Over five million people in the US work in fast food. Yet it’s one of the most commonly used examples of where people with no ambition end up.
People also consider flipping burgers as the number one job you’ll end up at if you do poorly in school. With all the negative stereotypes, it’s not surprising that some people are too embarrassed to fill out an application.
But is working the drive-thru as easy as some people make it seem? We’ll dive into the nitty gritty of fast food chains and check in with what folks on Facebook have to say about it.
Let’s clock in!
What Is Fast Food?
In the early 20th century, efficiency and convenience were in high demand. In urban areas, getting the fuel and tools to cook was expensive, and kitchen fires were much more common. Plus, wage workers began working predictable, 40-hour weeks.
City life encouraged people to get ready-made food. Fast food was a way to help commuters, travelers, and nine-to-fivers get affordable meals as fast as possible. Some restaurants even started using drive-thrus, so you didn’t have to get out of your car to pick up breakfast or lunch. White Castle was one of the earliest successful fast food stores.
Now, fast food chains like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Subway have franchises worldwide. While many people seem fine eating at these places, the idea of working there isn’t appealing to everyone. So we asked people on our Facebook page if they would be too embarrassed to work in fast food and found some interesting responses.
For example, one person was happy to clarify, “Not embarrassed, just would hate to do that type of job. I would rather beg on the corner for money if I needed it.”
Is It Stressful to Work in Fast Food?
If you think dealing with one hungry person is hard, try serving them without sitting for six to eight hours. But that’s just the beginning. As technology advances, it’s easier for managers in all industries to monitor productivity down to the second. Fast food workers get the brunt of this.
One journalist recently wrote a piece on working in the industry for Vox. He spent a month working at McDonald’s, and it was fascinating just how much bosses expected from their employees. Workers arrived twenty minutes early in some cases because the manager would yell at them for clocking in one minute late.
His coworker emphasized that every minute of every shift feels rushed, and there’s never a minute to chill. Sounds pretty stressful to us.
Pro Tip: Can you guess which fast food restaurant is the Least-Hated Fast Food Chain in the USA?
Disadvantages of Working in Fast Food
Beyond dealing with stress and the stereotypes of working in the service industry, there are some real disadvantages to the job. We’ve broken down a few of the biggest ones for you here.
Awful Working Hours
This isn’t a nine-to-five job. You can expect early mornings, late evenings, and weekend hours. Many locations are open late into the night, and some restaurants even operate 24/7.
But the worst part is just how unpredictable the schedule is. Most places will give you your weekly schedule a few days before it starts. So it’s virtually impossible to make any plans in advance if you never know when you’ll be on shift.
On Your Feet for Hours
You’d better hope you can find a cozy pair of non-slip shoes because you’ll be wearing them out. Rush hours require constant movement, but even if you get a break from customers, you’ll still have a lot of side work to do.
The only time you’ll get a chance to sit is on your lunch break. Expect to go home and crash on the couch with sore feet.
You Smell Like Food
Fried food has a distinct smell, and some people find it pleasant. Unfortunately, when you work in fast food, it’ll get old quickly when you realize how often you smell that way.
Even if you don’t notice it right away, your friends and family will. The odors cling to your hair and clothes well after you’ve clocked out. And it doesn’t matter if you’re cooking or ringing up food because the smell will find you.
Dealing with Angry Customers
When you’re on the clock, prepare to be a human punching bag. Even something as silly as a missing side of ranch dressing can send some people over the edge.
Sure, some people can make a complaint and stay reasonable. But you’ll witness some anger management outpatients lose it on you, which can be brutal. As someone on our Facebook post commented, “I wouldn’t put up with unruly customers….so I’d be fired pretty quick!!”
Benefits of Working in Fast Food
But working in the fast food industry isn’t all bad. There are some legitimate reasons it can be worthwhile to put up with the more challenging aspects.
Most chains offer a free meal for each shift you work. This can save you money on groceries and help you get very familiar with the menu. Plus, you’ll always get the extra ketchup or hot sauce you like when you’ve got an in with the kitchen.
But that’ll only be a benefit if you like the food at the place. Of course, too much of a good thing, even french fries, does have its drawbacks.
You Can Advance Quickly
There’s a lot of turnover at these places, probably because of the cons we discussed. But that means if you can stick it out, you’ll be able to move higher on the totem pole sooner. Most stores are always looking for hard workers who can keep up the pace.
This translates to higher pay and a little more say in your hours. You may also get access to other benefits as you advance, like employee education programs. As one person on our Facebook post said, “Whatever it takes to pay the bills.”
You Never Get Bored
Some jobs have a lot of downtimes where the clock seems to freeze. When you’re working fast food, though, that’s rarely a problem. You’ll always have something to do between serving customers and getting the place ready for the next rush.
So if you’d rather stay busy than get stuck watching the clock, it may actually be a good fit for you.
Some Provide Benefits
While demand for workers has created pay increases, money isn’t everything. Luckily, depending on the company, you can get decent health insurance working fast food. Some also offer 401k plans. Starbucks, Taco Bell, and McDonald’s are just a few examples of fast food chains offering these benefits. However, due to the high turnover rate, there’s usually a waiting period before you can join the employee plan.
Pro Tip: We ranked The 5 Best (and 5 Worst) Fast Food Burgers to help you decide where to eat.
Should You Work in Fast Food?
Working in the service industry, even for a few weeks, will certainly give you a new perspective. You’ll likely think twice before yelling at someone for messing up your order. Plus, people who work in fast food learn valuable life skills, like a sense of urgency and adaptability.
That doesn’t seem like anything to be ashamed of to us. As one person said, “I’d be more embarrassed if I was panhandling because I was too prideful to take an honest job.”
Plus, you can also find work just about anywhere once you have experience. It can be an excellent way to earn money if you like to travel. But it’s definitely not as easy as many people seem to think it is. If you want predictability and a laid-back environment, consider finding something else to pay the bills.
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