Hiring crisis' closes Chick-fil-A dining rooms: Restaurants in Alabama


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As restaurants happily welcome back busy dining rooms after they were closed for more than a year, many businesses are facing another pandemic-related issue: shortages of staff. 

Two Chick-fil-A locations in Alabama have been forced to close their dining rooms because they cannot get enough staff to keep them running. 

Both restaurants in McCalla and in Madison, Alabama, posted messages on their respective Facebook pages explaining the situation that the amount of customers ready to eat on the spot, just exceed the low number of workers to provide proper service. 

The problem is part of a wider trend of fast food chains, restaurants, bars and other customer service businesses struggling to fill vacant positions after their staff spent much of the pandemic on COVID-19-era unemployment.

The Chick-fil-A restaurant in McCalla, Alabama, said in a Facebook post (pictured) that it would close its dining room as employees are overworked and possibly exhausted

The Chick-fil-A in Madison revealed that it is currently 'in the middle of a job crisis.' 

According to the post, the fast-food restaurant said it is receiving a lower volume of  job applications than it normally does. To make things worse, many applicants aren't even showing up for their interviews.  

The post added, 'Unfortunately, because of this issue, we are having to temporarily close our dining room, turn off our mobile curbside ordering option, as well as our mobile carryout option.' 

The Chick-fil-A in Madison, Alabama,(pictured) said it wanted to reopen its dining rooms, but didn't have a date for when that could happen, as the restaurant lacks staff for the foreseeable future

'This was done to help reduce the stress on the team members we currently have but also to be able to still provide you with the Chick-fil-A experience you expect, just through a limited venue.' 

'We have some of the best team members in the world. They work hard every day, but they are tired and overextended. We have grown tremendously, but we need to add to our roster.'  

At the end of its long and regrettable post, the restaurant said it was hoping to return to normal as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the Chick-fil-A in McCalla explained its closure for similar reasons. 

As the fall season soon approaches, which is relatively busy due to the return in school for students and the holidays, the restaurant admitted that it could not schedule enough workers to provide 'the excellent service that our guests deserve.'

'We are very appreciative, but our team cannot continue at the pace we are at,' the post states. 'Our team members are exhausted and there is no relief for them in our roster.'   

The management team at Chick-fil-A McCalla (pictured) said they had no choice but to close the dining room as the fall season, the busiest time of the year for fast-food locations, approaches

In March 2019, the average weekly payment to an unemployed person was $348 when combining federal and state unemployment payments. That nearly tripled to $938 in April 2020. Now they're still $638 -a-week - $300 more than they were before. It means, someone who was working 40 hours a week before the pandemic now gets nearly $16-an-hour to do nothing at home, which is more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25

In eight states, the unemployed can earn at least $600 per week in benefits. Massachusetts offers the most generous benefits

Chick-fil-A aren't the only hit with staffing issues as other multiple fast food giants have encountered a similar situation during the pandemic with several falling back on unusual measures in order to fill in positions.

In April, a McDonald's location gifted job applicants $50 for simply turning up to job interviews.

Blake Casper, the franchise owner of 59 other McDonald's restaurants in the Tampa Bay area in Florida, told Business Insider that a general manager came up with the idea for trying to convince job candidates to join at the interview after telling them to do 'whatever you need to do' to hire workers.

He also said that he's considering to raise starting wages to gain the interest of more potential employees. Before reviewing wage, the starting rate was $12 an hour, which is $3 above Florida's minimum wage, but Casper said he was planning on increasing the wage to $13.  

Just like many other fast food companies, McDonald's is reverting to unorthodox means to hire potential employees on the spot when franchise managers conduct interviews

That said, three key pandemic-era unemployment benefits programs established by the March 2020 CARES Act are set to expire on September 4, which will potentially give a boost to fast-food companies and restaurants' hiring numbers.

The March 2020 CARES Act founded three new unemployment aid programs on a federal level: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, which covers those not traditionally eligible for aid; Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or PEUC, which extends aid to those who’ve exhausted their state’s benefits period; and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, or FPUC, a weekly boost intended to help people recover more of their lost wages.

Those federal programs come to an end on September 4. 

Governors in 26 states have already attempted to withdraw from those federal benefits in June and July, but many faced legal challenges, according to CNBC

Under the CARES Act, everyone receiving jobless benefits was entitled to a weekly supplement, which started at $600 per week and was later reduced to $300 per week.

But, by September 4, the Century Foundation estimates that three million people will remain eligible for unemployment insurance and will no longer have this weekly booster.

The debate around increasing support for the continuation of jobless benefits isn't clear as critics in the U.S. believe the weekly stipend disincentives people from finding work.