It’s been a pretty rough year for McDonald’s in Japan, in the same way that getting hit by a bus on your way to work would make for a rough morning. Following a widely reported scandal in which the chain had been supplied with expired chicken by a meat processing facility in China, McDonald’s has been trying everything it can think of to lure diners back, such as giving away Chicken McNuggets for free, replacing the meat with tofu, and trying to take our mind off the incident entirely by pulling our attention towards pork cutlets instead.

After all, a restaurant chain can’t survive without customers, right? There’s one other thing you need to run a business though: employees, and these days McDonald’s is finding itself losing those, too.

McDonald’s Japan’s financial books aren’t looking anywhere near as attractive as their slickly photographed wares that show up in the company’s ads. During the months of July and August, the chain’s revenues were down roughly 20 percent compared to the same period during the previous year. Investors found that about as appealing as the expired meat that set off the company’s woes, and that loss of faith in the world’s biggest hamburger outfit has led to a string of stock price drops.

These are dark days for the Golden Arches

It’s not just investors who’re finding themselves disillusioned, though, but veteran employees, too. Just as the head office is pushing branches to do all they can to get their sales numbers back up, more and more frontline workers are deciding they’ve had enough of working at McDonald’s, as a source inside the company says they’ve had a large number of them walk away since the summer.

Frustration over the expired meat scandal and its fallout might not be the only two factors at work, though. The Japanese food service sector is currently in the middle of a labor crunch, and veteran McDonald’s workers are highly coveted in the job market due to the large amount of on-the-job training the company entrusts to its senior restaurant employees. One industry source said that in extreme cases, highly experienced McDonald’s employees have found work with other chains paying as much as 3,000 yen (US $26.50) an hour.

Being able to eat lunch at your workplace without images of rancid meat running through your head is probably also a big draw.

On the flip side, the system of veteran employees training new recruits means that as the former leave McDonald’s in greater numbers, there aren’t enough people left to show the ropes to new hires. The result is more and more branches requesting the head office dispatch trainers to their locations, and that need for corporate help isn’t likely to let up any time soon, thanks to another move McDonald’s feels like it will be forced to take.

Even with the number of employees McDonald’s is losing, its even more rapidly reducing revenue means the head office isn’t comfortable with the amount of labor expenses it’s accruing. As such, the company source mentioned above says McDonald’s is taking the unusual (for it) step of preparing to restructure and downsize. Since more experienced employees command higher wages, the company is expected to look to veteran employees first when trimming its workforce.

This predicted course, which is essentially asking branches to post better numbers with fewer resources to work with, doesn’t sit well with everyone in the company. “Right now, what McDonald’s needs to do is get its footing back on the front lines,” said one exasperated branch manager. “But the head office doesn’t understand that, and what they’re thinking about doing would have the opposite effect.”

So the next time you decide to pick up a Big Mac or black burger, cut the kid at the register some slack if he screws up your order. It just might be his first day, and hey, if you can forgive McDonald’s for its expired meat, you can forgive their employees for forgetting your fries.

▼ And don’t worry, it’s supposed to look like that.

Source: Livedoor News, Hachima Kikou