In 2014, Günter Wallraff and his team researched the fast food giant Burger King for the first time. During their undercover operations, the investigative journalists uncovered sometimes catastrophic hygiene deficits and working conditions. The company vowed to get better - but has anything really changed in the last eight years? The team wanted to find out with new research. And unfortunately, the new statements from former and current employees suggest one thing above all: exploitation still seems to have a system here.
Working in a fast-food restaurant can be extremely stressful in itself: frying burgers non-stop, on your feet all day, night shifts with extreme peak hours when hungry revelers - often drunk - storm the place. But what a former employee of Burger King Günter Wallraff says in an interview about his previous working hours goes far beyond that: "Sometimes it's 13 or 14 hours, but that's normal." Also that the phone rings when you are actually sick. exceptional cases? "No, that's the rule!" the informant said. The result: "If you work 220 hours a month, you no longer have a private life." With a 40-hour week, this means that employees sometimes work up to 60 hours of overtime a month.
The solution would be obvious: If the shifts cannot be filled sufficiently, more workers would actually have to be found. But the opposite seems to be the case: An internal weekly report from a Burger King branch in Cologne from October 2021 shows that a maximum of 14 percent of the turnover for all restaurants can be used for personnel costs. The consequence: if a branch does not have enough sales, employees are apparently sent home and shifts are postponed. A payment for the lost hours? none. "Under no circumstances should there be too many staff on site," explains the informant. "More emphasis is placed on keeping personnel costs down than on promoting sales."
And so apparently a few people have to do the work on site for which significantly more people would actually be needed - especially at weekends. A shift manager currently employed at Burger King complains that she lives with her parents but hasn't seen them lately: "Every day night shift, night shift, night shift. At some point I went crazy!" Another employee from the same Cologne branch reports something similar: He has four children and also has a job in a bakery. "I never take a break. I work 24 hours. Way too much."
dr Sven Jürgens, a specialist lawyer for labor law, is shocked by the "Team Wallraff" research: "I think what Burger King is doing here is a huge mess. It is systematically violating labor law requirements, trying at the expense of the weakest to maximize profit. Employees are driven to wear and tear, it is accepted that employees become ill. This is a terrible grievance and it definitely needs to be stopped."
"Team Wallraff" confronted Burger King Deutschland GmbH with these research results. She replied as follows: "[We would like] to point out that Burger King Germany has had new majority owners since May 2022. Since then, a comprehensive process of change has been initiated, which also includes significant investments. Some of your research was done long before these gradual changes. (... )
The new owners will continue to invest in the brand and in the German market in order to improve operations in the restaurants and to make day-to-day business easier for employees. (...)
After we learned of your allegations, we - together with our franchise partners - acted immediately and took appropriate measures. We immediately closed the named restaurants and ordered an extraordinary, external audit for all 750 Burger King restaurants in Germany, which will be completed by the end of September 2022 at the latest."
Are the working conditions at Burger King that bad everywhere? Does the company now have the extreme lack of hygiene that "Team Wallraff" uncovered years ago under control - or do customers still eat here at their own risk? And is everything going right with the burger giant's current vegan campaign? In the new "Team Wallraff" episode - on September 29 at 8:15 p.m. on RTL or at the same time here in the RTL Livestream - find out more!