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This Is the #1 Fast-Food Chain Employees Love Working For, Data Shows

With an average employee tenure of six years.

When it comes to service with a smile, fast-food chains are having an increasingly difficult time keeping up the show. Labor problems have worsened in the sector over the years, with over 60% of fast-food restaurant owners reporting they've closed their dining rooms last year due to staff shortages.

Working long, busy hours for notoriously low wages and few benefits, it's no wonder quick-service workers feel they aren't being treated well. But not all fast-food brands suffer from the same worker dissatisfaction. And according to recent data, one restaurant chain in particular ranks above others when it comes to employees that want to stick around.

Sonic Drive-In is the top food-service employer based on employee retention, according to a ranking by Data shows the burger chain manages to keep its staff for an average of almost six years—which is quite a long time considering the nature of the job. A shocking 100% annual turnover isn't uncommon for chain restaurants.

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sonic employee
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One of the entry jobs at Sonic Drive-In is Carhop/Skating Carhop. The position is similar to a traditional restaurant server position—allowing employees to collect tips, deliver food outdoors, and work more closely with customers. Many employees that start at Sonic, start off as carhops. While the study doesn't show carhops as being happier employees, good tips, which Sonic encourages, have been known to drive up wage averages while having time outdoors can have cognitive benefits.

"I worked there for years, and I met tons of people who have also kept working there for years, I had a ton of fun and would definitely keep going back," said one former Sonic carhop on Reddit. "It's not easy, but the tips are great, especially in the south!"

While Sonic has ranked at the top for having some of the happiest employees, Popeyes had the hardest time retaining staff. The fried chicken purveyor is unable to keep its employees for even a full year.

The brand saw success during the Chicken Sandwich Wars but soon fell into a labor crisis in 2021 when at least 40% of the chain's locations were forced to close or partially close because of staffing shortages. While Popeyes ranked lowest on the employee retention list, staffing shortages are a trending issue across almost all fast-food chains.

Chains have raised wages in order to combat shortages, which have climbed 10% this year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, fast food and counter workers made $12.07 an hour with an annual mean wage of $25,490 last year. For perspective, according to Business Insider, the median necessary living wage across the U.S. is $67,690 annually, well over double the fast-food worker's salary.

Amber Lake
Amber Lake is a staff writer at Eat This, Not That! and has a degree in journalism from UNF in Jacksonville, Florida. Read more about Amber