September 9, 2022 | OPINION | By M. Crosby Williams | Illustration by Maren Greene

As the 2022 summer comes to a close, I want to take the time to reflect on my own experience working in the fast-food industry.

This summer, I worked full-time in a severely understaffed Chick-fil-A kitchen in Durham, N.C. Day-in and day-out, the same schedule. It is a job that everyone should work once in their life, and one I hope I don’t have to work again.

The truth is, however, that many people in this country are in a position where one of their only options is to work in fast-food in order to survive. These jobs are neither glamorous nor easy, and anyone who says differently has never worked in the industry.

One of the few positives during my short stint at Chick-fil-A was the people who I worked with on the evening shift. I am not talking about management (who was greedy and overworked its employees), but my fellow co-workers. All four of them had their own story.

The first was an elite high school football player who was almost paralyzed in a car crash. After the crash, he went through grueling rehab and is now an elite wrestler at the collegiate level.

The second was a man who could talk your ear off like nobody I have met before. He told stories that lasted hours and once he got started, he didn’t stop until we parted ways in the empty parking lot under the cool darkness of a North Carolina summer evening.

The third decided that college wasn’t the right path for him and is taking coding courses online during the day to get certified. He was always willing to offer a ride to coworkers or help with whatever you needed.

The fourth was a hard worker who never complained. She was a strong leader. She showed up and did her assigned job faster and better than anyone else on the team.

These are the people in the kitchen making your fast-food. They are working their asses off in miserable conditions. Management exaggerates these problems by running the restaurant as normal even when there is a skeleton crew in the kitchen. In addition, they refuse to do things to alleviate the stress on the kitchen. It is pure greed. Cash is king.

So, when your food takes a little longer, remember that these people all have stories and are not slacking off, but working hard. They are in an environment where they are being expected to complete tasks meant for multiple people.

For example, one person is expected to toast sandwich buns, make regular Chick-fil-A sandwiches, spicy Chick-fil-A sandwiches, and deluxe sandwiches which have lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. These tasks should be done by three different people, not one.

By looking at the reviews of the Chick-fil-A I worked at, people do not understand that this is the reality. Everyday people complain about the slowness of the food, when in fact the kitchen is working as fast as possible.  

If you can’t empathize with service workers, or still complain about the slowness of your fast food, then go get a job in the industry.

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