A Hendersonville, North Carolina Chick-fil-A came under fire on Tuesday when it asked volunteers to work at the restaurant's new drive-thru express for meals instead of money. The restaurant quickly rescinded the order after facing a barrage of negative comments. A Chick-fil-A spokesperson said the company did not endorse the program.
On Tuesday, the restaurant, located at 52 Highlands Square Drive, published a photo of an employee helping a customer make an order at the new drive-thru. "We are looking for volunteers for our new Drive Thu Express," the post read. "Earn 5 free entrees per shift (1 hr) worked. Message us for details."
The post was quickly deleted. A Chick-Fil-A spokesperson told Insider the company did not support the idea. "Most restaurants are individually owned and operated, and it was a program at an individually owned restaurant," the spokesperson told Business Insider. The Hendersonville operator, Joel Benson, has also not commented. Benson also owns two other Hendersonville Chick-fil-A locations.
Although the post was deleted, the Hendersonville restaurant's Facebook page is flooded with comments referencing the volunteer scheme. On Wednesday, the restaurant published a photo of an employee with her child, which led some to wonder if the restaurant was violating other labor laws. "Do y'all also violate child labor laws since you don't care about labor laws period?" one person asked. "Man those volunteers sure are young," another wrote. "I just renegotiated my apartment lease renewal to include waffle fries and chicken nuggets as valid payment for my rent... will be in contact soon," one person joked in response to another post. The restaurant has since limited who can comment on its posts.
The restaurant did respond to people who complained about the volunteer positions, reports Vice. "During the launch of our new drive-thru express, we offered opportunities for customers to earn free food to simply traffic direct other guests," read one post from the store. "Usually a win-win for us and the volunteer who gets free Chick-fil-A! That way, our team can focus on serving the guests in what we do best."
Last year, this same Chick-fil-A made local headlines for a less controversial reason. The franchise owner raised the pay for full-time workers to $19 per hour, beginning in August, reports the Hendersonville Times-News. Part-time employees earn $14 per hour and workers 14 or 15 years old start at $12 per hour.
Other restaurant chains do offer employees a shift meal, discounts on food and drinks, and other perks. Starbucks employees can get a free drink during shifts and seven free foot items per week, while Chipotle workers also receive a free meal for each shift. However, these perks come in addition to being paid real money, not in place of it.