12 Life Lessons You Learn Working in Fast Food

The things you learn working in the fast-food industry can help you in all phases of life.

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Updated July 18, 2024
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Fast-food jobs can teach you plenty about how to operate a fryer or cook burgers.

But they also offer life lessons you can take with you when you enter the corporate world or try to get ahead financially.

Here are some life lessons that you can pick up in the fast-paced world of fast food.

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How to work fast under pressure

kanpisut/Adobe receiving coffee in drive thru

It can be challenging when you have a job that requires you to hit deadlines or that puts you under pressure in other ways.

Working in fast food can prepare you for these situations, as you often have to work fast to fill orders and to keep up with other aspects of the job.

Those who learn to work fast under pressure are well on their way to promotions that can help them move beyond living paycheck to paycheck.

How to think on your feet

Henry Saint John/Adobe worker preparing takeaway food

Things don’t always go the way you expect them to in life. That is also true when you have a job in the fast-food industry.

Sometimes, the fryer breaks down during the dinner rush, and you have to find a quick fix, for example.

As you learn to think on your feet and solve problems fast, you hone skills that allow you to better adjust on the fly.

You shouldn’t let nasty people ruin your day

InesperadaPhotograph/Adobe worker attending the phone

There will always be times when you have to face people — both co-workers and customers — who aren’t warm and fuzzy.

It’s important to know how to deal with different personalities, whether it’s a customer who complains about the fries being too soggy or a boss who micromanages your every move.

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You have to live within a budget

Wayhome Studio/Adobe young housewife wearing shirt at home studying gas and electricity bill

In recent years, the pay for fast-food jobs has improved, with some places offering workers more than $15 an hour. But you are hardly going to get rich in one of these jobs.

Working for the relatively modest pay that comes with many fast-food jobs will teach you how to live on a tight budget. Learning to live within your means is a skill that can help you for the rest of your life.

Little details really matter

Drazen/Adobe woman receives food delivery

Not only is a fast-food job fast-paced, but you also need to do it right.

Learning how to pay attention to little details — such as getting the specifics of orders and requests right — improves the odds that you will keep that good habit for the rest of your career.

It's important to do things yourself

Guillermo Spelucin/Adobe cook assembling a burrito

In the frenetic world of fast-food work, there are times when you can’t wait for someone else to help. You simply have to find a way to get things done.

That's also true of other jobs — and of life itself.

It's OK to make mistakes

nicoletaionescu/Adobe cook putting tomatoes

Everyone has bad days. There are times when we simply can’t seem to do anything right.

But learning from your mistakes and bouncing back is important in your career and in life. The mistakes you make in a fast-food job can teach you how to handle errors and overcome them.

Being part of a team can be rewarding

Alessandro Biascioli/Adobe worker wearing surgical gloves

Some people prefer to work alone, but even most of those people have to work closely with others at times.

Being part of a team can be rewarding. Few things are as satisfying as working collectively to reach a goal.

Hard work leads to advancement

Miljan Živković/Adobe wearing protective medical gloves

You may start out in a low-level job at a fast-food establishment, but working hard can help you advance as you take on more responsibilities and earn more money.

Once you see how hard work pays off, you can take that work ethic to other positions, where working hard is just as likely to lead to success.

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Your attitude can make a positive difference

Dusko/Adobe barista using coffee machine

A positive attitude can help you push through even the hardest jobs and the worst times. Workers with good attitudes are usually more resilient than others.

It’s important to bring a positive attitude to any job you have. And in fact, applying that positive attitude to life in general can work wonders.

You should cut other workers some slack

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/Adobe paying to smiling worker in food truck

Working hard in a fast-food job is likely to help you better appreciate the challenges that others face working for retailers and restaurants.

A fast-food job can teach you empathy for others in similar positions. Perhaps you will tip a little more or be a little more patient when you are on the other side of the counter.

Networking is important

ME Image/Adobe waitress giving paper bag

If you establish good relationships with your co-workers and managers, it might lead to better things for you down the road, including jobs that help you boost your bank account.

For example, managers who go on to bigger jobs might think of you if there’s an opening at their new location. Friends who worked side by side with you in the restaurant may go on to other jobs and help you out later.

Bottom line

Eléonore H/Adobe fast food restaurant

Fast-food positions can be great laboratories for learning lessons that you will take with you professionally and personally.

One of the great wealth secrets is that those who learn the right lessons during challenges and hard times often go on to professional and financial success later in life. Savvy folks can use a fast-food job as a springboard to a better life.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.