Workers Reveal What It's Really Like To Work At Insomnia Cookies

It is no coincidence that more than 100 Insomnia Cookies locations have popped up adjacent to college campuses across the U.S. since 2003. Founder Seth Berkowitz started the business in his University of Pennsylvania dorm room. After baking the cookies himself, Berkowitz made late-night deliveries to fellow students still awake studying and looking for something sweet to snack on. The first brick-and-mortar store opened in Syracuse, New York in 2006, and Insomnia Cookies has been serving up freshly baked cookies ever since.

Of course, Insomnia Cookies is not a college-only experience, and its stores serve the wider community as well. Deliveries are made by bicycle or car, depending on the neighborhood, to customers of all ages. And what goes better with cookies than ice cream? Your sweet tooth is guaranteed to be soothed at Insomnia Cookies.

But between the cookie baking, ice cream scooping, and order deliveries, how does Insomnia Cookies rank as a place of employment? Is it all as sweet as cookies and ice cream? Or are the baked goods burnt? Below, we take a peek into the kitchen and see what employees really think.

Working at Insomnia Cookies is a pretty easy job

The menu at Insomnia Cookies is quite simple: cookies, ice cream, and variations there-of. (Think a scoop of ice cream or smear of sugary icing nestled between two warm cookies.) Without an extensive and complicated menu to work through, the job of the cashier is made so much easier. One current employee said, "The work is literally the easiest thing you could ever do," and called it the "easiest job I [ever] had." A former shift leader reported that while there isn't a lot of room to advance with the company, the job itself "isn't incredibly hard."

Running the register isn't the only task, though. Those on the cookie crew (yes, that is their actual title) also have to bake the cookies, scoop ice cream, and put together deliveries. And then there are the delivery drivers, who have a lot of downtime between deliveries. Depending on the person, this much free time could be a bonus or a real drag.

A fun place with low drama

Foodservice is a notoriously cutthroat environment. With an unpredictable stream of customers and level of deliveries, people can become stressed, and emotions run high. While this obviously isn't true for everyone, several employees on Indeed actually report low drama and how much fun it is to work at Insomnia Cookies.

One former employee from a store in Kent, Ohio summed up their experience like this: "Very rarely there's workplace drama, which sometimes is inevitable, but communication is key and respect should be top priority." A former delivery driver in busy Boston, Massachusetts simply said, "Employees are easy to work with," when asked about work environment and culture. And while an Auburn, Alabama former employee had a lot of critiques of their particular store, they did admit, "We have an overall very relaxed work culture and my coworkers are truly wonderful people."

A simple job where employees actually enjoy socializing with each other? That's impressive.

Insomnia Cookies' delivery drivers pay for their own gas

We can all agree that rising gas prices are a concern for all of us. But when your job depends on your ability to keep your gas tank filled, money can be an even bigger concern. Plus there is regular maintenance, insurance, and other costs associated with owning a car. Delivery drivers at Insomnia Cookies use their own vehicles and pay for their own gas.

Delivery driver pay varies considerably, from $5 to $18 an hour with an average of $11 per hour (Glassdoor). Yes, there are tips, but they can vary too. One driver reported on Reddit that tips average $3 to $5 per delivery. But, as stated above, there can be a lot of downtime and few deliveries during a shift.

Overall, however, drivers seem to enjoy their positions. One current driver reported making good tips. And this driver suggested working nights when the store is busier and there are more deliveries.

Yes, you'll probably get some free cookies.

It's common for restaurants to offer their employees free food during their shifts. This can be a vital meal break for someone who's scheduled to work long hours. Insomnia Cookies is no exception, though with its own unique approach, of course.

Few can resist the allure of a warm cookie fresh from the oven. The mouthwatering aroma of fresh cookies fills every Insomnia Cookies location. And one of the perks of being on the cookie crew? Employees get a free cookie with every shift. (This may in fact be a plus or minus depending on how you feel about so many cookies being part of your regular diet.) A former driver added this fun bonus fact: "you get to try the new cookies before they go out." What cookie-lover wouldn't be excited about that?

Sometimes the love is shared with customers, such as on National Cookie Day, which occurs every year on December 4, or through special BOGO deals

Pay might be on the low side working at Insomnia Cookies

A common complaint amongst current and former employee reviewers is how low the pay can be. Glassdoor says the average cookie crew (cashier/baker) hourly pay is around $12, but it can start as low as $9. Tips always help, but they too often can't make up for a lousy hourly rate.

One former employee noted the free cookies as a pro, but the low pay as a con. While cookies taste great, they're obviously not the foundation of a healthy diet. Another former employee claims their pay was low due to not working enough hours. No matter how well the pay is, working too few hours is equally as unsustainable as low hourly wages.

A former shift leader blames the low pay and hours on their location being perpetually understaffed. It's near impossible to draw in new workers if you can't promise them a good enough living, especially nowadays when it seems every business is suffering from staff shortages, not just those in foodservice.

Pay doesn't always improve with advancement

A former store manager from Chico, California said on Indeed that the pay is "terrible ... for the amount of work and stress." A former shift leader from Baltimore, Maryland called it "an ok start" (Indeed). Neither the state of California nor the city of Baltimore are inexpensive places to live, so making ends meet with a low paycheck can be a real struggle for anyone.

Even a former regional manager admitted on Indeed that, "The managers are underpaid and the company doesn't offer many benefits." This is hardly encouraging for anyone looking for a solid career. And when you are the one in charge, you take the brunt of any difficulties and frustrations, your own and your staff's. As another manager pointed out, when part-time employees can't or don't want to work, this can lead to "very long hours" for the managers and shift leaders.

A current shift lead called wages "not up to par" and recommended that employees be paid more.

Hours are flexible for students who work at Insomnia Cookies

Between classes and homework, full-time students don't always have a lot of free time. Higher education especially can place a huge demand on one's time, which founder Seth Berkowitz would have been intimately familiar with. He didn't deliver his dorm-baked cookies during the day after all. 

Part of the employee happiness at Insomnia Cookies appears to hinge on the flexibility of hours. Minus a few detractors, employment reviews on both Indeed and Glassdoor agree it's a good place to work for both college and high school students.

A delivery driver called their position "great for college students ...," adding, "Scheduling is usually very accommodating, and if anything comes up, it's usually pretty easy to get someone to cover a shift." A current satisfied employee said, "The management is also very understanding and flexible with the schedules of college students." Even a shift leader agreed, calling Insomnia Cookies "a great job for a college student" and the work "light" and "easy." While Insomnia Cookies workers don't typically make a lot, at least there's the plus of an easy workload. 

The Insomnia Cookies dress code is casual

Like many fast food chain restaurants, Insomnia Cookies provides its employees with a company logo shirt and a hat. Other than that, there is a casual dress code. Staff are allowed to wear jeans or khakis and close-toed shoes (per OSHA regulations, which require feet to be protected from potential injury at all times). As long as the logo is showing, a hooded sweatshirt or jacket may also be worn (Indeed). This "uniform" is the same for shift leaders as it is for part-time employees. Drivers at least may be able to wear shorts or pants, which would make running around making deliveries much more comfortable during particularly hot weather. And nothing with profanity printed on it is allowed, of course.

Most employees answered yes to a question about facial piercings on Indeed, though one person said no, so this may depend on the store's location and temperament of the manager.

Insomnia Cookies employees should expect to work late

With a name like Insomnia Cookies, it goes without saying that the chain of cookie shops must be open late. It was built into the original business design. Surprisingly, this is not only a boon to customers with late-night cookie cravings, but some employees are fans of the late hours as well.

Depending on the region, locations close between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. Not only is this a good fit for night owls, but these hours could make it easier to work while attending classes during the day. Even colleges that have night classes don't typically offer post-midnight classes. It could also make a great second job for non-students.

Conversely, several other employees, past and present, cited the late hours as a detriment. A former shift leader said, "The hours are tough especially if you are frequently scheduled to work until 3 a.m. There is no getting used to that shift." The late hours can also interfere with early morning classes if the employee isn't able to get adequate sleep. Another employee claimed that friendships suffered and said, "[I] stopped attending church on Sundays because I simply cannot make myself get up after a closing shift."

You might get bored working at Insomnia Cookies

Being generally located in college towns near campus, the customer flow can vary greatly with the semesters, and fall and winter are busier than spring and summer (via Reddit). Many customers also tend to order later in the evening (it is called Insomnia Cookies after all), which can make the day shifts slow and boring.

One former driver stated bluntly, "Boring as all (deleted)." Another agreed, but worded it more diplomatically: "Sometimes it can be a little boring waiting between orders." And still, another driver said, "The hardest part of the job is simply the boredom."

A study in 2013 indicated that the human body "increases hunger and cravings for sweet, starchy and salty foods in the evenings." This means that the majority of customers are biologically more likely to drop by a store specializing in sugary cookies later in the day. So employees with the early shifts will have less to do than those working later, which one employee on Glassdoor seems to confirm.

The customers are pretty chill

Customer service is not exactly an industry known for being gratifying. Too many of us have horror stories about nightmare customers from days working in food service or retail. This is why it is surprising to learn that so many former and current Insomnia Cookies employees describe their customer base as "nice" and even "friendly."

A current delivery driver said, "People usually enjoy seeing you around town which is cool." Who doesn't get excited about cookies and ice cream after all? A former shift leader said, "[I] most of all enjoyed my day to day encounters serving our customers."

First, we have fellow employees who are easy to get along with, and now there are chill customers? Wow. Obviously, this pleasantry doesn't apply to everyone (one former manager called customers "unappreciative"), but if "nice" is the most frequent way to describe the customers, that's pretty reassuring for prospective employees.

Vegan and gluten-sensitive people aren't left out by Insomnia Cookies

Plant-based diets are becoming more popular in the United States as people learn of the health and ecological benefits of cutting down on meat. Veganuary, or going vegan for January, has grown in popularity since it was first launched by a U.K. non-profit in 2014. But can cookies be made vegan? Absolutely! Insomnia Cookies has already gotten in on the Veganuary challenge by offering four vegan cookies in January 2022. The icing used in the Big'wich is made with entirely plant-based ingredients.

And gluten-sensitive folk are not left out either. Insomnia Cookies offers a small selection of gluten-free cookies, too. They are not made in dedicated allergy-free facilities, and cross-contamination can occur, so celiacs should be cautious. But it is better than being ignored entirely.

So those free cookies that everyone keeps touting can also be enjoyed by employees following a vegan and gluten-free diet.