7 Best Chain Restaurants To Work For

Chain restaurants tend not to have the rosiest working conditions. Wages are low, benefits lacking, paid sick days rare, opportunities minimal, and the work itself often grueling. Nothing brings this home harder than the newly updated "2012 Diner's Guide," from the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a New York-based nonprofit fighting on behalf of low-wage restaurant workers.

Read ROC-United's complete list of offending restaurants here, and the 4 absolute worst here. But a few gems sparkle out from the report, with working conditions that set them apart from the competition. So if you're job-hunting or you want to support restaurants that support their staff, take a gander at one of the seven chains below, based on the ROC-United report and a dash of our own research.

Five Guys Burgers And Fries

Five Guys Burgers And Fries sales leapt 33 percent between 2010 and 2011, and 38 percent the year before that, making it the fastest-growing chain restaurant in the country. The company's cult following has exploded since it franchised 10 years ago, and that's good news for Americans looking for a burger-flipping gig. ROC-United gave Five Guys three stars for how it treats its employees, and an award for taking the "high road" to profitability. At least half of current employees have been promoted, and they all get paid sick days.

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Chipotle Mexican Grill

Chipotle's mission statement, "Food With Integrity," outlines their focus on organic ingredients, and the burrito chain is the largest restaurant seller of naturally-raised meat (cows and chickens and pigs not pumped up with hormones and antibiotics). It shows some integrity with its workforce too. While not all of its employees make at least $9 an hour, they do all get paid sick days.

Circle K

"Strange things are afoot at the Circle K," Keanu Reeve mutters in the 1989 stoner classic "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure." But one thing is not strange at the international convenience store chain (defined by ROC as a "quick serve restaurant." When one of its employees gets the flu, they don't have to forsake a day of wages to get some bedrest.

Del Taco

Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against a Del Taco franchisor, alleging that one of its restaurants illegally fired a woman after she complained that her boss was harassing her. And while this may not paint the prettiest picture of the Mexican-food chain, there's a definite upside to working at Del Taco, at least according to ROC-United. The chain may not pay amazingly well, or offer paid sick days, but at least half of all employees have been promoted.

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Hardee's isn't taking the "high road" in ROC-United's opinion, and workers don't earn at least $9. But at least half of the current staff have been promoted, so at least you may not have to wallow around unrecognized at the deep-fry station until your dying day. "Good chances to move up," a commenter on Glassdoor.com says of a Virginia Hardee's. "If you are able to do the fast pace work and stand on your feet for 12 hours without a lunch break," says another, back-handedly, "the medical insurance is great,"

In-N-Out Burger

San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf resisted fast food restaurants for years, hoping to keep the district's family-owned feel. But in 2001, they warmly welcomed an In-N-Out Burger into the fold. "Ordinarily, all of us would be in arms about a fast-food operation coming to Fisherman's Wharf," said one local business leader. "This is different."

And In-N-Out Burger is different. They print Bible verses on their wrappers, and will serve up a four-patty burger that's not on the menu, if you know to ask. They also treat their employees decently well. It's non-tipped workers earn at least $9 an hour, what ROC-United considers a minimum livable wage. Employees also get paid sick days.

Ruby Tuesday

As you tuck into your Friday night pork ribs and garlic-cheddar biscuits, take comfort that the people that cooked and served them to you aren't dripping mucus on them. Because if they're sick, they could just stay home and still get their wages, according to ROC-United. That isn't true at The Cheesecake Factory, Buffalo Wild Wings, T.G.I. Friday's, IHOP, Cracker Barrel, Hard Rock Cafe, Hooters, Houilhan's, Pizza Hut or many others.

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Also, a LOT of the fast food customers are FAT, and they're gonna sit there bitching at you for how much meat is in their bowl. As if you aren't doing them a favor. According to one Gallup poll, African Americans (who love Chipotle) are the fattest ethnic group in the U.S., while Asians are by far the thinnest. According to another Gallup poll, Americans are 3 times as likely to say they didn't have money to put food on the table as people in China. Americans need to stop eating so much! Maybe then they won't have so much trouble putting food on the table - if they stop trying to put so goddamned much of it there that the table is coming apart!!

November 29 2012 at 3:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree with Fred. I have only worked in one major restaurant chain (Chipotle), and I can tell you that although it was in some ways very good, it really sucks to work there - they pay you a starting wage of $9 (in my city - probably less elsewhere) with little chance to make more money, although they hype all this stuff about how they're all about helping you grow and how there are so many opportunities with them. I looked up the amount that employees are paid across the country. A kitchen manager on average around the U.S. makes $10/hr at Chipotle, so I'm guessing they make $11 in my city. That's ridiculous! That's not even a living wage. Then they work you like hell... they told me I wasn't "upbeat" enough because I didn't smile enough. WTF. You pay me $9/hr, ask me to work extremely quickly, and then complain that I don't smile enough? You'd think a restaurant chain could pay more than that much, since they can afford to open all these new restaurants, but their rule is that they pay the "going rate" of nearby restaurants. Which means they pay the same amount as local restaurants who actually ARE struggling to pay their employees well - although I don't really approve of anyone paying that little to have people working as hard as restaurants work their kitchen staff. Chipotle is a lot of hype. Their managers are better than some that I've seen in terms of efficiency and putting on a happy face to their employees, but I left there and went to work as a hostess in another restaurant that paid $10/hr and was way more chill and actually gave me a chance to smile - and that was technically a chain restaurant, but it's based in the Middle East and only has one location in the U.S, and I didn't ultimately like working there that much either because it was super disorganized. Now I'm working in a better place as a waitress where the pay isn't that much better starting off, but at least I'm not working my ass off with little opportunities to make more money, and it's EASY to smile! I'm motivated to work harder because I can actually make more than $9/hr if I do! At Chipotle, you only get a chance of a raise every 6 months, and who knows how much that is? $.25? $.50? After 6 months doing grueling work? I'll pass. Oh, and then all the rude customers at Chipotle who bitch and moan while staring at you through the glass about how you didn't make their burrito bowl look like it contains 2 lbs of meat. And then the manager tries to make you look bad instead of himself by commanding you to put in more meat after you already put in heaps of it - just because the customer thinks it doesn't LOOK like that much through the glass. When the customers aren't there, the managers complain that you've been putting too much meat in the bowl. For all those bitchy customers - the amount that is actually in the bowl isn't necessarily what it LOOKS like - it depends how you spread it out, but I gotta worry about that while working 90 miles an hour?!

November 29 2012 at 3:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Freddy De Joint

Are you kidding me ?, I spend over 30 yrs working in upper managment, and i can tell you that no chain is worth working for, in fact the worst ones are the one's that make an emp, stand on their feets all day, and must work like a dog to get the customer order quickly, and in less than 3 min's, from the time a customer place take order to the time it's is assemble at the front counter, imgine busting your butt during lunh time, and taking abuse from people who do not even know you. The reason why i spend 30 plus yrs in this bussiness, is that once you get in it, it is very hard to leave, i try to leave, the money wasn't there. so i made the best of it and kept my mouth shut

June 20 2012 at 2:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brenda Hobart

@ dodie1990 - Guess again. In-N-Out is the exception to your statement.

June 20 2012 at 12:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Circle K wow that just ended all credibility

June 19 2012 at 9:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The truth is they all pay as little as they can get away with. Part-time, minimum wage, no benefit, no future jobs. They treat the employees as poorly as they can because there are more employees than jobs. Sad that these dead end jobs are all that are availbale in many areas. Wal-Mart is the worst.

June 19 2012 at 8:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They will also be
the first 7 chains to be outlawed by the Food Nazi's

June 19 2012 at 8:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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