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Did you ever work at a fast food restaurant? [moved from Food Media and News]

I did. Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips. It was my first job. I was 16 and probably stayed right through high school graduation in 1979. I reeked to high heaven of fish and grease after a shift. I was not allowed to meet up with my friends after work until I went home and had a shower. I did love the food though. Hey, I was 16. Plus, we were able to come up with crazy combinations of food because we worked there. Most of the other workers were older than me (in college) and would take me out drinking with them afterward. Yes, I was 16, but the drinking age was 18 then and I was older looking for my age. It was not an easy job but we had a blast working there.

How about you?

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  1. I worked at McDonalds when I was 13 years old. 2 of the 3 main managers were miserable people and that attitude infected the whole place. However, the 3rd manager was a great guy, and, at times, when he was there, the attitude would lighten up.

    1. My senior year of HS I was the head "fry cook" at a Chicken Unlimited. The company I worked for the past couple of years went under. My mother until the day she died thought that they had the best chicken - I actually brought home coating for her to do her own several times. Mr. D let me bring home a 50# bag of the coating for her once. Now they are all Brown's Chicken (I think) except for a few in Florida which is all that remains of a 400 unit chain.

      As the oldest employee outside of the owner and the great guy who in college and had worked there since he was 14 and was the accountant for the place, I had a ball. I got caught on break several times in the freezer with the rotating girlfriends, etc. The owner was a great guy who tolerated anything legal IF THE PLACE WAS CLEAN AND THE CUSTOMERS WERE HAPPY. If I ever pick up a franchise, 'Mr. D" is my goal to emulate.

      1. Mcdonald's from 16-18. I don't know how much things have changed but they were very well run, organized back then. We had to take tests (like knowing that 4 oz of ice cream went into a sundae or fries beeped at 1 1/2 mins before you had to toss or the 6 stages of selling or how long each meat was cooked) that I had to study pretty hard for (and I was a good student at school!). Then they'd have field days when the supervisor would come in and watch you, with a stop watch to make sure you had your orders out in a certain time, or that you did the 6 stages of selling and don't try to forget the selective selling (Do you want fries with that?). I was a good worker, never slacked, but marked down because a woman came in w/ her child and I gave them two napkins for one burger instead of one (one per sandwich). I thought they'd be sharing and could use two. And, then there were the surprise visits when you didn't know the person was a supervisor... It was kind of suffocating now that I think about it. And, that's not even getting into the polyester double knit uniforms that NO teenage girl would want to be caught dead in.

        12 Replies
        1. re: chowser

          "And, that's not even getting into the polyester double knit uniforms that NO teenage girl would want to be caught dead in."

          The uniforms at Arthur Treacher's for the girls were some kind of take on a Scottish plaid! Pants and blouses. Hideous. One day one of the girls spilled a hot pot of coffee on her leg and the polyester stuck to her. It was pretty horrific.

          1. re: chowser

            I was fired from McDonalds after a couple of months. I was trying to keep myself intellectually engaged, so I experimented with the six steps and figured out that if I re-ordered them, I could serve customers more quickly. My innovation (and my refusal to abandon it, because it worked) was not favorably regarded.

            I then went on to a successful multi-year stint at Roy Rogers, a much better place to work, because it was in a mall and I could play Asteroids at the arcade during my break.

            1. re: small h

              Anyone remember the Frost Top chain? I worked there in Tyler, Tx. in the sixties. I learned a lot of valuable lessons during my years there. The owner, Dick Doyle, taught me work ethic, the value of a dollar, and how to treat a paying customer. We need a Dick Doyle school of customer service in today's world. RIP Mr. Doyle.

            2. re: chowser

              Chowser, your experience and my experience were pretty damn different. Interesting.

              1. re: DougRisk

                Aren't McDonald's franchised operations? Wouldn't the ownership and management teams employed account for the difference in experiences?

                1. re: ttoommyy

                  I can believe it. I only know what happened at the McDonalds in Leonardo NJ in 1988.
                  - No tests.
                  - No exams.
                  - No surprise inspections

                  On my very fist day on the job, at 13 years old, I was told to work the large garbage compactor out back even though it had a big sign on it that said no one was to operate it under the age of 18.

                  1. re: DougRisk

                    "On my very fist day on the job, at 13 years old, I was told to work the large garbage compactor out back even though it had a big sign on it that said no one was to operate it under the age of 18."

                    Now that's a franchise owner with a lawsuit in his future!

                2. re: DougRisk

                  Yeah, I can't believe they let a 13 year old work! We had a strict 16, though that was a state law. I wonder if it was a franchise difference (I don't know if mine was franchise or corporate) or time (late 70's, early 80's). As tests go, I was about the only one who took them seriously. Each test passed was a nickel per hour raise. I was probably the highest paid worker.

                  1. re: chowser

                    I don't remember the exact laws, but, in NJ, I believe that the law was something like 15 or 16. That is, for working, say, up to 30 hours per week (don't quote me on any of this).

                    However, they had some sort of program that would allow 13 year old kids to work if they got a special form signed by the parents. So, some businesses came to the junior high and you could sort of interview with them. McDonalds was one of them, and I got hired.

                    1. re: DougRisk

                      In Philadelphia (probably all of PA, but I was a teen in Philly), you could start working at 14 if you got "working papers," which just meant a parent took you down and signed that it was OK for you to work. There was an hours limit (I thought it was 20 hrs\week, but like Doug, I'm fuzzy on this).

                      However, newspaper delivery was exempt from this, so I really started working at 11.

                      1. re: gaffk

                        GaffK, that sounds exactly what we did, so, you probably have the numbers right. If I remember correctly, there are something like, 8 exemptions to the Child Labor laws, paper boy being one of them (i.e. working at your parents restaurant, mowing lawns, etc.).

                3. re: chowser

                  I had to wear one of those hideous orange and brown scratchy polyester uniforms (elastic waist!) for the 6 weeks I worked at Burger King the summer before I left for college. I would like to say the uniform was the worst aspect of the job, but unfortunately, it was not.

                4. I worked at Burger King for a very brief stint in high school. The job wasn't bad, except it was circa 1980, when the uniform was that brown, orange and yellow polyester with a poofy hat. And it was only a few blocks from home so I had to walk back and forth in that fashion statement. I got fired for having the unmitigated gaul to take a vacation during my 3-month "probationary" period. I was a high school kid, it was summer, my parents had plans for the family (and that inluded their daughter).

                  After that I got a job in a mom & pop pizza place making steak sandwiches, hoagies, etc. Other than smelling like fried onions, it was a much better job. The delivery guys would pick up beer to put in the walk-in so we could enjoy clean up time. That's also where I learned to make a serviceable pipe out of restaurant-grade aluminim foil. Funny when I think about it--we were only in high school and the owners lived above the restaurant and were down often (they did insist we put the beer in drinking cups)--different era. (And believe me, with the Italian "mom" of the mom & pop, that place was CLEAN when we left for the night.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: gaffk

                    I forgot--I worked at Burger King before I worked at McDonald's. I was also fired for taking a vacation and telling a manager who forgot so I didn't show up for the shift I was assigned (I was a high school kid, too, with no control over my vacation). The head manager manager didn't care. It was a far cry from the overly managed job at McDonald's. They put me on stations w/out telling me what and how much went on anything. What, no mustard on a Whopper? Who knew? How much ketchup? I didn't know, just piled it on. At McDonald's, it was all controlled, pull the trigger, the right amount came out--they could have used a robot.

                    1. re: chowser

                      The BK I worked on was pretty well controlled. Each employee had a station--I was at the whopper board. And we had cards taped up telling us how much of each thing went on the whopper.

                      Funny aside--I've never actually eaten a whopper. At the time, BK had an Italian chicken sandwich: fried chicken cutlet, mozzarella and marinara sauce. These were easily the best thing BK served but not very popular. So every now and then, the chicken board person would "accidentally" make an extra one. After it sat the requisite time (I forget if it was 7 or 9 mins), it had to be discarded; but the managers always let us eat it ;)

                    2. re: gaffk

                      My first real job was at Burger King, 1981-82, and I had that same brown, orange and yellow polyester uniform. My mother would wash it separately from all the other laundry in extra hot water and hang it in the backyard to air out, but the smell of french fry and burger grease never ever went away. And I mostly worked the "front of the house" (cashier or drive through), not the food prep stations. We also experimented with our own customized food items for breaks - I can still taste the original chicken sandwich with extra mayo, cheese and bacon. Oh, to once again be young and blissfully unconcerned about fat and carbs.

                      1. re: cookie monster

                        You're lucky . . . I had to wash my own uniform. I think I threw baking soda in to try to cut the aroma; but as we know, polyester can really hold a scent. It used to crack us up when guys would try to flirt when we were in that outfit, but now that I think about it, the smell of onions and burger grease was probably a turn on to the average American teenage boy.

                        1. re: cookie monster

                          We did the same thing with my BK uniform. My dad would pour distilled vinegar in with the Tide to cut the french fry grease, which was somewhat effective.

                      2. My first job at 16 (outside of my family's business) was at Arthur Treachers too. I had never tried it before, but loved the chicken sandwich and the fish sandwich covered with liquid "cheese". Then I got double pneumonia and missed a few weeks. The manager decided to jerk me around after I was well enough to come back (hospital receipt and doctors note) and scheduled me daily for one hour. I found something else fast.

                        I did a 1 month stint at McDonalds when I was in college. I had never had problems with acne until then. All the grease in the air made my face look very unappetizing! This was my first experience with a place requiring you to come in so they could determine if you were sick - I had tried to call in first thing that morning. I came in with the type of cold where your nose just won't stop - and they wanted to put me on a register until the person I found to fill the position could come in. I looked at the manager and asked "would you really want this nose handling your family's food?" We had a stare down for a few moments and he told me to get out of there....

                        So ended my life in fast food.