The fast food industry is facing a growing crisis

  • McDonald's, Taco Bell, and other beloved fast-food eateries have implemented tons of new gadgets in their kitchens and restaurants.
  • But they don't always train their employees on how to use them, and the new equipment often breaks down, fast food employees told Business Insider and Bloomberg.
  • That's contributed to record high fast food employee turnover rates, MIT Technology Review reported in March. A restaurant that employs 20 people can expect to see 30 workers in the span of a year.

Zakkery Shoup would welcome the bevy of new tech like mobile ordering apps and self-service kiosks at Taco Bell, where he works — that is, if it weren't always breaking.

"We deal with a lot of faulty equipment that seems to constantly stop working," the Tennessee resident told Business Insider.

While the introduction of new equipment at fast-food restaurants is driving up stock prices, they're frustrating employees like Shoup who have to use them every day.

And it's part of the reason that fast food is experiencing its highest workforce turnover in 23 years, according to PeopleSoft data reported by MIT Technology Review last month.

The average turnover rate at a fast food joint has reached 150%.

That means a restaurant that employs 20 people can expect to see 30 workers in the span of a year — a record high since 1995, when PeopleSoft began recording the data. 

This labor shortage is the biggest problem facing the fast-food industry in 2018, Dunkin' Donuts CEO Nigel Travis told Business Insider in February.

Nationwide, nearly 3.8 million people are employed at fast food restaurants. Analysts told Bloomberg in a March article about McDonald's that the fall in employer retention may be attributed due to new technology and an expectation for higher productivity despite a lack of wage bumps. And a job growth streak these past few years has created plentiful options for better employment.

There's tons of new technology, which impresses shareholders

Your local Mickey D's probably allows you to order from a kiosk. McDonald's announced last June that it would introduce self-service kiosks in 2,500 additional stores along with mobile ordering in all locations. 

Outlets have fretted that new tech at fast food joints will usher in layoffs.

But as Business Insider's Hayley Peterson reported in June, McDonald's has insisted it wouldn't.

Instead, employees displaced by kiosk or app ordering would be reassigned to new roles providing table service and delivery, Peterson reported. These tactics would result in a 5% to 6% lift in sales in 2018 and a 2% lift in 2019, Cowen analyst Andrew Charles told Business Insider in the June report. 

RELATED: Check out the top fast food chains in the U.S.: 

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The 25 best fast-food chains
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The 25 best fast-food chains

25. Jet's Pizza

Headquarters: Sterling Heights, Michigan

US sales in 2016: $368 million

Number of US locations: 404

Customer satisfaction rank: 24

Value rank: 35

Brothers Eugene and John Letts opened the first Jet's Pizza restaurant in Michigan in 1978 and since then, it's spread to 18 different states across the US.

Jet's claims not to scrimp on ingredients. And its pizzas aren't dirt cheap. On average, customers can expect to spend $8.05 on a meal at the chain. Its signature style, the deep-dish square pizza, comes in many varieties or customers can choose to create their own from scratch

Photo credit: Facebook.com 

24. Jamba Juice

Headquarters: Frisco, Texas

US sales in 2016: $547 million

Number of US locations: 828

Customer satisfaction rank: 16

Value rank: 37

Founded in 1990 in a California beach town, Jamba Juice was years ahead of today's ubiquitous green smoothie and healthy living trends and remained a favorite for loyal customers over the years.

The chain's menu has expanded since then, now offering Greek yogurt or acai berry bowls with soy milk. There's also plenty of new fruit and vegetable smoothies.

Photo credit: Getty 

23. Potbelly Sandwich Shop

Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois

US sales in 2016: $446 million

Number of US locations: 454

Customer satisfaction rank: 25

Value rank: 16

When Potbelly opened in 1977, it was an antique shop. The young couple who ran it decided they wanted to serve lunch to their customers and the store evolved into a local lunch spot. In 1996, entrepreneur Bryant Keil bought Potbelly and turned it into a franchise; he stepped down as CEO in 2008 and is no longer involved.

Today, not only do all the Potbelly stores serve sandwiches and fresh cookies, but each location has its own potbelly stove

Photo credit: Getty 

22. Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches

Headquarters: Champaign, Illinois

US sales in 2016: $2.22 billion

Number of US locations: 2,620

Customer satisfaction rank: 30

Value rank: 15

At Jimmy John's, customers can't get enough of the chain's signature subs and "freaky fast" delivery service. Jimmy John Liautaud opened the first shop back in 1983 to avoid pressure from his father to perform a stint in the Army. Papa Liautaud lent him $25,000, and if the restaurant turned a profit the first year he wouldn't have to enlist. Sure enough, the gourmet sub business took off and he slowly expanded across the country — it now has the most amount of franchises in our top 25 list.

Jimmy John's franchises commit to sustainability by partnering with suppliers who reach high standards of sustainable and ethical food practices. The chain also employs local businesses to build and maintain each JJ's store.

Photo credit: Getty 

21. Firehouse Subs

Headquarters: Jacksonville, Florida

US sales in 2016: $683 million

Number of US restaurants: 1,037

Customer satisfaction rank: 8

Value rank: 6

This Florida-based franchise was founded in 1994 by a pair of brothers who were former firefighters and sought to bring the enthusiasm and appetite of the firehouse to their restaurants.

Serving bold-flavor sandwiches piled high with quality meats and cheeses, this popular chain is in growth mode, having opened in Canada and now expanding into Mexico

Photo credit: Getty 

20. Cold Stone Creamery

Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona

US sales in 2016: $362 million

Number of US restaurants: 905

Customer satisfaction rank: 4

Value rank: 30

It's not just ice cream parlor, Cold Stone Creamery serves up smoothies, cakes, and shakes also. The ice cream is freshly made every day in the stores and blended on a frozen granite stone, which keeps the temperature exactly the same.

Cold Stone also supports community projects, working closely with Best Buddies, a non-profit that helps people with disabilities to secure jobs and live independently.

Photo credit: Getty 

19. Tim Hortons

Headquarters: Oakville, Canada

US sales in 2016: $760 million

Number of US restaurants: 683

Customer satisfaction rank: 44

Value rank: 36

This Canadian chain, known for its coffee and donuts, has also become a favorite in the US. It was set up in 1964 by its namesake Tim Horton, a former National Hockey League legend in Canada.

Horton started off by selling coffee and donuts, which cost 10 cents each, but by the '80s he added muffins, cakes, soups, and chili into the mix. These are now staples on the menu.

The cafe also offers Cold Stone Creamery ice cream in certain locations.

Photo credit: Reuters 

18. Schlotzsky's

Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia

US sales in 2016: $338 million

Number of US locations: 362

Customer satisfaction rank: 15

Value rank: 18

The average customer order totals just over $10 at Schlotzsky's, according to Technomic. That's pricey for a sandwich shop, but the higher-quality offerings keep customers satisfied. Schlotzky's serves up a mix of classic and specialty sandwiches as well as offering four different types of mac n' cheese, flatbreads, soups, salads, and gourmet pizzas.

After more than 40 years of operation, Schlotzsky's now has locations in 35 states and three foreign countries.

Photo credit: Facebook.com

17. McAlister's Deli

Headquarters: Ridgeland, Mississippi

US sales in 2016: $593 million

Number of US restaurants: 387

Customer satisfaction rank: 22

Value rank: 14

The Mississippi-based deli specializes in local and regional American favorites, from The New Yorker with its corned beef, pastrami, and Swiss on marbled rye to the Spicy Southwest Chicken with guacamole, fire-roasted corn, and chipotle ranch sauce.

It's well-known for its Sweet Tea drink, which is brewed in store and comes with free refills.

Photo credit: Facebook.com

16. Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Headquarters: Lorton, Virginia

US sales in 2016: $1.4 billion

Number of US locations: 1,284

Customer satisfaction rank: 14

Value rank: 62

The cult favorite started in Washington, DC, in 1986 when former bond trader Jerry Murrell and his family opened a burger joint — named after Murrell and his four sons — with the goal of cooking hamburgers and fries using the best quality ingredients.

The chain is off-limits to those with peanut allergies, as all fries are cooked in peanut oil and there are barrels of old-fashioned peanuts lining each shop's dining area. 

Photo credit: Reuters 

15. Cinnabon

Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia

US sales in 2016: $163 million

Number of US locations: 836

Customer satisfaction rank: 12

Value rank: 33

Cinnabon is all about cinnamon. This popular chain was the brainchild of a father and son duo, who opened the first bakery in Seattle, Washington in 1985.

It's is known for its signature warm cinnamon roll, which comes with a rich cream cheese frosting and is sold in various different sizes, but there's also cinnamon flavored donuts, crispy pastry straws, and an expansive coffee menu.

Photo credit: Getty 

14. Ben & Jerry's

Headquarters: South Burlington, Vermont

US sales in 2016: $58 million

Number of US locations: 172

Customer satisfaction rank: 5

Value rank: 8

Best friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield originally had plans to create a bagel company but found that the bagel-making equipment was too expensive. Instead, they purchased an old gas station and turned it into a scoop shop.

The brand celebrated 39 years in business this March and is now known for inventive ice-cream flavors like Red Velvet Cake, Phish Food, and Cherry Garcia. Each employee that works for the company is given three tubs of Ben & Jerry's a day.

Photo credit: Getty 

13. The Habit Burger Grill

Headquarters: Irvine, California

US sales in 2016: $298 million

Number of US restaurants: 172

Customer satisfaction rank: 10

Value rank: 21

West Coast chain Habit Burger Grill first set up shop in 1969 in Santa Barbara, serving burgers with freshly-baked buns. Since then, the chain has swelled to 175 restaurants in 10 states across the US. It's also added chicken and tuna burgers, salads and shakes to its menu, and was named the best-tasting burger in America in 2014, according to a survey by Consumer Reports, beating competitors like Shake Shack, In-N-Out, and Five Guys.

Photo credit: Getty 

12. Marco's Pizza

Headquarters: Toledo, Ohio

US sales in 2016: $489 million

Number of US locations: 770

Customer satisfaction rank: 21

Value rank: 13

This cheap pizza joint first opened in Toledo in 1978. Today, it has 800 restaurants across the US, the Bahamas, India, and Puerto Rico.

The menu has grown too, and Marco's now offers sandwiches, hot chicken wings, and salads, along with multiple sauces to go with each dish.

Photo credit: Facebook.com

11. Zaxby's

Headquarters: Athens, Georgia

US sales in 2016: $1.7 billion

Number of US locations: 825

Customer satisfaction rank: 32

Value rank: 46

Started by two childhood friends aiming to alleviate the lack of great wing joints in their Georgia hometown, Zaxby's is known for its craveable wing sauces and crinkle-cut fries.

Photo credit: Facebook.com

10. Jersey Mike's Subs

Headquarters: Manasquan, New Jersey

US sales in 2016: $825 million

Number of US restaurants: 1,187

Customer satisfaction rank: 11

Value rank: 41

CEO Peter Cancro bought his first Jersey Mike's at the age of 17 after spending his summers working at the sandwich shop in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. A high school senior at the time, Cancro was able to buy the shop after he took a loan from his school football coach at the time.

Jersey Mike's is now known for its handcrafted subs loaded with high-quality ingredients. In 2016, Nation's Restaurant News announced that it was the fastest growing restaurant chain in the US.

Photo credit: Facebook.com

9. Culver's

Headquarters: Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin

US sales in 2016: $1.3 billion

Number of US restaurants: 605

Customer satisfaction rank: 23

Value rank: 29

At Culver's, diners can expect to spend a little more than they would at a run-of-the-mill burger joint, with average orders totaling around $10, according to Technomic. But it might just be worth it for the chain's frozen custard and ButterBurgers, the signature burger that gets its name from the glaze of butter that coats the bun.

This year, Culver's was ranked in second place on Restaurant Business' annual list of America's favorite chains.

Photo credit: Facebook.com 

8. Jason's Deli

Headquarters: Beaumont, Texas

US sales in 2016: $702 million

Number of US restaurants: 260

Customer satisfaction rank: 9

Value rank: 12

Nutrition is a priority at Jason's Deli, which serves sandwiches, salads, pastas, soups, and desserts. It has eliminated artificial trans fat, most artificial MSG, and all artificial colors, dyes, and flavors from its food over the past 10 years. It even claims that its soft-serve is made with 100% natural ingredients.

Photo credit: Facebook.com 

7. Papa Murphy's Pizza

Headquarters: Vancouver, Washington

US sales in 2016: $885 million

Number of US locations: 1,537

Customer satisfaction rank: 7

Value rank: 2

This pizza franchise started in 1995 after the merger of two pizzerias, Papa Aldo's and Murphy's Pizza. Its pies are "take and bake," meaning they are made to order and cooked in the customer's oven at home.

Customers can pick from the signature pies like Pepperoni and Hawaiian, or they can create their own and choose the type of dough, sauce, and toppings. Papa Murphy's scores top marks for customer satisfaction on value, coming in at second place in the total list of 25 restaurants.

Photo credit: Facebook.com

6. Pollo Campero

Headquarters: Dallas, Texas

US sales in 2016: $111 million

Number of US restaurants: 68

Customer satisfaction rank: 13

Value rank: 4

With only 68 stores, Pollo Campero is by far the smallest chain on the list. But diners adore the casual chicken spot, touting it as a solid value.

Pollo Campero, initially founded in Guatemala in 1971, stands out from other "better chicken" chains, such as Wingstop and Raising Cane's, for its authentic Latin flavors and impeccable service — meals are served on real plates with real silverware.

Photo credit: Getty 

5. Krispy Kreme

Headquarters: Winston-Salem, North Carolina

US sales in 2016: $758 million

Number of US restaurants: 307

Customer satisfaction rank: 6

Value rank: 17

In 1937, Krispy Kreme founder Vernon Rudolph used a recipe given to him by a New Orleans chef so that he could make and sell doughnuts to local grocery stores. As the fresh-baked donut smell wafted into the streets, customers began requesting to purchase the delicacies directly, so Rudolph cut a hole in the wall to open his first retail location.

In October 2015, the chain opened a new store in North Carolina which resembled a coffee shop, Business Insider reported. Six months later, it was bought by JAB, the parent company of coffee brands including Caribou Coffee, Peet's Coffee and Tea, and Keurig Green Mountain, for around $1.35 million.

Photo credit: Getty 

4. Whataburger

Headquarters: San Antonio, Texas

US sales in 2016: $2.2 billion

Number of US locations: 806

Customer satisfaction rank: 17

Value rank: 11

Whataburger founder Harmon Dobson's goal was to create a burger so big that customers would have to use both hands to hold it. It would be so good that at first bite they would declare, "What a burger!" Thus, in 1950, Whataburger was born.

What started off as a burger stand, almost 70 years ago, now has 700 restaurants in the US. Although it lost out to In-N-Out Burger in Business Insider's taste comparison, it's still a favorite of many in the south.

Photo credit: Getty 

3. Chick-fil-A

Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia

US sales in 2016: $6.7 billion

Number of US restaurants: 2,062

Customer satisfaction rank: 2

Value rank: 3

This Southern favorite is the largest food chain on our list and comes in first place for total sales in 2016.

The fried-chicken chain diversified its menu last year, adding a kale and broccolini salad, a premium coffee line, new sauces, and a barbecue-bacon sandwich in an effort to take on competitors. If you want to know what's best to order, check out Business Insider's guide.

Photo credit: Getty 

2. Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers

Headquarters: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

US sales in 2016: $741 million

Number of US restaurants: 306

Customer satisfaction rank: 3

Value rank: 5

Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers focuses on only one menu item: first-rate chicken strips. But what truly keeps fans addicted is Cane's signature tangy sauce, a secret blend that customers can't get enough of.

Raising Cane's has a high customer satisfaction rating and it's benefiting the chain; sales grew by 31% in 2016.

Photo credit: Facebook.com

1. In-N-Out Burger

Headquarters: Irvine, California

US sales in 2016: $807 million

Number of US restaurants: 325

Customer satisfaction rank: 1

Value rank: 1

In-N-Out Burger scores highest on customer satisfaction and value, making it the winner overall.

California's first drive-thru hamburger stand, In-N-Out Burger first opened in 1948. Nearly seven decades later, the menu remains simple, offering only five items. But loyal customers know that if they want to expand their options, they can order off the not-so-secret menu — it features items such as a protein style burger and grilled cheese.

In-N-Out can only be found on the West Coast, but there's a good reason for that. Since the chain prides itself on serving top-notch ingredients free of additives or preservatives, all stores must be within 300 miles of the distribution facilities. Sorry, East Coasters.

Photo credit: Getty 

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That tech is pushing out workers, but not through layoffs

Across the industry, delivery service, mobile ordering, and at-table service are becoming exciting new additions. While those innovations pleases shareholders, workers like Shoup say the gadgets are complicating their jobs.

He said he feels like Taco Bell, his employer, doesn't provide enough training to use all of the new equipment in the restaurant. 

While Shoup has stayed at Taco Bell for eight months, Westley Williams of Florida left his job at McDonald's due to additional responsibilities at his store. He and his coworkers had to manage the self-ordering kiosks, mobile app, and a slew of new menu items. He told Bloomberg that he did not get a raise for these added duties and found a new job at Checkers, where he didn't have these added responsibilities.  

"It's more stressful now," Williams told Bloomberg. "When we mess up a little bit because we're getting used to something new, we get yelled at."

Starbucks employees have reported that their popular ordering app has stiffed them out of tips. Jaime Prater, a shift supervisor at a Starbucks in California, told Business Insider's Kate Taylor in March that tips were "in steady decline" due to an increase in mobile ordering and payment.

"As far as I can tell," Prater said, "Starbucks corporate has not done anything to improve tipping ... with the exception of the frequency of pay raises, which I believe is a direct answer to the decrease in tips, nationally."

Disgruntled fast-food workers have plenty of alternatives if they want to quit their jobs

In the past, overworked employees may have just stayed put. But the flourishing economy allows workers to shop around. In January 2018, there were 1.1 unemployed persons for every available job, the best ratio in the last 15 years. Just five years earlier, in January 2013, 3.3 unemployed folks existed for each available job. 

Job markets where there are fewer or an equal number of employees for each job eases the job search for less-qualified candidates. Rather than the prospective employee adapting their qualifications, employers must recruit workers and make their job more appealing.

But fast food work is rarely seen as appealing. 

"Quick-service restaurants are having a little more trouble with job openings and finding workers," Michael Harms, executive director of operations at People Report, told Bloomberg in March. "It's the pace of work, the pace of technology, and the lower wage rate."

As a result, some managers are implementing more flexible working hours and training opportunities to encourage frustrated workers to stick around.

But the best solution is increasing the pay, according to a report by UBS analyst Dennis Geiger released in February. As Business Insider's Kate Taylor wrote in February, Starbucks has the highest average pay of fast service restaurants. Its employee satisfaction ranking was almost 30% higher than its competitors in the UBS report. 

Meanwhile, Wendy's, Sonic, and KFC had the lowest employee satisfaction ratings, according to the UBS analysis. Employee satisfaction sank the most at Wendy's, Chipotle, Sonic, and McDonald's from 2016 to 2017.

Dunkin' Donuts CEO Nigel Travis said the inability to retain employees is the biggest challenge facing his industry this year. "One franchisee always quotes, 'I can only get 60% of the labor I need,'" Travis told Business Insider in February.

The average crew member pay at Dunkin' Donuts is $9 an hour. 

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