It's no surprise that working in the food industry comes with its ups and downs, with the downs sometimes making anyone question whether or not the job is worth the time. There are many instances where the food service industry can be too much, ranging from unruly customers to lazy managers, here are some of the highlights as told by current and former food service workers.
"I had a man come through my line to buy one solitary, baby banana. It didn’t have a sticker on it so I pulled out my PLU book and found the baby banana code and it rang up at 26¢. This man gets all angry and says, 'You’re overcharging me!' I tell him that’s the code and that’s all I can do. So he asks my manager to come over (note: this is during a super busy time of the day) and tells her the situation. She says he can just have it, and he gets even angrier, saying he wants to pay for it but he wants to pay the right price. Eventually we convince him to just take it and go. My manager then tells me he comes in all the time and goes out of his way to make the employees miserable (he even made another employee cry once).
He then decides to come through my line again a few minutes later with the same baby banana and this time a sticker and hands the sticker to me and goes, 'Maybe you’ll get it right this time.' I use the code and it comes to 11¢ so whoop-di-doo, this man saved a whopping 15¢.
THEN he comes through my line for a THIRD time, with the same baby banana and goes, 'This one’s just practice for next time,' with the smuggest grin on his face. I have never actually wanted to slap a customer more than in that moment."
"I was working at a McDonald's while in post-secondary school, we had a team bus park and the entire baseball team defecated in the same toilet without flushing.
The pile was higher than the toilet seat, nasty. The last few must have been standing on the seat and squatting. Shake. My. Head.
My manager sends me to 'clean the bathrooms.' I cleaned the ladies room first and I had no idea this was waiting for me.
I cleaned everything but the bowl of that toilet. That washroom was spotless except for poop Mountain. So when my manager came to check on my progress (something he never did other times) and saw the pile was still there, he tried to chew my out for it. I looked him dead in the eye and said, 'I do not get paid enough to clean something like that up, fire me if you want but I'm not touching that.'
He ended up going to a near by dollar store and came back with elbow length gloves, a bucket, a lil shovel, and a longer sharp knife. He donned the chemical mask for acid cleaning the grills and a rubber addition from the dish area and got all geared up. Told us all after that he had to shovel it all into the bucket, then flush a couple shovels full at a time.
Yeah, not getting paid enough for that."
"I used to managed a rather famous donut chain (at least in Colorado and Kansas), when I was a teen. I was filling in at another shop and we were getting a big order ready. One of the production guys (Jose) had said that he was going on break. Usually I'd give the guys 20 minutes or so if they just needed some air aside from their standard break periods. Well 30 minutes had passed and I decided to go take a peek out back. The guys worked nights, they'd sometimes fall asleep out back if they sat down too long.
I found him flat on his back on the concrete walkway behind the shop. He wasn't breathing. I hollered for one of my co-workers and began administering CPR. The firehouse was literally right across the street so they were there in maybe a minute or two tops and took over. He didn't make it.
I called the regional manager to let her know what had happened and her response was, 'Well, did you make sure to clock him out?' Then she let out a long raspy laugh. She then said, 'See if you can knock his hours down a bit, that store is way over its labor budget and we're going to have to cut a check to his wife and kids today, probably. Oh and make sure that order goes out on time!'
I walked out of the office and talked to the other production guys. Most all the production guys at this donut chain were illegal immigrants and it turns out they'd often be threatened by the regional manager with deportation whenever they'd ask for a raise to above minimum wage or if they weren't willing to work enough hours. Turns out Jose regularly needed to get dialysis but hadn't been doing so because every time he'd try to get time off for treatment, the regional manager would threaten to call immigration. This was a guy with a wife and two young daughters and despite your feelings on illegal immigration, he didn't deserve what he got for trying to provide for his family.
They later called me from the corporate office to tell me his wife was coming in to pick up his final check and that they needed final numbers. Let's just say somebody got a whole bunch of overtime hours right before I quit. Forget that place. That wasn't even the worst thing that happened to me at that place."
"My uncle owns this restaurant chain. I work there, alongside some of my cousins. His eldest son is 11 and can barely understand Filipino, which is the language pretty much everyone speaks there. One time my uncle had to run some errands elsewhere and he left his son as the temporary manager. I guess it makes sense, since he'll eventually inherit the company, and asked me to help him with whatever, since I'm his favorite cousin, and I can actually understand what people are saying.
So we get a complaint from this random customer who starts insulting me even though I don't recall doing anything wrong. They ask for the manager, so I go to fetch him. They then start yelling at him about me, in Filipino. Of course he doesn't get 90% of what they're saying, so I had to translate every little insult and comment for him in English. Felt like I was insulting myself."
"When I was 17, I was working for a catering company that was hired as extra help for the PGA Phoenix Open. We basically were add-on employees for the main catering company. I'm working with my my mom, my girlfriend, and my dad. Anyways, each day we are basically just making different sandwiches or wraps. You had to have 6 trays out at all times. Now, not to brag, but I am great at making sandwiches in a quick hurry. I was working hole 16, which is the only hole in golf you can heckle the golfers. We were warned that we would have the highest amount of foot traffic out of any area in the event. Every day, we are getting slaughtered, booths are running out of sandwiches because they cant make them fast enough.
And then Saturday happened.
Now, again, fastest sandwich maker in the west here, I have 6 trays out because I am just head down, full steam doing my best to make sandwiches faster than they are going. But Saturday was trial by fire. I am going full steam, just barely keeping my head above water when suddenly a runner shows up and says, 'I need two trays from your booth to cover the other booths that are behind.' I can't exactly say no, so I just do my best to start catching up. 5th tray goes out and suddenly, another runner comes up and takes 3 trays. Then the event coordinator walks by, notices I only have two trays out and proceeds to rip me and my partner several new booty holes. My partner and I attempted to explain the situation the first time, but to no avail.
Repeat this process for the next three days, and we are at the end of the event. I'm tired, angry and it's almost the lunchtime rush. I'm making sandwiches at a lightning pace, after you make 20k+ sandwiches you get good at it, and I ask my booth partner (my girlfriend) for more ingredients. Instead of ingredients, I get an 'uuuuhmmmm, we're out.' Fortunately we were ahead, so she left to check if anyone else had extra. Nope. Everyones out of food. And guess what happens now? We're ahead and everyone is running out of food, so naturally our trays start vanishing.
Guess who walks up. The coordinated jerkface from earlier.
Heres where I lost my marbles.
He starts to chew me out and I told him to shut up and listen, told him that runners had been taking my trays, which my girlfriend vouched for, and that I had been working my butt off to keep not only my booth stocked, but the other 6 booths on my floor stocked too. He told me that he didn't buy it, so I told him, 'It's not my fault that you failed to properly plan this event.' He said I was fired, and I laughed at him and walked away. Apparently he turned to my girlfriend and asked, 'Where does he think he is going?'
The guy runs after me and tries to get me to load catering equipment. I laughed and told him I was 'fired' and he could get bent.
To this day, I have never been so happy to be fired."
"I currently work at a local Italian restaurant in my town, cute place but not too terribly busy. I had a party of four come in and one was in a wheelchair, so I went ahead and walked over to a table to prep it for him to sit. The party got situated so I got the menus, silverware, straws, etc. As I walked over to greet them it suddenly hit me. The smell. This poor man in the wheelchair had a catheter bag that probably hadn't been properly taken care of in days. The only way I can describe it was like a wall of nightmare smells.
Of course I treated the table properly and served them throughout the night but as I went to take care of their check, I see him go over to the bathroom and then leave very quickly afterward. This man had attempted to clean or replace his bag in our bathroom but managed to somehow spill its contents across the bathroom floor. What was left in the trashcan smelled horrendous. That bathroom was closed down for days and the booth where they sat got a full clean down and a half bottle of Febreeze but that smell lingered for days. Making $2.50 an hour made me reconsider my entire life that night."
"I worked food service in the airport. I had to be at work from 3:30 am to 12. Our station required at least 4 workers to run properly. One for making the food, one for prepping dough, one on the register, and one to hand out food. Due to people constantly quitting from terrible management, we usually had 3 people working in the store. The day I quit, I was the only one to show up. They expected me to run the whole store myself, and I did the best I could do. HR proceeds to come down to the store, sees me working alone with a line around the corner, and tries to tell me that my dirty floor (when was I going to find time to clean it?) was unacceptable, and that I would have to close as well (so I would leave at 7 instead of 12). I just turned around, and walked right out. I then drove to HR (not the same building), and handed in my ID, stating, 'Your management is unacceptable.' Best decision I ever made."
"I worked at Chick-Fil-A for about 6 years from 15 years old to about 21. I was a manager who cared about my employees. It was always a rule to be clocked in 10 minutes ahead of time, for everyone, to ensure a smooth shift transition.
One of my employees attended high school and struggled to be able to get to work on time, always making it a couple of minutes before his actual shift time. He was one of my best employees and was never late when he didn’t have school.
After about the 5th time being late (for clocking in after the 10 minutes before shift start), the owner asks me to write him up. It continues happening due to him being held up at school. My boss informs me I have to fire him for being late so many times; again, not late for the shift but late for clocking in 10 minutes early. I was forced to let him go, I hated it.
Fast forward 2 weeks, I find out during all of the years I’d worked there, the boss was removing that 10 minute time from everyone’s sheet. We were forced to clock in 10 minutes early, only for the owner to remove it to save on labor costs. I’d written up and fired people for something they (nor anyone else) were ever getting paid for.
As managers, we were also required to plan our setups for the shift off the clock. Sometimes that would take hours and we weren’t getting paid for it. Finding out they were breaking labor laws that I was forced to FIRE people over was the final straw."
"My family owns a food establishment. At the time, I was getting paid just slightly above minimum wage and it was closing time. I was cleaning the espresso machine while two couples sat in the front corner talking. One couple had three children and since no one else was in the store, they let their kids run around the lobby and go crazy. Whatever, I had one earbud in and kept cleaning. The middle child was running and suddenly stopped, walked over to her mom who shooed her away because she was feeding the youngest and continued to engage in the other conversation. The child walked in front of my ice cream cooler and squatted to play with the magnets on the front of the machine.... Or so I thought. The older sister walks over to see what's going on and not even ten seconds later, she yells across the store 'Hey, -child's name- pooped!'
It goes dead silent. I pull my earbud out and look at this massive pile of nasty sitting in the middle of the carpet. The parents look at the oldest and ask her to repeat what she just said, because I guess they thought she was joking. Stone faced, this child repeats, 'Yeah, -child's name- just pooped on da carpet.' The dad gets up fast, runs over, grabs the middle child and runs to the bathroom with her. The mom gets up, grabs the other remaining two children, and leaves. I'm still standing at the espresso machine befuddled that someone actually dropped a deuce in the store. A few minutes later the dad walks out carrying the child like a piece of lumber, looks at me, and apologizes. Doesn't offer to clean the poop off the carpet, doesn't offer anything, literally leaves with just a, 'Hey, sorry.'
I walked in back where my mom was cleaning the cutting board and told her, 'Uh, yeah.. So a kid just pooped on the carpet.. Annnnd the parents took everyone and left...What do I do?' Mom thinks I'm joking and brushes me off.... I'm still standing, waiting for an answer. She kinda gets that at that moment, I'm not joking. Pours some bleach on the board, swishes it off, and walks to the front. She looks at the mound of poo sitting in front of our ice cream machine and looks at the other couple who is sitting, mortified, in the front of the store. Silently, she walks to the back, grabs a pair of gloves and a dust mask, and hands them to me. I asked her if I could get a raise after I clean this up because I don't get paid near enough to clean up human waste. She said she'd give me a raise as long as she doesn't have to touch it.
Those people haven't been back since."
"This happened a few days ago. I work at a hotel restaurant (typically 70 people max at the restaurant at any one moment). We were set to have a busy day that evening but since our manager isn't good at her job (this will become apparent soon), we were severely understaffed (1 bartender and 2 waiters) that evening for just the restaurant.
However, unbeknownst to everyone, our manager booked two banquet halls for 50 people each that were pretty far (3 minutes each way from the main kitchen) and not set up in any way. We were doomed when the restaurant went full house but somehow we managed to get all the food and drinks out and serve them as best as possible. Since we were so understaffed, though, many people were angry with the service and didn't tip.
After having to work till midnight (we close the restaurant at 10 and kitchen at 11), I made almost no money in tips (I'm paid less than minimum in Canada) and I was also roped into cleaning up the kitchen along with the the kitchen and waiting staff at the end of the night, so I sent a letter to my manager and her boss (I used to work in another position in the hotel and I've worked with the hotel manager) about how she messed up. The big boss got back to me saying he was going to call my manager in to talk with all the waiting staff when she's back from vacation but I literally didn't get paid enough for that day's work (we all worked for 10+ hours that day since we had to clean up everything at the end and that took hours to do). I left and haven't looked back since."
"Last night I was on a dish shift at a restaurant. It was over half an hour after close and some of the servers' dishes that I needed to get done hadn't even been picked up yet, so I couldn't leave. I asked the manager who was responsible for that stuff. Of course, it was the girl hanging out in the booth doing nothing with the manager, and inquiring about it bugged her for whatever reason.
She came in back and started slamming stuff around, being a massive pain about doing her job. Fine, whatever, I can handle people's tantrums. But then she whipped two boning knives right past me. They slammed hard on the wall next to where I was working. I could have been seriously injured if I had just moved my hand over the table where they landed. Those things are crazy sharp!
I have a sinking suspicion that she won't be fired over this, she's worked there forever. I don't even feel safe working with someone who would do that. And a lot of the staff don't take knife safety seriously to being with."
"A supposed manager, who was really just a lazy senior employee at the cafeteria I worked at, tried to flex her authority while the manager was out and make me do her and her boyfriend's work for them. It was on my first day, so I didn't know she wasn't a manager, so she thought me an easy target. I had no clue how to do anything, but she treated me like I had been working there for years.
I was put on register duty during the lunch rush with no clue how to work the register. I got a crash course from a coworker who likely would have helped me further if he wasn't busy like crazy making up for our lazy 'manager' and her boyfriend not doing any work at all. I have bad anxiety, I try to tell her this, but she's 'too busy.'
It all comes to a head with her yelling at me after I complain that she and her boyfriend were doing absolutely nothing. She essentially says, 'I'm the boss, if you don't like it, then quit.' So I did. In the middle of the lunch rush. The line already having been held up because of her.
Before you get a, 'Sure, that happened' feel... There was no applause, mostly just annoyed people who wanted to pay, sit down and eat their food already. I received nothing but annoyed stares and angry shouting from the lazy gal who was now doing more work by yelling at me than she had done the whole day."
"I was a dishwasher at a fancy country club awhile back. The work was hard (if you've ever been in a high volume dishwashing job, you know what I'm talking about), and the pay wasn't good. In our kitchen there were deep fryers, and lots of oil needed to be transferred to a specialized dumpster on a fairly regular basis. The thing is, we dealt with so much oil that in order to haul it out, we put it in large barrels and then wheeled the barrels out on little floor carts.
Well, one day as my coworker and I were taking out the oil, one of the cart wheels caught on something and the barrel of oil ended up spilling everywhere in back of the country club kitchen outside. My coworker was drenched in oil down to her socks, so she was excused for the night. That left me and the manager to clean up the mess.
For a little more context, my shift was in the evening and I hadn't eaten that day because sometimes I'm an idiot. So, I wasn't operating at 100% that night.
So how does one clean up a truckload of spilled cooking oil on asphalt? Well, since we were a country club, we had a golf course. Since we had a golf course, we had a backup supply of sand in order to top up the sand traps. So the idea was we would use a boatload of sand to soak up the oil and then throw the sand away with the oil.
Well guess what: sand is heavy, and oil soaked sand is even heavier. In order to get all of the spilled oil, we had to use about 15-18 (5 gallon) buckets of sand, and about halfway through, the manager left and went back to the kitchen. So it was just me lugging these super heavy buckets to the dumpster and throwing out the contents. I don't know the exact weight since I'm not bothering to look up the densities of oil and sand, but each bucket felt like it weighed well over 50 pounds.
As I'm sitting there, dying from low blood sugar, scraping up sand into a bucket I thought to myself: 'I'm a dishwasher. Why by Odin's beard am I holding a dang shovel?'
Later that night, I told my manager that I quit, and I haven't regretted it since."