Side Hustle Series: Fast Food Associate

Side Hustle Series- Fast Food Associate.png

What’s a college kid to do which lots of time and no money? A job, that’s what. I was in need of generating money fast in the junior year of my college years, so I started looking for all kinds of jobs. After many applications, I walked into a fast food restaurant and ended up learning a lot about myself and the industry.

I was in my third year of college, I had an internship and a part time job. The internship was unpaid and the part time job wasn’t paying enough, so I decided to get another part time job. I sent many applications to all kinds of companies and didn’t get many replies or interviews. I chalked it up to not having a completed college degree or extensive work experience. I was determined to increase my income because the loan I got that year was only to carry tuition. Housing and food was going to come from myself.

During a visit to one of the local Taco Bells in the college town, I decided to ask the manager if they were hiring. She instructed me to fill out an application and they would call me if there was an interest. I filled out the application and left the store with ample burritos, and a very small hope of getting a call back for an interview. A year prior to this instance, I had an interview with a local McDonald’s fast food restaurant and did not get hired. My mindset at the time was if McDonald's doesn't want to hire me, there no way any other fast food place would hire me. I now understand I was pitying myself and being closed minded. Each situation is different and serendipity goes a long way.

I ended up getting a call back for an interview and got hired on as an associate at the Taco Bell. I stayed in that position for about 2 and half years and learned about myself and the fast food industry. Associates are in charge of making the finest items on the menu and some cashier duties. I was a lot more comfortable making the food so I avoided being a cashier as much as possible. The starting pay was a minimum wage, but the opportunity of set hours and flexibility won in my mind. After talking  with my managers there, I learned of the available opportunity to move up within the company to become a manager. At the time, I was focused on making as much money as possible so that seemed like a plus to me. Due to the higher perceived value I had of the place, I made it a point to to learn as much as I could from the experience.

From all lessons, a few important ones stand out. The one main objective we had was to make sure every order was completed and in the hands of the customer within 60 seconds. Anything more is a ding on store performance and the managers did not like having dings on their records, understandably. My biggest adjustment was getting used to the fast paced environment. It was stressful at first but turned into stress management lessons. Before working there, I didn’t know how fast food orders got done. I was definitely the type of person to order entirely too much at the drive thru, change the order multiple times and take too much time. That behavior has since changed. Knowing that associates start working on the order as soon as I start talking into the speaker make me be a lot more precise. Staying ahead of orders in this manners transfer well into other operations for the store. One negative was the amount of waste that was created because of this. We used to throw out a lot of food because a customer would change their orders multiple times and sometimes all the way to the pick up window. The managers there can get caught in the rate race by working 60+ hours for higher pay, in a very stressful and volatile environment. My goal of becoming a manager there was short lived after after being exposed.

The need to make more money led me to try to get a job at many places and finally landed one at a Taco Bell. In my 2 and a half years there, I averaged about 20 hours a week at minimum wage. It was mainly weekend hours, bringing in about $100-$200 a week. Being a college kid, working at an unpaid internship and another part time job, this was just enough to take care of bills, food and transportation. I don’t have as much free time as I did back then, but I know if I ever find myself in a tight situation ever again, I can put in a few hours a week at a fast food to take care of immediate needs. This is one experience I believe is valuable to everyone.

Have you ever looked into fast food as a way to make more money?