The Value of an Entry-Level Fast-Food Job

Dec 4, 2023 | Insights, Restaurant Research

Damien Sanders recently graduated college with an economics degree, and now he works at Restaurant Research LLC. However, he didn’t start out as a hot shot Analyst – rather, he cut his teeth working at Zaxby’s & Bojangles during college, learning many life lessons along the way. In this Q&A, Damien explains why the fast-food industry provides such a good launching pad for young people prepping for a career…

Q&A with Damien Sanders, Analyst Restaurant Research LLC

Damien Sanders Headshot

Tell us a little about your fast-food jobs. Why did you choose this field? What were your responsibilities?

My journey began at a local pizza chain when I was 15, then transitioned to Bojangles and later Zaxby’s. Fueled by my passion for cooking and the flexibility for young workers in the restaurant industry, I started as a dishwasher and quickly moved to the line. Excelling in a fast-paced environment, I earned more shifts and expanded my skills in both front and back of house at each job. At Bojangles, I became a trusted employee, handling various responsibilities, even entrusted with managerial tasks. My success peaked at Zaxby’s, where I showcased my skills from day one. Within a week, I mastered all kitchen positions and started learning front of house procedures. Recognizing the importance of a well-trained crew, I pursued becoming a Crew Trainer, emphasizing efficiency and minimizing waste for increased profitability.

How did you develop as an employee over time? What skills did you acquire on the job?

In my restaurant experience, I gained valuable skills such as teamwork, leadership, and setting an example. I observed how employees with weak work ethics caused procedural & productivity lapses and this reinforced the importance for me to work towards a 100% guest orientation. Beyond work, interacting with adults who shared diverse life experiences, including single mothers, individuals with a criminal past, and seasoned restaurant employees, significantly shaped my outlook on life.

Do you think you would have learned these skills as a student without working these jobs?

As a student, I may have learned teamwork to some extent, but the depth of understanding I gained in the workforce far surpasses anything I experienced in school. Collaborating as a young student to secure an A is incomparable to teamwork in a work setting where everyone, regardless of age, is focused on earning money, by providing a product or service to the market in whatever capacity. Work taught me much more than I learned in my tenure as a student.

How did these entry-level jobs prepare you for Restaurant Research?

These positions equipped me with the foundation essential for success not just in the restaurant industry but in any job. Arrive punctually or even early and be prepared to fully engage in your work. Maintain a willingness to absorb new knowledge extensively. Above all, acknowledge mistakes as part of the learning process, ensuring they serve as lessons to avoid repeating. This philosophy encapsulates what I consider crucial for success in any life endeavor.

As it relates to Restaurant Research, my experience in restaurant operations has honed my ability to discern the indicators of a successful establishment. Crafting a productive and profitable restaurant involves navigating the thin profit margins inherent in this industry. A well-structured and trained crew, complemented by an optimal location and operational procedures centered around guest experience, lays the foundation for an operationally excellent and profitable restaurant. The linchpin to success lies in fostering a positive culture—one that prioritizes guest satisfaction, is guided by a keen awareness of procedures, and extends genuine care to employees. This, in turn, cultivates a positive image in the minds of both employees and guests, a crucial element for ensuring the longevity of a restaurant. These are the things I look for as an Analyst working for Restaurant Research.

What advice do you have for young people starting out today?

Despite my youth and ongoing learning journey, I feel compelled to share this insight. Start each day with a smile, poised to seize the day, recognizing the privilege of waking up. Embrace the prospect of failure and mistakes—they are universal experiences. The crucial aspect is learning from them. By approaching each day with the aim of enhancing your life for your family, those in your circle, and yourself, you’ll discover that life isn’t as daunting as it may appear.

Thanks Damien!

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