Here’s What I’ve Learned Having Worked At Five Lufkin Restaurants
Writing this now, I'm a 33 year old man with a wife and two kids. My family moved to Lufkin Texas when I was 13, and except for an eight year stint in the Army, I've called Lufkin my home.
Where It Began
I've always loved fast food, and I'm not talking about eating it. Growing up watching movies like "Good Burger" and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" made me want to be the guy behind the counter, serving up great food to people who need a quick fix.
Why Not A Different Career?
I know it sounds super weird, but these days there are so many people trying to get famous from their YouTube channels or podcasts. Nobody really wants to work for a company. While there are a lot of career paths for adults without higher education, I still enjoyed putting a product together and physically handing it to the customer.
My Primary Career
I normally work fast food as my secondary job. Especially at places that stay open later.
My current job as the digital managing editor at this radio station is awesome. I have my own office. I give content ideas and deadlines to the DJs you know and trust here in East Texas. I get access to all the cool events happening in the Pineywoods, and I don't have to wear a uniform.
The issue I have is that even with Google Analytics, Facebook insights, and all the ways I can see who is visiting our websites, there's a disconnect. I don't get to see the readers' faces when they read one of our articles. Even when someone comments on our Facebook pages, I feel like I didn't really "make" anything.
We do strive to find newsworthy and entertaining content to keep East Texas informed of local events, weather, and anything e can think to tell y'all. I still have this visceral need to make something and see it go out to a customer.
Okay ... Now that you know why I'm crazy about fast food. I'm finally getting to the point. I've worked at three famous burger spots, a build-a-burrito shop, and a very famous chicken sandwich restaurant. Here are some of my thoughts looking back.
NOTE: I've never worked at a restaurant with waiters, seating, or tips. Those are sort of the big leagues and I don't think I could survive in that atmosphere. I'll just say everyone should be kind and respectful to those folks, because that job looks intense.
Leaders vs. Bosses
It's up to the managers to instill a good work ethic in their employees. We all have different backgrounds, but when you're at work, you've got to do things the company's way.
A good leader can get the best out of their staff, and a "boss" is not necessarily a good leader.
Hands on leaders can inspire employees to want to come to work every day and put smiles on the faces of their neighbors.
My first job ever was at the chicken sandwich place, and I think that helped cement the principals I have today. The leaders I had 17 years ago are still the leaders there today. You probably know them.
They run a tight ship, but I'm guessing you didn't need this article to tell you that.
Some restaurants are cleaner than others. It depends on what the leadership asks of their staff.
Most places where I've worked do not like seeing team members standing around or leaning on anything.
One restaurant I worked at seemed fine with the employees standing around talking while a few individuals continued to find tasks to keep doing.
There's always something to wipe clean. There's always something to sweep up. There is ALWAYS something that could use a sanitizing. Picking up a piece of trash outside can make the difference between customers enjoying their meal.
You can pretty much always see the kitchen staff at fast food joints. Take note of how busy they seem without customers lined up. That will tell you how clean the place is.
The Little Things
I've noticed how having a dedicated radio station for the restaurant can completely change the feel for the customers and team members.
One burger joint always has great oldies playing. It just helped my mood an in-turn my motivation. Maybe it's just me, but the old-time feel of being a burger boy or soda jerk is the holy grail of fast food. It makes everything seem simple. All my problems go away because I'm just making quality food for friends.
I only worked in one place where you build the customer's order as they tell you what they want.
I noticed that law enforcement would eat there quite often. They can see their food being made and know there's no funny business going down. It's a bit disappointing that they can't trust everyone, but it's also annoying that individuals would actually tamper with someone's food.
I've been on interviews where the manager just needed to know I had reliable transportation. Boom, you start tomorrow.
This can be a red flag that the place has a high turnover rate. There are a lot of factors that could cause past employees to quit or be fired, but even if you can get to work on time, doesn't mean everyone else can.
You may have to come in on your only day off because someone left without giving their two weeks notice.
A Good Fit
These days, you have to apply online or using some app. They'll have questionnaires to get a feel of your code of ethics and demeanor under stressful situations.
Many questions are exactly the same, but worded differently. They're mainly looking for consistency in your answers.
If you saw team member take a french fry and didn't say anything, why are you all the sudden ready to tell on someone for taking a dollar out of the register? That sort of stuff.
Lufkin is home to some of the hardest people to please. Yes, it's the service industry, but mistakes happen. Do NOT be one of those people that yell at a 17 year old girl for forgetting the onions on your burger. You are the worst kind of person, and you need to calm down.
Scammers: I've seen people come through the drive through at night, and return the next morning hoping the staff has changed over. Some of these scammers have the gall to say they didn't get their food and they want the order remade right then and there. Managers are there to remedy the situation, but it's pretty embarrassing when the scammer is caught with definitive proof. Don't do it.
Last Second Customers: Back in July I posted this question to the Kfox 955 Facebook page asking if y'all were the type of people that would pop in to a fast food joint within 10 minutes of their closing time. Everyone that responded said "No" with others commenting that it's not in good form to do such a thing.
I'm here to tell you ... While the manager says every dollar counts, the team most likely is annoyed. While you might be saying they have a closing time for a reason, consider the following.
Once the store is closed to the public, the team then gets to start shutting things down and cleaning for the morning crew. These are people that went in to work around 3 or 4 pm, closed at 11 or 12, and won't get home until 1:30 am.
This might be good for their paychecks, but it can lead to sloppy work or even worse, a sleepy drive home.
Maybe pop in and ask the lowest team members what they think. Don't listen to their words, but instead watch their faces and reaction time.
You should get all the info you need from that 3 second interaction.
In some cases, the team might start cleaning things before the closing time. They all know the holding times for certain foods, so they can realistically stock up on whatever 30 minutes before closing. Do you really want a taco or burger that's been sitting in a heat lamp for over 30 minutes?
There's a lot to consider, but it's generally frowned upon to try and get food right before the closing time. Just be a decent human being and go somewhere that is open 24 hours a day.
Either know what you want before driving up to the intercom, or stop at the sign they place before it.
When your car pulls up, it can start a timer in the building. If that timer shows that the team is taking too long to serve you, they can get in trouble.
You driving up and saying you need a minute doesn't make it their fault for having extended service times.