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Order Up! Why Everyone Should Work in the Food Industry at Least Once

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The benefits of fast food jobs – making friends and becoming more outgoing, like these three employees

Hey! It’s Alana, one of Collin’s sidekicks!

My life has been centered around the restaurant industry. From our family-owned pizzeria to me working for Chick-fil-A, each job has its benefits and life lessons.

There are certain things in life that you don’t know about until you’ve experienced them. To me, working in the food industry or a restaurant is just that. Being around people for 8-12 hours a day will teach you lessons to take with you later on in life, no matter what career route you take.

Let’s start with being a server. How hard could it be, right? Take an order, serve an order, get refills, clean the table, rinse and repeat. NOPE! It’s so much more than that. It’s your job to not only serve them but to make sure they leave with a smile on their face. You learn to bite your tongue and adapt to different dynamics of people. To the table for one, you could be the highlight of their day. You’re that total package.

With any job, you’ll see the worst and the best of people. Unfortunately, if your guests experience a mistake with their order (even though you didn’t personally cook it), they may take it out on you. You’ll learn to breathe and smile through it, quickly thinking of a resolution that will leave them fully satisfied. You’ll also learn how to multitask – and, once you become a parent, you’ll thank the lucky stars you built that multitasking skill before taking on the hardest, most amazing job ever!

You’re going to grow as a person. On your first day, you may be shy and timid, but as time goes on you’ll open up and steal the show! You’ll learn that talking to people will become easier and second nature.

Personally, working for Chick-fil-A at such a young age really helped me when it came time for me to take Public Speaking in college. When I asked a fellow restaurant employee about working in this industry and what it has taught her, she said: “It grows a sense of humility and a sense of putting other people’s needs above your own.”

You’ll learn different things each day and become the best at what you do over time. The skills you develop with this job will help you adapt and overcome a lot of situations throughout life. You won’t become a pro overnight. No one does. But every day you’ll become better and more confident.

As a customer, you’ll have a newfound respect and understanding of what it takes to prepare your meal or beverage. You’ll learn that certain things aren’t always in the control of your server, and they rely on (and live off of) tips for good customer service. If you’ve ever worked in the kitchen, you’ll see that it takes many moving parts to execute a perfect shift. You’ll also learn the perfect times to dine!

The benefits of fast food jobs – free or half priced foods, like this pie

But what’s in it for me?!

Many food establishments offer great perks for being an employee. I worked for Chick-fil-A for many years, and the best part was – I never had to worry about lunch! Our operator provided a meal for every 8-hour shift you worked. This saved me so much money. Plus, we received one meal before or after our shift at 50% off. Now, to me, you can never eat too much Chick-fil-A, so I would eat there two times a day – never paying more than $5 at a time. Because our location was very involved in the community, we also received free or discounted sessions at Burn Fitness and the YMCA.

The benefits of fast food jobs – Olive Garden offers discounts for employees

At other restaurants, a common discount I found typically meant 50% off your meal while you’re working. Also, If you love Olive Garden, you can count on $1 soup and salad when you become an employee. Papa John’s employees can get pizza as low as $4, any size. Yum!

I have a few friends who work for Starbucks. Their perks (pun intended) are great, so many get a second job just for the benefits (did somebody say FREE COFFEE?!). Starbucks Partners get Unlimited FREE drinks 30 minutes prior, during, and 30 minutes after their shift, and one free food item per shift. PLUS, they get one pound of beans or one box of Verismo pods EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK. That’s a lot of coffee, my friends!

The benefits of fast food jobs – Starbucks offers discounts, educational assistance, and other benefits

But it’s not all about the food and drinks for the Seattle-based company. Starbucks provides amazing health benefits, even to their part-timers. You’ll receive a discount on your cell phone bill if you have AT&T, Sprint or Verizon, gym discounts, instant savings on traveling, and so much more! If you want to go back to school, Starbucks is partnered with Arizona State University and will even pay part of your tuition!

Truly, the food industry will teach you great values from efficiency, teamwork, and self-growth – and you will also save money on your food and drinks! But enough about me…

If you’ve worked in the food industry, how has it changed your life?

Join The Discussion

Comments 45

  1. Samantha M

    My first few jobs were food service industry. It is a very demanding job, but if you work for the right employer, it can be very beneficial in the long run as you mentioned. Chick-fil-A was the last food service I had worked. It is a great company and I highly recommend it as a starting job.

    • Alana (Hip2Save Sidekick)


  2. Delilah

    My first job was at McDonald’s. I started in high school and within a year, I was promoted into management. About 6 months after, I became an assistant manager. McDonald’s provided me as a manager with anything I wanted to eat during my shift, paid vacations, paid sick days, bonuses, and health benefits. All the management classes that they put me through counted towards college credits.

    I always found my job at McDonald’s very rewarding. It taught me team management, time management, how to run a store, and so much more.

    • Alana (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      That is awesome you were able to receive college credits through work!

  3. Donica2013

    Working at Starbucks 13 years ago was one of my favorite jobs. The people I worked with, the customers, the company, and the freebies were awesome. You learn A LOT about dealing with people. You come home at the end of the day with milk on your shoes and smelling like coffee. If the pay was what my current job pays, I would consider going back, even after all these years.

    • Alana (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      I love the smell of coffee! That isn’t a horrible thing! Maybe the milk part is though. 😉

  4. Casey

    Totally agree with this. You really learn valuable lessons on how to treat people when you are on the other side of the counter!

    • Alana (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Very true!

  5. Scruffybean718

    I agree with this 200%. My husband and I both worked in the restaurant industry and have great respect for people that do because of it. You can tell when you are out to eat who has and has not worked in the business.

    • Alana (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      That is very true.

    • Mary

      I can agree with most of the comments and I also worked at Hardee’s on the overnight shift which in itself was horrible. But I can honestly say I never was unkind to anyone if something wasn’t right with an order. Most times if it wasn’t that to far off what I ordered I just ate it. I believe it’s the way we were raised to try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. I can say that over the years I have had some pretty bad service that had nothing to do with the customer. So I think each side can learn something from each other. Most importantly I think we just need to be a kinder community.

  6. Cara

    I worked for a local pizza place when I was in high school. It taught me a lot about kindness and respect for others. I had regulars and those who were passing through who were so sweet and kind. I would bend over backwards to help, even walking to deliver a pizza when one of my regulars was ill. It also taught me that there are some awful people in this world like those who tried to scam me by saying that I didn’t give them the right change or those who complained and yelled at me about prices that I had no control over. For every bad day, I had 4-5 good ones, so I still loved my job. I’m a nice person in general but working in food services made me realize how hard the job is so I’m overly nice to anyone who works in the service industry.

    • Alana (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      I agree with you! For every bad day, there is always more good days 🙂

  7. Sisi

    I am from Europe and I have worked there as a server at restaurants and cafes and here in the U.S. Probably the more interesting experience would be my job as a good server at Carnival Cruise Lines. First of all you get all kinds of people but, let me tell you, most of them are super rude and top of that they feel so entitled. I believe the only reason for that is that the food is free. They simply forget their manners at home. For example they would often call us with one finger like you’d call a child that is in trouble. Also many people are not aware but the cruise lines barely pay us any wages, something like $35 a month! The money that we make are from gratuity that was part of the ticket. What repeat customers knew was that they can go to the pursers desk and request that gratuity back and voila – we don’t get paid. Carnival doesn’t care for us, they care about the customer coming back and spending more money. And the worst part is that you’d serve a big table and you’d here how one person/family teaches the other to just go and get their money back! How disappointing this is! And you have to bite your tongue.

    Now there are mostly bad things that I associate this job with but there were still good moments. And needless to say I refuse to work this type of job even though things might be better on land. I did work in different family owned pizza restaurants but, again I remember mostly the negative things. I think I might be scarred from Carnival.

  8. Julie

    Oh my gosh! So, so true! I worked at Chi-Chi’s for 5 years during college. I look back now and realize how valuable that time was in my life. To piggyback on that, I think people also need to work in retail. I worked at Kaufman’s department store for a few years after college. It truly opens your eyes to what goes on behind the scenes once you’ve worked in either of these industries. Too many people take the workers in these industries for granted. They forget that manners, politeness and cleaning up after yourself go a long way. Sure the workers are getting paid, but that doesn’t give you the right to be a jerk or a slob. You know those clothes you just tried on in the fitting room? Don’t leave them there for someone else to remove. Put them on the rack indicated so they can be put away. How about that shirt you were looking at that fell off the hanger? Pick it up and put it back on! Need a refill? Ask politely. Something not right with your meal? Talk to your server like you’d like to be talked to. No need to yell and be rude. It’s the little things, people. Be kind. And maybe try your hand in the food service or retail industries if you get the chance. 😊

    • Christina

      Chi-Chi’s and Kaufman’s! I haven’t heard those names in years! Thanks for the vivid flashback of my teen years. ☺️

      • Julie

        The funny thing is, I truly miss them both!! I find myself craving Chi-Chi’s every now and again (I mean…the corn cake, am I right?) and Kaufmann’s always had great sales and clothes.

    • Alana (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Kindness goes a long way!

  9. Rn

    My very first job was a cashier at Long John Silver’ taught me people, time management skills and it also taught me to want a better job and that Iwas not gonna do this for the rest of my life so I went to college. I’m now a charge nurse and clinical instructor at a local university

    • Alana (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      The time management skills is definitely beneficial now!

  10. LG

    I was brought up in our family restaurant, clearing tables, helping prep and serving food. Then I was a server making very good money! I then took a job at a Resort and continued on in the hospitality industry. It’s in our family’s blood. Both my brothers have owned or own a successful business and am always ready to jump in & help when needed! Love Hospitailty!

    • Alana (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Love it! You sound like you could be in my family!

  11. Peaches

    I agree with all of you. I started out at Shoneys waiting tables. After that I spent four years in the military before going back to school. With my current job as my main income I added on Walmart on the side for years for additional income until I finally gained enough of a raise to go with one job. There have been other part-time jobs in the mix too over the years but the point is that every one of those service type jobs gave me more confidence and the ability to treat everyone with the respect they deserve as well as a better insight to what it takes for those still working those jobs to actually do the jobs and survive.

    • Alana (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Shoneys!!! I haven’t heard of them in years. I miss them.

  12. Valerie H

    I agree! I worked at a restaurant in college. I think everyone should have to work retail too! I worked two different mall jobs after college/in college and they both taught me so much.

    • Alana (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Yes! I very briefly worked in retail. Valuable lessons to be learned there too!

  13. Heather

    I think that there are 3 areas that everyone should work in: food service, retail, and daycare/teaching. (I know that realistically, there are some people who don’t need to be around kids) Honestly, working in those positions helps you grow, helps develop leadership, and teaches you to be a respectful, decent human. Working with groups of children makes you realize how those things aren’t just innate- it takes parental involvement. Childcare and teaching makes you realize that it’s so important to be involved and loving with your kids because it affects them in such a profound way.

    I’m now in the mental health field after doing those other jobs…and it has just reinforced how much of a difference a supportive home life makes. It has also taught me that mental health issues are WAY more common than most realize, and even the most ill person still deserves respect.

    • Alana (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Thank you for what you do. <3

  14. Andrea U

    I feel exactly the same about retail jobs.

  15. Tam

    In the country I grew up in you could start working at 14 and 9 months. I started as a cashier in a chicken fast food restaurant And worked my way up by 18 I was a manager. My cook was 15 and 16, my cashier 14, a whole store run by teenagers!! Yeah I learnt some life lessons I always wanted to answer the phone ‘ hello complaints departments’ I dreaded answering the phone and still do.

    • Alana (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Wow! That’s amazing.

  16. Judy Track

    I would love to get the point of view from someone who actually made a career out of working in this industry. In other words, someone who has worked for years in a restaurant as an adult; someone who worked there to support a family and worked there not just to pay the bills while going to college.

    • kim

      I am a career server. I’ve been at it for 20 years now. I have a degree in teaching and have worked in banking and project management.. at the end of the day serving is the hardest and best job I’ve ever had. I swear it’s in my blood and I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. I’ve worked my way up over the years and definitely make enough to support my family. best part is that I’ve been able to have so much more time with my kids than any other working mom I know. I really think my job makes parenting easier, I’m able to stay calm and focused no matter what life throws at me. serving also keeps me in good physical shape, Fitbit reads 17k steps today. sorry so long but I love my job 🙂

    • Alana (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      I have one cousin who started in the food industry in high school and is now the head chef of a restaurant, another that is a server, and a few others in the family who are still in this industry 40+ years later.

  17. Sbestg

    I say this to my kids all the time! <3

    • Alana (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Chick-fil-A is a great place for them to start! My old store hired as young as 14.

  18. Cherryluva

    I’ve always said this about retail….although, working in the food industry was extremely fun.

  19. Alex

    I want to agree with you on this but just know when to leave. I’ve dealt with many shady managers (which had a little to do with my shyness) and some of my past food service jobs felt abusive? from working 8 hours straight with no breaks to getting your hours cut short just because you tell your manager how you really feel about a situation (nicely). most of the managers do not care how you feel when you get that ”hours getting cut talk” even when its because they didn’t train you right.(idk how retail jobs are but thats how it is in food service) I do believe with the right manager and an outgoing personally most people will do just fine but you gotta be quick. also if you and your manager are having too many sit down talks about your performance its best for you to find another job because they will mostly end up firing you

    • Alana (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      I can relate to that. A good manager can make or break you in any industry!

  20. Patricia Goff

    I am very considerate to people most of the time. I know it isn’t always their fault and everybody can have a bad day but I refuse to go back to Chick-fil-a after they were rude to my girlfriend. When I did make a comment about it it was ignored which is another thing I couldn’t forgive. Have never been back since and that was 5 years ago. LOL

    • Alana (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      I’m sorry to hear that Patricia 🙁

  21. Pat Goff

    I worked for Chi-Chi’s on base in Germany.The job was okay. I was working part time to make extra money and I enjoyed it for a few months til tax season came around. The guy that owned the franchise was German and the building was on American soil since it was on an Army base i n Germany. I usually get my american taxes back because I live overseas and had almost all my life cause my father was in the military over there. I filed my taxes and was told that American taxes weren’t taken out because the owner was not an American Citizen. I contacted the German’s and was told that the business was on American soil so taxes were not paid to the Germans. I found out that he was taking taxes out and putting them in his bank account. When I talked to him he said that I was paying the least amount of taxes because I was claiming a child so why should I be complaining. I quit that day. I heard he got in some kind of trouble and had to close down the place later that year. The German’s were mad at him cause he refused to offer health insurance to his employees and all business’s had to do that in Germany if you had more than 3 employees. It was a huge mess and even made it in the German newspaper. LOL

  22. cath

    I started out working at a pizza place and loved it, until management changed. Then I got a job at a book store and most recently at Chick-fil-A. I also worked as a writer, but honestly, I kind of liked the more physical labor. Now I encourage my kids to work and volunteer.

  23. Cristine

    I have to agree with this. I worked many years in the food industry. My first job was a pizza place where I worked many positions and so many people were unbelievably rude. Once when we were short handed and customers ended up waiting in a long line to pay I had some man throw a crumpled dollar at me and tell me to “get some help.” I was 16. It taught me so much over the years though about being patient and understanding. I also experienced many considerate customers as well. I feel if more people worked in the industry they would be nicer in general.

    • Alana (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      I agree!

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