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Fried chicken rocks: One business's approach at hiring new workers amid a national labor shortage

Members of the Dayton band Nightbeast posing in front of a Lee's Famous Recipe restaurant.
Alejandro Figueroa
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Screen Capture
Members of the Dayton band Nightbeast posing in front of a Lee's Famous Recipe restaurant.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a record 4.4 million people quit their jobs in September. That’s got business owners racing to hire new workers, especially with the holiday shopping season already here.

Chuck Doran owns thirteen Lee’s Famous Chicken restaurants around Dayton. The franchise got its start in Dayton in the 1960s, although it's headquartered in Florida now.

The business has not been immune to shortages in labor. Doran said he's had to cut store hours and close dining lobbies.

It’s an issue affecting all Quick Service Restaurants (QSR). If a restaurant is low on staff, a single worker might end up doing the work of three people at a time, according to Doran.

“If staffing becomes an issue you're having to work harder and longer, and you don't have the time to put towards the thing that's going to get you out of the situation,” Doran said.

Most of the workers he hires are younger or looking to start a new career, and right now they’ve got a lot of options. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Ohio was among eight states with an increase of job openings in September, with about 389,000 jobs open that month.

Now, many QSR businesses are competing to attract workers with sign-on bonuses, paid vacations and higher wages.

Lee’s Chicken restaurants have also increased wages by 25% since the beginning of the year, according to Doran.

In an attempt to make his restaurants stand out from other chains, Doran decided to think outside the box. He said his business just doesn't have the same marketing budget as the big corporate chains do. That’s where Dayton rock band Nightbeast came in.

“We just want to stand out from the noise out there and say, ‘You know what?’ If you're thinking about getting back in the workforce and you're thinking about working in a restaurant, Lee’s is different.” Doran said.

Lee’s Chicken restaurants partnered with Nightbeast to film a music video to hopefully attract new workers who might see it on social media, according to Doran.

Doran first met with the band members earlier this year when the band approached him and asked to film a promotional video at one of the restaurants. The video was meant to promote the band's appearance at last August’s Sound Valley Music Festival.

From there, Doran said the relationship between them grew organically. The band members have even worn the restaurant's uniform while performing.

Although he still has a lot of work to do, Doran said developing local relationships is something he looks forward to. He said partnering with the band is just one way to give exposure to local talent found in Dayton.

Food reporter Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.