Chipotle, Dunkin', and other fast-food chains are hiring thousands of workers: Here's why

Restaurant cooks and managers were some of the most in-demand jobs in June, as fast-food chains like Chipotle and Dunkin' have been staffing up as sales recover.


Almost 1.2 million people filed for unemployment last week, according to the latest numbers from the Department of Labor. That's the lowest figure since the pandemic started, but it was the 20th week in a row that new claims topped 1 million.

While layoffs and furloughs have renewed as coronavirus cases rise, some fast-food chains are hiring. In recent months, leisure and hospitality has been the industry adding the most new jobs, with 1.2 million roles in May and another 2.1 million in June. Restaurant cooks and managers, along with delivery drivers, were some of the most in-demand jobs in June, according to data from Monster and ZipRecruiter. 

In mid-July, Chipotle announced that it is hiring 10,000 workers. Positions will include "hourly and salaried management positions as well as crew," according to the company's press release. Dunkin' Brands Group Inc. is also on a hiring spree and looking to add 25,000 people to its workforce, including counter staff and managers, according to Reuters

Here's why so many new jobs are in fast food. 

Fast-food sales are recovering

Although sales in the fast-food sector dipped as a result of pandemic, they are now rising, says Ethan Chernofsky, vice president of marketing at Placer.ai, a site that analyzes consumer foot traffic patterns.

"From McDonald's and Wendy's to Dunkin' and Starbucks, a growing number of brands are seeing traffic steadily move towards 2019 rates," Chernofsky says. 

Visits to Taco Bell, for example, were down 34% the week of May 25 compared to the same week in 2019. But during the week of July 6, they were only down about 19% from a year earlier. Those same weeks, visits to McDonald's were down 44% and 33%, respectively.

This is true for Chipotle too. In April, Chipotle sales visits were down about 72%, but in July they were down 31%. 

More customers are visiting restaurants like McDonald's and Taco Bell because fast food is affordable and consumers are craving familiarity right now

Chains are changing how you order

Sales are recovering in large part because of two factors: State governments have lifted shelter-in-place orders, and many fast-food chains are investing in mobile ordering and delivery services that help consumers feel more comfortable dining.

Wendy's, for example, added Uber Eats to its delivery partnership this year and created an in-app ordering service, according to Restaurant Dive

From McDonald's and Wendy's to Dunkin' and Starbucks, a growing number of brands are seeing traffic steadily move towards 2019 rates.
Ethan Chernofsky
VP of marketing at Placer.ai

Chipotle, along with Starbucks and Shake Shack, have said they are focusing on building drive-thru lanes in the coming months, which is also meant to increase sales. Though Chipotle has been building drive-thru lanes, dubbed "Chipotlanes," since 2018, the pandemic has accelerated the need for infrastructure that allows minimal contact.

This year, Chipotle wants 60% of its restaurants to have drive-thru lanes, according to CNBC. Shake Shack, which is also building drive-thru lanes, will be available for on-site ordering and digital ordering pickup. 

Drive-thru lanes paired with mobile ordering could result in fast-food sales spiking, and chains needing more employees.

If you're thinking of applying for a job at a fast-food chain, be sure to ask your prospective employer what Covid-19 protections they have implemented, including social distancing measures in the kitchen and a break system in place so you can wash your hands and rest frequently.

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