What's Good About Working In Fast Food Service?

Never having worked in fast food, I wouldn’t know, but everyone seems to tell horror stories about how bad it is, how overworked and underpaid they were, how the bosses abused them and took advantage of their youth.

I don’t doubt any of that is not true.

But I was wondering if any SD’ers who have worked fast food had anything good to say about it. Was there anyone who worked at Taco Bell and liked it? Or something about it. (I mean any fast food place, not just Taco Bell)

I worked at a Wendy’s for about 2 years as a teen. I loved it. Yes, the pay was lousy, some managers were a pain in the ass and you smelled like grease all the time.

However, I really enjoyed working, I made a lot of friends and had a lot of new experiences. One part that really helped me was a manager I worked with who was a lesbian. For a gay teen still sorting out how life was going to work, she was a wonderful sounding board. We had a number of long talks and she was a great help to me. Having been home-schooled, I enjoyed being out of the house and having a good reason to do so.

I also learned a lot about customer service, from both sides. Now that I know what the employees are dealing with when 3 buses full of teens pull into the lot, I have a lot more patience and sympathy when I’m on the customer side. Overall, I’d say it was a good experience and really made me believe that everyone should work in food service at least once in their life.

I worked at a Dairy Queen for several years when I was a teenager. I really enjoyed it. The managers were courteous and professional, and very accommodating with setting up schedules to work around school and extracurricular activities.

I worked with kids my age, some of whom were my friends before I started working them and some who became friends while I was working there.

We didn’t have a whole lot of asshole customers. I had a bunch of extra spending money. Plus free ice cream. What’s not to like?

I worked at two different Ductchess restaurants when I was in high school. It’s a local chain similar to a Wendy’s in that they cook everything fresh.

It wasn’t awesome, but as far as high school jobs go, it wasn’t bad. My coworkers were mostly high school and college kids from my home town (and Mexicans of course). It kind of sucked working friday or sat night because it was a big high school hang out spot. Obviously I’d rather be hanging out than working. Sometimes there would be some minor shadyness at night because we were close to the highway.

Usually my friends and I could get some free food on weekends if I wasn’t working. That was pretty sweet.

I worked at Hardee’s for three years, ages 16 to 18.

It wasn’t too bad. It was my primary socialization venue; I had been a really shy introvert that was bullied in school, then home schooled, so I got to be alongside peers in an environment that discouraged bullying and encouraged camaraderie. I had my first date ever with a coworker, and am still Facebook acquaintances with some coworkers 18 years later.

Scheduling wasn’t too bad; you couldn’t get guaranteed weekends off, but if you could find someone willing to swap days with you, the schedules were far more flexible than anywhere else I’ve worked. Managers tried to work around days-off requests, too; I could buy concert tickets and be assured that I’d get the day off… unlike now, in my “adult” job.

The pay was okay. Above minimum wage, all the overtime you could suck up. I was making more weekly at 18 than I would for the next five years at a more normal job. Food was free or discounted; I was living on my own at 17, so for a couple of years, I pretty much only ate when at work, so I had no food costs for two years. I also could concoct my own recipes and try them out (hey, maybe I could make an omelet burger!). I’d take home a sack of left-over pies and stuff each night. A pretty nice benefit.

The physical work itself could be far too frantic and stressful. The back is far too dangerous; scorching grills, bun toasters, and oil fryers, banks of ovens, and corporate policies which demanded breakneck pace during lunch rushes. Customers who get angry over having to wait for 90 seconds or so probably have never worked in a fast food restaurant when everyone in the local area gets their lunch break simultaneously; when you have orders piling up from six dining room registers and two drive-through lines, it is impossible to keep up in a standard kitchen. The grill has a physical limit to the number of patties it can grill, the toaster a physical limit to the buns. Yet, you can’t work ahead and have a heater pan of pre-cooked patties, since customers want shit fresh off the grill. When it takes 3 minutes to cook a quarter-pounder. you can cook at max 24 of them in one moment (assuming no one wants a 10-to-1 burger during that 3-minute span), we’re not allowed to pre-cook, yet we’ve got orders for 40 quarter-pound burgers in our queue thanks to some stupid corporate coupon promotion… there’s going to be a wait, sorry about your luck. Such work was also severely negatively impacted by call-offs, firings, or people walking out. My work suffers now when someone on a project quits… but if someone’s missing at a fast food restaurant, the day can quickly become the most insanely frustrating experience of your life, like a Tetris game set on 10 and with a broken joystick. And there’s nothing you can do but play along for 8 hours.

I’ve never worked in a place before or since that had so many employee injuries; severe burns, severe cuts. Try being the guy who has to clean the roast beef slicer blade nightly, or who has to filter/clean all six deep fryers. A slight bit of water in the oil filter and the back room floor floods with foaming hot oil and becomes an incredible slip hazard. I’m really surprised they haven’t been more disfiguring or disabling.

It wasn’t fast food in the MickeyD sense, as that didn’t even exist in the area back then, but my friends and I used to “rent” the use of a flat above a bar for the summer, and pay for it with work during high-volume times. This could mean a relatively-quiet Friday night with a big table and a smaller one having food, everybody else drinks only (maybe a few tapas), or it could mean a place so full we had to pass the trays around “bucket chain style”. It was similar to being a waitress in a dinner, only with more alcohol and no booths.

The owners were both local, but they hadn’t met locally: they’d met at the Taekwondo Nationals, where they were both competing. Everybody within a two-hour drive knew this, so although this bar was in the part of town where it was easy to buy drugs, and where fights didn’t surprise anybody, this specific bar was very much a Safe Zone. I saw some punks (1) try to pick a fight once, but they realized it wasn’t a Good Idea when one of them noticed the silence was a bit too much and turned around to see a dozen of the Big-S Cousins (2) bearing a collective look that would make Dirty Harry consider moving into the ice cream business. I was the only one who got something approaching a misbehaving customer and it was solved fast and to everybody’s satisfaction (I instinctively hit him with the tray, the owner asked “what’s going on there?”, “sorry, he tried to grab my ass!”, “this is a bar not a whorehouse, you wanna grab ass go visit your mother”, “sorry!” - his friends were whispering him to behave dude, those medals behind the bar are for taekwondo!).

I think that gig was one of the reasons business meetings don’t scare me: roping VPs into “waiting for the next slide” isn’t any harder than getting a two-dozen table to give you their order in an orderly fashion.
1: that year became known as Punky Summer. The biggest concentration of punks (as in, mohawks, chains and Sex Pistols T-shirts) in Spain was in Valencia, which was one of the towns vying for the title of Party Capital of Spain. Apparently they heard from a Navarrese college student that the Fiesta Season begins around June 29th and goes non-stop until mid-October and figured they’d give it a try. There were quite a few broken arms that summer…

2: that’s a family where “the small ones” are 6’4" and slim. The standard BigS cousin is around 6’6" and seems to be about as wide.

It depends upon how you define the word “good”. If it means, did working in the fast food industry bring good things, yes it did. If you mean pleasant at the time I actually worked there, well almost nothing, except the aforementioned chance to meet new friends etc.

That said, the work ethic and humility it taught is beyond value. It’s something I think should be mandatory, if not in High School, at the very least during or right before college. There are way too many people (a huge percentage of them in government) who’ve never had to work a “real” job in their lives. These people have a marked lack of understanding of reality, average Joes, and the workaday world because of it.

I also worked at a Wendy’s as a young adult. Antinor is right, you smell like french fries when you got through with your shift.

The best thing about it was that when you walked out the door at the end of your shift, you forgot all about it. You don’t have to think about it again until you go in to work the next time. There’s a certain kind of freedom in that.

Another thing I liked about it was that it was always easy to get more hours if you wanted them. Other people were always trying to swap shifts or get someone to cover for them.

I also worked at Wendy’s–a 3-month spell right around the end of high school. I can’t say I really enjoyed it, but at the time it was OK.

Turned out my co-workers and managers were pretty cool. At first I got stuck on the salad bar. After a few days, only things I really did was go out on the floor, shuffle/add stuff to the salad bar, and then go to the walk-in and snack on said items. Another thing I liked to do was grind the meat though it froze my hands.

At the time a few of my co-workers didn’t have cars so I’d drive them home. This ultimately proved to give me autonomy at work, i.e., I could either wander or help the line during rushes. In return the managers/leads never gave me shit about doing stupid shit like wearing a pilgrim hat at the register or calling in sick at the last second.

Eventually, I got a better job with even more autonomy as a runner for an Ad agency. I did that until I went out of state for school.

But when I look back, my fast-food working experience was a breeze.

I don’t know if Pizza Hut qualifies as fast food, but it was one of the most fun jobs I have had. First of all, the avg. employee age was around 18, our manager couldn’t have been much older than 22. This made it fun with no real adults around. We all liked working there, there was a great deal of camraderie. It was one of our little town’s hotspots, so you got to see everyone and find out what was happening so you had a places to go and people to see after work. Making pizzas is fun, the morning crew did most of the harder work, and that really wasn’t all that hard. Even washing dishes and cleaning up after closing was fun because we goofed around so much. We all got to do deliveries, so we occassionally got to drive around super fast is company vehicles. The final and best part about working there is that the manager would let us make our own small pizza with whatever we wanted on it if we worked more than X amount of hours that day (I can’t remember the amount). I made some amazing pizzas.

I don’t work in a traditional fast food place…I work at a small cookie store (it is part of a chain though, and no, it’s not Mrs. Field’s). I like it because I was hired as a manager and we also do catering, so on my resume I guess it looks slightly fancier than just flipping burgers or whatever.

The people I work with are really awesome…most of them are college students or just graduated (I’m one of the just graduated)…they’re actually all guys, but it’s not a situation where I’m either put down or hit on for being the only girl…I fit in well as “one of the guys” and we joke around for much of the time.

The pay isn’t that awesome, but managers do get a raise and a bonus for being certified by the health department. I also get lots of hours. All in all it’s not that bad, and there is opportunity for growth.

I worked at a Coney Island when I was in high school. If there’s one thing it did for me, is it left me with a sense of perspective on what it’s actually like to be doing that job. Pretty much any retail or food service job will expose you to every entitlement-minded asshole “customer” in existence. You know, the people who cling to the phrase “the customer is always right” as either a license to treat you like shit, or as an obligation for you to kiss their asses.

net result is that if I’m a customer in a restaurant or a store and either someone working there makes an honest mistake or can’t get to me right away, I tend to look around and try to understand why. It might be because there’s some bitchy old douchebag at the counter who has needed the contents of a hamburger explained to him three times, or the bint who is insisting that she saw the “exact same” pair of pants at Kohl’s for less but has no proof of that; either case it isn’t the employees’ fault and I’m not going to get bent out of shape at them. I might be beaming intense hateful death rays at the idiot customer, though.

Remember Fast Times At Ridgemont High, and how seemingly everyone wanted to work at Burger World, or whatever the place was where Judge Reinhold’s character worked? I suppose it really happens. In my opinion it’s probably better than part time office jobs, where a teenaged part-time employee usually does mind-numbingly repetitive tasks which often have no apparent connection with the actual business of the firm. Then again, I never worked a fast-food job so I could be way off base.

Something that people here on the SDMB have said about fast food places is that they are actually quite tough work. Not so much in the sense that it’s difficult work, just that depending on the place, it’s constantly busy.

So that helps make for good resume padding. Expound the virtues of how hard you worked, et cetera.

Wow, there are quite a few Wendy’s workers here so far. Speaking of which, I also worked at Wendy’s, when I was 14 years old. The $4.25 hourly wage wasn’t much, but it was more than enough to fund my Nintendo game purchases and movie theater tickets. Also, a bunch of my friends worked there and I ate all the food I could possibly want so I’d say I definitely had some good times.

In any event, the job itself was way better than working retail or customer service, both of which I ended up doing a few years later.

I worked at Taco Bell for about 6 months. I didn’t like it very much. The job was okay, but the culture of the majority of the other workers just wasn’t my culture. There was no rencor or anything; we we’re just really, really different.

Then I worked at McDonald’s for about two years. I actually loved most aspects of that job, but I was good at it, and eventually started management training (but decided to go regular Army from the reserves, instead). I used to tell my nieces and nephews that they should do the same; it was a great character-building experience.

Worked at McDonad’s as a teenager. As others have noted, it teaches you about the worker-side of customer service. Having experienced what the cashier goes through in dealing with good customers, bad customers, and the occasional glitches that come up during the course of duty (delays, mixed up orders, various mistakes, etc.), I think it’s made me a better customer. Whereas I tried to give good customer service when I was behind the counter, I now endeavor to be a “good” customer when dealing with stores and restaurants. I try to be understanding when problems come up that are beyond the immediate control of the employee I’m dealing with, and to be diplomatic about how I air grievances, depending on whether they’re the fault of the employee I’m dealing with directly, or some other fault of the business that employs him. In either case, no pejoratives/insults/slurs: just honest criticism, and a clear statement of how I’d like to see my problem resolved.

Working in fast food also gives you a glimpse of a life you’d like to not live in the long term. On your feet for 8 hours a day working in a hot, greasy environment, dealing with surly customers, earning close to minimum wage with virtually zero benefits helps you to appreciate why it’s extremely valuable to stick to your schoolwork and pursue a line of work that you can live with for the long term.

Maybe that’s the “character” people speak of: you take on a range of experiences - some of them not entirely pleasant - so that you can appreciate how good you have it later on.

As others mentioned a couple times above, I’m of the opinion that working a couple service jobs like grocery store clerk, fast-food worker, etc. should be mandatory for everyone. The experience teaches teamwork, self-reliance and no small amount of humility.

In my past, I’ve worked at Wendy’s, the local grocery store and a school cafeteria or two.

It’s been my casual observance that you can tell if someone’s had a “McJob” or not by their actions. They’re the ones who return their shopping cart to the corral, rather than leaving it next to their car, and they’re the ones that don’t leave a big mess at their table or at the drinks/ketchup/napkins station.

Bonus points to the customers who clean up other people’s messes. I’m guilty of that one - the two or three seconds it takes me to grab some napkins and wipe up the spilled pop at the edge of the counter just might save someone from wearing pop after they lean across the spill to reach for a straw.

I used to work at a grocery store, and we had a shitty parking lot that was all bumpy and on a hill. Now, I don’t just return my cart to the corral, I take it all the way back to the store. Sometimes I’ll take other peoples’ carts too. Carting was just about the worst job at a grocery store, especially in the winter.

My first job was at Wendy’s. Then I moved on to Captain D’s (horrible; I smelled like fish for months!), back to Wendy’s, Taco Bell, a few hours at one of those tiny drive throughs…Central Park I think it was called. Three hours and I walked out.

The best part of working in fast food was how easy it was. You had to be fast, but it was easy work. At Wendy’s back then there was the big salad bar and my whole position was keeping it filled and keeping the dining room neat. Your meal was free and often when I worked closing I’d carry home a bag of whatever was left over that night. We did that a lot at Captain D’s too. When you’re poor, that’s good eating.