For the past eight months, I’ve been working in a fast casual food place. I never thought I’d ever hold a job like this coming out of college, yet here I am making food for hundreds of customers a day. Although it’s not the most glamorous vocation, it’s the kind of every person should work before going into their preferred career. There’s a lot to be learned from working in the food industry not only about cooking and cleaning, but also about social interaction and patience. Here are some of the things I’ve learned so far.
Obviously, free/discounted food is a plus.
It never occurred to me before I started working at a food place, but getting free or discounted meals is a great benefit. With any other job, you have to pay to eat. Whether you go to the store, a fast food place, or a sit down restaurant, it costs money. This perk is invaluable if you don’t have a lot of money to throw around or just want to save more money. Not only is it free or cheap, but usually you can eat whatever you want and as much as you want.
Making good food takes a lot of time and hard work.
Where I work, our opening shift of five people spends three hours getting the food and the store ready to go. This isn’t easy work. In the fast casual food industry, it takes time to make food fresh every morning. Creating food from fresh ingredients takes more time and energy, the added quality and taste pay off in the long run.
Some customers can be a pain in the butt.
Dealing with customers is the most challenging part of most jobs. Nowhere else is this truer than in the food industry. This isn’t to say every customer is bad. Most of the regular customers I see on a daily or weekly basis are pretty straightforward and courteous people. But other, infrequent customers are like children. They want their food a specific way and they want it now. They usually don’t care about how they get it. They usually don’t care about the people that get them their food. They just care about satisfying their hunger. That’s just the way things are. For some of my coworkers, dealing with customers is the most difficult part of working in the food industry. However, it’s not impossible. In my opinion, it’s a great way to learn exercising patience and courteousness in any situation and with any individual.
It’s a very repetitive and monotonous job.
If you are looking for thrills and excitement working at a food place, you won’t find much if any. Although you are expected to provide a good experience for the customer, the job is still about getting people through quickly and efficiently. It only takes about a month or two to figure out how to do a job proficiently. After that, it all slows down and becomes a grind. Every day is going to be a repeat of the same tasks you’ve performed before. To this end, the job becomes tedious and annoying at times. However, this isn’t unique only to the food industry and routine isn’t always a bad thing.
You’ll never look at the food service industry the same way again.
Although I said I never anticipated working at a food place, it’s proven to be a valuable and eye-opening experience. For one thing, it’s given me a better perspective and an appreciation for the work people put in to making and serving my food. Whether eating at a 5 star restaurant or McDonalds, food service is not easy work. It’s easy to forget the people you can’t see and the work they do to make a meal possible.
Your coworkers are what make your job enjoyable.
I know the adage goes “The customer comes first.” Even so, your coworkers are a close second. The thing that makes working at a food place tolerable and even enjoyable isn’t the free food or the money you get for working. It’s the people you work with. For the most part, I’ve become friends with everyone at work. Sure, there are some people you’d rather not associate with, but for the most part, everyone is there to do a job. Why not have a little fun while you are there? It’s simply too difficult to put your head down and only focus on your job. You won’t last long that way. Either you will hate it, your coworkers will hate it, or both groups will hate it. Might as well make nice from the start and make as many friends as you can.
Overall, working in food service is difficult, especially if you aren’t accustomed to food preparation or customer interaction. However, it’s not hard to pick up and it’s a very worthwhile experience in my opinion. It’s not something I plan to stay with forever, but learning the skills and work ethic of the trade are easily applicable to any other career or job. Hard work and good customer skills are a plus in any field. There’s no better place to learn both than in the food industry. If you never have to work in it, you aren’t missing out. However, I hope you keep in mind that it’s not an easy job. A lot more goes into that meal than you would think.