A 19-year-old manager of a Texas chicken restaurant told Insider that he expects to lose half of his staff in the next few weeks.
Jason Cabrera runs the Allen, Texas, branch of the Layne’s Chicken Fingers restaurant chain, which promoted teenagers to management roles because of a severe staff shortage. Cabrera, who earns a $50,000 salary, estimates that he’ll need to replace 11 of his 22 junior employees in the coming weeks, with many going off to college out of state.
The labor shortage was the biggest challenge he faces as the restaurant manager, he said.
Garrett Reed, CEO of Layne’s, told Insider in a separate interview that he would “usually have at least a handful of seasoned managers, people in their late-20s, early-30s” running his eight restaurants, but the labor shortage led him to promote three workers who are 18 or 19 to manager roles, including Cabrera.
Reed has found it “tough to compete” with places like Walmart and McDonalds, which can afford to offer higher wages, and many of his workers have left to join bigger companies, he said.
Cabrera insists a lack of staff has not led to a drop in standards. “I make sure when I do my interviews and whatnot, people know that I have high standards,” Cabrera told Insider. He said that he looks for staff who care about the quality of service, and work with urgency.
Cabrera’s annual earnings are far above the $9.50 per hour “learning wage” that Reed said his entry-level employees receive, and the $28,860 per year the average 16 to 19-year-old can expect to make in the US, per Labor Department data.
His salary doesn’t include any performance-linked bonuses general managers might receive at the end of the year.
Cabrera said that he has struggled in past jobs to be taken seriously due to his young age, but has embraced the responsibilities of his new role.
“Just knowing that anything that happens inside of that store is on me,” he said. “Anything that goes wrong, anything that goes right, it all comes back to me.”
Cabrera told Insider that he’s saving up so he can open his own Layne’s franchise. “I just want to see how fast I can get there,” he said.
Analysts looked at 24 restaurant chains over the span of a year and found 17 of them are currently running price increases, and price increases, on the whole, are growing in both size and frequency. Quick service restaurants have seen the largest increases, averaging 6% compared to 3% at fast-casual and 1% in casual chains. Most of these increases have been implemented since March 2021.
Based on Gordon Haskett analysis, the greatest price increases have been 10% at Taco Bell, 8% at McDonald’s, and 8% at Dunkin’, follow by Chipotle and The Cheesecake Factory. Exact prices vary by market. Applebee’s, Papa John’s, Red Robin, and a few others have not adopted any price increases over the past year.
Labor costs might have increased for restaurants over the last year, but so did the price of ingredients. US consumer prices hit their highest level in 13 years in May, increasing 5% over the previous year. Staple Chipotle items, like corn and avocados, grew more expensive this year as demand rose and shipping delays drove prices further up. Experts say rising food costs are a combination of growing demand as consumers increase spending and supply chain struggles. Shipping delays and severe weather events have made crucial commodities more expensive and difficult to obtain.
McDonald’s continues to debut plant-based options around the world, with the notable exception of the US.
The fast-food chain just finished a test of the McVeggie burger in Australia as demand for plant-based options continues to rise. The patty is made of Australian-grown potatoes, peas, corn, carrots, and onions, and served on a bun with lettuce, cheese, pickles, mayonnaise.
McDonald’s has been experimenting with plant-based menu items for over a year now. In September 2019, the chain announced a test run for a separate offering – the “PLT” burger, a plant, lettuce, and tomato sandwich – in some Canadian locations, with an expanded test in January 2020. The burger was made in partnership with Beyond Meat, which has also partnered with Dunkin’, TGI Fridays, and other chains.
McDonald’s discontinued the Canadian test with no plans to continue, leading to a 10% dip in Beyond stock price. Beyond has since announced multi-year deals with both McDonald’s and Taco Bell parent company Yum Brands.
In November, it announced the McPlant line of plant-based meats including burgers, chicken substitutes, and other items. McDonald’s President of International Business Ian Borden called it a “proven, delicious-tasting product.”
“When customers are ready for it, it will be ready for them,” Borden said, indicating that it would test in some markets in 2021.
McDonald’s still doesn’t have plant-based options in the US, though competitors including Burger King, Carl’s Jr, and Shake Shack have rolled out their own versions. A McDonald’s US spokesperson told Insider that right now plant-based is a global option that countries can add to menus “if customer demand is there.” There are no new updates about plans for a plant-based product in the US, McDonald’s said.
There’s reason to expect they will make it to the US eventually, though. CEO Chris Kempczinski told the New York Times that the chain continues to invest in plant-based product development, despite the fact that those items are more expensive than meat.
Authorities said that video surveillance and multiple witnesses caught the suspects pointing a firearm at the manager during a verbal dispute at the drive-thru section of the restaurant.
Davion Guillory, 23, and Trykia Cohen, 25, were later charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, police said.
After the altercation, the pair drove off, but authorities were able to track down the car and detain them, per the police statement. Constable Mark Herman said that each individual was bailed on a $10,000 bond.
Herman added that Cohen was already out on probation for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon when the incident occurred.
McDonald’s did not immediately reply to Insider’s request for comment. Guillory and Cohen could not be reached for comment.
In a separate incident in July, a McDonald’s manager in Missouri lost an eye after an ex-employee’s father attacked him with a rake.
In another incident, police in Memphis said they arrested two customers for starting a shooting at Burger King because their chicken sandwich had too much hot sauce in it, Insider reported.
Fast food and restaurant workers are planning actions across the country for July 20, the anniversary of the last time the federal minimum wage was increased in the US.
Fast-food workers will strike in nine cities to demand a higher wage, according to Fight for $15, the worker advocacy group which organized the strikes. The demonstrations are planned for Asheville, North Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; Detroit, Michigan; Durham, North Carolina; Flint, Michigan; Houston, Texas; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and St. Louis, Missouri.
At the same time, restaurant workers will hold protests and rallies to eliminate the tipped minimum wage.
“Twelve years without a raise in the minimum wage is way too long. I’m going on strike today because I can’t afford to wait any longer for $15/hr – not while costs are going up and I’m still recovering from the devastation of the pandemic,” a McDonald’s worker in Houston, Martha Osorto, told Insider in a statement via Fight for $15. “I show up every day to do my job, and now it’s time for the Senate to do its job and raise the minimum wage so that all of us, regardless of where we live or work, are paid enough to survive.”
Retail workers are in a unique position right now, with more leverage than at any time in recent history. Restaurants can’t keep locations staffed at pre-pandemic levels, so they have to compete for workers with sign-on bonuses and other perks. The labor shortage in many sectors of the economy is a boon to some dissatisfied retail workers who are suddenly able to shop around for new jobs.
The quit rate, which refers to the percentage of people who voluntarily leave their jobs over the period, reached 5.6% in April for the foodservice and accommodations sector. That number is an all-time high for the industry, according to Gordon Haskett Research Advisors, and it was more than twice the rate of the economy as a whole, not counting farming jobs.
McDonald’s also announced earlier in April that it would raise minimum wages at corporate-owned stores. Entry-level workers will make at least $11 per hour, and shift managers will make at least $15, boosting the average wage by about 10%. The chain is aiming to hire 10,000 new employees in the coming months and says its average hourly wage is expected to reach $15 by 2024. These changes will only impact about 5% of McDonald’s workers, however.
Immediately, fans and industry experts began to notice that the new offerings seemed very similar to Chick-fil-A’s and Popeyes’ iconic chicken sandwiches. Insider’s Kate Taylor previously reported on a leaked menu that revealed McDonald’s plans to release a new chicken sandwich, saying that the chain was planning to “take a page out of Chick-fil-A’s playbook.”
Former McDonald’s chef Mike Haracz told Insider “it’s very apparent” that McDonald’s is following Chick-fil-A’s lead with its sandwich. “It comes in a foil bag just like Chick-fil-A, from what I understand it has a very similar flavor profile,” he said.
“Chick-fil-A has very strong brand loyalists,” former McDonald’s chef Mike Haracz told Insider. “I’ve sat in panels when I was doing chicken work. They will try the food, but when you tell them it’s not from Chick-fil-A they’ll say, ‘Well, I think it’s great but I’m not going to buy it because I am a Chick-fil-A consumer.'”
However, Haracz explains that “there are some people who might go to Chick-fil-A strictly for the flavor” alone, and if McDonald’s can match that, they may be swayed.
Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwich, which comes served on a toasted, buttered bun with dill pickle chips, is a favorite among customers.
According to a report by Edison Trends, Chick-fil-A received more online chicken sandwich delivery orders than any other brand in most of 2020, cornering around 45% of the total online order market share.
The bun was light and fluffy and the chicken breast was the perfect thickness.
Chick-fil-A’s chicken breast was flakier as opposed to juicy. Looking at both of the sandwiches, the fillet itself also looked slightly bigger. The breading was thinner and clung to the chicken breast well, which gave it a great texture.
However, I was slightly disappointed by Chick-fil-A’s pickles — they didn’t have the strong briny flavor or crunchiness I usually look for.
Next up was the newcomer: the McDonald’s crispy chicken sandwich.
The McDonald’s crispy chicken sandwich cost $5.99 at my local chain in Brooklyn, New York.
The chicken fillet was thick – right off the bat, it looked really similar to sandwiches I’ve had from other chains.
I’ve been a fan of McDonald’s chicken sandwiches for years, but I could already tell that I was going to like this new sandwich a lot more.
The sandwich came with a few whole pickle chips on top of the chicken fillet.
The bun held the contents of the sandwich together perfectly, and in terms of size, I thought McDonald’s did a great job at nailing the bun-to-chicken ratio.
Biting in, I was immediately impressed.
The breading of the sandwich had a slight sweetness to it. However, it was perfectly balanced out by the tart, crunchy pickles, which had a strong briny flavor. The chicken was thick, juicy, and flavorful.
The only aspect of the sandwich I wasn’t totally in love with was the bun — though it was a good size, I thought it was slightly too thick. I’m of the opinion that a sandwich bun’s sole purpose is to hold everything together, without overpowering the other ingredients. I think this thicker potato bun slightly missed the mark on that.
It was really hard to say which one I liked more. However, I have to give props where props are due – McDonald’s has come out with an undeniably good chicken sandwich.
So, how similar were the two sandwiches? Pretty similar, in my opinion. If I was to do a blind taste test, I might not even know which was which, unless one was slathered in Chick-fil-A sauce. However, this is not to say that McDonald’s is in any way actively trying to copy or imitate Chick-fil-A’s most iconic offering.
The fact is that there is a trend in what consumers across the board are looking for in a chicken sandwich, whether they’re ordering from Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, Popeyes, or any other chain.
Judging by the success of the chicken-war competitors, consumers want a Southern-inspired flavor with juicy, flavorful chicken and tart and crunchy pickles. McDonald’s definitely delivered on all counts.
As far as this food reporter is concerned, the new McDonald’s chicken sandwich stacks up well against fan favorites — and might even be a new go-to menu item.
A Panorama City, California Wendy’s was converted into Morty’s for the weekend of June 18 through June 20.
The popup had a special themed menu only available for the weekend.
It was the only Wendy’s serving the limited edition Pickle Rick Pickle Frosty.
Every detail reflected the theme, including all the packaging.
Even employee uniforms were updated for the event.
The restaurant’s drive-thru was transformed into an LED “Rick and Morty” experience.
Giant inflatable characters tied the whole thing together.
Coca-Cola and Wendy’s also released two limited edition drinks available through August 22: Mello Yello BerryJerryboree and Mello Yello Portal Time Lemon Lime.
The show’s fifth season is integrated with the promotion. The drinks launched with the season premiere, and will stay throughout its run to the season finale.
“We love finding authentic ways to connect with this passionate fanbase and are excited to extend the Rick and Morty experience into our menu, incredible content and great delivery deals all season long,” Carl Loredo, Wendy’s CMO, said in a statement.
The popup seemed to be a success, with fans driving from long distances and waiting as many as seven hours to experience the drive-thru.
A Missouri man faces 30 years in prison after he was found guilty of attacking a McDonald’s manager with a rake. The victim subsequently lost an eye and now wears a prosthetic one, KPLR reported.
The incident, which took place in Chesterfield, Missouri, on January 9, 2019, occurred after a dispute involving the defendant, Kendell Cooks, who said his daughter was fired by the manager in question.
There has been a recent uptick in violent attacks taking place at fast-food and drink chains. This month, police said they arrested two customers for a shooting at a Memphis Burger King restaurant after they were reportedly served a chicken sandwich with too much hot sauce, per Insider’s Grace Dean.
In another similar incident, a Florida man was accused of pulling a gun on a Starbucks employee, who turned out to be the local police chief’s daughter, over not having cream cheese for his bagel.
The McDonald’s attack in Chesterfield, Missouri, led to Cooks, 38, being charged on three counts of first-degree assault, armed criminal action, and a felony count of property damage.
It all began after a McDonald’s employee – Cooks’s daughter – was dismissed by her manager, Jeffery Jackson, for reportedly not wearing the standard work attire and using improper language in front of customers, per KPLR.
Cooks claimed the manager shoved his daughter out the restaurant door but this was contradicted by video footage, according to St. Louis County Circuit judge Nellie Ribaudo.
Following the firing, Cooks and several others then drove to McDonald’s and beat Jackson, who was sitting in his car during a lunch break. They used a 5-foot-long rake obtained from nearby trash as weapons.
KPLR reported that the attack was filmed in part on Jackson’s dashboard camera, and that glass and blood was found inside the victim’s car after the offense.
Jackson had to undergo five surgeries to repair his vision but still ended up losing an eye, per KPLR. “It was a very dangerous crime, a life-threatening crime,” Sam Alton, chief of staff for Wesley Bell, the prosecuting attorney of St. Louis County, told the outlet.
At one McDonald’s in Marseille, France, everyone eats for free. Locals don’t pay a dime – or euro – for food there because the location is now a food bank.
The restaurant originally opened with government backing in 1992 in a majority-Muslim neighborhood grappling with poverty and eventually employed 77 people, according to Vice. One of them was manager Kamel Guemari, who had been working there for more than 20 years since starting as a 16-year-old, according to NPR.
The location was one of six franchises that frequently changed hands. In 2018, its franchiser said he would sell his five other locations to a fellow McDonald’s franchiser. This particular store, however, would be sold on its own and turned into a halal restaurant, NPR reports.
Closing the branch would mean shutting off a major source of employment for the neighborhood. One of the food bank’s organizers told Vice that, with the McDonald’s gone, the only other place for residents to find work was a local hypermarket.
So Guemari took drastic action. In August 2018, he locked himself in the restaurant, drenched himself in gasoline and threatened to light himself on fire, Forbes reports. In the coming weeks, other employees would join him in occupying the McDonald’s to protest its planned closure.
When the pandemic hit, the workers stepped up to feed residents. They dubbed the location “L’Après M,” or “the after M,” to represent the new life it has taken on after serving as a McDonald’s. Farmers, shops and organizations donated food to L’Après M, while locals chipped in cash to fund its operations, according to Vice.
The food bank served at least 100,000 people in its first five weeks of operation, according to Vice.
Earlier this month, Marseille’s government announced it would buy the building, saving it from closure over its illegal occupation, according to The Washington Post. Besides distributing food, the food bank hosts a variety of events today, in line with its community-building mission.
The franchisees and agents of companies like McDonald’s and State Farm directed vast sums to legislators that backed some of the most anti-LGBT legislation passed this year.
Arkansas was one of several states across the US that enacted legislation restricting trans women from playing on women’s sports teams during the 2021 legislative session and was the only state to pass legislation that aims to remove access to medical care and punish those who treat trans youth.
Insider pored through campaign finance records from the Arkansas Secretary of State for the 76 members of the Arkansas legislature who sponsored House Bill 1570 or Senate Bill 354. We then digitized the records to identify key corporate supporters and found that several corporations that position themselves as LGBT allies have agents, employees, and franchise owners that donated to the sponsors of Arkansas legislation using their company’s name and branding since 2018.
State Farm Insurance, for example, frequently takes part in local Pride Month events and proudly touts the company’s support on its website. State Farm public affairs specialist Michal Brower told Insider that the company does not donate directly to state legislators.
“State Farm does have a Federal PAC (SFF PAC), which allows our employees and agents to collectively provide funds to individual candidates across party lines,” Brower said. “The SFF PAC does not provide contributions to state-level candidates or legislators in Arkansas, past or present.”
But while the company itself did not send money to Arkansas legislators, several of its individual agents donated $72,000 through a separate political action committee: the Arkansas State Farm Association PAC. The two surviving PAC officers did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Much like State Farm, McDonald’s also proudly positions itself as a supportive ally of the LGBT+ community through various digital campaigns and media sponsorships, but McDonald’s franchise owners donated a combined $35,000 to 52 of the sponsors of the anti-trans legislation since 2018 through the McDonald’s Local Owner Operators of Arkansas PAC.
The company promotes on its Diversity and Inclusion webpage that it received a perfect score in each of the last five years on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index. McDonald’s did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
LGBT advocates told Insider that corporate support on Pride Month is inadequate if the company continues to finance the sponsors of deleterious legislation.
“Corporations can’t celebrate Pride with us in June and expect us to look the other way if they fund anti-LGBTQ campaigns, legislators, and activist groups,” GLAAD Rapid Response Manager Mary Emily O’Hara told Insider. “Being a corporate ally means speaking up for what’s right and helping fight anti-LGBTQ discrimination all year long. It’s not just throwing a rainbow on some packaging one month out of the year.”