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  • Writer's pictureYadi Martínez-Reyna

What I Learned Working at a Fast Food Restaurant

Published: OCTOBER 14, 2016 BY YADI MARTINEZ

We’ve all visited fast food restaurants. When you pull into the window a person will take your order through an intercom and within minutes your food is ready. Many of us might know young people who work at fast food restaurants, or we may have worked at a fast food restaurant ourselves. One day I decided to work at one of these fine establishments. If a high school student can do it, how hard can it be? Here are a few things I learned from this experience.

#1. It is all about racing against time. 

The first thing I learned is the complexity of wearing a headset, listening to customers, and typing orders into a computer. Then there are those special requests that come with “hold this” and “add that” to their order. From the time a person speaks there is an entire team in the kitchen listening in anticipation. Then the moment the customer hears their total amount due there is an internal clock that starts running with an expected delivery time of 3 to 4 minutes. My best window clerks turned out to be the high school students who thrived in this environment. With guidelines and a clear understanding of what was expected teens can do this work with such ease.

#2.  The customer is always right.

We have heard this many times: the customer is always right. The reality is, some customers I would not recognize on Sundays. Nothing left me more troubled than a grown person yelling at a teen at the register about how angry they were that their food was wrong. Being nice—or at least respectful—also extends to those who are serving you, even if you are paying for that service. I was challenged to show grace as I gave a free drink, food, and an apology to someone that clearly did not deserve it. But just like ministry, our teens look at us during stressful situations to see our reactions and we must smile when inside we are really grimacing.

#3.  I recognized my privilege

I enjoyed getting to know the kitchen staff who spoke limited Spanish or none at all.  I learned the hard work behind cleaning a restaurant, washing dishes, and frying food. I had thought about privilege as those in the 1%. I had not thought of myself as being privileged. Despite a humble upbringing, my siblings and I were able to go to college and start a career. I have never thought about how difficult it was to adjust to a new country, find employment, or figure out how to get a checking account to pay rent. I also never thought that it was a waste of time for my teen to go to college when the family could use the extra help and income.

Working at a fast food restaurant reminded me to be humble. Despite the hard work I will remember fondly the laughter, the inside jokes, and the people I worked with.  Ministry is so similar even if we don’t wear a headset. We race against time, we work patiently with the congregants as we do with customers who forget to be gracious, and we remember to check our privilege. We have chosen to serve others and put on the apron as we say “how can I help you?”  Let us remember to hold the judgment, add more grace, and wrap whatever we give to our teens and others in love as we deliver everything with a smile.


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