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Tuesday, 28 January 2020

What Is It Like Working At The Food Court In Costco By Me: An Employee's Perspective & Insight

'It's Fast Food (i.e McDonalds, KFC, Burger King) - only with better pay and benefits'

By Waiching

A typical working day would involve undertaking a range of manual tasks and there is always work to be done, whether it is a busy day or not. Being a Costco food court worker, I feel as if a) you need to possess a good and solid work ethic, b) develop a thick skin as well as being patient, c) be extremely adaptable (as shifts change each week, you need to be fully flexible. One week you might be working 4 days a week... and 2 weeks later, 6 days a week) and be good at multitasking and d) be highly motivated to do the job. What is probably the toughest part of this job, is it can be physically demanding, as well as being mentally and emotionally exhausting and so hectic and working in an environment that is catering based, whilst it can bring out the best of us, it can also bring out the worst in us and others and lead to simmering and strained tensions, frustrations with supervisors, fellow colleagues and co-workers and thus, make you behave in ways that are unexpected and unnecessary. It's hardly surprising that it is dubbed by many as the most difficult out of all of the departments to work in. 

If this was your own business or company, you would go out of your way to attain positive and better results, and yet this is and can be a hard thing to do when you are working for an organisation who is paying your wages, - and yet, in general, it doesn't make money for the building. I'm not sure what it is like in other departments, but in the food court, you are constantly on the move and putting out food & serving members, whilst also maintaining the conditions of the food prep and seating areas. The expectations are and can be too high. My main responsibilities are cleaning the tables, doing the floor, filling things up, but when I am inside the kitchen, I assist in putting food out, cleaning the work surfaces and the walls, putting pizzas in the oven, preparing pizza dough to name. There are virtually two people running the front at the till serving members, with the rest or several of us at the back doing prep work.

The maximum hours you could work in one day is 8.5 and they fly by quickly, so long as you do the work and not think about the time. It is a lot of hard work and it can be tough and rough, but if you are prepared and willing to put in the maximum effort, or at least, try to make it work using your strengths and skills that you have, it makes your life a tad easier. (right-hand side photo of a pizza turntable)

By being used to working in a fast-paced environment and doing things rapidly, speedily and efficiently, as I am so hands-on, I get stuck in with the job and do it, over and over until I get it right and that I become so used to it. If you want to do well and enjoy it, you have to be constantly moving at a fast pace with each task. For me, the job is easy - yet it has its set of challenges as well, I have no qualms in tackling each of them. Being an entry-level position means anyone with little or no prior experience in catering or food retail can undertake the role, given as the skills and duties are easy to pick up, to learn and to grasp from day one, and once you do that, and you continue doing it, the better you will get. It's easy to pick up but this can also take a while to master and get right. Unlike my siblings and parents, I had no prior hands-on experience with food so when I accepted the food court role after the stock replenishing thing didn't work out, I was completely new to the whole thing. Thankfully, colleagues & my supervisors showed me the ropes and it wasn't that long until I figured it out and knew I had to do things by myself. I was one of three new hirees of who passed the 90-day probation period in December 2018 (during those 90 days, which is the period of three months, you have to impress and as long you don't mess up, you are kept on and your position is secure). 

The job itself is relatively straightforward, occasionally strenuous (they actually offered the role to 2 other people, but they turned it down & when they turned to me, I didn't hesitate in saying ''yes''), & but for really, really heavy objects, there is literally nothing that I can't manage, although I am working on prioritizing my tasks efficiently and feel as if I am still learning and progressing every time. Yet I have learnt to pace myself and to work as fast as I possibly can, which is why I consider my speed and being quick as being two of my prized assets. 

I realise that in working in this department, whilst it may work for myself, it is also not for everyone: you have to be mentally prepared for what comes your way; even when things go wrong or you are stuck on auto-pilot, I have learnt that you can't let the pressure, supervisors & members get to you and you mustn't allow your emotions to affect your duties and performance. If you do that, the supervisors and managers can easily notice when you are having an off-day, and thus, not normally performing to your usual standards. 

''Food court workers deserve tip jar for the s**t they deal with'' - Jonescz, reddit 

It is difficult to attain full-time status (I think you need to be working for 10 years or more to qualify), but I still get paid holidays and the benefits are better than with most places. Work at the food court is (hard) labour intensive, indeed - yet not impossible and the pay reflects that, and so in that respect, it becomes financially fulfilling and rewarding. Most places such as McDonald's probably doesn't pay as much as £9.10/9.50 ($14-14.50 in the U.S) as a starting wage for the same type of job. During weekends, it gets busier and I always find myself hustling and rushing all over the place to get as much done as possible and come closing time, there will be less mess and stuff for me to finish before I go home. 

''the food court is way too small of an operation for the amount of business we get. The new kiosk idea was smart, but not for Costco, at times we have 30 Blue tickets with (pre-paid) orders on them while also trying to take orders of customers in line. It is extremely overwhelming (especially when members are giving you a hard time 'cause they have to wait for their order) and I often have to fight the urge to get upset'' - Anonymous, Indeed

I think what appeals to me the most about this role is that there is always something to do, or that I find myself something to get on with, even when it isn't busy, instead of working at front end and standing at the till. A lot of people may enjoy that, but at Costco, this kills my momentum and it isn't long until boredom seeps in. 
I want to challenge myself. The least appealing aspect is when I do or have to do closing (it's as challenging with 3, or even just 2 people doing all the cleaning, tidying), but I just get on with it and in the end, go straight home. Over a year and 4 months later, I am still working at the food court, and to this day, I don't regret making this decision, whatsoever. Because I don't mind the work that I am doing, and as tiring and exhausting as it can get and despite all the hassle that comes with it, I focus on working my absolute best or hardest in doing it and getting paid for it but also communicating with my colleagues to achieve what needs to be done, work-wise. As the food court/cafe has fewer people working in this department, compared to say, front end, if there is say, 5 of us working, roughly we'd be doing double the amount of work of 10 people.

Oh, and unlike at McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, when we go home, our clothes don't smell of chip fat, grease and oil. 

There are things I'd implement and take out if I were in charge, to make our jobs easier: I'd make the prep/kitchen area bigger and extend it, so there is more space and people can move around freely, hire more staff, take out the sink and replace it with a dishwasher to clean the pots, trays, utensils and put in massive booming speakers and a microphone/headset/pre-recorded voice machine where you press a button and it blares out, ''next member, please!'', whenever members are queuing to be served. It will save us time from shouting at the top of our lungs, and losing our voices in the process! Also, a- clean- as- you- go routine/policy, thus, by the end of the day there is less washing up and cleaning to do and so, people can finish and get out on time. 

As with any other job, as well as the sole perks, it comes with the downsides as in you have your bad days, as well as good ones: the food court/cafe has a high turnover rate with people coming and going, I've seen great workers come and go over the course of last year. Yet those who choose to stick it out and keep going, deserve to be applauded for their efforts. I've read and come across some horror stories and tales from ex-workers, both online and in-person who practically loathed working in this department and in addition, some of the members can be difficult to deal with. 

''(The) food court has high turnover, due to people, baby boomer, millennial and Gen Y alike not being able to tolerate the amount of responsibility & work that goes into keeping one afloat & not cutting corners... I was the only one out of 4 new hires that lasted past their 90 days, 2 of which quit and one of which was let go, due to preferring to socialise and clique over doing any work'' - RTK9, reddit
''Way too stressful. Too many expectations and conflicting orders from managers. Hired with a bunch of new employees and we were all fired just before our 90 day probationary period ended. Worked my a** off everyday and still wasn't good enough. Pay is great but it wasn't worth the stress - I cried everyday before and after work'' - former employee, Glassdoor 

Like I said, I have my good days and bad ones, and whilst each day is never the same as the last, I enjoy the fact that I am in a role where I am utilising my existing skills, whilst gaining new ones along the way and whereby I feel as if I am achieving something by going out of my way and working tirelessly in doing so in this department. It's tough, it's challenging but I am up for it and probably see myself doing it until I retire, perhaps. 

Besides the pay and benefits, there are also the member compliments applauding my efforts, and I couldn't really ask for more than that. 

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