WILMINGTON — One of the South’s darling fast-food chains in town stopped serving its famed “Bo Rounds” and “Chicken Supremes” on Friday. Bojangles in Monkey Junction had a sign posted to its doors and drive-thru menu to notify patrons of its closure due to lack of staff.
The signs noted: “We are closed No Staff everyone walked out”
Stacey McCray, a spokesperson for the corporation, said the 5513 Carolina Beach Rd. restaurant “temporarily closed Friday morning due to staffing challenges” but reopened a few hours later. No one was at the Monkey Junction store when Port City Daily stopped by Friday around 2 p.m.; calls to the store also went unanswered throughout the rest of the day.
Nor was there a response when Port City Daily asked how many employees walked out and why. Management names weren’t revealed upon inquiries.
McCray said the restaurant, which is corporate-owned, would resume normal operations and hours on Saturday; by 8 a.m., a line of cars snaked around the building.
The spokesperson confirmed staff shortages, an industry-wide issue, have been plaguing Bojangles over the last few months.
Some legislators have blamed recent labor shortages on the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. Unemployed individuals can receive up to $300 a week in addition to statewide benefits, paid up to $350 a week for 20 weeks. That federal program is slated to sunset in September.
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The North Carolina Department of Commerce reported last month that overall, since 2020, the state has experienced a decrease of unemployment by 185,399 people and an increase in workers by 376,701. (The next unemployment update is scheduled for Aug. 20, 2021.)
It also noted unemployment rates (not seasonally adjusted) of 99 out of 100 counties increased in June. New Hanover ranked 4.4% unemployment — which falls under the national rate of 5.1% — with a labor force of 124,846 workers and 5,468 unemployed.
The Bojangles franchise is trying to mine new programs to face its challenges creatively. “Bojangles is piloting several initiatives to attract and retain employees, including retention bonuses and employee referral programs to name a few,” McCray said.
In May, McCray confirmed to the Charlotte Observer the restaurant was doing a test-run of the program in the Queen City to hire new workers by offering a $500 bonus to be paid out in three increments over six months — at 30, 90 and 180 days of employment. McCray didn’t confirm if the company would enact this program in southeastern North Carolina.
More than 35 positions are open in area Bojangles’ stores, from shift manager to general manager, from Hampstead to Southport. The franchise advertises its shift manager position ranges from $12 to $15 an hour in pay.
Founded in 1977, Bojangles operates 768 stores in 14 states, and was purchased by Durational Capital Management and The Jordan Co. in 2019. According to the Charlotte Business Journal, it averages $1.8 million unit volume per store. More than 300 of the restaurants are located in its home state, with more stores positioned from West Virginia to Illinois, Arkansas to Maryland.
In 2021 the corporation inked deals with Chaac Foods and Jeff Rigsby to franchise in new markets and acquire established restaurants across multiple states over seven years.
Bojangles is also moving beyond the drive-thru and rolled out a new set of wheels with Bo’s first food truck last month. The franchise gave out 2,100 of its new hand-breaded Bo’s chicken sandwiches in Manhattan, New York, according to the Charlotte Observer.
This weekend the truck will park in Nashville, Tennessee — home to another 70 brick-and-mortar Bojangles, many of which are hiring multiple positions as well.
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