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In a world of shakes, fries, burgers, chicken nuggets and angry customers, fast-food has been America’s hot spot for decades. Although grabbing a quick bite is a common occurrence, not everyone sees the perspective from the other side of the counter. Employees are harassed and overwhelmed daily, which is why it’s important to see this perspective from just a handful of fast-food employees.
A great team starts with great leaders, which is why managers at fast-food establishments are vital for successful outcomes. Brian Butcher, a fast-food shift lead, has had three years of experience in the fast-food industry and a year in supervising his employees. He believes a common misconception that others may have about managers is that their role is easy.
“I see often people assume the managers aren’t working because they don’t often see them making burgers or working a register, but that’s not true,” Butcher said. “Often, if the manager is doing what they’re supposed to, they’re purposely putting their best people in the spots they’re best at and ensuring everything runs smoothly while only getting in a station when necessary.”
Not only do managers jump into positions when necessary, but they are often the first ones that are faced with stressful situations. Caleb Strickland, a fast-food manager, had his fair share of stressful situations after working extra hours on Halloween evening.
“I was supposed to leave at 7 p.m. that day, and didn’t leave until 10,” Strickland said. “With four people on the clock, a line around the building, the lobby and curbside full, I unfortunately got frustrated as I had already been there for 12 hours and decided to leave. Nothing has beaten that day, and it has almost been three years since.”
Butcher also had a stressful experience on an overnight shift, in which it was just him and another employee who couldn’t communicate with him well due to a language barrier on the evening of KOKEFEST, a country music festival held in Hutto, Texas.
“The entire night was full of drunk country music fans craving something to eat and trying to come into the lobby even while it was closed,” Butcher said. “It was hectic.”
Lainey Shore, a fast-food shift lead, believes that no matter what her team goes through, she will always strive to make it work.
“My employees and I make a good team, and my store has changed a lot especially in the three years that I’ve worked here, but it definitely changed for the better,” Shore said. “From some of the experiences I went through, I should’ve quit so long ago, but I stayed strong and now I’m making good money.”
Another key part of fast-food restaurants is efficient customer service. Although fast-food employees work to make customers happy, it’s not always easy when it comes to customers that choose to complain about simple mistakes or things that can’t be controlled.
Tiana Parker, a fast-food employee, often feels overwhelmed by how customers treat her, especially in an instance in which one of the first customers she had encountered during her morning shift verbally harassed her while she was working the drive-thru window.
“I had just clocked in, and it was busy, so I had to catch up quickly,” Parker said. “I suppose I was taking too long because the customer at the window cursed me out, but it wasn’t really my fault, and I was trying my best to keep up; I’m only one person.”
Butcher has encountered angry customers that turned things physical, such as when a customer decided to throw fries at him because they wanted onion rings instead, as well as Shore, who encountered a possibly dangerous customer on an overnight shift.
“We had this customer who would flip out when she would get to the window as she claimed she didn’t have enough money and would ask if we could cover it,” Shore said. “When we told her no, she would make a whole scene and start screaming, hitting her steering wheel and grinding her teeth. As a teenager, you don’t know how to respond to that.”
Strickland believes that it’s difficult to view others as kind due to the experiences he has had with customers, including people screaming at him for having to wait a longer time than expected for their food.
“The crazy encounters I’ve had with customers have made me think that most people are evil,”
Strickland said. “Some people never want to see the other side or have the mind of ‘it’s just fast food,’ so it makes things worse.”
Alex Velasco, a fast-food employee, has taken his experience with serving customers as a way to get ready for the world ahead of him.
“I think dealing with rude people helps me, to be honest, because it helps me adapt to the various ways people may act,” Velasco said. “There’s a bunch of people who can make your day and a bunch of people who can ruin it. It prepares you for the real world, though.”
The other important factor that goes into fast food is the cooks. Often, cooks go through the most stressful times during their shifts because of how quickly they must make food. They must also make sure it will be satisfactory enough for customers to enjoy.
Victoria Bobo, a fast-food cook, believes that even though she always feels overwhelmed, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“I get stressed from this job all the time, especially when it gets busy because it just feels extremely repetitive and it never stops,” Bobo said. “In order to keep me going, I just have to remember that I’m going to go home eventually, and I know that while I’m here, I’m making money.”
Deven Murray, a fast-food grill cook, doesn’t enjoy being a fast-food employee, but he thinks it’s a good motivator to move forward and be a successful human being.
“You’re in for a shitty time working in fast-food,” Murray said. “Use this just as a stepping stone, though, don’t be here forever.”
Although working in fast-food isn’t the most ideal thing, and can be a constant struggle, there are good things about working in fast-food, such as knowing that you are helping someone have a better day with good food.
“To keep myself going throughout the day, I know that I’m feeding a lot of people and making sure someone’s lunch or dinner was a pleasurable and delicious experience,” Butcher said.
If you decide to work in fast food, Bobo suggests keeping calm, even when the day is rough, and it feels never-ending.
“Honestly, don’t work in fast-food if you don’t have to, but if you do, don’t stress,” Bobo said. “It’s just food and it can always be remade.”
If these experiences from fast-food employees worry you, and you fear you may be part of the problem, Adam Toporek provides a great article over customer etiquette to guide you to be a good customer, and make the fast-food experience better for both you and the employees.
Written by: Hannah Walls