Why Working in Fast Food Restaurants Is Dangerous to Your Health and Well-Being

Updated on July 15, 2018
MatthewLeo1701 profile image

Matt Leo has been a working manager in several restaurant companies for over 20 years. He's worked every position up through management.

A Hub Nugget for your consideration.
A Hub Nugget for your consideration. | Source

Fast Food Work Hurts

I have been in the restaurant business for over 17 years. In that time, you tend to repeat the day-in-day-out drudgery, and things tend to dull you if you do not do things to keep your mind sharp. I stepped back and began to notice things. These things tend to go overlooked when you find yourself swallowed up by assembly-line work. One of the things about the restaurant business that chaps me is just how everything is set up. Oh, the owners and bosses say that they only have your best interests at heart. Do they truly? I am a living example that they do not. I hurt in places that no thirty-something gent should have any business hurting in. Perhaps some of the things that have caused this are only in the older restaurants, but even the newer ones have their issues as well. Architects and businesspeople designed restaurants and built only with the customer in mind, not the crew. However, I present to you my case in point.

The Dangers of Restaurant Work

The next time you visit one of your favorite fast food joints, look at the floor behind the counters. Have they been matted with cushiony goodness, aimed at lowering the overall impact to lessen damage to employee’s ankles and feet? That would be a flat no. I would like you to understand that these people stand on their feet 6-12 hours a day, sometimes much longer when they are asked to stay. Yes, folks, I include the management in this assessment as well. We managers are people too. Chances are you will not see any mats. On the contrary, you will see only the tile floor. Worse yet, typically it is a tile floor with raised edges to provide slip resistance and protection from falls. I speak from experience; these floors are the worst thing you can sign up for to walk on in this fast-paced business. From years of walking, running and limping over the demon pieces that we like to call tiles, my ankles and feet are just about in the worst condition they can get. I mean, there are days when I feel like my ankles are going to cave in on themselves and breakaway leaving me only bloody stumps. Now, I have tried using new inserts and arch supports, but these always seem to put a temporary patch on the problem.

Well-Organized Stock Room
Well-Organized Stock Room | Source

So far we have only spoken about the danger of the floors. Look again behind the counter towards the back of the house, as we call it. You probably see low-lying refrigerators. Watch the crew and count how many times they have to bend over or do deep-knee bends only to pull out back-up condiments or salads. Some of these folks are no-spring chickens, my friends. All of this inconvenient and thoughtless placing of equipment is wearing down the soft tissue between the disks in our backs.

Hidden Dangers in Restaurants

Now let us look at what you cannot see. In some drive-thru’s, the lid dispensers are sitting in front of the ice bin, which is sitting in front of the drink dispenser. This set-up is murder on the average crew person’s back. Not to mention that you have to lean your crotch against the machine, (Mind you, the dispenser is not ergonomically shaped to be doing this). It is very uncomfortable. To add even further injury to insult (you see how I switched that there?) you have to reach over the dispensers, and the ice bin just to put the drink cup in place and push the dispenser button. I bet that if I do a little research that I would find that over 50% of patients that are not from automobile accidents that have to visit a chiropractor are most likely your essential run-of-the-mill restaurant employees. It is a small wonder that we do not all have scoliosis from all the finagling we have to do with our bodies to get a decent day’s work done.

Possible Solutions to Solving Restaurant Problems

These injuries are everywhere, people. I am not complaining for complaint's sake. I am trying to bring attention to a problem that has plagued us for years. It does not have to happen. I pray that some engineer gets a hold of this hub and it sparks his interest. “What if I could design a restaurant that helped an employee succeed in his/her job?” Right now, we are set up to fail. There is too much space for the Drive-thru runner to be running back and forth for them to execute their duties properly. Do you want great drive-thru times? Shrink the store. Bring the walls close in and eliminate all the extra steps we have to take to get our jobs done. It will bring you, from a restaurant owner standpoint, faster times, and more cars through the lane, faster more efficient service and more money to your bottom line. It will save your employees from growing old before their time and enable them much more job satisfaction in the end. These changes to the overall infrastructure will equal to less turnover and again more money to the bottom line.

The Future of Restaurants

We have been running the same restaurant model for decades with little to no real changes. We are now in the future, people. It is well past the year 2000, and its time we start acting like it. However, it is not the promised future we have ween spoiled upon in science fiction novels and movies. We may not be living in the Jetsons era of flying cars just yet, but it is coming. So let us stand back, take a long look at what we are doing and start genuinely designing the future.

To the engineers reading this, millions of foodservice professionals are waiting.

© 2012 Matt Leo

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    • profile image

      Sammi Rain 

      2 months ago

      THIS POST MAKES ME WANNA CRY BECAUSE ITS SO TRUE

      this is my first ever fast food job and i almost slip and fall daily even with the ungodly bumpy tiles. I find myself kneeling on chairs pretending to clean a hard spot on a table that isnt even there just to give my feet a break. Even writing this now when ive been out of work for 3 and a half hours, the sides of my feet and my pinky toes are completely numb and my ankle hurts to move. This isnt complaining. This is real life pain that makes no one want to work fast food. If everyone in this industry had the choice, fast food wouldnt exist.

    • MatthewLeo1701 profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt Leo 

      6 years ago from Richlands

      @alifeofdesign Thanks for sharing your pain with us here as well. I can scarcely even imagine hefting 75# bags of potatoes. I didn't even stop to think about the ones that have it worse than me. Thanks for reading my hub. I hope you will join and follow me on my quest to share my experiences here on HubPages. Thank you for your warm welcome!

    • alifeofdesign profile image

      Graham Gifford 

      6 years ago from New Hamphire

      Hi MatthewLeo1701. I feel your pain! I was in the restaurant world for years. 17 hour days of shlepping 75# bags of potatoes up a flight of slippery stairs, among so many other daily dangers. I was a chef in a high-end bistro and B&B-the situations were similar there. Sure somethings can not be avoided, but certainly others can and SHOULD.

      You have helped to feed people-yes, you have made a difference. Thanks for bringing these issues to the attention of others. Best Regards....and welcome to HubPages!

    • MatthewLeo1701 profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt Leo 

      6 years ago from Richlands

      You said it healingsword! What an awesome name by the way! I believe that is one of the reasons that I have stayed at it for so long. It is honest work and I am proud of the work that I have accomplished over the years. I have served thousands of people, worked with and trained hundreds of crew people, and dozens of managers. In this business you get to "touch" so many different lives. I'd like to think that I have made a difference in all of the lives I have contact with. Thank you for your comment. Please follow my hubs as a fan and share with everyone you know. I have plenty of hubs to come.

    • MatthewLeo1701 profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt Leo 

      6 years ago from Richlands

      The best advice that I can give is to buy equipment that doesn't force employees to bend over so much. Fridges on the floor just don't make sense. Unfortunately, if a restaurant is going to be designed to be more conducive to your crew's health and efficiency, you are going to have to shell out some dough. That is unless your think out of the box and be creative with your space. It doesn't make any sense to have a crew person have to walk all the way from drive-thru to the other end of the front counter, just to make an ice-cream. Arrange your space to eliminate or reduce the total number of steps a person needs to accomplish their duties. I am not saying don't make them work. Just be organized and use best practices to be more efficient. Thanks for moving this convo along. Please follow and share with everyone you know. More to come, I promise.

    • MatthewLeo1701 profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt Leo 

      6 years ago from Richlands

      Thank you!!! I totally agree. It should be considered a best practice to ask those who do the job. The problem with this solution is, of course that changes cost money. However, if new restaurant were already built to a higher standard, I know it would take some time, but over the years we could really transform how business behind the counter is done. Thanks for the comments and helping me carrying the conversation along. I am having a blast with it! Please follow me as their are more hubs I have in mind to come!

    • MatthewLeo1701 profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt Leo 

      6 years ago from Richlands

      Thank you biancaalice! I have seen bartender's work. You guys can really wear a trench in the floor. Hat's off to you for enduring that for 4 years! I have been doing this for 17 years, admittedly. To be honest I don't know how I have made it this far. Pure will power I guess. Plenty more hubs coming. I hope you will consider following me and spreading the word any way you can. Thank you for your welcome! Take care!

    • MatthewLeo1701 profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt Leo 

      6 years ago from Richlands

      Thank you so much. Imagine my surprise when I came home to see so many posts. I didn't realize that this hub was going to touch home so quickly. Thank you so much for the warm welcome. I have so much in my head that I want to write about, not just about the restaurant business, but many other things as well. I figured I would start off knowing what I know best. Thank you again for commenting and I hope you will go back and follow me as I have plenty more to come!

    • healingsword profile image

      Ann Wehrman 

      6 years ago from California

      Awesome Hub, MatthewLeo1701. With many years service in various restaurants, I can only agree and shake my head. Restaurant work is intensely hard; that is for sure. It's one of so many jobs in today's world that really crush the body. However, it's an honest job, and for many, a way to provide for themselves and family. In a better world, your point would be understood and implemented--let's hope that day comes soon. It would be best to live with respect and care for ourselves and the rest of the world. Thanks for your sincere and righteous Hub.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      6 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      There is an engineer who thought about this - check out

      http://www.leankitchensolutions.com/design.html

    • richbrayan profile image

      richbrayan 

      6 years ago from London, United Kingdom

      Hey Mathew,I must admit that this is a very interesting hub. I am hopefully looking to set up my own restaurant sometime in the near future and I think your hub certainly provides some "food for thought" for future restauranteurs. Seeing as you have been working in the restaurant industry for a while,would you happen to have any ideas for how this problem can be solved??

      All I can think off at the moment is providing longer breaks for employees....

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      6 years ago from Oakley, CA

      I've never worked in the food service industry, but I can see your points are well-made.

      Even from the customer's standpoint, things could stand improvement.

      I fear it has always been thus; the people who know what is needed are not the people asked to do the design and set-up.

      I remember my father making similar complaints about the management of the San Francisco bus and streetcar system when he was employed there back in the 1930's. He constantly railed against the fact that they brought in so-called "transportation experts" from New York, who knew nothing about San Francisco! He'd say, "The REAL experts are right under their noses--just ask the passengers and the operators!"

      I hope an engineer with some pull DOES see your article. Voted up & shared socially toward that end.

      Best wishes.

    • biancaalice profile image

      biancaalice 

      6 years ago from Southern California

      Very interesting! I worked as a bartender for 4 years and my feet killed me everyday even when we did have mats behind the bar.

      Welcome to Hubpages!

      Voted up, interesting & shared!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Excellent points! You'd think by now things would've changed as I'm sure you're not the only one to suffer aches and pains from working in this industry. I hope many people share your hub and hopefully it will come to someones attention that can do something about the designs of these restaurants.

      Welcome to HubPages.

      Up useful, interesting and sharing.

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