Fast-food restaurants replacing teen workers with senior citizens: report

You might be seeing more white-haired fast-food crews as the new trend emerges. Senior citizens are replacing the teen workers in casual food-service industries. This is the recent labor market report from Bloomberg.

Despite the tight job market in the US, fast-food chains are hiring people at senior institutions, churches, and AARP. The work force is having a dramatic shift. In the last 30 years, the number of workers aged 55 and older comprised the smallest fraction of the labor market. In 2003, this number changed slightly that it was no longer the smallest.

Stevenson Williams, a 63-year old retired construction worker decided to go back to work four years ago when he got bored with retirement. “It’s fun for a while, not getting up, not having to punch a clock, not having to get out of bed and grind every day. But after working all your life, sitting around got old,” he shares.

As someone who never worked in a restaurant before, Stevenson began his career in fast-food industry as dishwasher and cleaner at a Church’s Chicken branch in North Charleston, South Carolina. “There’s only so many trips to Walmart you can take. I just enjoy Church’s Chicken. I enjoy the atmosphere, I enjoy the people.” Now, he manages 13 employees and works up to 70 hours per week when it is busy.

The Statistics

Stevenson is just one of the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who live long and work longer. Amidst the low unemployment rate and labor shortage, the fast-food chains are employing more retirees than teens. Many seniors take up part-time jobs in washing the dishes, cleaning, flipping patties, and attending the cashier to help compensate their retirement income.

Statistics from Bloomberg shows a remarkable change in the labor work force. The growth rate of the number of teens working in fast-food chains declines to two percent, while people aged 65 to 74 year old increased to four percent and 75 year olds and up increased to six percent.

I enjoy the social part of it,” Toni Vartinian-Heifner shares. Vartinian-Heifner is a 67-year old retired teacher who is working part-time in Honey Baked Ham restaurant in Missouri. She earns $10 per hour in a four-hour shift that starts at 7am. “I think I’m going to work for at least five years more,” he said.

The Prediction of the Future Work Force

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that in 2024, there will be about 164 million people in the labor work force. This number consists of 41 million workers aged 55 and up, and 13 million older workers aged 65 and above. In addition, there will older Americans than the younger ones by the year 2035, the U.S. Census Bureau reports.

The BLS adds that in 2024, there will be a significant growth by about 4.5 percent in the number of American retirees aged 65 to 74 who will keep working. In contrary, an estimate rate of only 1.4 percent of the total number of teenagers (aged 16 to 24) will join the work force.

A Good Deal for the Fast-Food Industry

The hiring of older workers benefits the fast-food industry in terms of financial and managerial skills. Older workers already have the soft skills that they learned while they were employed in any industry. They already know how to deal with customers, arrive on time, and other skills and attitudes necessary in the fast-food service industry.

In contrary, managers have to teach the soft skills to the teenager workers. “A lot of times with the younger kids now, they can be very disrespectful,” Stevenson Williams, the 63-year old Church’s Chicken says. “So you have to coach them and tell them this is your job, this is not the street.”

So, don’t get surprised when you see grandma or grandpa take your orders next time.

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