Why Senior Citizens Are Replacing Teenagers as Fast-Food Workers

What was your first job? A generation ago, it might have been working at a fast food restaurant. Many teenagers earned extra money after school by picking up an evening shift at a local chain restaurant. Today, things are different.

If you look closely when you walk into your favorite fast food restaurant or casual dining restaurant, you might notice something different. Where there used to be waiters and hostesses who had just learned to drive, these jobs are now being filled by a completely different demographic – senior citizens.

This isn’t happening accidentally either. Restaurants are actually recruiting seniors and targeting them in ads where they’re likely to see them, like at churches, senior centers and on the AARP website.

Restaurants like hiring seniors because they usually have better social skills then the younger workers who were brought up in the digital age and would rather post on social media than talk to a real person. Seniors are also more likely to show up for work on time.

Many of the seniors who are filling these jobs are retired. Some of them got bored being home after a lifetime of working, and others need a part-time job to supplement their retirement savings.

Stevenson Williams, a 63-year-old retired construction worker, is one senior who started working in the food service industry. He says, “It’s fun for a while, not getting up, not having to punch a clock, not having to get out of bed and grind every day, but after working all your life, sitting around got old. There’s only so many trips to Walmart you can take.”

Having never worked at a restaurant before, Williams got a dishwashing job at Church’s Chicken four years ago. Now, he manages 13 employees and works up to 70 hours a week. “I just enjoy Church’s Chicken. I enjoy the atmosphere, I enjoy the people.”

Williams is also a great mentor for his younger employees. He coaches them on proper behavior in the workplace. He says, “A lot of times with the younger kids now, they can be very disrespectful, so you have to coach them and tell them this is your job, this is not the street.”

While Williams was up for more than part-time work and rose to a manager position, many seniors are happy to stay in the entry-level roles. That’s another thing that makes this demographic appealing to restaurants that need to fill open positions.

Don’t expect this trend to go away any time soon. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of working Americans aged 65-74 to increase by 4.5% between 2014 and 2024 while they expect the number of working Americans aged 16-24 to decrease by 1.5%.

What do you think about seniors filling fast food jobs?