Workers Reveal What It's Really Like To Work At Zaxby's

Though there are nearly 1,000 Zaxby's locations in 563 cities across the United States, as tabulated by ScrapeHero, more than a quarter of them are in the state of Georgia alone, and almost all of them are found in the southeast. If you're not from this part of the nation and aren't already familiar with the fast-food chain's menu, consider it something in the vein of a Chick-fil-A, but this one's open on Sunday.

Zaxby's customers love their chicken fingers and wings, but someone has to prepare all that poultry for the chain's many adoring fans. It's fair to assume that most Zaxby's employees don't love popping into the restaurant as much as its customers do (who really loves going to work that much?), but we wondered exactly how they felt about working at the popular chicken chain, so we dug around for their first-person accounts. In their own words, here's what workers reveal about what it's really like to work at Zaxby's.

Being a manager is a round-the-clock job

While new employees around the world start out with dreams of reaching management, hoping to snag greater pay for less work, it doesn't take long for most people to learn that, while there may be less physical work in most management positions, the added responsibility and time commitment can be a lot worse. This certainly appears to be the case at Zaxby's, where management claims to have little escape from the job.

We might expect general managers of stores, or any business, to be ultimately responsible for just about everything that happens on-site, so it's little surprise to hear one general manager tell Payscale that it's a "stressful and demanding" job, but this anonymous employee goes a few steps further to say that it's a 24/7 position, and even vacations aren't really possible. You might assume that this much oversight from a general manager would leave assistant managers with a bit more freedom, but a Camden, South Carolina, assistant manager says this position also demands being on call all the time, so there doesn't seem to be a moment's peace for any management at the store level. So, what about the higher-ups who work off-site? The situation appears bleak for them, as well, with one district manager echoing the now-familiar refrain that the position requires always being on call and to such a degree that it leaves "no time for family." There's just no rest for Zaxby's managers at any level.

The pay isn't great

Many fast-food gigs are entry-level jobs, so few people expect the pay to be phenomenal. These jobs are typically paid hourly and often at or near minimum wage, and employee reviews of Zaxby's reveal that no one's earning a fortune hawking chicken fingers, either. In fact, it may even be a little worse than usual here.

A former Zaxby's cashier from Rockmart, Georgia, claims to have loved the job and even misses working there, leaving a five-star Indeed review and lamenting having to leave only because the wages weren't enough to live on. While no rate was listed, one would have to assume it must have been pretty poor to force someone out of a job they otherwise preferred to keep. For now, we'll just have to take our cues from another employee from Tallahassee, Florida, who described the pay situation at Zaxby's as "not good at all." And before you object, claiming that pay just isn't good anywhere within the fast-food industry, take note that a former Zaxby's crew trainer specified on Glassdoor that the company's pay is even below industry standards, which perhaps explains why that employee above was able to casually leave for a better paying job.

Overtime can be tough to come by

One strategy many low-paid employees utilize to build bigger paychecks is snagging overtime whenever they can get it. That, of course, requires having fewer outside commitments in order to be able to accept those extra hours, so it's not an option for many, but it appears to be an option for almost no one at Zaxby's.

A crew trainer in Decatur, Tennessee, put it simply when saying one just plain "cannot get overtime" at Zaxby's, even when noting that plenty of people call out, leaving holes in the schedule (more on that to come). An assistant manager at Zaxby's reported on Payscale that the company is "stingy on overtime," which leaves at least a glimmer of hope but isn't overly promising. However, before we give up on overtime at Zaxby's completely, it's helpful to take a look at the comments of one former cashier from Bartow, Florida, who specified that there's no overtime if you're not a manager, so perhaps it's possible for some positions to pick up extra hours as needed. Though, remembering what the managers above said about being on call all day and night, we're not sure any of them actually want to come into the store more than they already do.

There may not be a free lunch

Low pay and no overtime doesn't sound like a great way to lure new employees to Zaxby's, but it's not too far-fetched to assume that the same chicken-forward menu that draws a crowd of hungry diners may also be drawing in new hires. We can also assume that many of them are hoping for some tasty job perks, like a free lunch (or dinner, or snack, or whatever meal hits during their shifts ... you get the idea).

Unfortunately for the hungry hopeful, Zaxby's does not always appear to offer free food to its employees. An anonymous Zaxby's cashier indicated on Payscale that the low pay and high demands of the position might have been more bearable if there had been a free lunch during shifts, but there wasn't. Not all stores seem to follow the same rules, though. Reporting an entirely different experience, a former cashier from Camden, South Carolina, who panned the job with a one-star review, did acknowledge that free meals were an "ok" perk, indicating that some employees do, in fact, receive them. An anonymous reviewer on Niche, however, returned to the much more common experience of no free food, specifying that a 50% discount was the only benefit extended to part-time employees at Zaxby's.

Coworkers are young

Fast-food restaurants are notorious magnets for first-time job applicants looking to gain work experience and put a little cash in their pockets, and many of those tend to be students. The sight of teenagers staffing a drive-thru or standing behind a burger counter is no surprise to anyone, and the same scene plays out at most Zaxby's locations, according to its own staff.

While we won't assume that this Athens, Georgia, employee crunched any actual numbers to produce the following statistic, we can all get a general idea of just how much of a Zaxby's store veers toward the younger side of the workforce when reading the claim that "about 95% of the hourly employees are either high school or college students." A former Zaxby's cashier from Greer, South Carolina, even claimed on Glassdoor to often be the only employee in the store who wasn't in high school, so perhaps 95% isn't too far off from the actual figure. And while that particular store may have staffed mostly high school students, a Zaxby's employee of six years reported on Indeed that their store had plenty of college students, particularly in the back of the house, and enjoyed the fun atmosphere that created.

A lot depends on ownership

We've already seen from employee discount questions and debates over free food that policies aren't necessarily followed across the board at Zaxby's locations, so it's fair to wonder what's going on and who's making the rules here. While favoritism and rebel management may certainly be the culprits in certain instances, it does seem there's a more legitimate explanation at the highest level, and that's simply that not all Zaxby's restaurants are owned by the same people because it's a franchised brand.

You might think that even franchised restaurants would have a considerable degree of consistency between locations, but that may apply more to the customer experience than the employee experience because those who've undergone a change of ownership have reported some pretty significant changes. One employee, reporting on Lensa, loved being a Zaxby's manager until new ownership came in and changed policies dramatically and immediately. Another review on Lensa describes a similar situation with new ownership bringing new management so inconsiderate and "power hungry" that they left the position after a whopping sixteen years in the same restaurant. After that many years in fast food, you'd think an employee would have already seen everything, but apparently, this buyout brought some pretty severe changes that prove different owners can quickly bring about a different culture, even in a large chain like Zaxby's.

It's a friendly environment

We admit this list tends to be skewed toward the negative side, but hey, these aren't our observations — they're coming from the employees themselves! Still, let's take a positivity breather at the middle of the list and focus on one thing that many Zaxby's employees appear to love about working in this chicken empire: It's a friendly place to work.

Everyone appreciates a friendly working environment, but it's especially beneficial to new employees, all of whom are already facing enough stress just trying to take in all of the information as they learn the gig. Luckily for new employees of Zaxby's, one anonymous worker told Comparably that employees here aren't just friendly, but they're especially welcoming to new hires. On Niche, another employee agreed that Zaxby's staff are welcoming, adding that the resulting environment made them comfortable to be themselves and have fun while working, culminating in a positive experience. Finally, another Niche reviewer confessed to thinking that fast food could never be an enjoyable working environment before taking a position at a Zaxby's in Athens, Georgia, but discovered this one was "such a fun place to work" after all. While it may not be the primary reason most people choose a job, being able to have fun on the clock certainly makes going to work a lot more bearable.

It can be tough to get enough hours

While you may find it easy to overlook not being able to get much overtime at a job since the very definition of overtime is that it involves hours you weren't intended to work when you agreed to a schedule, not getting enough regular working hours is another matter entirely. If you can't work much, you can't earn much, and isn't that the reason most of us are showing up to jobs to begin with?

A former employee from Winchester, Massachusetts, was clearly unsatisfied with Zaxby's, leaving a one-star review with a series of complaints that included not getting enough hours. More specifically, a Hot Spring, Arkansas, employee claims to have interviewed for a full-time position but to have received just 24 scheduled hours per week initially, only to be reduced to a mere 6 hours per week later, and was made to leave some shifts early. While we certainly can't say whether management found this employee ineffective or just couldn't figure out how to schedule the store properly, it's certainly a shock to anyone to go from an expectation of 40 hours to only receiving 6 hours without explanation. We might expect some employees to quit over this — at least one employee has. On Niche, an Athens, Georgia, employee reported enjoying the job at Zaxby's but ultimately having to quit over not getting enough hours, and it's hard to blame them if that was truly the case.

You'll meet all kinds of people

Whether you'd consider this a positive or a negative is completely dependent on your own personality, so we won't attempt to decide for you, but suffice to say that Zaxby's employees reveal that a job here offers the opportunity to meet all kinds of people. In fact, they use that phrase over and over when reviewing jobs at the restaurant online, and while you might assume there's a slightly negative undertone to such wording, it often appears in positive reviews.

Leaving a five-star Indeed rating of the assistant manager position in a Greenville, South Carolina, Zaxby's, one employee says meeting "all kinds of people" here allows workers to fine-tune their customer service skills, and an assistant manager from Inman, South Carolina, left a similar observation on Indeed, sharing that this level of exposure offers the chance to learn to talk to "all types of people." Finally, a four-star review mentioning "all kinds of people," this one from Gastonia, North Carolina, noted it wasn't just the customers who varied, but the workplace itself, which was "very diverse," so you could reasonably expect to encounter plenty of variety at Zaxby's, both in front of the counter and behind it.

Picky customers can make life difficult

This may be something of a no-brainer, but it bears mentioning: Difficult customers make any job tough. In the food industry — fast food or otherwise — difficult often translates to picky. Whether someone prefers just a dab of sauce, can't eat bread, or only loves tearing into chicken when it's piping hot, any number of personal preferences come into play with food, and some customers are only satisfied only when their bites are prepared to exacting specifications.

You might think that people would lower their standards at a fast-food chain, where it's reasonable to expect there's a relatively standard way of preparing this mass-produced menu, but an assistant manager from Roswell, Georgia, left an Indeed review indicating picky customers are the norm, not the exception. Worse, a Zaxby's crew leader from Springfield, Tennessee, says picky customers are actually the hardest part of the job (that and trying not to get hurt in the kitchen, but we'll leave that one unexplored for now). And in case you now find yourself wondering just how picky a fast-food customer could be, Reddit user Spider8461 recounted that one regular customer always demanded "super burnt" food that required at least an extra two minutes on the grill and wasn't happy with the fries unless they snapped when she bit into them. Almost any other customer would balk if served such scorched food, which just proves there's no accounting for taste, and trying to please everyone is a fool's errand.

Short-staffing makes work life tough

As promised above, it's now time for some words on the occasional lack of sufficient staffing at Zaxby's. Let's start with the basics. When someone doesn't show up for work and doesn't find a replacement to cover the shift, work automatically becomes more difficult for the rest of the crew, just as one anonymous Zaxby cashier describes on Glassdoor. This is hard for any company to address, as they can't predict when their employees will be unexpectedly absent.

But short-staffing isn't always a surprise.

A former Zaxby's cashier in Morristown, Tennessee, claimed that their restaurant was "constantly understaffed," describing a more chronic issue that raises questions more about management and company policy than unprofessional employees. And another cashier in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, described an "extremely understaffed" Zaxby's with a manager that wouldn't even assist when there was only a single employee to serve both the drive-thru and the front counter. And lest you think this is just always the case at Zaxby's, or any other fast-food restaurant, or that this phenomenon could be squarely blamed on a pandemic economy that saw short-staffing in many industries nationwide, a July 2022 employee review from Charlotte, North Carolina, says the job was fine until everything fell apart when the restaurant became short-staffed, demonstrating that it had previously operated with proper staffing and that things ran smoothly then.

Breaks aren't guaranteed

Whether you love taking a break to check your social media, get outside for a minute, have a meal, or just get off (or on) your feet, taking a break is one of the highlights of most workdays for many of us, and that certainly includes fast-food employees who spend hours rushing to please impatient and hungry customers. But employees of Zaxby's troublingly report that they don't always get to take proper breaks.

Among such reports, a particularly unnerving one comes from a former cashier from Chattanooga, Tennessee, who says they got "short breaks," if they got a break at all, though admits that the no-break days were due to the number of hours worked, and seemingly not due to neglect. A cook from Florence, South Carolina, though, says that breaks weren't even scheduled, and they would only get a break if they specifically asked a manager for one, every single time. Worst of all, a cook from Jacksonville, Florida, claims that day-shift employees over the age of 18 could never get a break, no matter how long of a shift was worked, perhaps implying that younger employees only received their breaks because of stronger laws protecting minors in the workplace.