, , , ,


A man walked into a fast food restaurant and ordered fries. The cashier turned to him and asked, “Do you want fries with that?” Or, what about the one where the cashier asked, “Is that to go or to take out?”

Fast food restaurants have served as the butt of many mindless jokes. We paint some of the employees as bimbos, stupid, or out to lunch. While some of the workers do make us wonder, however, some of the most needed skills in today’s workplace are developed in your more popular fast food restaurants.

I say this from experience. My very first job was in a fast food restaurant. Mickey D’s. Or, as most like to call it – McDonald’s. This was in Spartanburg, SC.

I can remember getting my working papers at age fourteen. I was excited. I went straight to McDonald’s and applied for a job. I was hired. I made $1.60 per hour. (It was the early 70’s. What can I say?) While it was not a Kodak moment, it was truly a heads up chest out moment. For, I was a working girl!

While working at McDonald’s, I developed some of the most crucial skills needed to succeed in the workplace. We were taught discipline, teamwork, leadership skills, excellent customer service, and stamina, to name a few. Today, companies will pay top dollar for their employees to learn many of these skills. How did McDonald’s do it? It was through hands on experience.


We were working as team players long before it became a catch phrase for today’s working world. I worked the cash register. (This was during the time when there were no pictures on the cash register to represent the amount of the product. And, neither did the cash register tell you how much change to give). To speed up checkout, I also worked the crowd. I greeted them and took their orders. I mopped the floors, and I flipped burgers. We all did it.


Some of us had the responsibility along with the manager to open for breakfast at seven o’clock in the morning, on weekends, in the dead of winter, when I wanted to sleep. But, I had a responsibility. Therefore, while my cousins slept, I went to work.

Oftentimes the manager scheduled me to close. Closing meant working until 11:00 p.m. during the week or until 12:00 midnight on weekends. In the area of discipline that meant two things, my homework had to be done before I went to work, and everything in McDonald’s had to be cleaned and put away before I went home. True Grit, I say.


Working four to six hours each work day, taught us stamina. It taught us to stay with a project until it was completed. There was no cutting out early or hiding out while someone else did your work. We pulled together.


In addition to greeting the customers with a smile, we also greeted the regulars by their name. We would make small talk. We would ask them about their families or talk about the weather. Remember, we were teenagers doing this. It was customer service at its best.


As we demonstrated our abilities to take the lead, we were given the responsibility to train new employees, do inventory, and speak on behalf of the younger employees.

When I moved on from McDonald’s, and applied for a job with a very reputable company in New York City, I was very proud to put McDonald’s on my resume. They obviously saw more than ‘fries with that’, because I was hired. So, the next time you walk into a fast food restaurant and the cashier asks, “Do you want fries with that?” Remember, she is in training to succeed as a leader, a manager, or a future franchise owner.