For many people working at a fast food restaurant is a right of passage. Something that most people have done at some point in their lives. Whether it’s your first job, something to help you pay for college, or your full-time job while you raise a family… working at a fast food restaurant isn’t easy. It is harder work than most people think, and employees don’t always get the respect they deserve. Working at a fast food restaurant can be a great experience or it can be a pretty terrible one. Here are the top 10 worst fast food restaurants to work for (allegedly).
No one working at a fast food restaurant expects to get rich doing so, but those who work a full-time schedule have the right to expect to make enough money to live and pay the bills! However, as most folks who have worked in the industry will tell you, that is much easier said than done. And McDonald’s is no exception. In fact, they actually don’t expect employees to be able to live on the salaries they pay them. In 2013 the higher-ups at the Golden Arches corporation launched a financial planning guide for their employees. Sounds like a nice thing to do right? Well, you would think that until you read it and saw that the sample budget they included in the guide, the one that had the employees making enough money to live and pay the bills assumed that they were working full time at Mickey Ds and had a second job as well. Without that second job, even the bosses at McDonald’s couldn’t see how a full-time employee in one of THEIR restaurants could survive on the salary they were paying them. This obviously can’t be a place that cares about it’s employees too much when they don’t expect their full-time employees to be able to support themselves without having to fit another job into their schedules (around their full-time McDonald’s schedule of course).
9. Taco Bell
Taco Bell has been sued and had to pay fines for underpaying employees for their meal breaks. But that is only part of the reason they made the list. In fact, the home of Live Mas actually has fewer lawsuits against them than most fast food companies. The other reason is the actual job itself. You may be wondering how is working at a Taco Bell different from working at any other fast food joint? In fact, Taco Bell has often been called the hardest fast food restaurant to work for because management requires a crazy amount of precision from the employees when preparing the food. Yup, you may not have noticed, or cared, but supposedly Taco Bell is very serious about making sure the items they make look the same each and every time you order it. So much so that the employees weigh everything during the production process and if something is off by as little as less than one ounce it has been said that they will sometimes be forced to throw it out and start all over again. Not only is speed a priority at Taco Bell (one company manager bragged that they could make a taco in 7 seconds) but so is precision. So, keep that in mind when you decide to go drop off your CV at Taco Bell.
8. Jimmy John’s
Besides the law suites for wage theft, the big knock against Jimmy John’s is the lack of sick days offered to employees. Back in 2011 a few Jimmy John’s employees were fired after creating an internet meme that showed two Jimmy John’s sandwiches. Under one image it said “your sandwich made by a healthy Jimmy John’s worker” and under the other image it said, “your sandwich made by a sick Jimmy John’s worker.” The meme was meant to expose the fact that the sandwich shop chain didn’t provide workers with any sick days, so often employees would have to come in when they weren’t feeling well. That incident occurred almost 10 years ago but it doesn’t look like much has changed in the ensuing decade. According to postings by former employees just within the last couple years, a former Assistant Manager wrote that there were “no sick days. They was a fixed schedule and if you needed time off you needed to find a cover”. And according to a former delivery driver, “you needed a doctors’ note otherwise they would write you up, and two write ups equals termination”. Another former manager at one of the chain’s restaurants wrote that, “sick leave counts as a vacation day and you are allowed 10 days off”. Whatever the exact policy, it doesn’t look like Jimmy John’s has changed much since 2011, and that is why they find themselves on our list.
What are the two things that every restaurant employee wants to leave work with. A paycheck and all their fingers! Well, at Arby’s there have been two incidents of workers not having the latter at the end of their shift. Yup, not once, but twice has an Arby’s customer found some unexpected meat in their sandwich. And we aren’t talking about extra roast beef. We are talking the tip of someone’s finger! One time the fingertip was traced back to an employee who cut it off in the meat slicer and another time it was a manager who sliced his digit off while cutting lettuce. Everyone loves finger food, but biting down onto an actual finger is not what anyone wants. Also, no job, especially one at a fast food joint, is worth losing your finger over. So, if you do get a job at an Arby’s just be extra careful with that meat slicer. You don’t want your pointer, index finger, ring finger or sweet little pinky becoming a part of the third Arby’s finger sandwich to make the news cycle.
6. Carl’s Jr
The people at Carl’s Jr make a good burger, but the people making those burgers have had issues in the past with getting paid a fair wage to make them. Back in 2017, Carl’s Jr was fined almost $1.5 million dollars for failing to pay a number of employees basic minimum wage. While the company claimed this was all just an accounting error, it all seemed a little sketchy when they wouldn’t allow investigators to talk with employees and didn’t inform their workers of their rights – two other things that the company was eventually fined for as well. At the time, in an ironic twist, the company’s CEO Andrew Puzdur was nominated for Labor Secretary of the United States. However, the backlash from the lawsuits was so strong that Mr. Puzder had to remove himself from consideration. Carl’s Jr has also been in hot water over many of their ads – deemed as sexist – and for just generally being against any type of labor organization and activism. Doesn’t really make anyone want to run out and apply for a job with a company with such an unappealing history towards its workforce. And for those that aren’t aware, Carl’s Jr is the same company that owns Hardees.
Sonic has some of the funniest commercials of all the fast food restaurants, but the way they pay their employees is no laughing matter. Back in 2017 Sonic, after dealing with a bunch of lawsuits claiming wage theft, signed an agreement with the United States Department of Labor to make improvements and comply with federal labor laws. Sounds great right!? Well, it looks like all the agreements and talk of improvements was just paying lip service to the problem rather than actually doing anything about it. Because it was only two years later, in 2019, when every single employee at three different Ohio locations all simultaneously quit and walked out. The workers made the decision when new management cut their wages from the $8.55/hour minimum wage to a ridiculously low $4/hour plus tips. When was the last time you tipped a fast food worker? Well, it doesn’t happen very often so that more than 50% wage cut was obviously never going to be recouped via tips. One has to assume that management knew that but did it anyway. And if they didn’t know it then, well, that is just as bad because it means they couldn’t be bothered to actually learn about their employees and the vital job they perform. Either way, the bottom dollar is all that mattered and that generally doesn’t make a place nice for the workers.
Subway’s tag line might be “Eat Fresh” but according to reports, that isn’t always what you will be doing if you get a sandwich from your local Subway restaurant. According to people who have worked at Subway locations, many of the restaurants only get two deliveries of fresh produce a week (some stores only get one). Which means that “fresh produce” on your sandwich isn’t always going to be very fresh. As a worker this can obviously be very frustrating, serving food you know isn’t up to expected standards (and having to deal with any customer complaints arising from something you have nothing to do with and can’t change). But, what can be even more frustrating is doing it all alone during some of the busiest times of the day. It seems to be a pretty common issue at Subway restaurants and it isn’t hard to find employees posting online about how they had to work long shifts either alone or with just one other employee – when the number of customers coming into the restaurant would have properly required at least three, if not more workers. Now, while your employment at a Subway would be one step to helping this seemingly chronic underemployment issue at the restaurant, it will take more than just you and a few friends to get jobs with the chain in order to improve all the currently understaffed franchises. And with hundreds of Subway locations having closed over the last few years, your job as a sandwich artist might not be as secure as you might have assumed it to be.
3. Burger King
There is probably nothing more basic when it comes to any kind of employment then getting paid for all the time you work. Even though employees at all fast food restaurants have complained for years about low pay and most fast food restaurants have faced multiple lawsuits regarding wages, Burger King dealt with an issue a few years back about workers being asked to work without any pay at all! The incident occurred at a Burger King location in Aukland, New Zealand. On a Watsapp group chat for the location’s management and employees, one manager sent out a text telling people that they should finish the work they are doing even if their shift ends. The text said that one employee had finished up some tasks after their shift had ended and that if they could do it, then everyone could do it. One employee at the time couldn’t believe what was being asked of them, took a screenshot of the text and sent it to various management people in the organization. Basically, they were asking workers to clock out and finish up work – meaning working for free after their shift! Asking employees to stay after their shift isn’t always unreasonable. Most people have probably had such demands made of them at work at one time or another. However, it needs to be agreed to by workers and management and, of course – most importantly and obviously to most folks – workers should expect to get paid for any time they are working. As one employment lawyer put it, “If on the other hand, the employer wants people to work for nothing after they’ve clocked off, that’s clearly illegal. They can take a personal grievance and claim the lost wages”
2. Dunkin Donuts
Do you like the smell of coffee? Well, you better like it if you plan on working at a Dunkin Donuts. Because according to one former employee, “everything you own will smell like coffee. Learn to have Dunkin’ Donuts specific clothing for work because of the smell”. This employee once kept their apron and visor in the car for a week and didn’t open the windows. Bad idea. The cloth seats absorbed the smell and although they didn’t notice it, passengers did. But maybe you love the smell of coffee. Maybe, like the smell of napalm in the morning to Colonel Kilgore in Apocalypse Now, it smells like victory! How do you feel about high heat and burning the tips of your fingers? Well, that is what another employee reported dealing with when they were working a Dunkin Donuts sandwich station on a regular basis. According to this former employee, to work the sandwich station, “you only needed speed, fingers that can’t feel anything , and the ability to stand the temperatures of hell. Between running around, opening the ovens, and having the bagel toaster in your face, you end up sweating like crazy”. It doesn’t sound like a fun day at the office. But you do get free coffee and donuts so it can’t be all bad!
Cops and firefighters might have to fear for their safety every shift they work, but having to fear for your safety working at a fast food restaurant isn’t something one would expect. Nor should they. But if you work at a Popeyes restaurant that might have to be a consideration given several incidents that have occurred at multiple locations across the country. Several incidents occurred just a year or so ago when Popeyes launched their mega-popular fried-chicken sandwich. The sandwich made a big splash – you most definitely saw the big ad campaign they put out to launch the sandwich. It was an instant hit with customers. Maybe a bigger hit than the chain expected it to be because reports of ingredient shortages at various locations lead to violence both verbal and physical against employees from angry customers who really, really, really, wanted a fried-chicken sandwich. There was even a stabbing at a Popeyes in Maryland when one customer cut in line. And even though that violence was not against an employee, having to be in such an unpleasant environment definitely doesn’t really scream, “come work here for minimum wage” does it!”