My junior year of high school I worked at Pizza Hut. There was good things and bad things about the job. I worked at minimum wage, but I worked with a few friends of mine so it took off some of the sting of having to work evenings and weekends when I would rather be hanging out with friends.
Believe it or not, I look back fondly at my time spent at Pizza Hut and learned a lot through that first job. Here’s ten of those things:
1) Lead by Example – No manager will compare to my first manager, “Rocky,” who turned our lowly store into a $1 Million + store in a relatively short period of time. He led by example because no one could keep up with his nearly-unbelievable work ethic. He made me want to work harder and be a better employee, even while I was working at minimum wage. His work ethic rubbed off on nearly every single employee at the store and allowed us to produce results with less staff than pretty much any other pizza shop.
2) Keep your Regular Customers Happy – Repeat sales are what help companies become profitable, and Pizza Hut is no exception. It’s much easier (and cheaper) to retain a customer who orders from you week-after-week than it is to attract new business. I learned very quickly that there was no room for error in the pizza business; people want their order delivered correctly and quickly.
3) The Value of a Dollar – When you bust your ass from 4pm to past 2am on a Friday or Saturday night with very little break, you learn quickly what a dollar is worth. Even more I realized what I was giving up in exchange for working. I had less time to spend with friends and have fun. I loved having the extra cash but most of all I learned to value my time and money.
4) Reward your Top Employees – While I started at minimum wage, I gained a raise relatively quickly because I was willing to work hard and learn new things. But when I really learned this lesson was when Rocky got screwed out of a bonus check. By turning one of the lowest-producing stores into one of the most profitable (and this was after voluntarily leaving a store he was running very profitably) he had made Pizza Hut a lot of money. He barely missed a “quality standard” test that was essentially arbitrarily judged by someone from corporate. Despite working seventy-plus hours a week for relatively low salary and making Pizza Hut gobs of money, he missed a big bonus check because of a “quality” auditor. Needless to say, he left Pizza Hut for a competitor a few months later.
5) Specialize in something – While there can be varying levels of how good people are at their jobs, pay will always be low for those working in pizza shops. The jobs available are not “highly skilled” and therefore pay rates have a lot of downward pressure on them. Most managers ultimately would like to be district managers, which get paid a lot more than store managers. Ultimately, though, it’s better to have a career in another field that requires specialized knowledge, such as finance, psychology, or medicine.
6) Pay isn’t always “fair” – At Pizza Hut, and I’m sure at quite a few pizza places, delivery drivers make more than managers and chefs. Some would argue (I think rightfully so) that delivery drivers have easier jobs than those who are in the shop their entire shift, but nevertheless, delivery drivers make more money.
7) Know your Customer – The saying I learned at Pizza Hut was “make them quick and make them pretty.” Customers of Pizza Hut want their food quick. There is no reason to spend thirty seconds making sure the cheese is absolutely perfectly spread, that the Pepperoni only ever so slightly overlaps, and that the sausage is exactly dispersed throughout the pizza. As long as it looks pretty, is made correctly, and is ready quickly the customer will be happy. Not knowing what your customer wants can kill a business. Just look at Best Buy, whose customers are ultimately concerned with low prices vs. the convenience of being able to pick up a product at a physical store.
8) Team Chemistry Matters – As I mentioned earlier, most of the other cooks were friends of mine. This obviously made for a more fun work environment than if it was random people I did not know. Ultimately, though, everyone that worked in our store got along pretty well. When you are working on a Friday or Saturday night and the oven is completely filled for 3-plus hours straight, it’s much easier to deal with stress when you work well as a team.
9) Turnover is high for many businesses – While some restaurants have staff members who have been working for decades, it’s much more likely that in the course of a decade there have been hundreds if not thousands of employees who have come and gone. Because of relatively low caps on income there is really no way to change this. Processes really need to be laid out and documented in businesses that deal with high turnover.
10) Businesses are Complicated – Sometimes people make it seem like just about anyone can start a business, but really there is so much that goes into it. Pizza Hut is relatively simple at its core – they make and sell pizzas and other food. The things that go into this, though, such as marketing, staffing, real estate, utilities, operations planning and analysis, reporting, etc. are actually pretty complicated and can be time-consuming. There’s a reason why chains like Pizza Hut are found so many places; they can leverage resources on a wide scale.
I learned a lot in my one year at Pizza Hut. It wasn’t easy work, but I really do feel good about the time I spent there and everything I’ve taken away from that experience.
Have you worked or do you work in the fast food or restaurant industry? What have you learned from that experience?
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