Where Have All the Teenager Workers Gone?

QSRs are scrambling to find cheap labor as fewer teenagers want a part-time job.

May 08, 2018

NEW YORK CITY – Where have all the teenage fast-food workers gone? That’s a question many QSR owners are asking themselves lately, as fewer teens apply for work in an industry that typically provided many with their first job, the New York Times reports.

Over the past eight years, fast-food jobs have jumped nearly twofold over overall employment. For those between the ages of 16 and 19, around 45% had a job in 2000, while today, that number has dropped to 30%. “I’ve never seen the industry in this kind of situation,” said Robert S. Goldin, a partner at Pentallect. “It’s never been like this.”

“We used to get overwhelmed with the number of people wanting summer jobs,” added Keith Miller, who owns three Subways in California. Now, he received maybe a handful of applications. “I don’t know what teenagers do all summer.”

Fast food companies are trying to become more attractive to younger workers by adding bonuses and incentives, like tuition reimbursement. Meanwhile, the restaurant industry also faces increased federal scrutiny on its foreign-born workers.

Because of the shortage, restaurant owners have tried to be more accommodating with workers. “Thirty years ago, I would not put up with the stuff I put up with today,” said John Motta, who owns a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in Nashua, N.H. “You try not to be too harsh on them … because you’re afraid tomorrow they’re not going to show up.”