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