I recently finished my training to be a manager at my local Wendy’s. I had been working on the training since the beginning of this year, and passed the final tests in early March. It’s been a long time coming and quite a lot of work and practice, but there is a lot I’ve come to learn, love, and dread when it comes to managing a shift in my little college town.
My Wendy’s is smack dab in the middle of Washington, making it the perfect pitstop for people traveling from Seattle, Tri-Cities, Portland, and Spokane. We get busloads of high schoolers traveling for sports and competitions, local regulars craving their usual order of a chili cheese potato, and plenty of college students coming by for an exuberant amount of chicken nuggets.
I currently work four days a week, with my longest days being Saturday and Sunday. I close both of those nights, working from 3pm until close. I get ready for these shifts around 2pm, putting on my uniform, doing my hair, and walking my dog. I head to work.
I arrive to these shifts in time to help with the dinner prep. This usually involves restocking, cleaning, and making extra salads to be prepared for the weekend traffic. I chat with my coworkers, check in with my bosses, and look at the schedule to see if we have any call-outs and determine which breaks are next. On a good day, the breaks have been handled and there are no call-outs. On a bad day, like this most recent weekend I worked, we had several call-outs and no time for breaks/restocking because of the bane of my existence: sports teams.
We’re getting to the point in time where sports and competitions are starting back up again, meaning that students are travelling to meets. This means that high schoolers are arriving by the busload, ordering upsettingly hilarious amounts of spicy chicken sandwiches and chicken nuggets. It’s important to prep extra product and be as prepared as possible as soon as the bus pulls into the parking lot.
Regardless of the rush, I spend the dinner period putting people in and out of positions, arranging my coworkers in the best possible configuration based on who is working and if anyone is missing. I move onto positions when needed for breaks or wherever there is a bit of a jam. I’m trained on every position, so it’s normal for me to be at 3-4 different positions during just an hour. I mostly work in the front, either at the window or the counter, but I occasionally hop on fries, grill, or sandwiches as needed. As a manager I need to do a lot of moving around, be it grabbing cups, getting food from the fridge, prep, or helping tidy the lobby. It’s not uncommon for me to make a few sandwiches, then take a few orders, bag a few meals, and check on the food temperatures all within the span of a few minutes. I never stay in one place for long, which makes the job pass by faster.
Toward the end of the night, I make sure people know their closing positions and responsibilities. I make sure the doors get locked, the tills get counted, product is rotated, and that everything gets cleaned, turned off, and restocked. On a good day, we get out before midnight. More often than not, after a busy weekend, we get out ~30 minutes later.
There are a lot of stressful things about the job, of course. It’s always hard when I come into the store and there has been a constant rush, meaning there are full garbage cans, sticky floors, stressed employees, and low stock. There have been weekends where we run out of regular buns. Once we ran out of medium cups. It’s decently common for us to run out of lettuce for salads or prepped chili. When I get on for these shifts, it’s my job to come up with solutions to these problems, or text my boss and ask for advice.
Managing employees and breaks is probably the most stressful part to get used to. When I’m the only manager on the clock, it all falls to me to make sure that everyone gets their break and the store stays functioning. And when there are employees with called out, this job gets harder. There are times when positions that normally have two people only have one, or when I need to manage two positions at once to cover someone. It’s not something that I would consider enjoyable, but it makes smooth weekends with a full staff much more enjoyable.
There are a lot of responsibilities that I didn’t expect to have. There will be times where I spend a good ten minutes breaking down cardboard boxes. My boss told me two days in advance that I’ll be conducting a few interviews. Sometimes I just move food from the freezer to the fridge. Every night I close I need to record how many patties and chocolate milks we have. Even the parts I expected, like counting money, have their own unique complications. What happens when the bill feeder jams? What happened to the receipt that tells me how much should be in the till? What do I do when we run out of rubber bands? Every shift brings new situations to work through.
Of course, there are a lot of parts that I really enjoy about the job, other than the hours and the raise. I enjoy getting to work with the other managers and get a closer look at the intricacies of running a store. I’m getting great experiences related to management and problem solving. I’ll never have a boring shift again. I get to boss around the high school employees (I’m mostly kidding).
All in all, everything about this job is different from what I expected. I only thought I’d be there for a few months, yet here I am as the newest manager, planning to spend at least another year working. I enjoy the people, the experience, and most of the work. I honestly couldn’t ask for a better fast food job.