Workers Reveal What It's Really Like To Work At Hungry Howie's Pizza

A classic Italian dish that has quickly become an American favorite is, of course, pizza. Amongst all the fast-food pizza chains in the country, Hungry Howie's is a staple. It has been around for over 50 years and is famously known for its Flavored Crust pizza. However, the menu also has other favorites like its signature breadsticks, subs, and wings.

The Michigan-based shop has been producing flavorful pies ever since founder Jim Hearn turned a small hamburger shop into a full-blown pizza machine (via Hungry Howie's). Over the years, the pizza parlor has become a family-oriented spot in over 21 states across the US. Dale Cross, owner of Hungry Howie's in 2019 said to The Daily News said of his co-workers and sons Dan and Matthew: "These guys, they're not afraid to work and they take care of their customers and also the employees. We look at it as a family and we look at our employees as a part of our family."

However, working in the service industry is not always all it's cracked up to be. You can often face rude customers, long hours, and low pay. Meanwhile, perks like free food and flexible hours can help balance it out. How does Hungry Howie's measure up? We found out straight from the employees themselves what it's really like to work at Hungry Howie's.

You'll likely work understaffed at Hungry Howie's

Working in the service industry can be pretty stressful even when everything is going according to plan. So working while short-staffed is every employee's nightmare. It often means more work, longer hours, and stressed-out managers, which is never good.

It's not all on Hungry Howie's however since the country and food service, in particular, are facing a labor shortage. According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurants were 794,000 jobs below pre-pandemic employment levels in April 2022, meaning the industry had lost about 6.4% of its workers. Even customers have noticed since Yelp's State of the Restaurant Industry Report noted a 23% increase in customers who had mentioned a long wait. Yelp also found a 229% increase in reviews talking about short-staffed establishments during the first quarter of 2022 compared to the first quarter of 2021.

In July 2022 on Reddit, one user published a survey asking if Hungry Howie's locations had enough employees. Of the 16 votes registered, 11 said no. This is further confirmed by former employees on Glassdoor. One says their store in Houghton Lake, Michigan was often understaffed over the weekend. Another reported similar issues with staffing and low pay, while a delivery driver in Bradenton, Florida also said there were "not enough employees working per shift."

It's a good place to work for students thanks to a flexible schedule

One of the often-mentioned pros of working at Hungry Howie's on Glassdoor is the ability to have flexible hours. As a matter of fact, those two words are currently mentioned in 20 different reviews. What's great about a flexible schedule is the possibility to do other things on the side if you aren't looking for a full-time job. In Port Huron, Michigan, one of the county's top soccer players also works at Hungry Howie's Pizza, according to The Times Herald. Bryanna Stocks goes back and forth from her cheesy-smelling apron to her jersey. Now, that's talent!

These flexible hours are especially great for students. What's better than getting a degree and working to pay it off at the same time? That's exactly what one former employee said on Glassdoor. Another employee on Niche says, "I like it here because working here allows me to support myself and also go to college at the same time [...] I am also able to set a workable week around my college schedule." Another says, "You can choose your schedule. And if there is a problem with the schedule, you can always change it." Even high school students can make a part-time job at this chain fit into their schedules.

Some employees can't catch a break, literally

In the United States, breaks are required by the U.S. Department of Labor. Specifically, the department mandates that a 15-minute break for 4-6 hours worked, or a 30-minute one for an 8-hour shift. Even longer work stretches must allow for additional breaks for the hardworking employees.

However, according to a few former employees, that doesn't always seem to be the case at every Hungry Howie's location. In the service industry, full and relaxing breaks can be hard to come by, especially if you work in a fast-paced environment, have a lot of customers coming in, and are short-staffed. 

Having no breaks at all, however, is obviously not a great way to work. In what you could call a rant on Reddit, a former delivery driver describes his first day at Hungry Howie's: "I did not have any scheduled breaks in a 6-hour shift." Another former cashier also mentions on Glassdoor that they had no breaks, while a former shift manager complained about going full days without any breaks.

Hungry Howie's is a very fast-paced environment

it's no surprise that, like any other restaurant, Hungry Howie's locations can experience very busy rush hours. Working in the restaurant industry in general is known to be very fast-paced. Former employee Omkar Acharya wrote that working at a restaurant prepared him to work in a hectic environment: "I'd have to clean tables, take orders, greet customers, take phone calls, serve food, and make sure the kitchen and the front were on the same page." You need to be able to multitask and learn from your mix-ups, he says. "Not everything goes as planned when working in a fast-paced environment, mistakes happen and things get confusing."

While some like to work in a fast-paced environment, others can find it too stressful. An assistant manager at Hungry Howie's mentions on Glassdoor that it's frankly exhausting. Others also report hard nights like this former shift leader from Grand Ledge, Michigan who says the job "can be stressful, especially working alone on a busy night." 

On the other hand, this fast-paced environment was positive for others, like an employee in Algonac, Michigan that mentions "Fast and easy work to do" under "pros" on Glassdoor. Likewise, this former employee from Margate, Florida also thought being in a fast-paced environment was a good thing.

Employees enjoy discounted and free food

One of the perks of working in the service industry is the employee discount offered at many restaurants. At Hungry Howie's, the employees can access some pretty good deals, though those may differ from location to location. On Glassdoor, the words "free food" are mentioned in 19 reviews and "free pizza" in 12. One employee, backed up by others, lists "free food every day you work. Get 50% off at all times!" under pros (via Glassdoor). 

However, that 50% doesn't seem to be applied to everything on the menu, at least not at all locations. A former assistant manager in Avon, Indiana gets a little more precise in their review, noting that they got "50 percent off all food except wings and brownies you got 0%. And only 25% off drinks." For some, those restrictions may make their employee discount a little less sweet.

Recent hires might have gotten a boosted wage

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the food industry pretty hard. According to the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average total dollars spent at a QSR (quick-service restaurant) fell by a significant 15.41% between December 2019 and February 2020. As a result, a lot of restaurants closed and lost many staff members during the pandemic. Fast food chains were able to bounce back more quickly than sit-down restaurants but, following the pandemic, most of them were still short-staffed. Some chains resorted to doing more than usual to get people to sign on as new employees.

Some chains like Chipotle offer a bevy of benefits, including subsidized college and medical care, according to CNBC. Hungry Howie's needed to offer something as well and found that extra money is always a good way to lure people in. In an exclusive interview with Mashed, CEO Steve Jackson told us that after the pandemic, his company tried to bounce back from low employment rates by simply offering more money to new hires. He said that "Depending on stores, we're giving signing bonuses. Our hourly wage has been creeping up in certain areas. More importantly in some than others, just depending on the location. Basically, we're doing whatever we can."

The pay can be low

Speaking of money, former employees of Hungry Howie's don't seem too thrilled about their pay, even with boosted post-pandemic wages. On Glassdoor, the issue is mentioned in 38 reviews. The problem of low wages in the fast food industry sadly isn't a brand new one. The Guardian reports that food industry workers are struggling to make ends meet. One former Taco Bell employee says some people are even turning away job offers because the proposed wages won't help them supply basics like food or housing.

At Hungry Howie's, one former delivery driver in Eustis, Florida mentions that "Pay is low & people are stretched thin because it's hard to hire people for low wages," which also explains staffing issues at multiple locations. Even managers don't seem to have great wages, as per a former one writing Glassdoor. Another manager suggests that "the pay hasn't kept up with the market rate." Reviews referencing low pay go on for a few pages.

Customers tend to tip well

Although the pay may not be very good, many employees of Hungry Howie's do mention good tips in their reviews. One former employee who stayed with Hungry Howie's for more than four years wrote that he once ended a day's work with $346 in tips. The biggest tip he ever got at once was $63 (via Reddit). Now, of course, the generosity of tipping partially depends on where you work. Wealthier neighborhoods might see more tips coming in than in lower-income neighborhoods. But in general, it appears that the average Hungry Howie's customer is a good tipper! On Glassdoor, another former employee in Baton Rouge, Louisiana noted good pay and tipping.

While tipping is considered standard at many restaurants, it is not the norm at fast food places, though that may be changing. Still, according to Play USA, 49% of Americans currently never tip at a restaurant with no table service, which includes many fast food chains. This means that tips are an even greater advantage of working at Hungry Howie's.

Hungry Howie's does a lot of charity work

When looking for friends or a significant other, you usually like to find people with what you deem to be good values. What if you did the same thing when looking for a job? At Hungry Howie's, employees can get the satisfaction of knowing they work for a company that emphasizes charitable work. In a 2020 interview, Jennifer Jackson, Vice President of Development at Hungry Howie's, said that it was built into their business. "At Hungry Howie's, local community involvement is a big part of our business model. With every franchise opening, the owner donates a certain percentage of sales from the opening to a local school or charity" (via Authority Magazine).

One cause that has especially benefited from Hungry Howie's help is breast cancer awareness. In 2022, for the 14th year in a row, the pizza chain hosted its Love, Hope & Pizza campaign in October. During this month, all money made from pizza sales goes to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Additionally, in 2020, local franchise owner Ali Sobh wore a Santa hat and took a dozen kids and their families shopping for whatever they wanted at Walmart on Christmas Eve (via Plant City Observer).

Employees in Florida might be working in a haunted location

Oh yes, you read that right. One Hungry Howie's location in Spring Hill, Florida might just be haunted. According to Newsbreak, a few ghosts could be wandering around this location. Some reportedly date back to the 1980s, when the restaurant used to be a 7-Eleven convenience store. Some of the purported paranormal activity includes supplies flying off shelves and doors that open of their own accord. Meanwhile, the lights seem to operate without anyone touching a switch. Spooky!

The paranormal activity of this Hungry Howie's even inspired some television writers to craft a 2015 episode of "The X-Files." According to Spring Hill Courier, the story in question included an angry extraterrestrial who wreaks havoc in a Hungry Howie's location. Fictional space creatures aside, it at least doesn't look like the ghosts are going anywhere. If you are looking for a slice of pizza with a side of scary, then off to Spring Hill you go!

Working at Hungry Howie's can be a good first gig

What better way to get some real-world work experience than by working at a fast food joint? Rush hours, rude customers, team building, long days ... It can be hard but it's also a great way to not only build character but get real experience for future jobs. Working in the service industry teaches you patience, understanding, and clear communication, as well as other qualities that you'll need for practically any other job. In her interview with Authority Magazine, Hungry Howie's VP Jennifer Jackson says, "Life experience is full of character builders and I believe it starts at a young age. I started out working at the store level and understanding the operations side of our business helped me become the leader I am today."

What arguably makes Hungry Howie's a particularly good place for a first job is its training program. A few former employees have mentioned it in reviews like one on Glassdoor that says: "Good work environment Great training" or another one that just says "great for a first job." On Indeed, one former employee says, "Hungry Howie's was my first job and it was a great place to start! The company culture is wonderful and inclusive and understanding. I learned new things on the job all the time and it was a great experience."

Employees are especially busy on Wednesdays

Fast food chains of all sorts regularly put out deals that are meant to bring customers through the door. At Hungry Howie's, it's no different. The pizza joint sometimes even goes wild with its promotions, like on Leap Day 2020, when every store was offering a "Buy One Large Pizza, Get One For 29-Cents" deal according to Chew Boom. In 2018, to celebrate its 45 years of being in business, Hungry Howie's promoted the big anniversary with 45-cent pizzas (via MLive)

A more regular deal is one you might already know if you are a Hungry Howie's regular, known as Wacky Wednesdays. Every Wednesday,  the pizza joint lets you choose either a large cheese or pepperoni pizza, a large oven-baked sub, a large baked pasta, or a regular salad for only $5.95. Needless to say, this brings in customers which naturally means more work for the employees in the middle of the week, as a former kitchen worker noted on Indeed.