Skip to main content

How to Survive Your Fast Food Job

I am a writer who hopes to share her interests and experiences with others.

How to survive working fast food

How to survive working fast food

Start Your Shift Off Right

Starting off right isn't just about making a good impression; it's also about helping yourself. Have you seen a co-worker who came to work in a bad mood? They may seem more rude, blunt, or even act like they don't care about the customers or their job. That's no way to help yourself advance in the company or make your shift go by, even if you truly don't like your job. Those minutes will drag by as you groan about having to serve another customer or flip another patty, and people may even start to avoid you. People enjoy being around positive people, and that's a fact.

It may seem like such a simple thing, but starting your day right can really have a positive impact on your job. Smile, strike a confident pose, anything to boost your mood. You'll find that you are more friendly to your co-workers and customers if you are happy. Eating before work can help your mood also. No one likes to work on an empty stomach.

If you are still exhausted from the day before or you just couldn't sleep before your shift, definitely drink some coffee or an energy drink. If you're tired, chances are you're grumpy. I've worked at a fast-food restaurant that was open 24 hours. That can get really tiring, I know. You're going to want to go home and sleep for a day, but in reality, you have to return to work in eight hours. If you are getting really unhealthy hours, though, talk to your boss. There is no reason they cannot work out something with you to make sure you are working as efficiently as possible.

How to Work Through a Rush

You know that time. It's the same time every day—rush hour. Let's be honest; everyone dreads it for how busy and sometimes out-of-control things get. But it does make that hour fly by. After just three years in fast food, I have learned a few ways to handle those rushes. No, asking for a bathroom break is not the way to handle it.

Accept that you will be busy, people will get agitated, and food products will be cooking instead of being served. The sooner that you don't get upset by this, the better the rush will seem. I know that the customer has complained about wanting their burger for five minutes, and explaining that there are ten other people in front of them just doesn't click, but there's nothing you can do. So smile. Be polite. Assure them that their burger is on its way, and apologize for the time and inconvenience. Some people will understand, others may want a refund.

Other than dealing with products on hold, learning to work around and with your co-workers is invaluable. This comes from someone who is a cashier; learn the patterns of your co-workers. Do they give the drinks out first? Put the burger in a certain place? I'm sure your fry person is getting tired of you bumping into them while you reach for that small fry. Maneuvering around them is essential to being speedy. Is there something you can help them with to move the production along quicker? Salt the fries, make their drinks, or even help make some burgers (provided you know how.)

Most importantly, breathe. It's a rush; it won't last all day. Even if it does, you still get to clock out eventually.

Get to Know Your Co-Workers

I cannot tell you how important it is to have friends in your workplace. They don't have to become your best friend or even someone you hang out with every weekend. But it gets very lonely when you have no one to talk to or help you during your shift. I'm also not saying to befriend everyone. If you are, then that's great! But that's not possible for most people, especially those who work for larger restaurants.

If something comes up, say a death in the family or another event that you need to take off for, then a co-worker you are friends with is more likely to cover your shift. But if the need arises, you should always repay them by covering their shift in turn. It's not fair for them to cover for you, and then you tell them that you don't want to work that day. Never use your co-workers for your personal gain, as everyone can see that, and no one will want to work around someone who is like that.

Be Eager to Learn

There are many positions in a fast-food restaurant. Not all places use the same work rules. It's good to know how to work a lot of the machines or do certain duties above and beyond what they originally taught you. You will never progress in the company if you just stick to one place.

A lot of managers will probably be eager to teach you a new place, provided you are a hard worker and at least mildly good at the station they usually assign you. The more positions you know, the more valuable you are to the company. While you may dislike certain duties more than others, and while you may even be assigned to the ones you dislike more than the ones you like, your managers will still be proud of you and want you to work more. This greatly helps your chances of moving up in the company because, really, why are you working there if you aren't trying to advance yourself within the organization?

Learn to Accept Failure

You will make mistakes. You may even think that you've failed as an employee. Accept it. Accept that everyone in there has made a mistake and probably felt the way you do. Even your general manager made mistakes, especially when they were just starting. Mistakes are an opportunity to learn, and you should never be ashamed of learning. I know most of you are probably tired of hearing, "It's okay to make mistakes," but it really is okay.

I remember making some big mistakes. It was my first job, and I wasn't sure about what all items we had nor where to find them on my terminal. I took forever to take this order, and I charged them for four large burgers when they only wanted four child-sized burgers. I didn't realize my mistake until I tried to give them the food, and they were upset. Being a new employee, I couldn't just get into my drawer and give them their money back. I had to get my manager and explain what happened. I remember her being furious at me since the price difference was so big. But you know what? We moved on. I became one of their best workers, and we are still in touch today.

One mistake doesn't mean you aren't cut out for the job. Don't quit over miscounted change, making a burger wrong, or even burning a basket of fries. Get upset that it happened, but then get over it and forget about it. Your mistakes are going to seem huge to you when most people will forget about them within a few minutes.

Have Fun

Have fun at my job? Yes. If your restaurant has downtime, you'll often find that people have found a way to entertain themselves. If it is safe and not against regulations, try to join in. I remember that some friends and I used to make wacky combinations with our soda machine and see if they were good. (Some were, some weren't—raspberry cola doesn't mix well with anything. But vanilla sprite and cherry sprite together taste like red skittles.)

Doing these things will help your shift go by and even help you not dread going to work (as much, anyway).

If you have any tips or tricks to share, please leave a comment!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Regarding working in fast food, what if It gets to a point of being called a moron or being cursed at? Even though I’m trying my best is this normal in a fast food working environment?

Answer: Unfortunately, that is pretty commonplace. People constantly take out their frustrations on fast food and retail workers because they know there is little to no backlash. It's hard to still serve an order with a smile after being verbally abused, but if you are able to do so then that person will have a slightly better day and may even act better towards you. At the end of the day, that rude customer is not coming home with you nor are they paying your bills so their opinions of you really don't matter.


Jocelyne Garcia on August 25, 2018:

This really helped me feel a bit better about my mistake at work today, it made me realize it wasnt such a big deal and that i shouldnt beat myself up about it. Thank you

Brenda on June 21, 2018:

Thanks for sharing. My mind wasn't too stressed about working at a fast food restaurant after reading this. Your tips and positivity help me understand more.

Kim Yeon on April 27, 2018:

I'm am Asian person. Workings hard and complicated when you have social anxiety and that your trying to hide it. Every few days I dread of working. thank you for sharing this article, it means a lot to know all these tips.

Linda on May 18, 2017:

Great advice, positive perspective, thanks!

Elizabeth Hernandez on March 18, 2017:

I really like your tips! Thank you for sharing and helping.