Older People Are Replacing Teenagers As Fast Food Workers Across America

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Fast food chains across the US are opting to hire more senior citizens instead of teenagers.

I’ve personally never worked in a fast food restaurant, but as a teenager I imagine one draw of the job would be the prospect of getting your hands on the odd spare chicken nugget or chip.

You’d probably get sick of the smell of frying oil quite quickly, but there are worse sacrifices to make in the name of money and food, and at least you still might have the opportunity to socialise with any friends who came in for lunch.

McDonald'sJKCarl/Wikimedia

But it looks like teenagers in the US might have to turn elsewhere for payslips as a recent report by Bloomberg revealed restaurant chains are hiring more older employees to take orders, flip burgers, and inform customers that the ice cream machine is broken.

Recruiters have reportedly explained older workers have certain skills, such as a friendly demeanor and a good grasp on punctuality, that their younger counterparts sometimes lack.

In order to scout the new staff members, Bloomberg report restaurants are recruiting in senior centres and churches, as well as placing wanted adverts on the website of AARP, an advocacy group for Americans over 50.

The shift in hiring has come in line with two current trends; a labour shortage amid the tightest job market in almost five decades, and the tendancy for longer-living Americans to continue working later into life, to supplement small retirement savings.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of working Americans aged 65 to 74 is expected to grow 4.5 per cent between 2014 and 2024, while those aged 16 to 24 is expected to shrink by 1.4 per cent.

63-year-old Stevenson Williams manages a Church’s Chicken in South Carolina, after working his way up from a cleaning and dish-washing job he started about four years ago.

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Williams is a retired construction worker, and although he’d never worked at a restaurant before, he was bored of staying at home.

Speaking to Bloomberg, the manager said:

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. 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.

Williams added:

A lot of times with the younger kids now, they can be very disrespectful. So you have to coach them and tell them this is your job, this is not the street.

Though it’s great that restaurants are welcoming older employees with open arms, the shift is likely to provide some good fuel for any parents who have a habit of complaining about their 16-year-old sitting at home all day while the grandparents are still out, hard at work.

The job market continues to prove a minefield for all ages.

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