Workers reveal what it's really like to work at Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A certainly feels like it's a little bit outside the box when it comes to the normal fast food chain. The employees seem a little bit nicer, it shutters its doors every Sunday, and insanely long lines are not outside the norm. We know that its food has made the southern chicken joint incredibly popular, but what's it like to work for the folks behind "Eat Mor Chikin"?

Do you have to be religious to work there? Will you get to eat free chicken until you're too stuffed to cram another nugget in your face? What happens if you don't feel like being so nice? It's time we get to the bottom of these questions and more by going straight to the source. Current and former Chick-fil-A employees from all different levels in the organization have plenty to say when it comes to employment with the company behind our favorite fried chicken sandwich.

"My pleasure" is ingrained in their soul

If you've been to Chick-fil-A more than once, you've likely picked up on the fact that they don't say "you're welcome" when dealing with customers, but "my pleasure" instead. It's kind of their trademark. While definitely a trait that sets them apart from other fast food employees, people who have spent time in the chicken trenches seem to agree that the phrase quickly becomes part of your vocab.

One former Chick-fil-A manager who claims to have spent six years with the company revealed on Reddit that even three years after leaving, they still found themselves saying "my pleasure."

Lexi Stroud, another former chicken-slinger who spent two years with the business wrote about her experience on Odyssey. She said she "hated" having to use the phrase, before adding just how much it wormed its way into her brain. "Then it turned into the only way I would respond to the phrase 'thank you' whether or not I was at work or just having a conversation with friends. It took months to stop saying my pleasure after I stopped working at Chick-fil-A," she says.

Customers on cell phones are a huge pet peeve

Cell phones are firmly planted in modern society and unfortunately, they've become an outlet for customer rudeness at restaurants. You've probably witnessed patrons allowing a phone or text conversation to take precedence over interacting with a restaurant employee who's trying to take a food order. You may even have (*gasp*) been guilty of it yourself. It's become such a problem that even in 2006 some restaurants were putting up signs asking customers to refrain from phone use. By 2018, it was a common rule at many restaurants.

Chick-fil-A hasn't resorted to that measure yet (though many locations do discourage the use of cell phones once guests arrive at tables), but some of their employees sure wish they would.

"That's one of my biggest pet peeves when I'm working," one employee confessed to Cosmopolitan before further venting. "They're on their phone talking, and I'm like, 'We can serve you down here!' And ... nothing. It's like, 'Hello? ...Ma'am, we can serve you down here,' but then they'll still be talking on their phone while I'm taking their order." We're guessing that's one time she really didn't want to say "My pleasure."

Perhaps we should all take note of this. If we want to continue to get hot nuggets and friendly customer service, the least we could do is offer hardworking CFA employees our full attention.

The same-sex marriage controversy was awkward for employees

In 2012, Chick-fil-A found itself under a national media spotlight, not for its chicken, but because of interviews in which company president Dan Cathy discussed his support of "traditional marriage." The interviews followed on the heels of a 2011 report that the company had given money to groups considered anti-gay by various watchdog groups. Caught in the middle of it all were thousands of store employees.

Some employees were harassed by angry customers — the most public being a high-level executive who videotaped himself berating a drive-thru employee. (That dude got fired so hard.) For some CFA employees, the entire controversy and its blowback put them in an awkward position when all they wanted to do was serve up some chicken nuggets.

"It was awkward," one employee said. "I knew about what was going on, but I didn't know any details..." Things would get especially awkward when a customer would come in and ask about an employee's opinion on the matter.

"I remember one old couple saying, 'Oh, we agree with the CEO.' I was just trying to be calm, like, 'Don't say anything' And she said, 'Don't you agree?'." The employee said it was at that point the manager came over to quickly give the couple their order and move on to the next customer.

You may get protesters

Following the 2012 same-sex marriage scandal, Chick-fil-A employees didn't only have to deal with comments from random customers. Many stores around the U.S. had their share of protesters 

"Gay customers would come in holding hands and say, 'We're getting married.' And I'd be like, 'Congratulations!'," an employee who was working at the restaurant during the uproar said. "I guess they expected us to bash on them, but, I mean, there's no point in that."

Things have settled down at most Chick-fil-A locations since the 2012 controversy, but that's not to say the restaurants don't still occasionally have protesters. As recently as July 2018, members of the LGBT community voiced heavy opposition to the chain's announcement to open 15 locations in the Toronto area in 2019 — proof that hatred for CFA is still alive and well.

It's not just the LGBT community that has taken issue with Chick-fil-A. In 2017, animal rights activists dressed as bloodied cows with "real-looking knives" stormed a Pinellas Park, Florida restaurant during Cow Appreciation Day. CFA employees reportedly pleaded for the protesters to leave, and they did before police arrived on the scene. Not surprisingly, parents inside the restaurant were less than thrilled with the display.

Chick-fil-A employees face stereotypes

Chick-fil-A's conservative and religious foundation is basically common knowledge at this point. When your restaurant is closed every Sunday and found itself entangled in a national debate over same-sex marriage, people tend to stereotype employees. Is that fair? Or course not, but hey, that's human nature for ya.

Case in point, there are multiple threads on Reddit's Ask Me Anything section with former Chick-fil-A employees and almost all of them have somebody asking if everyone who works there is super religious or dislikes gay people. Those assumptions couldn't be further from the truth.

"Personally I am pro-LGBT, and I've never seen any instances of discrimination or anti-LGBT actions in my time at CFA," said one former manager on Reddit when asked about their stance on the Chick-fil-A same-sex marriage controversy.

Another former manager said nobody they worked with "seemed like they were homophobic," before adding "Some employees we knew were openly gay."

Numerous other employees and former employees on Reddit also said they had co-workers who were not religious. "I'm atheist," one employee said when asked if they were religious. While some CFA employees consider themselves religious (as is the case at most other businesses), that's most certainly not the case for all CFA employees, and there's nothing that says it has to be.

They don't get unlimited nuggets

Sorry to burst your bubble, potential future Chick-fil-A employees, but the job isn't a free pass to a never-ending buffet of free chicken and waffle fries. Many employees do seem to get a discount or free meal on their shift, but the discount level seems to vary from store to store. It's not just food-service employees that don't have access to unlimited chicken, the same goes for employees who work at the restaurant's Atlanta headquarters.

"I can't walk into any Chick-fil-A restaurant, flash my badge, and they'll just toss a chicken sandwich across that counter," Adrissha Wimberly, a Financial Return Consultant with the company said in an interview.

None of this means that employees don't have friends and family trying to constantly snag some free food. On the contrary, that seems to be a regular thing. "If you get a chance to work here, be prepared to have your family members ask for Chick-fil-A coupons," Development and Construction manager, Patrick Davis said. Hey, can you really blame a person for trying to score a free chicken biscuit every now and then when they have an inside connection? We sure would!

People are crazy about the Polynesian sauce, even if they can't pronounce it

There's no shortage of Chick-fil-A sauce ranking articles on the internet and most of them seem to put Polynesian at or near the top. Unfortunately, ordering the popular sauce seems to be a point of challenge for many Chick-fil-A loyalists. Maybe it's a lack of Pacific islanders in middle America, but the word is throwing people off, much to the amusement of CFA employees.

"You hear everything from 'Parmesan' to 'polyester' to 'Pomeranian' to 'Parmenesian' to 'that red sauce,' recalled former employee Cameron Ford in an article for Odyssey. "Basically, you name any long-ish word that starts with P, we've heard it being used to refer to Polynesian sauce."

The list of substitute names seems to run rather lengthy as Lexi Stroud, another former employee added "paradise sauce" and "Pol-ip-pone-sian" to the list. As hilariously sad as the sauce mispronunciation is, it gets even worse according to Stroud, who wrote for Odyssey that some people can't even get the name of the restaurant right. "I'll take one of those 'chick-fa-la' sandwiches and don't forget the 'chicka-flicka' sauce with that."

Getting Sundays off is obviously awesome

People overall enjoy having a built-in day off from work every week. Surprise of the century, right? CFA founder Truett Cathy was a devout Southern Baptist and implemented the closed on Sundays policy that follows his Christian principles from day one. The purpose was to give employees a day off to worship or merely do whatever they wanted with the day. The only time the company seems to ever deviate from this is when the community is in times of need. CFA employees have volunteered to feed first responders and volunteers following tragedies like the 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting. They've also been known to fill hungry bellies when natural disasters hit — and Mother nature definitely doesn't take Sunday off.

Employees are all for having the Sundays off and what they do with that time seems to be a popular question. One employee on Reddit said sometimes they'll occasionally have team outings where the staff will hangout or management will buy them lunch. "I loved having days off on Sunday," another employee said before adding that it was "nice to know that I could catch up on stuff.

You would think closing on Sunday would result in a huge loss of profit, but according to one former CFA manager that wasn't the case. "I think that's what made us have more sales on Saturday to be honest."

The days are exhausting

Ask anybody who works in the food industry if it's tiring and they're pretty much guaranteed to say "yes" with whatever strength they can muster after a 10-hour shift. CFA is no different. Chick-fil-A is almost always busy and serving hundreds of customers while keeping a smile on your face can certainly take its toll.

People love the restaurant's breakfast offerings and one employee told Cosmopolitan that the rest of the day isn't exactly slow either. "Lunchtime gets really busy. From about 1 to 4, there's a big rush. Then it picks up again from around 7 to 8." Basically, you might get a few hours in the dead of the afternoon where there isn't a drive-thru line around the block — though there probably is still a line, maybe just a shorter one. 

Standing on your feet, making milkshakes by hand, and constantly taking orders isn't just exhausting, it's stressful.  One former manager said it was "the most stressful job" they ever had and putting in 60 hour work weeks was needed to keep up with store demands.

If you're still not convinced of just how grueling the job can be, journalist Kathleen Elkins should set those doubts to rest. She spent one day shadowing the manager at the chain's Manhattan location.

"I didn't expect the work day to be easy by any means, but I didn't expect it to be so exhausting," Elkins said. "By 10:30 a.m., after rolling biscuit dough, frying chicken and assembling sandwiches, I was starting to peter out — and the lunch rush hadn't even started."

Learning to multitask is essential if you want to survive

If you're curious about just how busy the employees at any Chick-fil-A restaurant are, consider this fact. The company makes more per restaurant than Starbucks, Subway, and the granddaddy of fast food, McDonald's — combined! When you factor in that each restaurant hand-breads every piece of fried chicken, has hand-spun milkshakes, and freshly prepares the lemonade, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that employees must be ready to juggle multiple duties.

In an interview with Cosmopolitan, one employee said that multitasking was the most difficult thing to get down, but a vital skill. "...now I have the hang of it and I'm just like, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom."

Former employee, Cameron Ford, spent her high school years at the restaurant and reiterated this point saying,"if you aren't good at multitasking, you will quickly learn how to be better." Taking orders and serving customers all while trying to communicate with your fellow coworkers can certainly be both mentally and physically demanding. "It sounds like utter chaos because it is," Ford said.

Working at its corporate office has some sweet perks

Just because not even Chick-fil-A's corporate employees have a special key to a secret vault of unlimited free chicken, that doesn't mean it's all work without reward. If you happen to work at the restaurant chain's posh Atlanta headquarters you will have access to some pretty nice office perks. 

You may not get your run at anything on the menu but employee Adrissha Wimberly said that lunch is provided daily. "Though chicken sandwiches are typically a part of the daily menu selection, it is not always a Chick-fil-A centered lunch. It could be many different types of cuisine."

The company seems to realize that it can't just be feeding employees chicken sandwiches all the time without some sort of balance — no matter how good they are. To offset the fried chicken lunches, employees have access to an on-site gym and other healthy lifestyle utilities. "You can have a full body composition analysis or get a personal trainer," Wimberly said. "There is a nutritionist on site as well."

If employee's need a break from their desk, they can work in one of the office study pods or even work on their golf putting skills.

Most CFA employees really enjoy the job

Protests, phone-obsessed customers, and crazy lunch rushes aside, most Chick-fil-A employees at all levels seem to be happy with their time spent at the company.

"I enjoyed my time working there because my co-workers were fun people to be around and the customers were generally very friendly," Andrea Liu wrote for The Tab. Liu started there after her freshman year of high school and said she enjoyed trying new food combinations with team members and that she could count on her coworkers to cheer her up if she had a bad customer interaction. 

Employees on the corporate side seem to back up the company's high job satisfaction rate on sites like Glassdoor.com, where it has nearly four out of five stars.  

Michael Lage, who has an MBA from Harvard, left his job as a brand strategist at Facebook to join the company. Lage told Forbes that people asked why he would leave Silicon Valley to "sell chicken" and he said it was all about the company culture. "There is such a strong culture built on relationships and valuing one another," Lage said. "[It brings] out best in people, fulfilling leadership potential, and great business performance."