10 Things I Learned from Working at Pizza Hut

by on Dec 4 2012 - 54 Comments

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.

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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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Photo by othree
 

54 comments
MichaelSaves
MichaelSaves

Pretty cool to read this. You share a lot of the same takeaways that I had from working at Denny's for two years. 

It was hard work, but instantly rewarding with the tips.

I always felt bad for the people who were preparing the food because they did all the work and were not paid as fairly. 

Laura8888888888
Laura8888888888

My very first job was selling programs with my dad at the Indy 500.  After a few years I decided to be entrepreneurial and sell earplugs for less than the track.  They didn't appreciate the competition and we weren't asked back!

femmefrugality
femmefrugality

Having done both driving and cooking at pizza shops in high school/college, I'd have to argue that delivery drivers DO NOT have an easier job.  I don't know how it is at Pizza Hut, but the places I worked we had responsibilities back at the shop as well as on the road that we had to get done before we got to go home at the end of a shift.  Your time management and navigation skills (I started in the days pre-GPS-systems in your car were common) have to be impeccable.  You need the same customer service skills.  You have to be more aware of what you're doing if you're going into dangerous areas because you don't have anyone there to back you up.  You may make more than management on tips depending on what area you're delivering in, but you're making less than minimum wage most of the time like a waitress would AND you have the aforementioned car problems (DRAMATICALLY more than you'd have if you weren't delivering) and you have to pay for gas, which is no joke.  If you're busy in the shop, that person's busy on the road, too.  Driving food somewhere does not constitute a "break" mentally.  And if you're a good driver, when you're getting slammed, you'll help cook whatever needs cooked when you get back to the shop.  Because you know everyone back there is hating on  you even though you're busting your butt.  :p

eemusings
eemusings

My work in hospitality was definitely among the toughest I've ever done - the pace! The standing on your feet! The heat!

MyMoneyDesign
MyMoneyDesign

Isn't it incredible how much you learn about work ethic and real life from your crappy teenage job?  Perhaps most of all, you learn how to deal with regular people you would never have encountered in your normal course of life.  That, and you learn not to screw up so you don't have to work that job the rest of your life!

KyleJames1
KyleJames1

Nice post. I worked at Home Depot in college and can relate to many of your points. The biggest thing I learned is the value of hard work. Even though I was only making $8.50/hr I was hired to do a job and I was going to do the best job possible. This was taught to me by my direct supervisor who told me, "Kyle, you are going to spend the next 8 hours of your day here, you can either sulk and have a bad attitude and watch slowly as the minutes go by, or you can have a good attitude, work hard, help people and watch the time fly." So true

seedebtrun
seedebtrun

I love this, DC.. and I know that my early jobs really did a lot to shape my work ethic and prepare me for my career later in life...

Ugifter
Ugifter

This is a great list, especially Lead by Example and team chemistry.  The hands down, by far, best boss I have ever had put a lot into these things.  We had staff events all of the time and she once told me that the biggest thing she considers when hiring is if the person will be a good fit with the rest of the group.  This is at a bagel shop.  It's known far and wide for its awesome staff and great vibe, because of the effort and passion from the owner.

MoneyAndI
MoneyAndI

Fantastic post! Great tips! I've done some bartending in posh clubs for a while when I was changing jobs. Memories are back now:) You've just inspired me for a post! 

Free in Ten Years
Free in Ten Years

This is such a good post DC. I remember reading that many big employers in my area actually look for people who have worked in restaurant's during university because of these sorts of reasons. 

TacklingOurDebt
TacklingOurDebt

Excellent post! I completely agree with you that it is easier to retain customers than to find new ones. The Pizza Hut brand became very popular quite quickly and their restaurants were always busy.

 

Over the past 3 years in our city all of the eat in restaurants have closed (not sure why) and we just have smaller locations that only offer pick-up and delivery.

 

Why did you only work there for a year?

FI_Fighter
FI_Fighter

school of hard knocks! I hear you, as I was bagging groceries throughout high school just so I could have a little spending money. These type of jobs are perfect for a young person. This helps kids learn the true value of a dollar!

Jen @ The Happy Homeowner
Jen @ The Happy Homeowner

Wow, that's crazy to hear delivery drivers can make more than a manager! I guess it makes sense with tips added in but still!

 

Great point about valuing your employees--crucial to maintaining & keeping the best ones

savingadvice
savingadvice

Great takeaways from the job (I think more people should think through what they learn from situations like this as It can be a great way to solidify what you have learned -- even in jobs you didn't particularly like). I think that the "lead by example" is not only true with work, but in every aspect of life. An extremely important lesson for anyone.

Money Life and More
Money Life and More

Your pizza hut sounds much more professional run than the pizza place I worked at. I wrote a few posts about it... lessons I learned from my first job. Some crazy crap went down there including robberies and a crazy guy who stabbed himself to go home early.

JustinatTheFrugalPath
JustinatTheFrugalPath

I know what you mean about delivery drivers making more money than people who work harder. I know a woman who puts together very large carryouts that go to Dr. Offices (drug companies foot the bill). She spends an hour getting everything ready and makes a little over minimum wage.

The delivery guy comes in spends 20 min to deliver the food and makes an easy $20.00 and sometimes more.

In the end though they do have to pay for wear and tear on their cars.

Johnny @ Our Freaking Budget
Johnny @ Our Freaking Budget

I probably learned more from my brief stint as a waiter at a restaurant than almost any other job on my resume. Multitasking, customer service, the art of the perfect salsa, team leadership, etc. etc. It might not have been my favorite job, but it was a worthwhile experience. And man I miss the free food.

frugalportland
frugalportland

I worked at Starbucks in college, and I learned how to treat people who work at Starbucks!

momoneymohouses
momoneymohouses

I used to work at A&W when I was in highschool and although I'm so glad that part of my life is over, I learned and grew up a lot because of that job,

Eyesonthedollar
Eyesonthedollar

I love this. I have had in the back of my mind to do a post about all the crap jobs I had getting through school.  They are certainly great life experiences and if I had no other job options, I'd be working at Pizza Hut if I had to, but it would surely suck. It is sad that great employees can get lost in the shuffle and move on. I've stolen some from the food industry. If you can be nice and make customers happy at minimum wage, you usually respond ever better to a higher paying job.

Veronica @ Pelican on Money
Veronica @ Pelican on Money

With the way things are today, I think it's no longer satisfactory to do a satisfactory job. Companies have to go above and beyond expectations of customers, especially new ones. With reviews and social media it's no longer easy to get by with a "that's good enough" attitude, I think your comment about keeping regulars happy is right on.

Gen Y Finance Journey
Gen Y Finance Journey

#6 is one you have to get used to whatever your job is. If you're an administrative assistant dealing with pompous execs every day, you probably know this all too well.

Beachbudget
Beachbudget

It's amazing to me the options I think teenagers have not to earn income if they set their minds to it-much more so than when I was a teenager. I worked at Wendy's, and the only thing I learned is that I never want to work in fast food again ever! lol! 

DebtRoundUp
DebtRoundUp

I have always said that you should either work in the food or retail industry as a teenager.  They will teach you things that you will never learn at many other jobs.  It will also give you a better insight into what the employees feel and how to treat them when you are on the other side of the counter.

Thoanda
Thoanda

These are all so true. I worked at a grocery store one summer and then McD's the next. Both were very different from what I learned growing up on a farm. After working at both I am definitely much more patient with cashiers and food servers.. It's a shame to see so many treated so poorly just because they are paid less. I guess that explains #9

SenseofCents
SenseofCents

I have never worked with food (I'd be horrible) but I worked in retail and I learned a lot as well. The pay isn't great, customers can be plain old mean, but the experience is good.

PlungedinDebt
PlungedinDebt

I worked at Little Caesars when I was 15 for almost 2 years and one thing I remember was organizational skills! You had to be quick on your feet and learn how to multitask FAST. It was insane but I enjoyed it. Hated the hours the pizza place was open but liked what I learned. I also can't believe how hard I worked for $4.15/hour (min wage back then).

Holly at ClubThrifty
Holly at ClubThrifty

Food service is THE WORST!  But, you're right, there are plenty of good lessons to be found in a service job.  I learned a lot of lessons when I worked in food service, mostly that I didn't want to spend my life working in food service =)

RFIndependence
RFIndependence

I worked at McD for a year in college. I learned that any job is worth it in order to graduate debt free, and that taking off the fried smell at the end of the day can take more than a shower! I loved it though because the team was so nice.

FrugalRules
FrugalRules

My youngest brother worked at a Pizza Hut for about two years while in college and hated it and I probably will not choose to eat there again based off of some of the things he told me. I worked at a Wendy's for a few months while in college and picked up many of the same things you did. I am very thankful I don't have to work in fast food anymore.  :)

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

@MichaelSaves  I was one of those guys preparing the food! Haha.  I didn't mind, though.  I seriously learned a lot from the experience.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @TacklingOurDebt Rocky quit after missing the bonus, so we all stuck it out for a month or two and then we all quit. :)  I worked at a different pizza place my senior year of high school (I'd say the name but it's only in Minnesota so it probably wouldn't mean anything to you).

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @Eyesonthedollar You should do that post!  "If you can be nice and make customers happy at minimum wage, you usually respond ever better to a higher paying job." This is a great quote btw.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @Beachbudget Haha it's too bad you didn't learn more from the experience.  I would not work in the food industry again (unless I had no other option), but I definitely look back on my time there as a beneficial experience.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @DebtRoundUp I agree with you, I would highly encourage my children (someday that is...I don't have any right now) to work in the food industry or retail when they are teenagers.  Unless they launch some web biz and are making mad $$$ from home, then I won't discourage them from that ;)

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @SenseofCents I think retail is pretty comparable as far as lessons, though I could see retail be more sales-oriented than food service.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @PlungedinDebt I agree with you, it teaches you how to multitask and prioritize.  I had to be working at maximum efficiency on Friday and Saturday nights when there were two ovens full of pizzas.  You fall behind you are absolutely screwed.

DC @ Young Adult Money
DC @ Young Adult Money moderator

 @FrugalRules Haha that's terrible.  I can honestly say in all my time at Pizza Hut I never saw anything that would make me not want to eat there.

DebtRoundUp
DebtRoundUp

 @DC @ Young Adult Money   Haha, I hope that will happen.  Just  have to remind them that you raised them, so you can ride their coattails to the top!