A recent TikTok video documenting an employee telling a customer to “come back in 5 or 10 minutes” reignited the debate on why there aren’t enough people working to keep up with demand—or if that’s even the case at all.
The labor shortage is a hot topic in the United States. Around 833,000 people left the leisure and hospitality industry in July of this year, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But the industry’s employers also hired 1.1 million workers in the same month.
In the TikTok, which has over 27,000 views, South Carolina resident @southernduck7 points his camera at one of the 6,500-plus light-up Wendy’s signs in the U.S. The popular fast-food chain’s logo towers over the words “Now Hiring,” which are unevenly plastered across a faded, smaller sign.
The TikTok user records the colorful drive-thru menu and asks the audience if they’ve heard anything like this when trying to order at a fast food restaurant.
“I do apologize for being extremely short-staffed at the moment,” the Wendy’s employee manning the drive-thru said into the fuzzy mic. “Please come back in about 5 or 10 minutes so we’ll have the chance to get re-evaluated.”
Commenters responded to his question, expressing their frustration with the restaurant industry.
“Yes, at Bojangles,” one person replied, referencing a fried chicken fast-food chain. “Said it was a shift change and it would be 30 minutes.”
“Went to KFC, and was told they were out of chicken at 5:00 p.m.” another wrote. “We have heard it all.”
“Service everywhere is so bad,” another commenter said. “It’s not even worth going out. I haven’t eaten in a sit down restaurant in two years, and fast food is worse.”
Other commenters speculated on why the Wendy’s in the TikTok was so understaffed, but not everyone agreed.
One person said the employee might have been trying to take a break or use the restroom. Someone else wrote that it could have been an emergency situation.
“I was a manager at a Taco Bell, and one of my employees had a seizure,” they continued. “I had to stop taking orders.”
The details of this specific situation are unknown, but other commenters tied the TikTok’s contents to the perceived national issue that companies in the service industry are short staffed.
Some of them blamed members of the working class.
“No one wants to work anymore, that’s why there’s staff shortages,” one commenter wrote.
“Apparently you have not seen all of the help wanted signs on every business in America,” another responded. “Has zero to do with corporations.”
“No one wants to work in that industry despite being paid on average 15 to 20 an hour now,” someone said.
Wendy’s pays 87% of its employees under $15 dollars per hour, according to the Economic Policy Institute’s company wage tracker. The company pays 17% of its employees under $10 per hour.
Other commenters blamed big corporations like Wendy’s for the shortage.
“What happens when fast food workers get treated like shit with shittier pay,” one person wrote.
“Nobody wants to slave to the elites,” another said.
“I work fast food,” a commenter shared. “I worked from 10 pm to 7 am today with only two employees, including myself. One day people will realize it’s corporate greed.”
“Plenty of people want to work,” another person said. “These corporate companies are running shifts short staffed for a reason. Less people to pay, more profit.”
Wendy’s makes over $1.73 billion in revenue each year, according to EPI’s tracker.
The Daily Dot reached out to @southernduck7 and Wendy’s.