Fast-food industry turns to seniors as reliable workers

Faced with a labor shortage of willing workers due to the humming national economy, a growing number of restaurants and fast-food chains are turning to a new source: Seniors.


Traditionally, such workplaces have been the workforce entry point for teenagers. They still are for many.

But here’s a News Flash that potential employers seem to be rediscovering: Senior citizens have a lifetime of job discipline experience in work and social settings in the real world, not online, an attention span beyond four seconds and the accompanying self-confidence that makes them ideal for customer interactions in such retail work.

Many retired folks are looking for part-time work, a little extra cash and don’t have the long-term career ambitious expectations for advancement and pay increases.

Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the number of younger people age 16 to 24 entering the labor force is actually declining. But the number of workers re-entering the work force at age 65 and above is growing four to six percent.

The median food industry hourly wage is $9.81, the same sum such establishments would pay for an inexperienced teen without the experience and workplace decorum.

“A lot of times,” said Stevenson Williams, manager of a Church’s Chicken in North Charlotte, “with the younger kids now, they can be very disrespectful. So you have to coach them and tell them this is your job. This is not the street.”


The need for such workers is so great that companies are hunting them in non-traditional places like churches and senior citizen homes where residents are happy to get out, make a little extra money and have a social experience.

This year Honey Baked Ham went to churches and senior homes to seek the 12,000 seasonal workers it needed for peak times of Thanksgiving and Christmas at its more than 400 retail establishments.

One such worker in St. Louis is a 67-year-old former school teacher, Toni Vartanian-Heifner, who works for short shifts of four or five hours. She’s paid $10 an hour, has a regular social experience with co-workers and, importantly, gets a 50 percent discount on food.

A growing number of large companies have even turned to AARP to recruit workers.

One investment firm that owns several casual dining chains, American Blue Ribbon Holdings, paid AARP $3,500 to list hourly and management jobs on the non-profit’s website for job openings in its Bakers Square and Village Inn dining brands.

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