A Subway franchisee said she pulled her 16-year-old son out of school to work at her store because it was so understaffed

·2 min read
Subway first-time visit
Restaurants have been hit especially hard by the labor shortage. Grace Dean/Insider
  • A Subway franchisee told Fox 13 she pulled her son from school to work at her understaffed store.

  • She said she wasn't getting any applicants at her store, in Salt Lake City, despite raising wages.

  • The labor shortage was "just a mystery," she added.

The owner of a Subway franchise in Utah said her store was so understaffed that she once pulled her 16-year-old son out of school to work there.

Sharon Cockayne told Fox 13 that she wanted to hire three people at her store near Salt Lake City International Airport but wasn't getting any applications.

"I've brought my 16-year-old son in after pulling him out of school once, my boyfriend has come in to help me, it's gotten to that point," she said. "It's scary."

The US is suffering from a labor shortage as record numbers of Americans quit their jobs in search of better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Restaurants have been especially hard-hit.

This has prompted companies to reassess how they compensate workers. Many have been boosting wages and offering improved benefits in a desperate bid to attract new employees and cling to existing ones. In May, average hourly wages for nonsupervisory staff in the restaurant industry hit $15 for the first time.

Cockayne told Fox 13 that she had lifted her pay by $2 an hour over the past year but was struggling to hire. The report didn't say what her new pay rate was.

Other business owners have said that hiking wages had helped them overcome - or even completely avoid - the labor shortage. One restaurant owner in Manhattan told Insider that she'd had no problems recruiting after raising her wages to $25 an hour.

Though workers say they're largely quitting their jobs because they want higher wages or better working environments, some lawmakers and business owners have blamed the labor shortage on enhanced federal unemployment benefits introduced in March 2020.

But the benefits ended in September, and companies still say they're struggling to attract more job applicants - even in states that cut off the benefits more than eight weeks early.

The labor shortage is "just a mystery," Cockayne told Fox 13.

Cockayne said she normally recruited high-school students, but that they weren't applying for jobs at her store anymore. "I don't know if parents don't want their high school kids working during the pandemic," she said.

Some businesses have tapped into younger workers to plug their labor shortage, such as a McDonald's in Oregon that's been recruiting 14-year-olds.

In October, Wisconsin's Senate approved a bill that would allow 14- and 15-year-olds to work until 11 p.m. on some days. Supporters say it could help plug the state's labor shortage.

Do you work at Subway? Got a story? Email this reporter at gdean@insider.com.

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