To understand the field a distinction has to be made. There are restaurant workers and there are fast food workers. Each of these workplaces has an entirely different underlying dynamic system. In a restaurant there is a preference for individuals specialized in particular fields, such as cooking or taking orders. However, in a fast food place there is an emphasis on efficiency and quantity of output. We will distinguish the difference between these two fields, and show a job description, skills required, and how to get into either of these industries.
Let’s begin with fast food, and in order to do that we first have to deal with some of the stigmas and beliefs of working in fast food. Working in fast food, while low skill, is not an easy job. There are frustrating customers, annoying managers, and you will have to deal with the pressure of hundreds of people wanting food every day. It doesn’t sound like an appealing job, but if you are young or are in need of a job then it can be very useful. Actually, let’s begin by outlining the pros and cons of working in a fast food place.
- Getting a job in the industry is fairly easy. If you have a low education (e.g. dropped out of high school) or speak very little English, then fast food can be your only option. Additionally, people with particular disabilities which have trouble working many jobs can sometimes find their place in fast food.
- The training and policy on hygiene and preparation is simple and takes little time. This is a positive, as it means that you can immediately get to work and there isn’t much for you to remember when working.
- Some fast food places offer retirement or health benefits.
- In some places you can get free food.
- Getting a promotion in the fast food area is not difficult, but it is hard for you to rise very high. If you work well in a fast food place for a couple of months, then you will be able to become a manager. The hierarchy of fast food places is fairly simple and easy to rise up through, but after you get to be the full-time general manager of your fast food place then it becomes much more difficult to rise higher.
- (For teenagers/young adults) By working in a fast food place you will work with a lot of people that either share your shift, or at least work during some of the hours you do. This teamwork relationship can lead to friendships and general life skills for future jobs.
- As mentioned before: Fast food is not an easy job. You will have to deal with pressure, frustrating customers, annoying managers, and more. For a job with bad pay this can be horrible and can lead to you hating the entire service industry for the rest of your life.
- The pay is very bad. The exact details will be specified further down in the post.
- Workload, team members, managers, etc… Everything is inconsistent. Everything constantly changes. There are many teenagers just working for a couple of months, and for many fast food is just an interim job.
- You might not be allowed to work long hours in the beginning. Some fast food restaurants make you work for a couple of months before they allow you to work for 30+ hours a week.
- The atmosphere can be horrible. Terrible smell, guests ruining restrooms, and being surrounded by bad people can make your life miserable.
- Sometimes working extra-hard can work to your disadvantage. There are many people in fast food that seek to take advantage of others. If someone sees that you are willing to constantly work overtime and do the dirty work then others might take advantage of that. Just keep that in mind.
Overall, the cons generally outweigh the pros in fast food, but this is dependent of where you work. An in-depth analysis of specific fast food places will be done later on the website, so sign up to the email service to get a message when a new post has been added. Anyway, let’s start describing the job:
In a fast food place the majority of the tasks are fairly low skill. This means that rather than specialising in a particular aspect of the job (such as a restaurant with a chef, waiter, etc…), there is more emphasis placed upon people that have a variety of skills. Individuals who are excellent at multitasking and teamwork are much more valued in the workplace, rather than someone who just knows how to flip burgers really well. The most important aspect of fast food is the fact that it is fast. Efficiency and quantity is much more important than quality.
Here’s a list of the responsibilities you will have in fast food (from careerplanner.com):
- Maintain sanitation, health, and safety standards in work areas
- Clean food preparation areas, cooking surfaces, and utensils.
- Operate large-volume cooking equipment such as grills, deep-fat fryers, or griddles.
- Verify that prepared food meets requirements for quality and quantity.
- Take food and drink orders and receive payment from customers.
- Read food order slips or receive verbal instructions as to food required by patron, and prepare and cook food according to instructions.
- Wash, cut, and prepare foods designated for cooking.
- Measure ingredients required for specific food items being prepared.
- Cook and package batches of food, such as hamburgers and fried chicken, which are prepared to order or kept warm until sold.
The average salary of a fast food worker is about 8 dollars per hour. But you can start with a lower salary than that, and after a couple of months to years of working you can be earning more than that. Again, this varies per fast food place, but no fast food place is going to offer a salary higher than 20,000 dollars per year in the beginning.
There is no specific level of education required. Whether you’re a high school student or a dropout is irrelevant. However, this does not mean that there are no skills required. In order to get a job in fast food you should have a proper, well-mannered appearance during the application process. Do not hesitate to apply to multiple jobs at once, sometimes fast food places have too many people applying at the same time so you might be rejected, regardless of skill-level or appearance.
Where to apply will be outlined in the next section.
Once you have landed yourself a fast food job it helps to have skills in customer service skills, teamwork skills, kitchen skills, and cleaning skills. Cleaning is quite self-explanatory, but I will explain the other ones more in-depth.
Customer Service Skills: You need to be able to take orders, payments, and be able to hand back change. If you suffer from some form of social anxiety this is difficult, but it is a necessary part of the job.
Teamwork skills: You have to learn how to communicate orders well. However, some modern fast food places have systems set in place where you don’t even have to speak to anyone, and you just get the orders either through computer or a slip of paper.
Kitchen Skills: Know your way around the kitchen, don’t get in anybody’s way, and know how each item is made. There is a manual for each of the recipes so don’t worry about that, but operating all the kitchen equipment and working in a hectic environment is part of the job.
How to get a fast food job:
Everything is done online these days, and if you go on indeed then you can put in your zip code/area and your required job (fast food) and a bunch of options and links will start showing up. Also, if you have specific fast food place close to you then just ask if they have a job available, and then set up and start the application that way.
There is a clear difference between a fast food restaurant and a normal restaurant. Most restaurants have set positions, and there is more focus on people that specialise in a particular field, like cooking, rather than wanting people who are capable of many things at once. There is an emphasis on quality, but there also has to be efficiency. The jobs available in a restaurant are based upon what types of restaurant it is and what level of quality or status a restaurant has. For example, a low class Italian restaurant will only require and be able to hire workers of a particular ability. They will likely not need a bartender or baker, and their entire business would work with just a chef, manager, and a waiter, all of which only having a high school education. However, higher class restaurants require workers with a high skill level. The variation of restaurant and class/status of the restaurant is immensely important when it comes to the type of jobs and skill level required for those jobs. In the future a more in-depth analysis of this will be made, so make sure you have registered your email for blog updates.
This post will only focus on restaurants which require low skill workers (e.g. workers with no experience); because we believe this information would apply to a larger audience.
Even low class restaurants require several workers specialising in different things. There are several jobs that a low skill worker could apply for:
- Front of the house staff
- Servers are responsible for taking orders, providing customer service, serving food and drinks, and removing dinnerware.
- Hosts are responsible for greeting guests as they enter, guiding guests to a table, and providing them with a menu.
- Bussers are responsible for cleaning plates, taking plates/drinks back to the kitchen, refill drinks, and being a backup for the servers.
- Back of the house staff
- Line Cook
- Line Cooks are responsible for preparing ingredients and assembling the dishes to restaurant specifications.
- Prep Cook
- Prep Cooks are responsible for cutting vegetables, grinding meat, and all other actual meal preparations. A prep cook works directly under the head chef.
- Line Cook
The most important thing to note here is the difference between front of the house staff and back of the house staff. For a server or waiter working in the front of the house staff, all that is needed are good enough people skills and an ability to write down orders. This means that the actual skill level required is fairly low. For the back of the house staff you will need to follow instructions from the head chef, be able to cut vegetables and work a meat grinder, and the general tasks require quick learning and self-awareness in the kitchen. However, a cook has a greater chance of rising in the hierarchy. A waiter tends to stay a waiter, or it is seen as a part time job, but a cook learning under a chef can at one point become a chef. Even though the initial pay might not be great it is possible to work your way up and possibly even start your own restaurant.
The average salary of a waiter is only around 5 dollars per hour, but due to the tips being a primary part of the earnings that number can go up by 1-16 dollars per hour. This pay is subject to change. For instance, you can have a really lousy day and only average 6 dollars per hour, or you can have a really great day and average up to 10-15 dollars per hour. The median annual earnings of a waiter are around 23,000 dollars.
A host or hostess earns on average around 9 dollars per hour and a busser earns around 8 dollars per hour. In neither of these jobs do you earn many tips.
A prep cook earns around 10 dollars per hour, but if you get promoted to a line cook you can earn around dollars per hour. However, keep in mind that after many years of experience in this field you might be able to become a head chef of a restaurant, which can earn you 14 dollars an hour, or 44,000 dollars annually.
For a waiter/server, host, or busser you do not need any experience. Often times you can get a job in this field with a simple interview or trial. What is important to understand is that your job would be based completely on interacting with people. There can be loud guests and people that don’t tip, and these can be things which can make your job difficult. It is important that you never lose your cool, are charming, and provide great service.
As a prep cook you would need some experience, but that can also be earned while you work there. It might seem simple to prepare a dish or prepare some vegetables, but in a high intensity workplace you will be prone to error. If you make a big mistake you might get fired, but if you work well you could get promoted to a line cook.
How to get a restaurant job:
Using the indeed service and you can find all available jobs near you.