Restaurant Workers Continue to Experience Workplace Violence

19 Dec, 2022 Liz Carey


St. Louis, MO ( – From robberies to disgruntled customers to resentful coworkers, employees in the food service industry continue to be targets of violent attacks in the workplace. 

In St. Louis, one fast food worker is in the hospital after being shot at by a customer over corn. 

Officials with the St. Louis police said drive-thru customer at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant started making threats to employees through the speaker box when he was told the restaurant was out of corn on Dec. 12. Moments later the customer drove up to the drive-thru window with a gun. 

Police said when an employee came outside to speak to the customer, the driver shot the employee in the abdomen. The employee was taken to the hospital in critical but stable condition. 

In Jacksonville, Fla., an employee was stabbed after a man tried to rob the Fore Score Golf Tavern there on Dec. 11.  

Jacksonville police said just before 7:30 p.m., a man entered the tavern and approached the hostess stand, after attempting to steal one of the employee’s wallets, he was confronted by another employee. The man then threatened the employees of the tavern and demanded money from the restaurant. The man then pulled out a knife and stabbed the employee that had confronted him before running away. 

Police said witnesses identified the man and officers were able to detain him. The man, 38-year-old Mario McQuay, was arrested and charged with armed robbery and aggravated assault. The employee suffered light, non-life-threatening injuries and was treated at the scene. 

In Houston, robbers attacked employees and threatened customers before making off with $3,000 from a trendy sushi spot, officials said. 

On Dec. 11, Houston Police reported that two men entered the Blue Fish restaurant brandishing guns. Surveillance video from the restaurant shows the men slapping employees and pushing them to the ground. One of the employees was forced to get up and open a safe with a gun to their head. 

The robbers also threatened a young family eating their lunch, officials said. 

Blue Fish’s general manager, Kiet Huynh, said the robbers got away with about $3,000 in cash and belongings. 

"It's horrible. People come here to enjoy having lunch with their families and they got robbed. It's ridiculous," Huynh said. "People work hard for their money and my employees, too."

Officials are asking the public for help in identifying the suspects. None of the employees were seriously injured. 

Police in Phoenix, Ariz. Said a man was arrested Dec. 8 after shooting at a Jack in the Box drive thru, leaving one worker dead and another wounded. 

The incident started Thursday night when a fight broke out between the shooter and two employees working the restaurant’s drive-thru window. The shooter then allegedly shot into the restaurant multiple times.  

Emergency personnel transported 19-year-old Jorge Valenzuela Ramirez, and a 22-year-old woman to the hospital. Ramirez died at the hospital, officials said. The woman was hospitalized with serious but non-threatening injuries. 

Authorities said 29-year-old Christopher Candia was arrested and charged with several crimes including murder, after Candia turned himself in. 

Jack in the Box said the company is working with investigators. 

“We were recently made aware of a developing situation involving Jack in the Box employees in a Phoenix location,” Casey Middleton, associate public relations manager for Jack in the Box, said in a statement. “The safety and security of our employees is our utmost priority. While we cannot comment on an ongoing investigation, we are working with local authorities and franchise team members to ensure the safety of all Jack in the Box employees.”

Over the past nearly three years, food service workers have seen violent attack rise. According to a report released in December 2021, fast food establishments are seeing a “crisis of violence.” Service Employees International Union (SEIU) looked at 911 call logs for McDonald’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., and Jack in the Box locations in nine of California’s most populous cities. In all, between 2017 and 2020, the union identified at least 77,000 “violent or threatening incidents” ranging from abuse directed at workers to customer conflict on franchise premises, with some locations seeing up to seven 911 calls per week. 

Often, the report found, national fast food chains are lax in their responses to violent attacks. While they have a range of resources available to them to improve the wellbeing of workers, like hiring security personnel and providing safety training, they chose not to use them. 

“All too often, [fast food restaurants] refuse to provide medical treatment for injured workers, let alone mental health support,” the report said. 

While Rob Holm, McDonald’s corporate director of global security, told The Counter at the time that McDonald’s locations undergo safety training, he also wrote in a blog that there was little the company could do about customer attacks. 

“While we do everything we can to keep all McDonald’s restaurants running smoothly without interruption, the unfortunate reality of sitting at the heart of 14,000 US communities with more than 800,000 individuals working under the Arches is that things happen,” he wrote on the company’s blog. That post has since been deleted. 

On its website, McDonald’s said it has a commitment to safety, and has instituted efforts to maintain employee safety. 

“Across restaurants globally, we are working together with our Franchisees in continuing to foster respectful workplaces, where people can be themselves without fear of harassment, discrimination, retaliation or violence,” the website said. 

The company said it is developing policies, along with training for crew and managers, to mitigate and help prevent violence in restaurants, as well as requiring restaurants to have reporting mechanisms and requiring all restaurants complete an employee feedback survey annually. 

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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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