Climbing the Ladder- What I Learnt From Working in Fast Food Restaurants

One of my proudest accomplishments is securing my first ‘real’ job at Burger King. I remember very vividly, I had recently turned 17 and was determined to gain some financial independence from my parents. I remember applying using different websites, all to no avail. I remember thinking that these employers want what I do not have- previous experience.

So, one freezing yet bright day in January, I told my sister that I had seen a job advertised at Burger King and it said ‘come in and speak to a manager.’ I was going to go to Burger King and speak to a manager about getting a job. So, I caught a bus to Burger King, feeling indifferent because I did not know what to expect and I asked to speak to a manager. Get this- he asked me ‘Do you have a CV?’ of which I responded no. He said ‘do you have any experience in customer service?’ and I responded no again! It was at this moment that I thought some preparation beforehand would have been useful.

I thought to myself- I have messed this up. But I hadn’t. After a conversation where I convinced two managers that I was enthusiastic and quick to learn, I was invited to come for a trial shift and I got the job afterwards. This to me is another classic example of how just showing up paid off. I remember like it was yesterday, the sincerity in my answers. I did not want to work at Burger King because I was passionate about burgers. I wanted to work at Burger King to develop key skills that employers were looking for and so I did.

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I learnt a lot and met new people at Burger King. It was through this job that I found out what I was good at. My customer service skills are excellent and I could engage in a conversation with virtually anybody. I also loved meeting new people and putting a smile on their faces. Less than six months in, I left Burger King for reasons which made me choose Employment Law as an elective in my final year! Although, I have to say- if there any Burger King lawyers reading this blog, I would be happy to gain some legal experience within your department.

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I started work at McDonalds not long after and my friends were convinced that my next job was going to be at KFC as it appeared that I was going round the big fast-food chains. Well, the joke was on them because I stayed in McDonalds for approximately a year. I enjoyed most parts of the job- the customer service especially. There were subtle differences in the operation of the restaurants but it was easy to adjust to the new brand.

Although I would describe my experience at McDonalds as much better, I also learnt what I did not want in my career. I learnt that I wanted to be around people striving continuously to climb the ‘ladder’. I found that most of the employees did not aim to become a Manager and their role was either viewed as ‘passing’ or permanent. I did not have a lot in common with my colleagues but I made efforts to be friendly and some of them were incredibly funny. The fact that I was not interested in the parties and drugs meant that I was eventually excluded plus I worked part-time. However, I got along with some colleagues who were similar to my age although they were still in college and I was at university. I forget their names now but their faces remain clear in my mind.

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Yes, they spelt my name wrong!

Through my job in McDonalds, I learnt that I wanted to be surrounded by colleagues who love their jobs and want to be there. I realised that I could not be in an environment where people work solely for money. I wish to have something more to look forward to in a job. I have to caveat this by saying that there was an employee who had worked there for over thirty years so some people obviously are motivated and love what they do.

You will never get a repeat! No two days were ever the same and I enjoyed the spontaneity of challenges that I came across during my shifts. I remember- once we had a roof leak caused by a torrential rain. I don’t think that you can beat that- instead of being alarmed, customers brought their phones out to capture the moment. Also, dealing with angry customers to those immensely grateful for your service, compliment your hard work and make your day. Building the loyal customers that know your name and you know what they always have. Oh- how I miss those days! This certainly showed me what I desire in my legal career- I want challenges, a client-facing element and problem-solving.

From a business sense, I was exposed to the operation of franchises and intellectual property law through its trademarks. These sparked an academic interest as I elected to take IP law in my final year and created a franchise model for my Business Development module. You will also learn to work under pressure. The queues were long, I had to minimise errors and time taken to serve a customer. The experiences will also mould the way that you think and carry yourself because you are an ambassador of the brand. In essence, I was protecting McDonalds from fraudulent behaviour when people came with things such as expired vouchers. It was my duty to ensure that they did not get away with it. Plus you get the employee discount!

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I learnt about my value. I left McDonalds after earning £5.25 per hour of my life for a year! I remember speaking to my manager who had interviewed me for the job that I wanted to leave. He did not want me to leave. He asked if I was encountering troubles and how he could address this. Of course, I was not encountering troubles at least nothing severe to make me want to resign. I had just come to the realisation that I was being undervalued and underpaid. An hour of my life for £5.25 was simply not enough. He actually offered to raise my wage per hour. But I wanted to be in an environment that challenged me intellectually too. The simplification of the service process was advantageous as it could be very easily picked up by anyone. However, it was not tasking enough and I wanted a challenge of my mind. I got a job offer that was going to pay me double the amount for what appeared to be a better challenge. So, I left on good terms.

Yes, these jobs were not the best in the world but I believe that they shaped my way of thinking and certainly boosted my confidence. In the future, these roles will be non-existent so perhaps this blog would be a valuable recollection of working in fast food restaurants before machines took over.

I want to dedicate this to my friend- Joy who took these very embarrassing pictures of me at work in 2015 (without my knowledge, thinking it was funny). Time certainly is an illusion and I miss you dearly!!

Disclaimer: I expressly disclaim any liability for damages of any kind arising out of use, reference to or reliance on any information contained within this publication. I do not assume any responsibility for the accuracy or functioning of the pictures or diagrams presented in this publication.

Copyright © 2018 Ebunlomo Azeez. All Rights Reserved.




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