2016-09-12 / Front Page

Lack of help shortens season for Fat Boy

BY DOUGLAS MCINTIRE
Times Record Staff


JEANNE BURTON readies orders for her car hops at Fat Boy drive-in in Brunswick. Due to a lack of help, the seasonal restaurant is having to close a month early this year. 
DOUGLAS MCINTIRE / THE TIMES RECORD JEANNE BURTON readies orders for her car hops at Fat Boy drive-in in Brunswick. Due to a lack of help, the seasonal restaurant is having to close a month early this year. DOUGLAS MCINTIRE / THE TIMES RECORD BRUNSWICK

Brunswick icon Fat Boy drive-in has had to abbreviate it's year, closing the kitchen on Sunday due to a lack of help.

Jeanne Burton said the family run drive-in is down to only 19 employees — less than half of it's usual work force.

“We had 11 go away to college, some people just quit and then we have other girls that go to college and they can't work all the time,” Burton said.

Then there's the teenage workforce that used to thrive in the kitchen and car hopping. Burton said restrictive labor laws have prevented kids from working at Fat Boy the way they used to.

“A lot of parents were happy that they knew where their children were — they were working,” Burton said.

Current Maine laws prohibit kids 16-17 years old from working more than 24 hours a week when school is in session. With Fat Boy traditionally opening in March and operating into October, this puts a crimp in scheduling younger workers.

“I just really think it finally caught up to us and that a lot of young people are really not out looking for jobs because they want to play sports and their parents aren't really making them work,” Burton said.

Burton said the worker shortage had initially lead to closing on Tuesdays to allow her crew to rest up. Some employees have been working open to close to keep the doors open. Finally, the decision had to be made to close a month early this season.

With warm weather and relatively little rain, Burton said it shaped up to be a really good season otherwise, with cars filling the parking lot in anticipation of their 11 a.m. opening and a constant stream into the night.

Next year, Burton said they will have to think of ways to work differently. She said businesses like hers, that deal in a lot of hands-on work are all looking at ways to do more with less help.

“It isn't just here — it's in Boothbay, it's in Bar Harbor, it's down the coast towards Portsmouth, it's everywhere,” Burton said of the employee shortage.

The restaurant that normally braves late winter snowfalls and clings on well into the fall will return in the spring — hopefully this time with more boots on the ground.

Return to top