Restaurants

Denny's CEO says hiring workers has been a challenge — but wages are not a 'barrier'

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Key Points
  • Denny's is having hiring challenges during the economic reopening, CEO John Miller told CNBC.
  • However, he said, "I think the starting wage for a brand like Denny's is really not the challenge."
  • "It's really more about people building confidence to go back to work," he added.

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Denny's CEO on its strategy to combat labor shortage

Denny's CEO John Miller told CNBC on Thursday the restaurant chain has had trouble filling open positions, but pay concerns have not been what's kept prospective workers away during the economic reopening.

"I think the starting wage for a brand like Denny's is really not the challenge," Miller said on "Power Lunch," while acknowledging that it is higher than it was prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's not really a barrier to being staffed. ... It's really more about people building confidence to go back to work," he added.

Businesses across a range of industries from restaurants to trucking have reported difficulties hiring workers, as economic activity picks up following more than a year of disruptions related to the Covid crisis. There are more than 9 million job openings in the U.S., according to Labor Department figures released earlier this month.

Further insights into the employment picture are set to arrive Friday morning, when the Labor Department releases the June jobs report. In May's report, the U.S. unemployment rate stood at 5.8%.

Multiple factors have been cited for hiring challenges, including health and safety concerns due to the coronavirus and a lack of reliable child care. Some also believe Covid-era enhanced unemployment benefits have deterred some laid-off workers, particularly in low-wage industries, from returning to the labor force.

Companies have responded in various ways, with some raising their minimum wage and offering cash signing bonuses.

Denny's in the midst of its own recruiting effort, a cross-country trip it has dubbed "America's Diner Hiring Tour."  

Denny's is seeking to hire 20,000 employees for both its corporate and franchised restaurants. Using the company's 53-foot mobile kitchen truck, the tour started Monday in St. Louis and ends Friday in the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia. Denny's is offering application assistance on site and free breakfast for those who apply.

Whatever the barriers to filling open jobs have been, Miller said he expects the staff shortages to subside in the weeks ahead. "It's taking a minute to unwind and get back on track," he said, adding: "We do think they are temporary and abate over time."

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We'd love to hire as many people as we can right now: Restaurateur Danny Meyer