I’ve worked in fast food long enough to be able to tell you the make-up of nearly one hundred menu items. I’ll happily explain to you how we toast our buns and how to log into the free wifi; but please note that I can also show you how to graph a polynomial function, and I’d love to talk about how Shakespeare was kind of reclusive.
I work with a very diverse group of people. Some speak exclusively Spanish, some have kids, some don’t, and some are middle-aged. This job isn’t just for teenagers anymore. For most of the crew, this began as a last resort. I highly doubt any of us proudly proclaimed, “I can’t wait to make fries and bag orders when I grow up.”
Though everyone’s reasons for working in this industry are entirely different, most people who are working want to be there. Those who don’t work hard, don’t last. Some of my former coworkers have lasted three weeks, but I’ve seen people walk out after three years with the company. About 85% of the time, I really like my job; during that time, I think about managing, and about how I can make customers happier, and maybe even owning a franchise one day. I try to take it day by day, shift by shift. For right now I am comfortable, I just don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
To make your life and my life a little bit easier, here’s how not to be a dick to the employees at your favorite fast food establishment.
Say thank you.
During a six-hour shift, I’ll take about 300 orders. If I’m lucky, I’ll get 75, maybe 100 ‘thank yous’. When I leave for the day, I very rarely get a thank you from my managers. Usually, I end up staying longer than I was originally scheduled.
When my line of customers dwindles, or all of the french fries are packaged, I wordlessly grab my bag, or whatever measly possessions I have with me, and I thanklessly go home. No one bothers to acknowledge that I helped a trainee take an order for the first 10 minutes of my break, or that I kept things under control when a customer almost lashed out on said trainee an hour later.
Understand that I am an (intelligent) human being.
Breaking news right? Who knew that calling me fat or throwing food at me would have some kind of impact on me?! But seriously, don’t be that customer. Unlike goldfish, we actually remember when you treat us poorly, and we will judge you next time you come in.
When I work a certain amount of hours, I get a break. My breaks are 30 minutes long and with that time I have to eat my employee meal, call/text my friends and family, use the restroom, and take care of any work related things (asking for days off, view schedule, and maybe see if anyone needs a shift covered) if need be. This is usually an unremarkable thing to do.
Though sometimes, I’ll be eating my employee meal or chatting with my mother on the phone, and a customer walks up to me. Typically, it’s something petty, “Um, excuse me, the ketchup dispenser is COMPLETELY out of ketchup,” or maybe, “Could I possibly get someone to wipe down my table? It has crumbs and I REALLY enjoy sitting at that particular table because the light hits it at such a nice angle and I can be SO productive...” and the absolute worst is, “So, do you have to pay for this little smorgasbord here?” Well my friend, it’s a cheeseburger and some french fries -- and no, this $3.23 meal is on the company.
The most prevalent way that customers dehumanize us is by assuming that we are stupid. I have a near perfect GPA and I hope to be an engineer. I’m blessed to work with some of the most interesting and intelligent people I’ve ever met. A large chunk of my coworkers are college graduates who cannot find jobs. However, many of my coworkers are flighty and confused. Maybe even coddled by the company, failing to thrive as productive adults. It’s actually a really sad thing to witness.
Help me help you (have a nice meal).
About half of the orders we receive have some kind of special request. Most of these special orders are for the food, but some are for drinks too. Some are not too tricky, such as a plain hamburger, or a large coke with light ice. We tend to not mess those up. But once you start getting past 2 or 3 special request per item, we start getting thrown off.
If we do make a mistake, please let us fix it. How am I supposed to know there was an issue if you don’t tell me? And here’s the thing -- when I tell you I’m sorry about your food being messed up, I actually mean it. I know it’s a pain and it’s unnecessary and it should have been right the first time. But it wasn’t, so I’ll give you an extra sandwich or something for your trouble.
If you have children, control them.
Outside of work, I don’t really deal with young children -- it’s great. But at work, kids stress me out more than any adult customer ever could. Kids make messes. Kids try to get their own drink (usually mixing 5 different kinds), and then spill it everywhere, and then things get sticky. Kids see an employee open a cabinet, then they open the cabinet and take things out, and then things get lost. Kids run, sometimes into other customers. All of it is just very stressful.
The worst part of it, is that all of this nonsense could be prevented if parents just kept an eye on their children. It would be so great! Parents could teach their children valuable lessons about sitting in chairs, and children can remember the nice meal they had, and I wouldn’t be stressed. Seriously, everyone wins.
I value your time, so please value mine.
If you come through the drive through, we want your entire experience (from order taking to receiving your food) to be under 2 minutes. Similarly, if you come inside to order, your experience should take just over a minute. I truly want my customers’ needs to be met in a timely manner because that large coffee sure as hell is not going to make the customer late for their important meeting or for their kid’s graduation.
Reaching our time-related goals is really important when it comes to getting raises and promotions and all of that good stuff. When we don’t hit our goals, things just get stressful and messy. It’s not fun for anyone. However, our time goals are surprisingly easy to accomplish. The exception being those customers who have no idea what they want, and those who order $50 worth of food in the drive through; and for the love of all things greasy, please do not order gift cards in the drive through.