Photo by Dave Flessner / The Taco Bell on Hixson Pike in Chattanooga is among those trying to fill 30,000 jobs this summer

Taco Bell plans to hire at least 30,000 new employees to fill not only vacant jobs at its more than 7,000 restaurants but also to add new safety-focused and cleaning jobs to help limit the spread of the coronavirus.

"The newly-created positions are intended to keep the drive-thru running smoothly, to manage delivery, curbside pickup and mobile app orders, and to maintain industry-leading sanitation and cleanliness practices," the company said in a statement about its increased summer hiring plans.

Kelly McCulloch, Taco Bell's chief people officer, said the restaurant chain is working with its franchisees to attract workers and ensure their safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"With this new hiring wave, we look forward to expanding our Taco Bell family and providing great, safe jobs to even more people," McCulloch said. "During these tough times, we want job-seekers to know that we're hiring and we're safe."

Despite record high unemployment, fast-food restaurants are still actively hiring to fill vacancies in the Chattanooga area.

Gordon Davenport, co-owner of the Chattanooga-based HomeTown Folks LLC which operates 23 franchised Burger King restaurants, said Burger King is in a hiring mode to staff up for the summer as it does every year at this time.

"We are hiring aggressively and have had some success," Davenport said. "The good news is that our customer base still very much wants a Whopper even during a pandemic!"

Taco Bell said it is adding new positions to help meet the growing demands of off-premise operations, as well as filling a new dedicated cleaning role in each restaurant.

"Since COVID-19 became a reality, we have continued our commitment to putting our people first,"McCulloch said.

Frontline and essential workers have raised concerns about the safety of the workplace amid the COVID-19 pandemic with employees protesting at some McDonald's restaurants in France. McDonald's and other restaurant chains insist they have taken steps to protect both workers and consumers.

McCulloch said Taco Bell is providing workers masks and other personal protection equipment recommended by federal health officials. In April, Taco Bell began employee temperature checks and started using a tray to pass sealed food to customers in cars, adding contactless credit card payment at the drive-thru and providing employees masks.

Contact Dave or at 757-6340