As millions of restaurant staffers and other service workers face unemployment as a result of the coronavirus lockdown measures, a new app is seeking to serve as a networking hub and gig marketplace to connect them with nearby openings.
ClockedIn, which officially launched in April after being in the works for months, shows prospective workers nearby open shifts or positions at places such coffee shops, grocery stores and fast-food restaurants on a map that updates in real time. Job seekers pick a specialization, such as dishwashing or customer service, and are able work shifts across different employers in that position, while getting paid through the app.
Co-founded by agency veteran Matt Kuttan and entrepreneur Eric Smith, the startup is backed by venture incubators like the Kairos Society and Google Brand Accelerator. So far, about 5,000 workers have signed up and 500 restaurants have agreed to list openings, according to Kuttan.
As for monetization, all connections made through the app are free for everybody involved unless companies choose to hire from a premium pool of workers who have been vetted, insured and background checked by ClockedIn. There is also a $100 per month subscription fee for participating businesses.
Kutan said that the networking aspect of the app is what separates it from existing placement agencies in the space like Snagajob. “The best way to explain it in layman’s terms is that it literally is Uber-meets-LinkedIn for the restaurant industry,” said Kuttan, who is also the company’s chief creative officer. “Most people who are a Burger King dishwasher or a back-of-the-line cook are not on LinkedIn. So there is no network for people who are that kind of blue collar.”
While gig economy businesses are often criticized for undercutting stable employment with more precarious work, Kuttan said the most common use for the app thus far comes from employees of jobs with limited hours—in some cases because of labor laws that mandate employer benefits after a certain threshold—looking to supplement their income by working at another chain location across town or even a competing one. The networking side also means that companies are free to hire employees for a longer term and don’t have to go through the app’s payment and scheduling channels.
While Smith, who is also the app’s CEO, had no idea that he would be addressing an unemployment crisis when he began planning ClockedIn about a year ago. The timing happened to work out so that the company launched its service as unemployment in the U.S. was on track to reach double digits. Kuttan joined as some members of the founding team began to predict early on that the pandemic would have longer-lasting effects on restaurant employment than many realized at the time and set about simplifying the brand’s message.
“The biggest thing we want to do is to help people get jobs,” Kuttan said. “Back then [in April] it was like 10 million unemployed, now it’s like 30 million. We just want to get that message out there that we are there when they get back to work. It’s free for them.”
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