The Reality of Working in the Food Industry

Since the pandemic started, you would think more people have decided to become more compassionate to “essential workers;” This is definitely not the case. Working in the food industry counts as being an essential worker. Interacting with plenty of different people for the sake of your job is a huge health risk for something that many people wouldn’t consider essential. Because there’s no way to actually know what these workers deal with on the daily unless you are one, I figured I’d share some of the many stupid things I’ve dealt with recently at my job.

For the sake of my job security (even though I plan on quitting soon), I won’t mention the name of where I work.

Sometimes the restaurant will run out of certain food items, which we won’t be able to serve to customers. Most of the time I learn about the missing item after someone has already ordered it. It becomes a hassle when I have to call the customer back, tell them we are out of the item, remove it from their order, and etc. There should be more communication between all employees in different sections of the restaurant to avoid conflicts like that.

To go along with that, the cooks mess up customers’ orders all the time. Luckily, I am usually able to notice when someone’s order is missing something or wasn’t made particularly to their liking, but other employees might not have the same attention to detail. Messed up orders not only take longer to throw together, but end up being a waste of time and resources. I wouldn’t be surprised if the cooks think I’m a bit of a nag, but I’m just trying to avoid a stressful situation.

A large part of working in food, especially as a cashier, is socializing with customers. As you can assume, every person I meet isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Grown adults apparently love to argue with teenage employees about things they have no control over. My vocabulary during shifts cycles through, “I’m so sorry about that,” “Thank you so much for your patience,” and “I wish there was more I could do.” Food industry workers are people too, so please try and be kind to us instead of blaming us for the prices being ridiculous.

With COVID getting worse everyday, so does unemployment. My job has fluctuated between having just enough people to not enough since I started working there last year. We are currently in the “not enough” zone. This has led me to have to run around and do other peoples jobs for them with no extra pay. I get paid the same $13.50 an hour for handling 2-3 people’s responsibilities all at once. It is hard to not feel exploited when I am still being paid the bare minimum for doing extra work.

At least at my job, the cashier also runs the to-go section, so I do more than just sit and answer phones and take your payments. Usually I am the one who goes to the back and puts together everyone’s orders to get them ready for pick up, with all your added condiments and utensils. When we’re really busy, I also take charge of putting dine-in orders together and bringing them out to tables. So when I do all this work to throw together a $60+ order of 7 or more items and check you out and get no tip, it makes me a lot less motivated.

On the topic of COVID, I don’t know if it’s the type of crowd my place of work attracts, but there is little to no covid safety. Up until this month, my job “lightly” enforced the mask mandate. “Lightly.” Both customers and employees alike have disregarded the global pandemic and take their masks off about 30 seconds after they enter the building. Sometimes it feels like I’m the only one who is taking COVID safety seriously. There is a sign plastered outside saying you have to wear a mask to enter, but my fellow coworkers don’t even follow that rule.

Along with being severely understaffed, the employees who do work constantly are calling out and asking people to cover their shifts. This is a shared complaint among almost every essential worker in the world right now. As a high school student, there’s only so much time I have to get the things I need to do done, so begging me to cover your shift because you forgot you had to babysit that night can get a bit frustrating. I think everyone could benefit from some better time management skills.

As you can see, working in the food industry isn’t an easy task. It is even harder amidst a global pandemic. Please be more considerate to food industry workers, especially now, as you never know what they have to deal with on the daily.

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