Chicago, IL

Illinois McDonald's Restaurant Offering Get Free iPhone After Working Six Months

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

McDonald’s comes up with a creative way to attract new employees.
McDonalds in Altamont, Illinois offers iPhone for new hires who work there six months@brogawd_ /Twitter

The hospitality sector was probably the hardest hit by COVID-19 across the country with almost 6 million jobs lost during the first six weeks of the pandemic alone as restaurants closed and workers were laid off. Within two months, restaurants were employing half the people they had before.

These layoffs were initially thought to be temporary and there were short periods of time that restaurants were allowed to operate during the pandemic over the course of the 15 months since pandemic restrictions were first put in place. Federal funding through the Paycheck Protection Program also helped restaurants hang onto employees for the first months of the shut down.

But as the months wore on, and restaurants closed for the foreseeable future, a number of problems occurred that devastated the restaurant industry nationwide. Restaurants needed to switch to a delivery or delivery and pickup model and some were not equipped to do so. Small and independent restaurants began to go bankrupt and close their doors permanently. Restaurant workers in need of income began trying to find work elsewhere. At the height of the closures across industries, they may not have been able to transition to remote work and had to go on unemployment.

Chicago experienced what other cities did, with hundreds of restaurants closing permanently with laid off workers in the thousands. And like other areas, restaurant workers were forced to look elsewhere for jobs when indoor dining was no longer an option.

With COVID cases declining, and increasing numbers of people becoming fully vaccinated, restrictions are slowly being lifted. On May 17th, Illinois GovernorJ.B. Pritzker issued an executive order which proclaimed that the state is now in the “bridge phase,” prior to completely lifting restrictions in the state. This means that restaurants and bars can reopen provided they implement social distancing guidelines and follow the Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO) regulations.

This was welcome news for those restaurateurs that had hung on through the worst of the pandemic months and many are already on the way back. They are looking forward to the return of conventions to the state and additional easing of coronavirus restrictions. By the end of the summer it is hoped that the restaurant and bar industry will be booming.

Hiring Woes for Restaurants

But even though this is good news for the hospitality industry in Illinois, there are still difficulties to overcome that could threaten restaurants further. The shutdown of indoor dining left owners with little to no cash on hand and they must now alter their business model by turning away from the carryout/delivery only model where most offered limited menus to one where dining-in is the focus or only restaurant option. Some restaurant owners may decide to keep a carry out and/or delivery component as part of what they offer while others may not. Either way, the transition to dining-in means they have to purchase more supplies, come up with new menus, increase marketing and advertising efforts and above all, hire enough staff to serve all those returning customers.

“A number of our restaurants are woefully understaffed,” Chicago Based 4 Star Restaurant Group owner Doug Dunlay said.

Restaurants need a variety of staff such as experienced cooks, hosts, managers and sous chefs as well as lower-skilled workers like dishwashers in order to reopen, especially just as the months are starting to warm up. But the yearlong layoff forced workers to leave the industry, many for good, and either seek out jobs in sectors that expanded, especially remote jobs, move back in with their parents to wait out the pandemic or go on unemployment.

“So many people left the industry, or left Chicago, and they just haven’t come back,” Dunlay said.

Fast Food Restaurants Face Even Greater Hiring Difficulties

Fast food restaurants were not immune to the problems that hit the restaurant industry during the pandemic. Like other restaurants they are hoping to reopen as soon as possible. They are starting to work on hiring and also like other restaurants they are having trouble doing so. Experts cite poor wages, health concerns, childcare necessity and unemployment benefits as the possible reasons for the shortage.

Unfortunately, the smaller applicant pool is hitting these restaurants even harder than others. Given the decreased number of restaurant workers that are available for jobs in the industry, competition has decreased.

This means many of these workers will try to get jobs at better paying, higher class restaurants first, with only those applicants who are turned down, then considering fast food jobs. So the non-fast food restaurants will likely snap up the majority of the better workers, leaving fewer available for fast food jobs.

Because of this, several chains such as Subway and Dunkin Donuts have been forced to cut hours, operate with a skeleton staff or close dining rooms as they struggle to find workers. “Help wanted” signs are common at fast food restaurants and bars.

McDonald’s in Altamont, Illinois Offers Free iPhone

One McDonald’s Restaurant in Altamont, Illinois, had come up with a creative incentive to attract job applicants. They have placed a sign in the window that reads: “Now Hiring. Free iPhone.” A photo of the sign (shown at the top of the article) shared on Twitter by user @brogawd_ has gone viral.

Potential employees must meet employment criteria which means that the restaurant could have its own terms and conditions for workers to receive the deal. Also, McDonald's will only give an employee a free iPhone if they work there for at least six months.

A spokesperson from McDonald's said in a statement. “The chain is working to boost recruitment numbers,” adding that it’s not unusual for them to experience a slight shortage of job applicants in the summer months. Various stores around the United States have been reported to be offering pay incentives, referral bonuses and added perks to entice potential job seekers to work there. In Altamont, they are offering a brand new, free iPhone to new hires who are willing to work there for at least six months. A paying job and a free phone - it sounds like a pretty good deal.

More about why restaurants are struggling to hire staff:

If you are a worker or an employer with a story to share about the labor shortage, please share it in the comments below.

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