Students and the Food Industry

The world revolves around the food service industry. Everyone indulges in fast food’s tasty treats, from the late-night Dairy Queen runs to our morning Starbucks cappuccinos. Service workers come to work daily, ready to handle a broken fryer or another customer’s rampage. Society enjoys the fruit of their labor every day. It is estimated that 1/3 of American adults consume fast food regularly; this demonstrates our society’s reliance on this industry. These booming franchises cause me to beg the question for youngsters-Is it beneficial to work in this industry?

It is evident that some kids value working in food service. Restaurant work is 1/3 of Americans’ first jobs and half of Americans work at a restaurant in their lifetime. My dad always argued that kids should work in fast food. Pulling from this strict military background, he stated, “it builds character.” Patrick Mcguire, the author of Family Life Experiences, wrote, “Working in restaurants can be a valuable life experience: the appreciation, empathy, and respect people should develop for hard-working service industry workers and humans they interact with for the rest of their lives, encouraging decency, mutual respect, and common courtesy.” This trait of empathy and compassion can be applied to parts of life. Even when my friends and I, who have/had worked in this industry, go to our local Chilis, we try to demonstrate patience in all components that go into eating out because we relate to and understand the struggles of food service. The skill of punctuality and awareness is also fostered in this industry. A busboy must refill the drinks of their guest, saving them from being parched, or a host must balance reservations and waitlists. Additionally, young workers are thrown into a diverse group of people and learn to work in a team. They learn to adapt to the cycle of logging the order, flipping the burger, bagging the fries, and serving to the customer through the glass pane window.

Or do these skills not compare to the hardship inflicted on young workers? Does this industry force us to be servants of capitalism? Are good workers becoming robots, stuck in an endless cycle of repetition? The jobs are highly structured and could therefore limit creativity and initiative. Perfectly placing ketchup packets and rotating hotdogs for hours on end leaves little room for workers to incorporate their twists. Amital Etzioni stated in the Washington Post, “These are breeding grounds for robots working for yesterday’s assembly lines, not tomorrow’s high-tech posts.” Also, it can be argued that franchises can prey on young workers, threatening them with long hours and possibly dangerous conditions. 87% of fast-food workers suffer an injury once a year due to their job’s condition. The job’s long hours can throw off the balance of time allocated in the day for homework and other high school necessities. A 1980 study by A.V. Harrel and P.W. Wirtz found that high school students who worked more than 25 hours weekly were 50% more likely to be unemployed in the next four years than their high school counterparts who did not work. This could be due to these young service workers having less time to pursue an education or other valued experiences due to the service industry’s hold on them.

People with different backgrounds and experiences are bound to have different takes on this topic. Karen Bielfeldt, a Richwoods’ parent stated, “Working at a fast food restaurant is a great first job for a teen. Kids will learn customer service and pick up multitasking skills. Having a job builds self-confidence and promotes independence.” Whether right or wrong, the food industry rests on the backs of working students. Skills and traits fundamental to emotional intelligence and strong character can be nurtured by experience in food service. Patience, empathy, awareness, teamwork, inclusion, and hard work are all qualities of many young service workers. On the other hand, extensive time spent working in these franchises can limit other opportunities and time spent on academics and creativity. Circumstances can push youngsters one way or another, but it is primarily your choice whether to work in food service. Ask your parents or friends their thoughts on the subject. One would imagine that opinions vary greatly from person to person on the benefits of working in the food service industry.