New York (CNN Business) – Three Chick-fil-A restaurants in Alabama and one in Georgia have closed their dining rooms, citing challenges in hiring workers who need them.
One of those, in Calera, Alabama, has also halted takeaway deliveries and restricted catering orders. Another company in Madison, Alabama, said it would halt deliveries of cars and windows.
These restaurants are only a fraction of the Chick-fil-A restaurants in North America. There are more than 2,600 Chick-fil-A locations in the United States and Canada, most of which are owned by franchise operators.
But the situation described by these restaurants is representative of the experience of many other restaurants in the United States. Operators have been scrambling for jobs as workers switch to other jobs and move away from stressful restaurant jobs where they have to deal with frustrated customers and may be exposed to the coronavirus.
In April, May and June, the drop-out rate per share of employment in the accommodation and food service sector, which includes restaurants, remained stable at 5.7%, according to seasonally adjusted data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is well above the rate of change across all sectors, which was 2.7% in June. Experts say that when restaurants are understaffed, it can be difficult to hire them because of the pressure on remaining staff, among other things.
“Due to staff shortages, we have resorted to serving guests only with in-car service,” said an August 17 Facebook post posted on the Chick-fil-A Calera page.
“Chick-fil-A is not immune to this labor shortage,” says another post published later that week. The post continued, “We’re doing our best to hire more team members. We’re seeing far fewer job applicants, people who don’t show up for their interviews or who just take a job to quit in the first two weeks.”
Advocates for restaurant workers say there is a wage shortage, not a labor shortage. In fact, many restaurants have tried to attract workers with higher wages and other benefits. Darden Restaurants (DRI), owner of Olive Garden, raised salaries earlier this year. Chipotle (CMG) did, too, saying that higher salaries and other perks helped increase its employees.
On the Chick-fil-A McCalla page, an August 21 post explains that their decision was made because “our team cannot continue at the rate we are,” adding that “our team members are tired and there is no relief for them in our salaries.” On the same day, Chick-fil-A Madison posted on Facebook that its employees “work hard every day, but are tired and exhausted.”
Earlier this month, Chick-fil-A restaurant in Columbus, Georgia, said it was closing the dining room due to staffing issues.
A Chick-fil-A spokesperson told CNN Business that Chick-fil-A restaurants are independently owned and operated, with operators making the decision to downsize. The spokesperson added that customers should check the Chick-fil-A website or app to see what their local restaurant has to offer.