A 10% pay increase and 8 other stats show how crazy it is to work in fast food right now

Chipotle Mexican Grill employee
Mexican Grill is raising its average wage to $US15 ($AU21) an hour. Chipotle
  • The restaurant industry has seen some major ups and downs in the past year.
  • Pay is up, but so are job openings and employee turnover.
  • A new industry report summarized these trends with some shocking statistics.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Few workers have had such a tumultuous year as those in the food-service industry.

While full-service restaurants struggled to keep their doors open, fast-food establishments saw extraordinary demand that led to long hours without relief.

A new report by restaurant industry analytics firm Black Box Intelligence, and Snagajob, a listing website for hourly jobs and flexible shifts, surveyed 4,700 food-service workers and summarized these trends with some shocking statistics.

Read more: 
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10% pay increase for fast-food workers since last year

Fast-food workers saw their pay increase by 10% compared to last year, while full-service hourly staff are now up 12.5% from an extremely rocky 2020. Not only was it the largest increase in decades, it brought average overall food-service wages above $US15 ($AU21) per hour for nonsupervisory employees, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.


As seen in the above chart though, worker pay varies between limited and full-service restaurants. Average hourly earnings for nonsupervisory fast-food workers hovered around $US13 ($AU18) as of June. For non-managers in full-service restaurants, hourly earnings topped $US17 ($AU24) in of June after a pre-pandemic peak of $US15 ($AU21).37.

144% turnover rate at fast-food restaurants

The monthly turnover rate measures how many people left jobs at a restaurant versus the average number of employees there. In other words, if a restaurant has 30 people on staff, that means 43 people have left the team in a single month. Two years ago that turnover rate was 135%.

Additionally, US Labor Department data show restaurant workers are quitting their jobs at the highest rate in two decades. For just accommodation and food services, the quit rate was 5.7% in June 2021, more than double the overall rate of 2.7%.

69% of workers are under the age of 25

Part of the reason for the turnover rate is that fast-food jobs are largely held by young people, who are often in a different place in their careers. Only about a third of restaurant workers stick around in the industry for more than five years.

70% more job vacancies than pre-pandemic

As more full-service restaurants try to rebuild their staffs and fast-food places try to meet roaring demand, there are now 70% more job openings than there were in 2019. If that weren't enough to stress a manager out, there are also now 10% fewer people looking for jobs.


Openings in accommodation and food services, which includes restaurants, has continued to rise in recent months. As seen in the above chart, there were about 1.4 million job openings in June, or an increase of 121,000 openings from May.

278% increase in warehouse and logistics jobs

One reason people have left the industry is the opportunity to work in even faster-growing industries, like delivery and gig work. There are nearly four times as many warehouse and logistics jobs posted on Snagajob than before the pandemic, as well as nearly three times as many on-demand jobs.

18% of hourly workers quit their jobs to take care of kids

A lack of childcare is the number one reason McDonald's workers leave their jobs, according to the company's EVP and Chief Global Impact Officer. Meanwhile, a US Census survey in April found that nearly a million households had at least one adult who could not look for work because they had children to care for. Parents represent more than one third of all foodservice workers.

62% report putting up with emotional abuse and disrespect from customers

Restaurant work has always had more than its fair share of rude customers, but the pandemic has seen a precipitous decline in customers' treatment of service workers. In addition, half of workers surveyed said they endured emotional abuse from managers, while 15% said they were sexually harassed on the job.

83% plan to wear a mask regardless of whether it's required

Two thirds of restaurant workers want businesses to keep mask mandates for customers, but regardless of what the rules are, restaurant workers say they plan to mask up all the same.

One thing job applicants want more than any other: a livable starting wage

Restaurant owners and managers often complain that "nobody wants to work anymore," but the workers in the survey said it really comes down to the bottom line: money. Other things that make a job interesting include: promotion opportunities, flexible schedules, health and PTO benefits, followed by company culture.

In fact, higher pay in other industries was the most-cited reason for workers leaving the restaurant business. Plus, nearly 9 out of 10 respondents said they would rather have a set livable wage than rely on receiving tips for their income.