shed light on the ubiquity of toxic work environments in restaurants. According to employment numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people employed in the food-service industry fell in August for the first time since April 2020.
The latest release from the Bureau says the average hourly earnings in Leisure and Hospitality was $16.60 in August 2021, up from $14.72 in August 2020, and that workers’ hours have stayed about the same. It’s likely — though unconfirmed — that Raising Cane’s corporate fill-ins are retaining their salaries and benefits while staffing the restaurants (salaries that may surpass typical fast-food wages). Eater NOLA will update this story as more information becomes available.