1/30/08 - How to order at McDonald's

First of all, anyone who has been eating solid foods for more than a month has probably eaten at McDonald's at least once. Even if you haven't, the menu is not complicated (for that matter, no menu is that complicated). In it's most simple form you can choose from either some sort of burger or chicken. That is the first thing to decide. Second, if you choose a burger, do you want something small (hamburger), slightly larger (double cheeseburger), a little larger (quarter pounder) or very large (double quarter pounder). If you want chicken, it's even easier, do you want grilled or deep fried. (There is also fish, but do you really want seafood from a fast food place). Once that is decided, you need to know what you want on your burger. This should not be difficult because most people have tried mustard and ketchup, onions and pickles, so on and so forth. You can have most of this decided before you get close to the golden arches.

The reason I say this is because custom orders are not a big deal. Custom orders that take forever to figure out are frustrating. Many people like to agonize over each condiment. Because of this, you can have a double cheeseburger show up on the board so you start making it. Next thing you know, the order has changed to "no mustard, add big mac sauce". Well, we have to start over because you get mustard and ketchup on a double cheeseburger and that's the first thing you put on a sandwich. So the line starts making this new request and all of a sudden you want extra pickles no onion. Well guess what, we've already added the pickles, onion and cheese and your order is almost finished. While this is going on, there are other people at other registers placing orders. YOU ARE HOLDING UP EVERYONE'S ORDER....NOT JUST YOUR OWN!!!. My point is this. Don't be an idiot, McDonald's does not change their menu often and I don't think they've ever changed the condiments you can put on a sandwich. Make up your mind and stick with it. The line won't spit in your food, because typically you are too busy putting together then next order to actually bend over and do anything. If it gets too crazy, you might end up with some mayo or mustard on your bun simply because we didn't want to start over we just wiped it off.

That was a bit of a rant, sorry, that has always been an issue with me. If you have been to a restaurant more than 5 times, you should pretty much know what you like and don't like. Especially at a fast food place where the choice are very limited, you shouldn't have to review the menu twice and then change your mind mid-order.

Alright, back to things I recommend doing during an order. These are things that I have noticed at this particular McDonald's with the people I work with. It might be different at other places with different employees, but I can't imagine it would be that different.

During slow times (see: when there are less than three people in the store), request a fresh bun. In order to maintain speed and efficiency, the line will toast multiple buns well ahead of time and leave them sitting in the warming tray out in the air. For some items, this isn't a big deal, but bread can become stale very quickly in the open air and toasted bread is no different. If things are very busy and there are multiple people ordering, there isn't time to pre-toast the buns so don't make a special request, it won't do any good.

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1/20/08 - McDonald's Day 6

This was on Sunday night, and I really enjoy Sunday evenings at McDonald's. I don't enjoy working on Sunday nights, simply because there are other things that i could be doing, such as simply spending time with my wife. Sundays are just very laid back. There were only about 3 times on my shift (5-close), that there was ever more than 2 orders on the board. Unfortunately, there were already two people on sandwiches, so I would alternate between wrapping sandwiches and washing dishes. For some reason, I really didn't mind washing dishes last night, although when I got off work and came home, it took a while for my hands to recover, they were dried out and very uncomfortable. I just laid in my chair and read for a while before I had the desire to taking a shower, just because I was so tired of washing things. I did get the opportunity to cook quite a few burgers, so that was cool.

Apparently, I have progressed at an acceptable level as I was asked to train one of the other girls on apple pies. I recognize that it is only apple pies, (about 14 to a sheet, middle tray, 350 degrees, 12 minutes) but I was still honored that they would ask me to show her instead of one of the veterans. Some of the guys in the back were also trying to push one of the new trainees on me.

Now, the 2nd biggest news of the evening. One of the guys who I've worked with several times before was not scheduled to work but asked to come in so he was given the responsibility of cleaning behind the grills. I was curious how this was done since I had started, but didn't really want to ask and get stuck with the task. I found out that the grills actually pull out from the wall quite easily and you can get back behind with a mop, squeegee whatever else you need to use. i have included a picture at the bottom of this post of what was seen when the first grill was pulled back from the wall. What you can see in this picture is that the brownish mass you are seeing is actually about 3-4 inches high and is very "textured". That would be a pile of grease that had been running off the grill for the last couple of weeks. That is not the only pile there was one slighly smaller to the right of the grills and then one that was actually quite a big larger on the other side. The most disgusting part about the whole deal is that in order to get this stuff off the ground, you basically had to use a spatula and scoop it off the ground. When you cut way into the middle of it, you noticed that the coloring and texture of the middle of this mass was eerily similar to that of the burgers we had been serving. My first day, there was a bucket of grease in the corner and I jokingly asked if that is what they were making the burgers out of. Now I realize that maybe I was closer to the truth than I realized.

Finally, the biggest news of the evening is that I did in fact turn in my two week notice on Sunday. I was enjoying the work (although not so much the dishwashing) and the people I've been working with, but the time thing was causing a problem. Sunday afternoon was a perfect example. Cristi and I were shopping for baby stuff and we had to cut our afternoon short so I could get to work. As March 21st gets closer and closer we are finding that there are still quite a few things that we have to do. Plus, with last week only working two nights and this week only being scheduled for one night (Sunday night), I felt that this was a good time to turn it in. I have a feeling that I won't work any more next week, but I will still be considered an employee through the end of next week (as I understand it). I'll have the update I promised regarding the things that I've learned and I'll follow that up with a summary of the experience, things I've learned and the like.

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1/17/08 - McDonald's Day 5

Thursday night was very uneventful. In fact, it was so uneventful, I don't have anything to really mention. I made sandwiches most of the night, I cleaned a few dishes but that was about it. The only new thing was I was closing with the store manager instead of an assistant manager, so things were done slightly different. Usually we start closing hours ahead of time so we don't have to stay so late, but corporate has specific policies about where things are supposed to be at certain times. I actually didn't have to close that night because I had requested that I go home right at closing time (closing usually takes about an extra hour). The store manager was very understanding and said I could go home which was nice because I had to get home and hook up my trailer because I had to take my lawn mower in for service and then pick up our baby furniture that afternoon (more on this later). There isn't really anything else I can speak of in regards to Thursday night, so I'll just keep this a shorter update.

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1/13/08 - McDonald's Day 4

Sunday was my best day at work. I had a blast. First of all, there were only a few people working. About what I would expect on a regular basis. Two in the kitchen, one on fries (who doubled as a runner, two in drive thru and one on the front line. The manager then doubled as a filler when people needed a break.

The most interesting thing happened when I first got there though. One of the guys who started a few days after me was going to be having a drug test (apparently they assume I am clean, because they haven't requested a drug test yet). Anyways, I have found out that I might be the only person who doesn't at the very least smoke weed. Crack has been discussed on more than one occassion, but I believe it's mainly just Mary J. Anyways, this new guy asked if I smoked so I politely said, no I don't. So he then asked if I was "clean, straight". At first, I figured he was just offering some, and I politely turned him down. His next response was pulling out a small empty bottle of purrell hand sanitizer and asking me if I would fill it up. I didn't want to make any enemies, so I had to lie and say that I had just used the bathroom before I got there and didn't have anything in the tank. The truth was, I had planned on taking a restroom break about 5 minutes after I got to work, because my bladder was about to explode and I failed to go before I left.

In order to not back myself into a corner, I had to hold my pee until he left about 2 hours later. I can honestly say that is the first time I've ever had anyone ask for a bottle of my pee. Something that I didn't think of at the time, but through conversations have realized is that I have no idea what he was really planning on doing with the pee. Most places, when drug testing require a fresh sample and all but pat you down before you use the bathroom at their facility. Also, most places have a temperature gauge that require the urine to be a certain termpature before they accept it. On top of that, the size of bottle he had would not have been a large enough sample anyways.

What I don't get, is why people just wouldn't stop for a week or two in order to pass a drug test. If you are getting a new job, you should just assume that you have to pass a drug test, so just quit smokin' the stuff for a while. This of course is one of those things that I will probably never understand simply because drugs as a whole have never been an issue for me. I do not think that this will be an experiment I pull to try to put myself in their situation.

So back to the reason Sunday night was so much fun. BECAUSE I FINALLY GOT TO PUT TOGETHER SANDWICHES AND WORK THE GRILL. The whole reason I really started this whole experiment was to work with the food and I basically told the manager on duty that I would not be cleaning dishes that night. Although I wound up doing a few during the course of the night, I didn't spend several straight hours with my hands in nasty water. I had the opportunity to grill burgers (and actually flip them because they weren't getting completely done on one side) and put a bunch of sandwiches together. Although I still slightly struggled with what went on some of the sandwiches (I never new that quarter pounders got the large onions instead of the small chopped ones), I got the hang of it and only screwed up a handful of times.

Here is what I learned: It's not hard to put together a sandwich, even when it gets pretty busy. I guess I'm kind of taking back what I said after the first day, but still, it's not that difficult. I made sure to spend an extra half second on each of the sandwiches to make sure the meat and cheese were lined up. The toppings are not quite as easy, but I've never complained about that. Others don't do the same, and it might just be that over time you lose focus or just don't care, but for now, I can throw together a sandwich, make it look good, and still get it out just about as fast as anyone else.

I managed to work out a system to make the cheese easier to put on the sandwich. The cheese comes in stacks of slices and they are not that easy to pull apart, especially when you have 10 double cheeseburgers on the board, and only 12 patties already cooked. During the slow times, I just took the time to pull the patties apart and stack them in an alternating diagonal pattern. That way, when the orders came flying across, you could easily pull off the first couple pieces of cheese, put them on the meat/bun and you are done.

I work again on Thursday night, so I'll have an update for you on Friday about my time then. I have no idea why I got a majority of the week off, but I'm glad for it. Although I don't mind the work, there are other things that I like to do...like sleep and hang out with my wife. Regardless, I think next week will be my last week regardless of how much they have me working. I don't think I'll do it tomorrow, but there are a few things that I'd like to share with people when it comes to ordering at McDonald's. Things to request fresh, things to ask for, and things to look for when you get your order. I'm not a big McD's eater, but these are things that I never thought of.

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1/12/08 - The crew meeting

I was supposed to work Saturday night, but I was told to go home because they scheduled too many people to work on Friday. So in an attempt to correct their labor tally (which I'm still not sure what that really means), they lowered the number of people they had working for Saturday.

Although I didn't get to do any actual work that night, I did get to attend the mandatory crew meeting on Saturday afternoon. I had no idea what to expect, and apparently no one else did either. I quickly found out that the store manager was not happy with the way things were going and he was laying down the law. I'm not sure if his supervisor was getting on to him or what, but he implemented several things that apparently should have been taking place some time ago.

He provided everyone with a three page document and a signature form where we were to sign once we had read and discussed the rest of the document. I'll briefly hit on each of the items.

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1/11/08 - McDonald's Day 3

I was expecting friday night to be very busy and really give me an idea of what it was like to work at a fast food place during a crazy time of day. Unfortunately, there were too many people around to turn it into a frantic kitchen (as I will explain in a moment). In fact, when I got there, I spent the first hour helping the store manager put together the ice cream machine which had frozen up earlier in the day. I carried buckets of hot water and scrubbed different metal surfaces while he tried to figure out how to work it.

After the ice cream machine got put back together, I spent about an hour or so "making sandwiches" which meant I was handing other people pieces of meat while they put the sandwich together, wrapped them and slid them down the counter. I was doing that because there were already three other people on the line, two people making fries, two people on the front counter, two in the drive thru and two runners. There was also at least one other lady walking around that I could never figure out what she did. Last but not least there was an older gentleman who I have great respect for. Outside of the fact that at his age he is working at McDonald's, he has a love of his work and takes everything very serious. He does not allow other's to push him around and can still have fun with the rest of the workers. I basically followed him around for most of the night learning what I could.

Since I was quickly realizing that I was no help on the sandwich line, I decided I would start cleaning dishes since they were quickly piling up. After about 10 minutes and only a handful of dishes clean, one of the other guys came back and washed the dishes, giving me pointers on the quickest and most efficient way to clean each item. After he washed, I rinsed and after I was told where everything went, I was putting the stuff up as well. I really appreciated him taking the time to show me how to do the stuff because I was moving much slower than what I could have. Now that I've got a better idea of how things should be done, I'll be able to get more done in the future.

After all the dishes were clean (which consisted of a couple hours of washing) I really didn't have anything to do because there were still three people on the line, so as I mentioned, I just followed the older guy around and learned the most efficient and effective ways to do different jobs around the restaurant which mainly included mopping different areas, moving things around for the the morning shift, and other little things like that.


Honestly, that was my night, I cleaned, cleaned and cleaned and never really got to make anything which upset me a bit. I also found out that you are not supposed to drink on the front line (the area the customers see), or in the kitchen for that matter. I was just chilling out front talking with one of the other guys when there were no customers around and they pulled me back in the back quick which was cool because I felt like they were looking out for me, ie: didn't want to see me get in trouble.

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1/9/08 - McDonald's Day 2

Last night was nothing like the night before. I came in and the asst. manager immediately told me to start making fries. Of course, I've never made fries, so he had one of the other workers show me how to do it. The problem was, she was too busy to really explain it. I was told to push the buttons and when it beeped push another button. When they were beeping, I was then told to either shake or pull the fries. While I'm doing this, I'm also filling the fry sleeves as orders came up and then started getting requests from the kitchen to make more chicken patties and nuggets and stuff like that. Once again, everyone just assumed that I knew what I was doing, so I just kind of stood around until I could get someone's attention and say "Hey, I don't know what to do". Of course, once I saw it done once, it was pretty easy to follow. I still don't know the different settings for chicken, but I can make fries and know the steps for chicken.

After doing that for a while when I first got there, it started to slow down a little bit. A bunch of the others just kind of wandered off and talked with each other, so I took it upon myself to put some of the orders together. Not a difficult task, as the orders pop up right in front of you. I had watched the others do it a time or two and I've ordered from McD's enough to know the "proper" (or at least most commom) method of putting an order together.

I think I was on fries for about 2 hours when it was decided I had mastered the art of the fryer and I got put back on sandwiches. This was the main reason I had signed up for McDonald's. I had finally made it. Although, I already have a greater respect for those people who do this. It took me a minute or two to remember what to put on each sandwich and still struggled with a few of them. I made sure to put each slice of cheese on a patty and each patty on the bun, but that was not the hardest part. I quickly found out that there is more to wrapping a sandwich than just folding over the corners. Many of my burgers were not wrapped tightly and not totally sealed. I'm afraid that many of them also shifted during this wrapping process so the work I was doing to put the sandwich together was wasted when I wrapped it. Another thing I found was the the larger burgers that come in the boxes (insead of being wrapped) are put together when the box is closed and then flipped over. This too is a large part in why I have to reassemble my burgers when I order at fast food places.

I didn't work the grill, but I did watch one of the other guys work it and it doesn't seem overly difficult. However, I can imagine that when it gets busy, trying to make sandwiches and cook the burgers and grilled chicken can get tough.

My last task of the day was to clean dishes. I didn't mind this job at all, although I got stuck with it because no one else wanted to do it. I'll save this information for another post, but what really amazed me is the number of pumps, valves and tubes that run through the place. You never have to squirt dish detergent because it is attached directly to the faucet and as the water comes out, the proper amount of detergent is dispensed with it. Anyways, back to washing dishes. I didn't realize that were that many items used during the course of just my shift that had to be cleaned. I spent anywhere from about 30 mintues to an hour washing dispensers, trays, spatulas and all sorts of other stuff. It wasn't difficult, but I managed to spray water all over the place, including myself and my hands are still mad at me from all the detergent, scalding water and sanitizer they had to go through.

Finally, I was done for the night and got to clock out just after midnight. Obviously, I was incorrect about when they closed (which is 11:00) and it took about an hour to finish up all the final chores after closing. I worked a 6 hour shift, and at times, the busiest times actually, it felt like about 12 hours. When making sandwiches, the time seemed to go by faster as well. Today, my feet and legs are aching because I don't remember the last time I stood on my feet for 6 hours straight (especially in a pair of cheap shoes with poor support). I don't work again until Friday night (6:00-1:00) and then again on Saturday (6:00 to close). I've got a ton more information, so I might have another update between now and then, but I'll have one for sure on Monday after my shifts over the weekend. I can only imagine it will be a little busier.

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1/8/08 - McDonald's Day 1

Last night was my first day at work. It didn't start very good. I called early that morning and spoke to the manager, stating that I would not be able to be in until 8:00 that night although I was supposed to be in at 6:00. When I arrived, I spoke with the Asst. Manager on duty and explained that I was here for my first day. She immediately told me that I might as well go home because she didn't know what she could do with me. I explained I had called in earlier and she basically repeated that she didn't know what could be done. Eventually she called the manager and found that I really had called in.

Once that was worked out, I got put on the online training. I was very impressed with the amount of information they were providing all at one time. I would have liked to have been able to speed things up and been able to read it all without having to listen to each of the cartoon characters speak. However, I was able to learn the 7 steps of drive thru, 6 steps of front counter orders and the 6 steps of taking an order. I also learned what I should use to clean the lobby, bathroom, parking lots and other areas of the restaurant. I'll probably be learning the PCPOS (Personal Computer Point of Sale), the register, tonight. After that, I think I'll get to start learning sandwiches and I might even get to work the grill for a bit. We'll see how that works out.

I did get my uniform and lucky for me, they ordered the wrong size. I told them I wore a 32-30 thinking that was correct. All they had was a 32-32 and it is quite a bit too small. I can barely get it buttoned and the legs are too short by about 2 inches. I'm going to try to get a 34-34 tonight. I was also given the shirt and a hat. I'm undecided if I'm going to keep the hat or request a visor. It's a pretty decent hat and the shirt seems alright too. They both actually fit though.

When I applied, I told them I would work from 6:00 until close, not thinking about when they close. I was concerned that I wouldn't be getting off until 1:00 in the morning, but last nigth I found out that they started breaking stuff down at 10:00 which means that when I close, it will be hopefully no later than 11:00 that I get home. That's about when I go to sleep anyways, so I'm liking that.

I'm not sure all which benefits I'm eligible for as simply crew, but they have a pretty good 401k program. Also, I beleive I get 50% all menu items on days that I work and 20% off $20 dollars or more on days that I don't work (not including dollar menu items). I'm not sure how much I'll be using that discount, but it's cool that it's there. Also, after 30 days, I would be eligible for a Gold Card which based on GoldCard.com it's pretty easy to save up to $500 dollars a year. The items that most interested me was the video rentals and I believe on one of the other items I saw last night, you also get discounts on your cingular bill and several other things that I use on a regular basis.

I'll have another update tomorrow with what happens tonight. For the record, I have not used any names for two reasons. 1) If I have negative items to share, I don't want individuals to pinpointed. 2) I only know the names of two people. I have not been introduced to anyone, I was not even give the assistant manager's name last night. I've said a few words to a couple of the other workers, but no names. I'm hoping at some point I get a "tour" of the place to understand where things are, where things go and all that stuff.

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1/3/08 - A new year and a new job

Most of you were not aware that I was even looking for a new job. Well, I start Monday at 6:00pm at the McDonald's on Kiehl. Go ahead, laugh and get it out of your system, then continue to read why I'm doing it. There are actually several reasons behind it. First, my entire life, I've had very comfortable jobs, all but my first job as an athletic official at the YMCA involved sitting behind a desk in an air conditioned building. I've never worked for minimum wage (or close) and never worked in "uncomfortable" environments. Because of this, I've always looked down on fast food workers and such. One of my biggest complaints being that when I order a hamburger or sandwich, I expect the meat and the cheese to be close to the middle of the bun. Well over half the time this is not the case. Instead of continuing to gripe about the situation, I wanted to walk a mile in their shoes so to speak and see how difficult it is to maintain a disciplined work ethic. Granted, I recognize that I am not in the exact same situation as this will not be my only means of income and therefore know that at any time I can quit with no penalties. This was as close as I could get though.

One other reason is that my wife and I have been listening to Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University series and I have been very motivated to get out of as much debt as possible as soon as possible. This includes paying off our vehicle, school loans and other items. Although I'll be looking at only about $100 a week, it will help in the long run. With Makenna coming along, I wanted to get this out of my system so she never has to say that her Dad works at McDonald's

The last thing I'd like to do with this whole experience is to keep a running diary of what it's like to work McDonald's. Some people might find it interesting, some might find it helpful, other's might just find it funny, I don't know, but it's one of those things that could provide entertainment to someone.

Although I know she doesn't read it, I want to thank my wife for putting up with all of my crazy ideas. The lawn care business has worked out very well, and this McDonald's thing probably won't work out as I had expected. But I get these ideas all the time and she has always been very willing to let me go through with them.

We were able to purchase Makenna's baby furniture last weekend, so we are pretty excited about that. It should be in in about 2 weeks or so, and I'll try to have it setup almost as soon as it comes in. The best part about the buying part was negotiating the price with the salesman. I was able to talk the price down by a little over 20% the original marked price. (another thing I learned from the Dave Ramsey series).

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