After...Mmmm Good

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Welcome to McDonalds, May I Mis-take Your Order Please?

How many of us have gone to McDonalds or another fast food restaurant and tried to order food only to be misunderstood by the person taking the order or have to repeat yourself numerous times and sometimes actually having to get a manager to place your order because the employee does not speak and understand English. This can be very frustrating to the consumer, but also to the worker. We the consumer get frustrated because our time is wasted and customer service level is decreased by having to repeat ourselves or getting an incorrect order fixed, but the worker is also frustrated because he/she can feel incompetent for getting the order wrong and lose the confidence they may have in doing their job. This can lead to lazy, unmotivated workers but in some cases may transcend from just lack of motivation at work, all the way to social retardation. Being able to speak and understand English while working here in America isn’t just an important job skill that many workers in the fast food industry lack; but necessary knowledge to fully function in their everyday life.

Eric Schlosser writes in his book, “Fast Food Nation” chapter 3, pages. 70-71, “English is now the second language of at least one-sixth of the nation’s restaurant workers and about one-third of that group speaks no English at all. The proportion of fast food workers who cannot speak English is even higher.” The fast food industry’s main sources of workers are teenagers and immigrants. They know that since they hire so many immigrants, most of them will not have a full grasp of the English language, if they have any at all. That is why most of their training is not built around learning a skill but based more on just how to use a machine. They create machines that don’t rely on an employee’s knowledge but just on when to push this or pull that. Words have even been replaced with pictures on registers and kitchen equipment, as if to take the thinking aspect completely out of the equation. Most of the times a fast food restaurant is that person’s first job, so not being taught any work skills can be very detrimental to the employee’s growth and ability to gain future employment. With every job you are supposed to learn something you take with you throughout your work career and your life. Working someplace and not learning anything valuable from it could be considered just a waste of time. The fast food industry needs to stop “de-skilling” its workforce and start trying to give them something they can take with them, maybe even something as valuable as learning how to speak English.

“When Esmeralda Armijo arrived in Dallas from Mexico in 1995, she didn’t speak a word of English and took the first job she could find, as a kitchen worker at a McDonald’s restaurant. Shortly afterward, the restaurant owner created an English class for Spanish-speaking employees who were interested in advancing their careers. Armijo was in the second class, and in 1998, she became a store manager. The number of Hispanics in the restaurant industry is rising dramatically, and restaurant owners say language training is crucial to developing the next generation of industry leaders. Don Cucovatz, director of training for Bailbrook Partnership, the franchise company that owns the restaurant where Armijo got her start, said that language training is a good recruitment and retention tool. Pizza hut also has English as a Second language program for its Hispanic workers. Campos credits the program with helping several Spanish-speaking employees advance to management positions.” Although the restaurant benefits from more confident employees and the workers see their career ambitions fulfilled, there are also personal payoffs. It’s a life changing experience which helps them not only at work but in their personal life too. Giving them the ability to communicate with doctors, teachers, police, and make friends they may not have been able to before they learned to speak English. It takes their world from being only Spanish speaking restaurants and neighborhood shops, and opens it up to unlimited opportunities not bound by the language barrier. It is good to see some franchise owners of these big corporations trying to teach their employees valuable skills and tools they can use in the real world. It actually makes good business sense for them to also, because not only will it improve customer service and order accuracy, but it builds some company loyalty. Once promoted the turnover rate is only like 8 percent when the industry standard is 35-40 percent. I hope that corporate headquarters sees that there may be profit in that and introduces the practice company wide. It always seems that money is the only thing that ever gets corporate attention but in this case the oft-forgotten employee will see some profit too.

Godinez, Victor. “Restaurants serving staff language lessons.”
Dallas Morning News. August 6, 2003.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hey Ronnie I'm Missing the McRib !!!

I know we've been reading Schlosser's book and he's not the biggest fan of MickyD's but I gotta admit one thing... I love the McRib and they need to bring it back. Who's with me??? A McRib and a good batch of fries when they get'em right, nice and hot and salty, like before they changed the oil they're cooked in..... ooohhh man I actually am Lovin It....with somethings you just gotta forget about whether its healthy or not and just focus on the taste; a good slice of New York pepperoni pizza, a nice juicy burger, a medium rare steak, chicken fried just right, bbq ribs falling off the bone dripping with sauce , a Coffee Fribble ( a milkshake from Friendlys for all you youngstas ), 3 cheese 3 meat lasagna and Mcdonalds fries done just right....

Sunday, March 21, 2010

America Abolished Slavery in 1865...Guess the Fast Food Industry Didn't Get the Memo...

The ability to earn a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work is something America promises its citizens. The government has instituted many labor laws such as federal and state minimum wage to insure that for working Americans. Then why do many “all-American” corporations such as McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC continue to try to find ways to get around paying their workers for hours worked? These companies take advantage of their already low paid workers need for their job and ignorance of legal labor rights by having them work off the clock, while rewarding their lower level management with bonuses for meeting labor cost budgets. This practice seems very similar to wealthy land owners rewarding their overseers for higher crop production at the expense of the slaves.

According to Eric Schlosser in his book, “Fast Food Nation” chapter 3, pages 74-75, “The fast food chains often reward managers who keep their labor costs low, a practice that often leads to abuses. In 1997 a jury in Washington State found that Taco Bell had systematically coerced its crew members into working off the clock in order to avoid paying them overtime. The bonuses of Taco Bell restaurant managers were tied to their success at cutting labor costs. The managers had devised a number of creative ways to do so. Workers were forced to wait until things got busy at a restaurant before officially starting their shifts. They were forced to work without pay after their shifts ended. They were forced to clean restaurants on their own time. And they were sometimes compensated with food, not wages. Many of the workers involved were minors and recent immigrants.” This quote is just another example of how so many American companies who want you to spend your money on their products and services portray themselves as a wholesome all American brand when behind the scenes their corporate agenda goes against everything America stands for. We abolished slavery yet it seems to be going on at your local burger, taco and pizza joint everyday. The labor laws were passed to protect the average, everyday employee from the giant corporate monster who will stop at nothing to gain a profit. The giant is now even willing to reward middle management with some scraps off their table of profits if they continue to find “creative”, in other words illegal ways to keep the tiny cogs of the corporate money machine grinding away. As stated above most victims of these crimes were the young, naïve and inexperienced minors or the dependant, desperate immigrants often ignorant to their rights as employees. Another example of the strong preying on the weak and the rich using the poor to get richer, something I thought America was sternly against. Every American is guaranteed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness but I guess that doesn’t apply if you’re on fries at McDonalds or making Chalupas at Taco Bell.

Even though I have never worked in a fast food restaurant, I have worked in the food industry for over 12 years. I started working in a TGI Fridays restaurant in Rockville Centre, Long Island in 1996 as a busboy and host, eventually working my way up to being a server and bartender. Like most companies the managers were always concerned about labor costs and looking for ways to cut them all the time because the lower the labor costs, the higher their bonuses would be. Overtime was discouraged if not completely forbidden. Managers always wanted the least amount of people clocked in at all times. The walls of all TGI Friday restaurants have Tiffany glass and lights along with many items of memorabilia, pictures, ads, and other assorted junk. These items need to be dusted and cleaned regularly. Rather than pay a cleaning crew to do the cleaning, the managers have what they call “beautification “nights. Basically I along with all the other front of the house employees; servers, hosts, busboys, and bartenders had to come in one night once the restaurant had closed and spend one to two hours dusting and cleaning the walls and decorations. The problem is that we never got paid for the time we spent cleaning. The mangers would bring pizza and soda for us to eat while we cleaned but I would have much rather gotten dollars than Dominos. I didn’t argue that point because I did not want to make waves; it seemed to be an unwritten rule among the other employees that it was just something that came along with the job. I was making good money in tips and didn’t want to jeopardize losing my job so I never complained even though looking back what they were doing was illegal. Anytime you are performing work related duties at your job you are supposed to be compensated for it, plus if you are working on your job premises you are supposed to be on the clock so you can be covered for any injury that could happen. I was young and ignorant to these things so I look back and see how similar my situation was to the employees at Taco Bell who were forced to clean restaurants on their own time and sometimes compensated with food not wages. I see why these companies can get away with so many underhanded labor practices when the bulk of their workforce is young and naïve as I once was.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Win a gold medal by eating a Chicken McNugget ?

Where can you eat like an Olympian? Where can you eat like a true American hero? Where do professional athletes eat the food that makes them perform so well? McDonalds would like you to believe that ordering that 6 pack of McNuggets brings you closer to winning that gold medal. In the book, “Fast Food Nation” written by Eric Schlosser, he explains how McDonalds Corporation founder Ray Kroc wanted to create a safe, clean all-American place. He made sure every franchise flew the American flag because he understood how he sold food was just as important as how the food tasted. McDonalds has teamed up with one of the most patriotic and popular brands by aligning itself with the Olympics and the NBA. I would like to show you how through my research I found that that McDonalds is selling the dream many have of playing professional sports or representing your country at one of the most prestigious events in the world through their food.

The official restaurant of the 2010 Olympic village in Vancouver was McDonalds. The food of choice of American Olympians was the chicken McNugget. The Olympic sauce was McDonald’s new sweet chili dipping sauce, the same sauce the athletes use you can now use too. That is what McDonalds is telling the public. On their tray liners they say you can see how the Olympic athletes McNugget on their website. Most people believe there is no greater honor for an athlete than to represent their country at the Olympics. People train their whole life for that honor and millions watch them every 4 years in awe of their talent, strength, speed and agility. Now with the sponsorship of the Olympics McDonalds can now sell you a little bit of that Olympic dream and American patriotism. They even have young children thinking that eating at McDonalds in some way could help them get to the Olympics because the real athletes eat McDonalds and you see how talented they are right. That is the kind of advertising that many companies including McDonalds sell to the American public by associating their brand with such patriotic and all-American events and people. You almost feel like you are doing your country a service by eating there. On soda cups and packaging they have the Olympic rings printed and underneath they always have proud sponsor written with the word proud in bold print as if to emphasize that being proud and the McDonalds product go hand in hand. In America patriotism is a major seller, no one wants to buy anything “un-American” Consumers want to have pride in their purchases and McDonalds inspires that pride by selling you wholesome American products such as hamburgers, Coca-Cola and the Olympians favorite, chicken McNuggets.

On their takeout bags they have the phrase, “The Gold Standard” referring to the selection of potatoes that McDonalds uses to make their hash browns. They say only a tiny fraction will make the cut for McDonalds which also evokes thoughts of competition and the best winning. Going for the gold is what most people are taught and they want you to believe that by eating at McDonalds you have selected the best and are being served the best. They give out gold medals for number one at the Olympics, it’s what everyone works so hard for, and nobody wants anything less. By aligning their brand with the thought of gold it gives the customer thought of the best, the best ingredients, the best cuts of meat, the best tasting food.

The synergy created by the partnership of McDonalds and the Olympic games was another example of how Schlosser wrote that, “McDonalds marketing alliances with other brands were intended to create positive feelings about McDonald’s, making consumers associate one thing they liked with another. The feelings of pride associated by the Olympics would be used in ads to help launch a new hamburger with more meat than the Big Mac.” Advertisers know that if you combine patriotism and athletics you will have no problem selling anything. It’s like the perfect storm for an advertising campaign, and that combo couldn’t be found in any greater place than in the Olympic games, and by visiting your local McDonalds you can see that they are a proud sponsor of the games whenever you purchase a soft drink, French fry, burger or McNugget, and when you see that American flag flying outside you know they are proud Americans and they want you to believe that by eating there, it makes you one too.