March 4, 2024

Denny CEO John Miller told CNBC Thursday the restaurant chain was having trouble filling vacancies, but salary concerns weren’t what kept potential workers away during the economic reopening.

“I think the starting wage for a brand like Denny really isn’t the challenge,” Miller said on Power Lunch, admitting it’s higher than it was before the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s not really an obstacle to hiring. … It’s more about people building confidence to get back to work,” he added.

Companies across a range of industries, from restaurants to trucks, have reported difficulty hiring workers as economic activity picks up after more than a year of disruptions related to the Covid crisis. There are more than 9 million job vacancies in the US, according to Labor Department figures released earlier this month.

More insights into the employment picture are expected on Friday morning when the Department of Labor releases the June job report. In the May report, the US unemployment rate was 5.8%.

Several factors were identified for the recruitment challenges, including health and safety concerns from the coronavirus and a lack of reliable childcare. Some also believe that the Covid-era improved unemployment benefits have deterred some laid-off workers, particularly those in low-wage industries, from returning to work.

Companies have responded in a number of ways, with some raising their minimum wages and offering rewards for signing cash.

Denny is in the midst of his own recruiting endeavors, a trip across the country he has termed the America’s Diner Hiring Tour.

Denny’s is committed to recruiting 20,000 employees for both its corporate and franchise restaurants. With the company’s 53-foot kitchen cart, the tour began in St. Louis on Monday and ends in the Arcadia suburb of Los Angeles on Friday. Denny’s offers on-site application assistance and free breakfast for applicants.

Whatever the obstacles to filling vacancies, Miller said he anticipated the staffing shortage would ease in the coming weeks. “It takes a minute to relax and get back on track,” he said, adding, “We think they are temporary and wear off over time.”