What I Learned Working Fast Food

My first job when I was 16 was at my local Chick-Fil-A. If I’m being honest, I wasn’t too happy about it. Since I’m from a small town most of the retail stores only hired 18 year olds and my mom couldn’t get me to step foot into any other fast food place to put in my application. Little did I know that after almost three years with the company I would walk away with so much more appreciation for not only the people that work at fast food restaurants, but the importance of having a strong brand. And that I would still say my pleasure in the most awkward situations and be recognized around town as the energetic girl on headset. Here’s what I learned working fast food from nearly three years in food service.

Turn off your windshield wipers in the drive-thru

A good portion of the time I spent working at Chick-Fil-A was spent either handling money at the drive-thru window or on head-set for the drive-thru. Since Chick-Fil-A is built on southern hospitality values it’s against the rules to close the window if a guest is waiting for their food, so whether rain or shine (or snow) the window is open. When you pull up to the drive-thru at any fast food place and see a soaking wet person the register, chances are it’s because guests have their windshield wipers on and it’s getting the person working window wet. I promise it’s much appreciated if you turn them off. I can actually recall several guests I served at the window who laughed as they turned off their wipers and said, “I worked food in high school too, wind shield wipers are the worst!”

Delays in food being ready are out of our control

I can’t tell you how many times guests would say that we were simply watching their food get cold or didn’t know what we were doing when there were delays in food getting out, but the delays were typically beyond our control. One time one of the fryers was out, sometimes it was because of dinner rush, and other times it was because we were short staffed. We will always do our best and never want you to have to wait too long for food, but sometimes the delays are out of our control.

If you have change or exact change, don’t feel like you need to be in a hurry to get it to us

Never feel bad about taking a few extra seconds to hand us change/exact change. Speaking from experience, I can say I definitely appreciate getting more change to put in my cash drawer, especially if you have pennies or quarters.

We really do say “my pleasure” at the most awkward times outside of work

Yes, it’s true. Chick-Fil-A employees especially will say my pleasure at the most awkward times outside of work. To this day my most awkward moment was visiting a local shoe store, going to pay, the employee thanking me for handing her my card, me replying “my pleasure!” and then her saying that she knew I was the girl from drive-thru at Chick-Fil-A. Even after leaving Chick-Fil-A two years ago this woman still recognizes me when I walk into her store.

The person on headset can hear you just as well as you can hear them (Read: they probably can’t hear you very well)

As I mentioned previously I spent a lot of time on headset. Most of the time I heard the guest say, “could you repeat that? I can’t hear you.” Chances are, if you can’t hear the person on headset, they also can’t hear you very well. You will basically become the guest of the day if you speak loudly and clearly and are patient if you are asked to repeat part of your order because we can’t hear.

We appreciate (and typically remember) the customers who smile, are nice, and thank us

Customer service isn’t always the most fun field to work in. Guests are often rude and generally not very happy. Was that last sentence harsh? Yes. Is it true? Absolutely. And not all guests are rude, but a larger portion than what people realize aren’t the nicest people out there. If you can break that spell of rude and unhappy, we will appreciate and remember you. I’ll never forget getting yelled at by a guest for being useless for not giving her a meal for free when the next guest walked up to me and smiled and said, “I’m so sorry she yelled at you. I hope you are having a good day though.” Then stayed and chatted with me until I felt better after being yelled at. I recognized her every time she came through our door after that.

We will go out of our way to give you the best service we can

Even when guests aren’t the nicest, we want to go out of our way to give you the best service possible. I’ll never forget watching my managers and fellw co-workers go running out the front door to get something to a car that went through drive-thru that they forgot or when it was pouring rain and my managers were outside with umbrellas walking guests in from their cars.

We ask you to take the lid off your cup for a refresh for efficiency and cleanliness

Probably one of the most awkward questions to be asked while working at Chick-Fil-A was “is taking off my lid for your sake or mine?” It’s for efficiency so we don’t have to grab you a new lid and straw after we’ve taken it off and for cleanliness so we aren’t touching a lid you’ve been touching and spreading germs both ways.

You should never feel that you are “above” or “too good” for any kind of work

Working in fast food taught me a big lesson: I should never be “above” or “too good” for any kind of work. One day I could go on to be the chief marketing officer of a company, a manager, or own lots of businesses, but I never want to feel above the people that work fast food. You never know why someone is working any kind of minimum wage job. Maybe they went back to college at 40 and it’s a second job to help pay off debt, they needed to get out of the house and a job was the perfect way to do so, or it’s how they pay their bills. Never do I want to look down on people working any form of minimum wage job no matter where I make it in life.

Appreciate your co-workers, no matter their age, gender, etc.

Always appreciate your co-workers no matter how old they are, what their position is with the company, etc. Your co-workers are the ones that make your work experience, which makes it extra important to treat them well. I was not happy when I realized I’d be working in food, but my coworkers are what made my experience wonderful. I promise, work friends are a wonderful thing.

Chick-Fil-A gives you high expectations for any brand, food service, or customer service

The marketing and brand nerd in me is talking when I say after working for Chick-Fil-A I have super high expectations for how customer service should be. Working for a company where it’s policy to have the drive-thru window open the whole time a guest is waiting, where the goal is to have the guest’s food and drink in hand by the time they make it to the drive-thru window, and where we value face-to-face communication to the point where employees stand outside with iPads to take your order, I have rather high expectations for customer service. I won’t go too much into detail, but to say the least I have very high expectations for how customer service needs to be now.

Have you ever worked fast food? Have you worked in customer service? What did you learn from the experience? Anything you would add to this list? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!