Students reflect on fast-food jobs


Illustration by Lillie Busch.

Many people view the fast-food industry as a low point in the job world. Despite this belief, students who have worked these jobs often gain valuable skills that will help them in the future. 

Sophomore sports coaching major Michael Perret began working in the fast-food business in 2015. While working at Ward’s, Perret learned various skills that would better equip him for future jobs in the food industry. He said that working there allowed him to prepare food in a timely manner while and grow his work ethic.

“There are many practical skills I learned that helped me when I went into cooking at restaurants, and I still use those skills today,” Perret said.

Although Perret is grateful for the life lessons he learned when working in the fast-food industry, he also said that the job had many negative qualities in addition to the benefits.

“It’s like sprinting a marathon,” Perret said. “If you’re not constantly working as fast as you can, you will soon not have a job anymore.”

While working for minimum wage, many fast-food employees eventually leave the business because of  the atmosphere or the work that goes into food production. Workers often see the job as a gateway before transitioning into other career opportunities.

Sophomore kinesiology major Katie Cork said that the fast-food industry was the beginning of a humbling experience. As a teenager, she worked at Wendy’s in 2017. Working $9 an hour, she had multiple benefits, including her coworkers, who she said treated her like family.

“It’s not the same for everyone,” Cork said. “But I had a great experience. I had a good crew and great managers that actually cared about me.”

With a positive outlook on her past employment, Cork said that there were also many negative aspects. Cork said that many people in the fast-food industry have to deal with rude customers with misplaced orders as well as being burned by hot stoves or grease.

“It teaches you to have tough skin,” Cork said. “You learn to be very efficient.”

Junior social work major Anna Webb worked at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts in 2015. Webb said the job was the start of her working career, especially in the food production business. She applied for the job in order to work with her friends who were recent hires. Webb said those friends made the job easier to handle and the atmosphere lighter than she initially imagined.

“I can’t speak for all fast-food restaurants, but working at Krispy Kreme was not as bad as many people make fast-food jobs out to be,” Webb said.

Webb says she left the job due to the amount of work, which was unbalanced with the amount of pay. Making only minimum wage, she decided to further her job search for a more suitable experience in food production. Webb reflected on how difficult it was to satisfy customers as a new hire.

“The worst part was having customers dissatisfied with the speed of the food being prepared,” Webb said. “People often disrespect the cashiers, who have no control over the food production.”

Although many fast-food workers consider the job to be unpleasant, Webb said the experience was worth it. Finding a new skill allowed her to not only step out of her comfort zone, but also to apply for additional jobs with that same background.

“I had some great times and created many memories. I also gained barista experience, which will help me with future potential occupations,” Webb said.

Although many fast-food workers are below the age of 25, many fast-food chains are slowly losing workers, according to a study by CNBC. According to the study, employee turnover for the fast food industry is around 150%.

The study also explained that many employees are being replaced by machines that allow customers to place their orders in a faster manner. Because these machines are not available at all fast-food locations, there are still cashiers to allow customers to order efficiently. Webb said there are essential things to remember when customers are ordering at the window.

“The faster you order, the faster we get your food to you,” Webb said. “Treat workers with respect, and they’ll do the same.”