Happy Fast Food Jobs?

In the course of reviewing dozens of food stories a day, I sometimes come across one or two that simply make me scratch my head incredulously. For instance…

“Fast Food Jobs better than Advertised“

That collective THUNK you heard was 90% of everyone reading this article who ever worked at a fast food restaurant hitting their heads against their keyboards.

The article goes on to explain how in some cases there is advancement within the fast food corporate environment.

Nichols said he hires up to 110 employees at the two restaurants. Employees are paid more than minimum wage for full-time employment and pay is based on employees’ availability. Mid-level managers can take home $35,000 a year and top managers in Craig and Steamboat make in excess of $70,000 a year including benefits, Nichols said.

*blink…blink, blink*

Uhhh….okay.

Well, first and foremost, let’s set the record straight a bit. While it is true that managers can pull in between 30-35k on average, $70,000 a year is a bit rare, even for regional managers. Typically, regional managers pull in $54,000 a year. Not bad, but far short of what the article states.

I’m not about to say that the managers are well paid or not when it comes to fast food. I’m of the mind that once you pursue the management track in these restaurants, you understand what you’re into.

Having worked at both franchised and corporate stores back in my youth, I can tell you that there are two different cultures at work. While the corporate stores do allow for advancement, franchises can range from professional to out and out scary. But again, I’ll give those who pursue management the benefit of the doubt and presume they know what they are getting into.

It’s the wages of the front line workers where fast food restaurants flat out fail. Eric Schlosser wrote in his book Fast Food Nation the following:

While a handful of workers manage to rise up the corporate ladder, the vast majority lack full-time employment, receive no benefits, learn few skills, exercise little control over their workplace, quit after a few months, and float from job to job. The restaurant industry is now America’s largest private employer, and it pays some of the lowest wages. During the economic boom of the 1990s, when many American workers enjoyed their first pay raises in a generation, the real value of wages in the restaurant industry continued to fall. The roughly 3.5 million fast food workers are by far the largest group of minimum wage earners in the United States. The only Americans who consistently earn a lower hourly wage are migrant farm workers.

Workers who are promised benefits when they work 40 hours a week regularly often head home 1-2 hours short of their goal. Their pay is often minimum wage or perhaps 10-20% higher. Raises come in nickels and dimes rather than dollars per hour.

Who do you think make or enforce these decisions? That’s right, the managers who are lovingly lauded in the above article.

Again, I’m not one to say where one should or should not work. People have to eat after all. But to paint the Fast Food industry as a wonderful work opportunity is embellishment bordering on outright lying.


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