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Out of the boardroom and into kitchen: Chicken chain sends corporate employees to fill shifts

Posted at 10:56 PM, Oct 13, 2021

FRISCO, Texas — Life behind the counter at Raising Cane's moves pretty quickly.

It’s even faster when there's not enough staff to fill a shift.

“In restaurants where we need 50 or 55 crew, we have about 30,” said Lindsey Harmon, an area leader for Raising Cane's in the Dallas area.

Normally, she needs anywhere from 10 to 17 employees per shift to be fully staffed.

“All the way around, I think the crew we have— they’re tired, but everybody is kind of working together,” she said.

Like many businesses across the country, Canes has been hit by a labor shortage.

The quit rate in the U.S., the number of people willingly leaving their jobs, has been rising since August 2020. In August 2021, it hit a new record of almost 4.3 million.

That shortage is leading some employers to do whatever they can to get new hires in the door.

“Increasing wages, they’re doing that, they’re giving signing bonuses, giving bonuses for employees if you stay on for a certain length of time,” said Mac Clouse, a finance professor at the University of Denver.

He says this isn’t something that will turn around in the next few months.

“I think we probably got another year before we start seeing some ease in some of the problems that we have,” Clouse said.

Raising Cane's has a lot to do in the next year. So they’re trying something different.

“We have about a hundred restaurants to open over the next six months,” said AJ Kumaran, the Co-CEO and COO of Raising Cane’s.

“At this stage, we need all hands on deck," he added.

When Kumaran says he needs all hands on deck, he means it.

“There are many corporate office crew members right now back there. Some are cooking chicken, although I don’t like them cooking chicken, you know it slows down a little bit, and some are helping recruiting,” Kumaran said.

Accountants, communication managers, recruiters, all members of Raising Cane’s corporate offices are picking up shifts in restaurants nearby.

“It’s not the lunch crowd, so I’m a little nervous but hopefully I’ll do okay,” said Heather Teroy.

Teroy works in corporate recruiting for the chicken company. But now, she's getting familiar with the kitchen.

“I absolutely love it. It breaks up the monotony of my day-to-day work and I get to be out with this awesome crew. So much fun,” she said.

“Having RSO here helping has been amazing because you can just feel the weight and their shoulders. My shoulders, the manager’s shoulders, so it’s been great that everyone has done their part to support,” said Harmon.

Clouse isn't surprised this is how Cane's is utilizing its resources.

"I think there probably are many others that are doing that just to keep open," he said, "We're seeing a lot of creative things and some of it, there are firms that are asking management to start doing other roles."

It doesn’t hurt that every member of the company, including the corporate team, is trained as a fry cook and a cashier when they're hired.

“We’re a 40,000 crew member company, 750 corporate office crew members is not going to move the needle much, but it’s the thought that counts, it’s the idea that everyone steps in, it boosts the culture and that’s what we’re working on right now,” said Kumaran.

The company is planning a massive hiring spree, 10,000 new hires in 50 days. They hope that will relieve some of the pressure on employees.