I currently work as the fry cook at a high volume beer and wings joint in Atlanta. Been there almost exactly one year, and will be leaving in one week. Here’s why…
Management sucks. My last job as cashier at a fast casual South African restaurant, where the manager and prep cook would frequently bang in the office while we were busy, was more tolerable.
I work weekends, when we get slammed, and the fry station has two positions; one person flips the wings and sells the items, the other drops all fried items and keeps the fries coming. On Sundays management finds it economically sound to leave me on fry alone. They of course expect quality and timing to be the same as well, which simply is not possible with 25 tickets constantly on the board and constantly coming in, fries needing to be fresh, and 300 wings down that need to be out in 15 minutes minus the crispy wings. I’ve been doing this for a couple of months now and last week was the last straw.
As usual I’m alone on fry. As long as I have time to drop stuff, we’re fine. My manager comes to me before the dinner rush and says happily, “It’s you and me tonight bud!” Here’s what this means: he’ll drop half of what keeps rolling in, forgetting the other half, he’ll constantly get in the way of my station, randomly wander off to sweep, maybe polish a prep table, wander off into the office, and be out the door by 7:30-8:00pm while we’re still getting our butts kicked in the kitchen. This means I’ll clean two stations, and half of them won’t be stocked. Wanna know why? It’s not my job, and my pay won’t go up if I’m having to do $25/hr work for ten. 25??? What is this guy, crazy? Not at all. I make $10, the other guy that should be on my station would be making $10, and $5 for mental torment as I work that station alone on the busiest nights because we want to cut costs or Mr. Manager wants to be lazy, our constant turnover of new servers keep messing up tickets, and our policy dictating that we pretty much don’t have a menu. Customers get whatever the heck they want! Not on the menu, no problem! We’ll make it work!
Being in culinary school, this has been my greatest string of lessons in what NOT to do when managing a restaurant. I want to put out quality, honest, good food. Heck, if you want something special, I’d love to make it for you. If it’s busy, I love to dance, and can handle a full board while still cracking jokes and having fun. But when your employer grinds you to the bone every weekend on a two person station for months, you can’t expect to have a happy worker. Especially the kicker: say we’re busy and a server messes up, they need something redone in the fly, I’ll be stared at by a manager and asked why the food isn’t done in ten seconds every 30 seconds instead of them coming back to maybe lend a hand.
The bottom line here is that you have to take care of your workers, and you should be able and willing to jump into the fire with your cooks if the situation obviously needs another man, otherwise you should find another line of work. Two weekends left and I’m out of there. Yay!
Reprinted with permission from Dinners From Hell.