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'I was shocked' | Restaurant workers stunned when bosses close for the day to give them a much-needed break

Restaurant owners were worried about burnout, so they're trying to show employees they care.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A new study shows 40% of American workers are considering quitting their jobs, and hospitality has been one of the hardest-hit industries, with people leaving in droves.

That led Charlotte employers to get creative, offering wellness days and other perks in hopes of keeping staff happy and on the payroll.

Charlotte's ROCKSALT is an example of this practice. The popular seafood restaurant off of Park and Woodlawn roads was closed for a week. The sign on the door told customers the move was all about taking care of their employees, giving them a chance to recharge after working nonstop throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mac's Hospitality Group President Shang Skipper said they did something similar. 

Macs Speed Shop in South End Charlotte has been a BBQ staple since it opened 16 years ago, and over the years, the company has grown to include 11 restaurants in the Carolinas. 

Credit: WCNC Charlotte
Charlotte's Macs Speed Shop

Despite the pandemic, believe it or not, they’re busier now than ever, with Skipper saying they're "doing record numbers."

They went from 450 staffers pre-pandemic to 700 now, but workers are burning out because they're working so much.

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"It's extremely hard," bartender Rachel Weaver admitted. "We’ve definitely been working a lot trying to keep up with everything." 

Skipper said they were losing people at the same rate that they were hiring them, "so you never really get ahead."

That's what caused the owners at Macs to get creative.

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"Since the pandemic began, we’ve been trying to figure out what can we do to keep employees happy, let them know we care about them," Skipper explained. "We've sent ice cream trucks. We’ve paid out cash bonuses."

But this last week, they went all-in, doing something they've never done before. They gave everyone a paid day off, closing all of their restaurants.

"We wanted to give everyone in the restaurant a day away and just to have fun together as a team if they wanted to do so."

"I was shocked completely but super excited," Weaver said.

It cost about $70,000, but Skipper said that's well worth it.

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"That’s OK," Skipper said. "As long as employees are happy, they’ll come back, and we’ll make that money back. Doing this shows how much we truly care about them."

Other industries are doing similar things to try to boost morale and retain workers, from offices adding yoga rooms to installing massage chairs in breakrooms and letting people roll over vacation from one year to the next.

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