Many local restaurants hire a few extra staffers every summer already. Why not make a big deal out of doing so? McDonald’s did, throwing a nationwide “job fair” today that’s generating positive media coverage and making the chain seem like a hero. Independents can do the same.
The National Restaurant Association goes to great lengths to paint the restaurant industry as a vital force in the U.S. economy, frequently mentioning its 12.8 million employees. This effort pays off big when it’s time to lobby or otherwise curry favor with politicians and regulators.
McDonald’s is making a smart move that piggybacks on this effort. Today, April 19, the fast food feeder is throwing a one-day job fair during which the company and its franchisees will hire 50,000 new workers across the U.S. in one fell swoop. Given a down economy, high unemployment and the ongoing struggle to create new jobs, this hiring spree seems like an economic miracle.
It’s certainly a brilliant public relations move. McDonald’s gets to paint itself as a dynamic source of job creation, even though when you factor in the QSR sector’s typical turnover rates and the company’s usual rate of hiring for the summer season, 50,000 jobs are merely business as usual.
“Our total hires are similar to past years, but the goal of hiring 50,000 people in one day across the U.S. is unique,” says McDonald’s Ashlee Yingling.
The jobs pay $8 per hour on average, or $320 per week. Thus someone collecting the average unemployment benefit of $300 would work 40 hours at McDonald’s for a net personal gain of $20 a week.
No matter. A job is a job these days, and politicians and economic development officials across the country were turning cartwheels when news of this job fair was first released. McDonald’s smartly broke its job-hiring impact down by individual markets. One thousand new jobs in Atlanta, 1,000 in Arizona, 2,000 in Ohio, 450 split between middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky—it seems like the company is making it rain jobs in places where the employment drought is the worst.
You can bet McDonald’s is creating plenty of new political capital with this move. That’s true even though the only thing about its usual seasonal hiring process this year is the PR package that surrounds it.
“It certainly seems like a way to attract some favorable publicity around something it was going to do anyway” is how Janney Capital Markets restaurant analyst Mark Kalinowski summed it up for Reuters.
So that’s McDonald’s approach. We wonder why independent restaurant groups couldn’t do something similar in their individual markets. If you already band together with other independent operators to promote dining weeks or offer discount deals good at any member of the group, why not consolidate your seasonal hiring to make it seem like a big deal?
How? Simply set up a one-day job fair during which, say, 20 or 30 restaurants will hire their summer season employees. You can bet that the media will be all over this story beforehand, and day-of-event coverage will be massive, too. Be sure to ask some local politicians or economic development officials to drop by, too, so you can get to know them while they bask in the glow of a job creation effort.
This same advice holds true for local and state restaurant associations. Throw a seasonal job fair, make it a big deal and then reap the benefits.
Do it right and the next time you need a favor down at City Hall or a similar forum, you’ll be greeted with open arms. Piecemeal, restaurant hiring is low impact and invisible. Collectively, it can seem massive. You might even get a look at some potentially great employees you’d otherwise never see.