What It's Really Like To Work At KFC

Kentucky Fried Chicken — or more simply, KFC — is the standard of fast food fried chicken for many people around the world. The chain's mashed potatoes and gravy has inspired copycat recipes, as has the fried chicken despite the blend of 11 herbs and spices being famously secret. KFC goes by the motto "finger lickin' good," and judging by its popularity (there are more than 23,000 KFC outlets in more than 140 countries and territories, according to the company), many people agree with that motto.

But have you ever thought about what it takes to work at KFC? All of that chicken has to be cooked by someone, after all, and there's a person behind the drive-thru voice box every single time a frustrated or impatient customer decides to take their anger out at a fast food joint. That's not to say there aren't positives to the job as well, such as worker camaraderie.

Through the ups and downs, this is what it's really like to work at KFC, according to comments that current and former employees have made.

There's a surprisingly high level of actual cooking required at KFC

In a TikTok video, a KFC employee spilled the secret on how KFC makes some of its food. No, it has nothing to do with the secret blend of herbs and spices. It did have to do with the gravy, though, and it turns out there's more actual cooking involved than you might think from the outside looking in.

The video shows an employee putting the crackling (the bits that come off of the chicken and float to the bottom of the fryer while it's cooking) into a bin with some water and a spice packet. It's then whisked and cooked, and then whisked and cooked for a second time. Finally, the whole thing runs through a sieve to get any chunks out. The video also shows how KFC's crispy strips are hand-floured and breaded and then deep-fried in-store. That's a far cry from the frozen already-fried chicken strips you might expect from a fast food joint.

The video led to some mixed reactions, with some people being disgusted and others gaining more respect for KFC's food. According to the Tech Times, someone commented on the video that it was "grim," while others noted that the gravy process is "so much better than I thought it was made. Can't imagine what some people in the comments would think if they saw how normal gravy is made."

KFC's fry cook job is so messy it's hard to get clean

As anyone who has worked in a kitchen knows, no matter how nice food looks like when it makes it to your dinner table, the food was almost certainly a mess to make. That's even more true when you're talking about cooking massive amounts of chicken that needs to be floured, spiced, and fried all day.

In response to a question in r/KFC asking workers what's the one thing they don't like about working at the joint, the first response was the messy nature of being a fry cook. As one person responded: "Flour all over you. Grease all over you. I would take a shower with my clothes on so I didn't wake up my roommate with the washing machine every f***ing time I worked."

The mess is more than just a hygiene thing for some workers. A recently hired employee posted on Reddit that they have celiac and were wondering if they would be fine despite the flour in the air. In response, a former employee described how "people used to wear face masks because the density of flour in the air made it hard to breathe." Another cook in the same thread said that "even with aprons, the flour literally bathes you."

Large orders for families and events can throw a KFC employee's whole day off track

There are rush hours, and there are random rushes when working at KFC. That's just part of the job — and that's true for many people in the restaurant and fast food industry. Yet it doesn't take much to overwhelm the system when your employer has multiple meals and deals that cater to large gatherings and family dinners.

When a mass of people come in and orders are put through for fried chicken, "the chicken all gets put in the cookers at once, and when they finish, they all come out at once," one employee posted on Reddit. That leads to plenty of confusion, as well as the managers "getting p****d cause you're unable to rack up 200 wicked wings in the span of two minutes."

Some people can't hang under pressure, either, which just makes the situation worse, as you can imagine. Another employee posted in the same thread that when people put in "ridiculously larger orders" (as in anything over $70), some "coworkers become way too stressed out and panicked over an order taking a bit too long to be served out."

If you want to be a good customer and help out with the flow of things as well as get the freshest chicken possible, one former employee left some advice on Reddit: "If you have a big order, order ahead of time as they will usually cook a dedicated batch."

KFC workers need to accept that a lot of food will be wasted

There's no disputing that food waste is bad. It's also a rampant problem in the United States — according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans waste between 30 and 40 percent of the food supply due to spoilage, equipment malfunction, and over-ordering, among other factors. One other major issue adding to the problem: "Consumers also contribute to food loss when they buy or cook more than they need and choose to throw out the extras."

Some KFC employees have seen food waste issues at their locations first hand. On a Reddit post about things that bothered the poster "about the ethics of KFC," food waste was at the top of the list. "I just wanna know how other people feel about the ridiculous amount of chicken that goes in the bin every single day," the poster wrote.

The responses to their question were mixed, with some noting that they've seen similar waste issues while working at places like Subway and Burger King. Others pointed out that, while it's pretty wasteful, "if KFC put their pre-cooked chicken in the fridge then served it to customers the next day, there would be an uproar."

Extra chicken isn't always wasted depending on the location and how lenient the manager is. One former worker noted that if they worked past closing time, then employees had the chance to take home the leftovers that would normally be thrown out.

Intoxicated customers are a frequent occurrence when you work at KFC

When the drinks really start to set in after a long night out, few things can match the satisfaction of hot and greasy fried chicken that you don't have to cook yourself (especially when it's made for you super-fast). So maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise that employees have to deal with their fair share of intoxicated customers.

It's a widespread-enough occurrence for there to be plenty of memes out there about eating KFC while in an altered state of mind. Take, for example, the meme that depicts the feeling "when it's 3 a.m. and you and the boys rock up at a KFC drunk!" Or this post in Reddit's r/ShowerThoughts: "A chicken was hatched, raised in captivity, butchered and processed, distributed and cooked, so that I could drop it on the sidewalk walking home drunk from KFC."

It's not just the normal suspects who get the drunchies cravings for KFC, either. Case in point: the New Zealand mayor who was caught drunk driving for a quick KFC pit stop.

Long story short, if you're working at a fast food joint that sells the very comfort food that people crave after imbibing a few too many, you're going to have to go to work with a lot of patience.

Some KFC employees can get discounts on higher education

While it's surely possible for some to work up through the rankings and earn a good living in manager or corporate positions at KFC, others are working at the fast food chain as more of a way to make some money until they move on to the next period of their career or education. Regardless of which category an employee falls into, KFC offers a tuition initiative called the REACH Educational Grant Program to help "employees at participating KFC U.S. restaurants pursue their dreams of going to college."

The program is relatively open for multiple uses: "Employees of any age, any position, pursuing any degree can receive money to help them attend the accredited four-year or two-year college of their choice. The money can also be used at trade/vocational schools and for graduate study."

To qualify, you have to work at a KFC in the U.S., be currently enrolled in college or plan to enroll the following year, and have a minimum 2.5 cumulative grade point average. KFC won't pay for the entirety of your schooling, but the money can help. Selected managers can receive $3,000 in help for the year, while previous recipients get $2,500, and first-time winners get $2,000.

Drive-thru workers at KFC are on a strict timer and deal with a lot

On Reddit's r/KFC, a confused drive-thru customer came looking for an answer to what they described as a "weird request from the drive-thru employee:" "She asked me to back all the way up and then pull forward again because, 'they're on a timer.'"

The answer, according to one responder, is that the employee needed to improve their drive-thru order completion times and having the person roll through twice was essentially like two people coming and being served quickly rather than one person being served on the slower side.

KFC employees have also posted about the struggles of working the drive-thru. One noted that the drive-thru is only faster than walking in "if you know EXACTLY what you want when you drive in."

"It's okay if you have an idea but aren't sure and have a few questions, but please don't come in clueless," they wrote. "The line will build up behind you, then there will be car after car after car, then your fellow cashiers will end up staying two hours after close because it was too busy."

TL;DR: Drive-thrus are for people who know what they want.

KFC workers hear a lot of people complain about wait times and freshness

When people go to a fast food restaurant, they expect their food to be ready, well, fast. That's not always possible, however, and if you want food that's properly cooked, you're going to have to wait for it. Employees are the first to hear from customers who don't understand that.

"My fellow employees know," one worker posted on Reddit's r/KFC. "The people that complain about chicken wait times are the same people that complain about chicken not being fresh."

Chicken filets take a different time to cook than boneless chicken, which takes a different time than bone-in chicken, of course. Exactly how long might surprise you. One employee replied that the original chicken takes 16 minutes to cook, crispy takes 15 minutes and 30 seconds, tenders take four minutes, and filets take seven minutes after breading them.

In another employee's post about their biggest pet peeves while working at KFC, multiple peeves related to freshness and time complaints. Specifically, "Customers telling us to cook another batch cause they'd rather wait for fresh. Sorry, we can't waste chicken like that, our stock is full and we have nowhere to put the fresh chicken." And, of course, when customers complain about a wait when there's an obvious line of 30 customers ahead of them.

KFC customers ask for a whole lot of special bucket fills

Some fast food chains have built a reputation from special orders, secret orders, and menu hacks that every dedicated customer knows. While those can be fun for the person doing the eating, asking for anything off menu makes everyone's job harder.

One customer seems to have noticed this and asked the r/KFC community if it's "normal to only ask for thighs and or breasts in a Chicken Bucket" and questioning if "employees get annoyed or are you guys usually stocked up on them because so many people do this?"

The answer, as you might expect, is that yes, this happens all the time. One KFC employee noted that "it can be a bit annoying if the customer gets frustrated when we do not have it. But when everyone is ordering special orders, it degrades the stock quite quickly." They also add that customers don't realize it takes more work to only put certain pieces into a bucket, and "when they learn legs, thighs, and breasts do not grow on trees, they get upset (no offense)."

Others acknowledged that as annoying as it is, the least you can do is call ahead to make it less of a pain for the kitchen. One other thing to keep in mind, according to an employee who responded to the question: "Some stores charge $1 per breast to swap it out with another piece, so it'll get expensive fast."

KFC employees get a hefty discount

According to the website Workstream, free food for KFC employees during their shift is a relatively common perk. Additionally, there are deep discounts when the person isn't working that day. Still, it depends on which location the employee is at, and discounts vary from ten percent to 30 percent. And then, as mentioned before, some managers let employees take food that would typically be thrown out at closing time so that it doesn't just go to waste.

On Glassdoor, employees have gotten specific about the food benefits. An employee in Toledo, Ohio, commented that employees at their location "are allowed to eat the food we cook on our breaks." Another in Lancaster, California, added that, "When you work, they will provide you with a free meal. You can have any of the $5 dollar meals with a drink." And then there was the employee who noted that they get a two-piece chicken meal and two sides if they work six or more hours.

Workers can use their discount through orders off of the app or just walk in and order, according to worker posts on Reddit.

KFC workers sometimes have to take shortcuts when it's a combo restaurant

KFC is owned by Yum! Brands, which also owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and The Habit Burger and Grill. While not as common as seeing standalone locations of each of these chain restaurants, it's not uncommon to see ones that have been combined so there are two chains in one building. A KFC and Pizza Hut, for example, or a KFC and a Taco Bell.

As one employee at a KFC and Taco Bell combination location put it on Reddit: "For some people, just pizza or just fried chicken or just tacos isn't enough. This is America, why should you have to choose? So, they have these combination restaurants to fill all your needs, where you can order from both at the same time."

Double the restaurant means more customers, though, as well as double the number of orders that can be made. That can mean that workers may have to take some shortcuts. One employee at a KFC and Taco Bell location noted on Reddit that they've had to take steps to make sure they get the food out on time. Biscuits are pre-buttered, for example, and cookies aren't made in-house. For the chicken strips, they're blanched for the entire day rather than made as needed.

KFC employees have little games to keep them entertained while working

While there are some people who believe there's always work to be done, it's impossible to deny that humans need some entertainment in their lives. That's where little employee games come into play.

One employee posted on Reddit that they make their shift go by faster with a bingo game. Throughout the shift, the employees check off the bingo squares (there are around 115 possible square options of common KFC employee occurrences). It's simple, but the worker adds that "it helps shifts pass a little bit and helps us laugh every time we hear a new bingo entry."

Another employee at a KFC and Taco Bell combination restaurant added in the same thread that they hold competitions to see who is faster based off of drive-thru times to make the day better. The prize? A small bit of money and for the winners to be addressed as royalty and greeted with "How are you, your majesty?" whenever they start their shift.