The Other Side of the Counter: 5 Ways to Be a Better Fast Food Customer

Many customers have mastered consumer etiquette, which makes it easy for them and the employees. Some people, however, still have some work to do in changing the way they think. Here are some tips to help revise your customer etiquette.

  1. 1. "With the advancement in automation, companies can use robots in food service industries to decrease labor costs.”

    Although most companies may want to cut out labor costs altogether, the majority of restaurants still have human beings working behind the counter. They are still people just like you and should be treated as such. They may work in the service industry, but don’t assume that they are your slaves. Demanding things in a rude way just reinforces a hierarchy that shouldn’t exist in this country. You are not above the employees, and they are not above you. Everyone is just trying to earn money to live their lives, and the way people earn the money shouldn’t be a competition. 

  2. 2. “Haven’t you heard? The customer is always right!"

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but the customer is sometimes wrong. It’s been established that we are all human, and we can all make mistakes. Sometimes customers say one thing without realizing, and they get angry when it is repeated back incorrectly. Mistakes can be made on both ends; no one is perfect. This is why a lot of restaurants stress repeating the order to try and eliminate any issues before the food is prepared wrong. Aside from general mistakes with saying one thing but meaning another, customers who are not engaged and are on their phones dramatically increase the probability of their order being wrong. If you are trying to be quick and rush through your order to get back to your phone call, you could miss some clarifying questions and end up lengthening the process. If you are not paying attention, there is little sympathy from the restaurant. As a warning, if your order is wrong (especially if it is your fault), it is never okay to cuss out an employee, throw something at an employee, or even lay your hands on anyone. The cops can easily be called, and you could end up facing several assault charges. It is never that serious.

  3. 3.  “These young kids don’t know anything.”

    Young does not equal stupid. These “kids” have probably worked at this job for more than two years and most likely know how to do their job. Experience and age don’t always align in a job, especially in food service, where most students started when they were 15. By the time these students graduate, they could have worked there over three years. This means we have probably seen any and everything at the job, and we know how to serve you. Many older customers assume we don’t know what we are doing because we don’t look old enough. What age is the proper age to work in food service? The question can’t really be answered, therefore you can’t assume we are inexperienced.  You can ask for an older employee, but they will probably do the same exact thing.

  4. 4. "I’m not a people person, so it’s better if I don’t say anything."

    Saying anything is better than straight-up ignoring someone. A simple hello, hey, or good morning goes a long way. All you have to do is at least acknowledge the employee before you start ordering. You don’t have to engage in small talk, but it can change the experience for both parties. They probably don’t want to be awake at 6:00 AM either, but they make it work and it’d be nice if you could make it a little easier, too. These employees are more than willing to go the extra mile in customer service for the ones who make it worth it. Be one of those customers.

  5. 5. “No customer will buy this food; it’s too expensive.”

    Many customers are still buying the food, so it will continue to stay this expensive. Believe it or not, part-time and full-time fast-food employees are not in charge of what is offered on the menu or how much we sell it for. Complaining to employees is not going to change the price. Businesses have to cater to the consumer, and if customers are still demanding the product, there is a range of prices it can be offered at without losing every customer. The location of each restaurant affects the price as well. A stand-alone franchise in Metro Atlanta is not going to offer an entree at the same price as Suntrust Park. Both can have a lot of customers despite one being more expensive than the other. If you don’t want to buy something, there are many other restaurant options. Customers vote with their wallets; if enough customers aren’t buying a product because of a high price, a company will lower the price to maintain a customer base. Next time you are mad that food is expensive, don’t tell the employees. Write to the corporate offices since they are the decision-makers.

Being a better customer takes some self-discipline, but it can make the food service industry more enjoyable for everyone. Challenge yourself to make some of these changes, and we promise that it will make a difference!