Service and Fast Food

By: Jerry Nix | Freewavemaker, LLC  —  Date Published: Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Back in the late 1950s and during the 1960s when fast food restaurants were just taking hold in America … the king of fast food was McDonald’s.

Back then, this was truly a fast-food restaurant. In addition, the “Customer Service” was superior. A person could walk in (there was no drive through at the time), walk up to the counter and place an order to a person who would actually greet them warmly with a smile on their face.

Now I have to admit the menu then was not near as extensive as it is today – which is why they already had food prepared when you walked in sitting under heat lamps. You did not have to wait (most times) for your meal to be cooked.

My Dad would take us once per month (approximately) and provide us with our “meal out.” The total cost per person for a Hamburger, Fries, and a Coke was about $0.35 per child and mom with a cost of about $0.50 for him for a total family cost of $1.90 plus tax.

But the main thing I remember was how friendly everyone was at this place and how they would want to seem to bend over backward to please you.

In addition, considering the meals were pre-cooked, for us at least, they tasted pretty darn good.

Today, however, it does not seem that way. What we hear most often is not gratitude about the fast-food service industry, but rather complaints. Here are some of the complaints that are being heard (and spread on social media) and this is in no particular order.

Poor Food Quality:

This includes complaints about food that is cold, overcooked, or simply not tasty. You have to wonder what is causing this poor food quality to happen at a time when it seems like technology in food preparation far exceeds what was available in the 1950s/1960s era.

Could it be that the restaurant’s menus have grown their menus in an effort to please everyone who walks through the door to an unmanageable task? Now the menus are so large they have them displayed on a scrolling screen because one large wall is not big enough to house the entire menu.

Slow Service:

Long wait times for food, especially during busy times, is another common complaint. Why is this? Is it because they do not hire enough people to keep up with the traffic and the cooking of the food? Or is because they no longer attempt to pre-cook anything and cook it all at the time of the order? Now I am not against cooking food at the time of the order … but then don’t hold yourself out to be a “fast-food” restaurant. Just call yourself a restaurant. How many times have you walked into a McDonald’s restaurant (I refuse to call it a fast-food restaurant) and order a milk shake just to be told, “Our ice cream machine is down.” I would tell you that is likely not the case. I worked for an ice cream shop as a kid and it’s usually just dirty and they don’t want to take the time to clean it and get it producing ice cream again. It’s not broken … its just down because someone does not want to make it work.

Order Mistakes:

Customers often complain about getting the wrong order, or missing items from the order. When that happens and you go back to the restaurant you are told, “Well Mister you should have checked the order before you left.” What? It’s not the customer’s job to check the order … it’s the worker’s job. It is not the customer asking for a $15 per hour income … it’s the workers who want it … they should check the orders before handing them to the customer.

High Prices:

Like everything else, fast food prices have been rising in recent years, and some customers feel that they are no longer getting good value for their money. Take a look at tis for an example:

The price of a McDonald’s Big Mac 30 years ago, in 1993, was $2.50. Today, in 2023, the average price of a Big Mac in the United States is $5.58.

This means that the price of a Big Mac has increased by 223% over the past 30 years. This is due to a number of factors, including inflation, the rising cost of ingredients, and the increasing cost of operating a fast-food restaurant.

However, it is important to note that the price of a Big Mac can vary depending on the location of the restaurant and the time of year. For example, a Big Mac in Hawaii is typically more expensive than a Big Mac in Mississippi. This may seem illogical until you remember the price for everything in Hawaii (and other states) including pineapples that are grown in Hawaii is more expensive than the same items in Mississippi.

As an investor one of the indices, I watch from time to time is the “Big Mac Index.”

The Big Mac index is a measure of the purchasing power of different currencies. It is calculated by comparing the price of a Big Mac in different countries. The Big Mac index shows that the US dollar is one of the strongest currencies in the world, as a Big Mac is typically more expensive in the US than in other countries. I really wonder if the service is better or worse in those other countries.

Unclean Restaurants:

Dirty floors, tables and bathrooms are often a complaint of patrons in a fast-food restaurant. How many times have you gone into a fast-food restaurant, expecting to eat your meal there and first had to clean off the table you were going to sit at because neither the workers in the restaurant or the previous customer failed to clean the table.

Rude Staff:

Customers expect to be treated with respect and courtesy, but unfortunately, some fast-food employees can be rude or unhelpful.

A New Writer to Freewavemaker, LLC:

It is at this point I’d like to bring in a new writer to this blog. Her name is Ruthie Thornton and she will turn 17 years of age next week. This happens to be the granddaughter of my cousin, Sherry Nix-Duncan and she and I happen to be friends on Facebook. She wrote a post about a week or so ago so I asked her if I could use this post in my article about Fast-food Restaurants and she was more than happy to agree. Ruthie is a kid who apparently loves to study hard and work hard. She is participating in the Co-op Program at her high school where she goes to school half a day and goes to work the other half the day. I did the same in my Junior and Senior years of high school and am glad to see other members of my extended family is doing the same. The one thing we are short on in America is “Adults with a good work ethic.” She is well on her way to having a great work ethic. The words below are from Ruthie:

“This generation doesn’t want to work!”

It’s always “This generation doesn’t want to work,” these kids need to do their job, people need to work.” I do agree, that some people don’t want to work, or want to do their job, nor want to learn.

However, let’s take this to a different point of view for a second. What about the teens that do work? The ones that go to work every day, sometimes even working doubles on the weekends? So many people these days don’t want to work. Leaving us fast food restaurants incredibly short-staffed.

While the few who do come to work are already irritated, we have customers who stare bullets into our backs, who are breathing down our necks, watching our every move, and making us feel even more stressed.

Topping all of that off we have managers screaming at employees to get food out and to do said job.

We also have grown adults getting ill and yelling at children. The key word there is “children.” We are still kids, some of us dual enroll (college classes), do sports, band, etc. So, we have more than enough on our plates.

The perfect example of the mind-boggling stress that fast food employees deal with would be what happened to me just last night. I ended up walking out and leaving, a lobby full of customers, a short-staffed kitchen, and a manager already full of vexation. It was only 6 pm and he was shouting at me with such inappropriate words, treating me as if I deserved to be treated any less than he should be.

Circling back to the beginning, a lot of people don’t want to work. Though, there are still so many kids working more hours than some adults. Employers and customers both frequently forget that we employees are still children. We are still young and emotional people who are also still learning the way of things.

My thoughts on Ruthie’s Comments:

I agree wholeheartedly with her. These “kids” who choose to work hard should be treated with the dignity and respect that we “adults” expect from everyone we come in contact with – especially kids. That being said if we expect respect from them – the fast-food workers … we probably need to start by giving a little respect to them.

However, being from the “Old School” I do not view a person who is 16 to 18 years of age as a child. I view them as a young adult. They have, or should have, responsibilities; and if they choose to work with people they need to learn to deal with people from all walks of life and with all behavioral styles.

When I went to school, we had two Co-op type programs. One was Distributive Education (for those who wanted to deal with people in the general public) and Diversified Occupations (for those who did not want to deal with people in the general public). I chose Diversified Occupations where I could get a job in an automotive body shop where all I had to deal with was my job, and the other employees, and no public. I left the customer service up to the owner of the shop and the manager. My brother, on the other hand, chose Distributive Education and worked in an automobile parts store where he consistently had to deal with the public.

Back when I was a “kid” there were 17 and 18-year-old people who joined the military and were willing to “die” for values they believed in. The average age of the person in the Vietnam was only 23.1 years of age. Roughly 18.5% of those who fought in this war were under the age of 23.1 years old. This means since 2.7 million Americans fought in the war that close to a half million were “Kids.” Of the 58,318 who died in that war for America and South Vietnam … 10,798 were under the age of 20 (that’s 20% – or one in five) if you’re keeping score. I tell you this just so that you understand my reasoning for thinking of kids at work who are 16-20 years of age, in my opinion, are not children but rather young adults.

Now back to more of my thoughts on Ruthie’s comments – who I praise for having the courage to allow me to publish this.

She is correct … there are some young adults (or Kids) that put in many more hours per week than some of the older adults in America. Some older adults are retiring and some were just brought up to be rather lazy and want to take what they can get for free. We should cherish those “kids” who want to work to buy things for themselves and/or to help out their families … not be rude to them when they are trying to serve up our fast food. Let’s face it … we “adults” have a choice that some of these “kids” do not have. Our choice is to go to a regular restaurant to eat or cook at home if we are not being satisfied by the people and atmosphere of the fast-food chains.

Now as far as her manager who sees fit to yell and scream at the young adults trying to do their jobs … he/she should be removed from their position as manager. A manager’s job, much like that of a parent, is to teach the employees to do their jobs in a pleasant way that makes the employees want to do better. Sometimes this may require discipline… but it also requires training. When was the last time the manager actually held a training session on “how to handle the disgruntled customer?” Probably never! Furthermore – one of the best teaching tools of the manager is his/her actions. You don’t teach employees not to be rude to the paying customer by being rude, in public especially, to the employee. That’s nonsense!

The problem today is that most of these fast-food restaurants are owned by very large corporations who rarely send anyone to the “troubled site” until they get enough written complaints (and if Americans are too lazy to work – they are definitely too lazy to write a letter to the owner). Back in the 1950s and 1960s many of these same restaurants were owned by individuals who spent many hours each day at the restaurant making sure it was running smoothly. I’m sure that if the owner of the restaurant my 3rd cousin worked at was on site … the manager would not be treating the employees the way this one seems to.

The average cost of a McDonald’s franchise today in America is between $1 million and $2.3 million. This includes the initial franchise fee of $45,000, as well as the cost of purchasing or leasing a restaurant location, equipment, and inventory. Franchisees are also required to have a minimum of $500,000 in liquid assets. It is hard for an individual these days to take on this kind of investment considering the risks that are involved.

So, dear reader, when you go to a fast-food restaurant try having a little more respect for the person who is serving you. You gain respect by giving respect. One way you can show this respect for the person who is doing a good job is to give them a tip. I’ve often wondered why we tip waiters and waitresses at regular restaurants… but seldom do we even think about tipping the person serving us at a fast-food restaurant.

Remember one thing. With the onset of Artificial Intelligence, the waiter (or order taker) at a fast-food chain has limited days or years they will be able to work for you. They will be replaced by robots. I’d sure like to see an adult try to be rude to a robot. That would be really funny.

Now which Fast-food restaurants receive the most and least complaints (they all get some complaints) see below.

Which Fast Food restaurants receive the most complaints?

Based on various sources, including the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) and customer reviews, the following fast food restaurants receive the most complaints:

  • Subway
  • KFC
  • Taco Bell
  • Domino’s
  • White Castle
  • Arby’s
  • Whataburger
  • Papa John’s
  • Pizza Hut
  • McDonald’s
  • Burger King

These restaurants are generally known for their cheaper prices and faster service, but they also have a reputation for lower food quality and customer satisfaction.

Which fast food restaurants receive the fewest complaints?

Based on various sources, including the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) and customer reviews, the following fast-food restaurants receive the fewest complaints:

  • Chick-fil-A
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill
  • Panera Bread
  • Firehouse Subs
  • Five Guys Burgers and Fries
  • Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches
  • Jersey Mike’s Subs
  • McAlister’s Deli
  • Jason’s Deli
  • Schlotzsky’s Deli

These restaurants are generally known for their high-quality food, fast service, and friendly staff. They also tend to be more expensive than some other fast-food restaurants, but many customers feel that the extra cost is worth it.

Of course, no restaurant is perfect, and even the most popular fast-food chains will receive some complaints from time to time. However, the restaurants on this list tend to have consistently high customer satisfaction ratings, suggesting that they are doing a good job of addressing the most common complaints.

Bottom Line:

When going to a fast-food restaurant don’t over-expect and then get upset for the under-delivery of your expectations. It takes two people interacting to respect each other and get things done smoothly.

Remember as you sit in the long drive-up line that it may not be the restaurant that is behind in getting orders out. It may be the fault of those customers in front of you who are behind in getting the orders in.

I can’t tell you the times I’ve been in a drive-up line behind some person who has no idea what they want when they get to the microphone to place their order. They spend a lot of time reading the menu before placing the order … then more time changing their mind and confusing the person taking the order. I find, during busy times, it’s normally faster to park the car, walk in, place the order, get the order, check the order, and return to your car. Sometimes I’ve found that I could be 10 cars back. Decided to walk in and place and get my order, and walk back out to find I’d still be 7 cars back in line had I been lazy and stayed in the car. Trust me … most people won’t walk in to place an order because Americans are just that lazy.

Finally, if you have an order taker who does a good job … even if you can’t afford to tip them, at least say a few kind words to them to let them know how much you appreciate their service. Who knows … someday you may have to deal with that “robot” and won’t have to be nice to the robot that has no emotions … but please treat people the way they deserve to be treated.

Until next time, have a great week,

Jerry Nix and Ruthie Thornton

Freewavemaker, LLC

4 thoughts on “Service and Fast Food

  1. David

    It never hurts to be nice to people. So sad that people want grace so desperately but judge everyone else by their actions. I could go on but I’ll start preaching. Love you guy!

    1. David, Thank you so much for reading and commenting on my article. I take it from your comment that you liked it. It warms my heart to have people read and comment on my articles … especially family members. Have a great weekend Cuz! Jerry

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