Like many high-schoolers my first job was at a fast-food restaurant. I learned a lot about responsibility, working in a fast-paced environment and coping with the public.

I also learned why you should avoid eating there if at all possible. Consider this the next time you pay a visit to your neighborhood quickie-meal joint:

1. Teenagers run the place. The majority of the staff were under 18 years old. Teenagers have zero vested interest in serving quality food to you. They are biding their time until they can punch out and resume the part of their lives they give a damn about.

2. Managers can’t be everywhere. Yes, the good managers will oversee the production line and make sure nothing bad happens to your food. But they are not omnipresent. I once witnessed a co-worker drop a large cut of roast beef on the floor while trying to load it into a slow-cook oven. He picked it up and put it right back in. (I reported him).

3. The sneeze guard over the salad bar is worthless. Understand that salad bar items are subjected to dirty fingers, dirty air, coughing and hacking customers and fluctuating cooling temperatures. Face it. The food sits out all day and God knows what happens to it before you sidle up and help yourself. In addition, if enough of one item is too much to toss for the day, it’ll be put out the very next day to mix with the same environmental pollutants as it did the day before.

4. Cleanliness is not top priority. One day the restaurant’s drainage system backed up and we sloshed around for two hours with plastic bags over our shoes, still serving food, before someone came from the Health Department to shut us down until repairs could take place.

5. Food for you one minute, dog food the next. For about a year, our restaurant entered into an arrangement with the local SPCA. Food that was deemed fit for human consumption was fed to people. After the food was under heat lamps too long, it was dropped in a bucket and picked up to be fed to dogs. We’re not talking quality here. Five minutes ago, it was meant for you.

6. You get what minimum wage pays for. Almost anyone can get hired. The same guy who dropped the roast beef on the floor also cut off part of his fingertip while slicing ham. A week later he was caught smoking pot behind the drive-thru window and finally fired. He worked under the influence a lot of the time. Your best interest was not on his stoned-out mind. We didn’t like to think what else he did that no one caught him doing.

7. Cross contamination is the norm. When things got busy, the same person who just swept garbage off the floor might be asked to perform cashier duties without washing their hands in between. They may rearrange your food on your serving tray, help the food line staff assemble sandwiches, grab cups and utensils, all with their bare hands. What they touched, you touched and you probably put it into your mouth.

Bon appetite! (if you dare)


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