Frugal Friday: Do You Know Who is Flipping Your Burger?

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Happy Friday everyone! A few weeks ago I peeled back the curtain on the fast food industry and shared some of my thoughts about working in fast food. There was a variety of responses and was a fun blog post to write. That is why this article from NBC news stuck out to me this week and caught my attention right away. I had several experiences in my past regarding working in the fast food industry and one of the common things was that it was sort of a rite of passage for many high school age kids or those in college to make money. Nowhere I worked was it exclusively teenagers, but they always made up a sizeable portion of the workforce. There were some older individuals who worked at many of them and they usually consisted of two types of people. First, you had the managers who had, at the very least, been in the industry for some time or were experienced managers. The second group was individuals who seemed to bounce from job to job and had little direction and were simply looking to make some sort of living. This, of course, was all before the Great Recession which, according to NBC news, has made a palpable impact on the fast food industry.

The basic premise of the article is that the average age of the fast food worker is getting older and more educated. Teenagers used to comprise 25% of the fast food workforce, but over the past decade that percentage has slipped to 16%. Today, many fast food workers have some level of college education. The story highlights a 27 year-old lady who works ten hours per week at a local pizza joint. To make a long story short, she suffered an accident at a previous job which limits her ability to work physically demanding jobs, yet she is doing all she can to find more work. With the pay being just at minimum wage she has no benefits and has to live with her mother. It is ironic that while she delivers food to others for a living, she has to rely on food stamps to feed herself. She has been applying for other part-time jobs to help make ends meet and go off of food stamps but is losing out because competition due to the nation’s underemployment issue is forcing many to apply for jobs that they may not have considered before.

My point in sharing all of this is not to turn it into a political discussion as much of the politics behind this can be discussed at a different time. The point of the post is to highlight the change in dynamics for many of these types of jobs and how that impacts all of us…from younger generations finding stiffer competition in getting jobs that could be considered as a rite of passage to the older individuals who’re trying to get these jobs in order to make ends meet. Ultimately, it tells us that there is a change, but what can we do about it? The article goes on to highlight two separate fast food companies who actually seem to care about their employees. It highlights two – In-N-Out Burger and Five Guys. In-N-Out, for example, starts out their employees at $10 per hour and offers benefits. This, as the article states, leads to lower turnover for these two companies as well as better employee morale. I am not deluded enough to think that a $10 per hour job will help support a family, but it says something about the company that they would compensate their employees so much higher than the industry norm. We can support those companies, if you eat fast food that is, by speaking with our wallets and going there as opposed to somewhere like McDonald’s.

I also share this because my thoughts almost at first went to how can people in this situation save money and prepare for the future. It is a valid question and one that requires thought. That said, it’s not impossible to save while working in a low paying job. I know it’ll be hard, there is no discounting that, but do not allow that to be an excuse to keep from saving. I know, either personally, or have heard stories of many individuals who have managed to save money while working in low paying jobs. It requires time, commitment and discipline, but the point is that it can be done. It’ll require creativity, no doubt, but it is possible to start saving, even in small amounts and that will help develop a discipline that’ll last a lifetime.

Ok, enough of my rambling. It has been another great week in the blogosphere. I am always encouraged to read such high quality blog posts week in and week out. If you have the time this weekend I encourage you to read some of my selected blog posts and the sites as well as they all provide very helpful information.


Blog Post of the Week

Why I Care About Financial Literacy on Eyes On The Dollar

There were quite a number of blog posts about financial literacy this week, and for good reason as it’s Financial Literacy Awareness month. That said, Kim’s post struck me the most. It’s probably due to the fact that I could relate to it quite well, but also the thoughtfulness with which Kim communicates her personal story. As Kim said, you do not need to have a doctorate degree to become financially literate, but be willing to make some simple changes that can have long lasting effects. That’s really what financial literacy comes down to…making daily choices that’ll impact your long term future.

Other Blog Posts That Ruled

Investing: 7 Steps to Spring Clean Your Portfolio on The Chicago Financial Planner

How Debt Started My Quest Toward Financial Literacy on Debt RoundUp

I Don’t Want Fries With My Retirement on 1500 Days to Freedom

5 Warning Signs That You Might Be Financially Illiterate on Cash Cow Couple

Can Kids Invest in Stocks or Mutual Funds? on Three Thrifty Guys

Three Steps to an Iron-Clad Protection Plan on The Free Financial Advisor

Odd Search Terms

How to not spend money…Simple, just stop!

Pay debt or save…Uh, both!

20/20 giving information on Wal-Mart chicken…I knew I was on to something

Dog that ate tax refund money…I’d be finding a different dog right about now!

Has Wal-Mart gotten better…In a word, NO!

Self-employment is a b!tch…How do you REALLY feel?

What did you tell me…You should’ve been listening

Why do I scratch my head when I drink wine…You got me there bud!


What are your thoughts? Would you pay a little more to help show support to a company that cares for its employees and trying to give back to the community? Have a great weekend everyone!


Photo courtesy of: MowT

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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. I'm also a freelance writer, and regularly contribute to GoBankingRates, Investopedia, Lending Tree and more.

Latest posts by John Schmoll (see all)


  • I was only talking to my wife about this the other day, so many people at the moment are being forced to look for work that they normally wouldn’t even consider, and that doesn’t use their qualifications at all. Unfortunately I see this trend continuing rather than diminishing 🙁

    lol @ Why do I scratch my head when I drink wine – What a random search term!

    • John says:

      I agree Glen. I know it’s for a number of reasons, but it is indeed sad to see and hope that it does turn around at some point…though I am not betting on it.

  • I didn’t know those burger joints paid their workers more than average. I eat there because the food is better and therefore I am will to pay a premium for it. I’ve known a few people as well that have saved a lot of money even though they were working low paying jobs. In some cases, it amazed me that they were able to save so much. But they knew how to live within their means and were disciplined about it.

  • I thought they said all the manufacturing jobs that we lost in the US were going to be replaced by high quality “service” jobs??? Haha okay I will avoid a political discussion as well, but it’s crazy how some very overqualified people are being forced to take lower-paying jobs.

    • John says:

      I know what you’re saying DC, I thought the same thing…but I’ll leave that for a different time & place. It is sad to see and hopefully we’ll see turnaround sooner rather than later…though I am sure it’ll be later rather than sooner.

  • Aaron says:

    Thanks for including us – good sir!

  • I didn’t know that Five Guys did that, I like them even more now. Guess I’ll have to give a bit more business their way.

    I really hope that the trend of overqualified employees that have historically been reserved for high school students does change. Only time will tell, but I don’t see a big difference coming any time soon.

    • John says:

      I did not either and just confirms to me again why we choose to go there if/when we eat fast food.

      I hope that trend does change as well, though I will not hold my breath that’ll happen anytime soon.

  • I have never eaten at a five guys before. They need a dollar menu. But that is pretty cool that there are places like that that still pay an above average wage compared to the rest of the industry.

    On a different note, based on the title of this post, I first started thinking about your other post and was hoping you were not flipping my burgers. 😉

    • John says:

      Lol, no I won’t be flipping burgers…other than on our grill anytime soon. 🙂

      That’s the thing about Five Guys though Alan…they serve relative quality products that are real and not full of fake junk. You’d hate to know what is in the “dollar menu” stuff…which is exactly why I do not like to eat it.

      • Five Guys is soooo worth the extra money. I had no idea In-N-Out did that! Super amazing! I think it’s especially hard for those who graduated college during the height of the recession. That girl’s story is so sad. When I worked in fast food in high school, everyone was a teen except the managers and a few workers with intellectual disabilities.

        • John says:

          I would agree with you on Five Guys. You can tell there is such a huge difference between them and nasty McD’s. It is a shame for those that have recently graduated as it can be very difficult to make any headway working fast food.

  • pauline says:

    That is a tough one. We have gotten used to cheap and disposable and generally aren’t prepared to pay for quality. Honestly I don’t really care if the employee are happy, but if you tell me the meat has nothing weird inside and the burger is healthy you got my attention. I imagine a decent company would treat the offer as a hole.

  • pauline says:

    whole! too early 🙂

  • Oh don’t worry about people supporting In n Out Burger…there are usually lines a mile long for that place! It is pretty good though. I just don’t eat fast food, but if I did I’d go there…and subway because it’s healthier. What always bugs me about most fast food places is how they set up shop in poorer neighborhoods, furthering the health crisis in America. Another blog post I guess!

    • Mackenzie says:

      OMG, In-n-out is crazy here in SoCal!! There are always lines a million miles long very time I drive by one of them 🙂

    • John says:

      Oh, I know Tonya…I remember seeing those line when I was in San Diego/LA. You’d think they were giving out sacks of money with how busy they are. You bring up a great point about locations of many fast food joints, it really is sad.

  • Thanks for the mention John! We appreciate it!

    The fast food is a tough one. More and more people want cheap, which puts pressure on the company to be cheap. I can’t imagine years of employment at a McDonalds. There is no room to dream and no ability to be autonomous.

    • John says:

      No problem Jacob!

      You’re right on. They give us what we’re demanding. If people were to stop supporting them then things would be a little different.

  • Thanks for including my post, have a great weekend.

  • For me the obvious difference is whether the company is publicly traded or not. Both In-and-Out and Five Guys are privately held companies. Without having to succumb to quarterly analyst expecations to keep a stable stock price and meet growth projections set by those outside the company, they can focus on a better product and service. In this case, they have clearly valued loyal employees, who in turn help drive the success of these two businesses.

    • John says:

      You bring up a great point. There are so few publicly traded companies that are along these same lines. Whole Foods comes to mind, but beyond that I am not certain.

  • I read that article. It was a very interesting read. I agree that if you don’t treat your employees well, then your business is doomed as almost all businesses rely on their workers to get the job done. These are the businesses that usually thrive no matter what the market.

  • Catherine says:

    You get the funniest search terms haha! Have a great weekend John!

  • Good post John. I used to love In-N-Out, but they don’t have those in NC, so I choose Five Guys. I would gladly pay more for a product knowing that their employees are paid more and treated better. I actually frequent Five Guys more than I ever would the golden arches. It is sad that teenagers now have to fight more educated people for these jobs because of the recession, but it is what it is.

    Thanks for mentioning my post. I hope you have a great weekend sir.

    • John says:

      Thanks Grayson! Yea, I would eat at In-N-Out when we lived in SoCal and would choose Five Guys over McD’s any day of the week. I agree it is sad to see how teenagers now have increased competition for these types of jobs. It’s a comment on the current economy and hopefully will not impact things too much for the long term.

      You have a good one as well sir!

  • Thanks for the nice words. You can always tell when something is near and dear to me because I wrote that post in about 10 minutes! As far as fast food, I’ve also seen stories about how In N Out uses fresh meat and potatoes instead of pink slime. Proof that you can treat employees well and have better quality food. Too bad there isn’t on here. I’d like to think I would take any job if I had to, but it would be pretty depressing to have to work at McDonalds. I can see how that would contribute to poor job performance and bouncing from job to job. It is interesting when we do go through a drive thru to see fast food employees on break smoking behind the building playing on their iPhones, but another topic for another day.

    • John says:

      No problem Kim! I am the same way and love it when I can churn out a post in 15 minutes or less.

      I’ve read the same thing about In-N-Out and Five Guys is the same way. I feel the same way, if I had to work then I would do it…but hopefully I’ll never be at that point.

  • Kim’s post was fantastic! I was blown away by how great everyone’s posts were. Not that I should have been surprised, but I was moved so many times while reading all of them and know others were too.

    Thanks again for your participation and support, John. It means a lot to me. You do great work here and are helping a lot of people.

    In and Out Burger has an excellent reputation in Cali (beyond their delicious burgers, of course!) and are known for their higher than average pay and benefits. Certainly not typical for non-managerial employees at fast food restaurants. I agree that it can seem impossible to save when your earn very little, but it is possible. You do have to be creative and really know what you want, so you don’t slip up and spend money on things that really don’t matter to you.

    “Why do I scratch my head when I drink wine” LOL! And what have YOU been talking about that brought this person here? 🙂 Have a great weekend! Hopefully it stops snowing and the sun comes out!

    • John says:

      Thanks so much for your kind words Shannon! I was honored to be asked and loved doing it. It helps me see that I am doing something right when I get to help people and get to meet other like minded individuals, like yourself, that want to do that very thing.

      In-N-Out does have a great reputation and remember them from my SoCal days. That said, you’re exactly right, it is possible to save in that situation, you just need to be creative to it and want to do it. Otherwise, it’ll likely not happen at all.

      I know, I have NO idea what I am writing about that brought that person to my site…but I’ll take it I guess. 🙂

      You have a great weekend as well Shannon…there are rumors of 65 degree weather next week, so fingers are crossed. 🙂

  • John says:

    Great point about the issue with Obamacare Jenny. Time will tell how that’ll impact many companies and us as consumers at the end of the day.

    In regards to your point about paying more…I would actually have respectfully disagree. We vote with our wallets and if we (in general) stop supporting companies like McD’s and spend it elsewhere that does have an impact on both sides. We, all too often, fail to see that these companies are giving us what we’re asking for with our purchasing decision. If we stop and go elsewhere then the company must change if they want to be sustainable.

    That said, my larger point was the issue with the changing landscape in terms of who is working in these types of jobs. If it continues long-term, it will have an impact and not a good one in my opinion.

  • anna says:

    Why *do* I scratch my head when drinking wine… and ramble on incessantly? But back to the point, I would definitely frequent places that I know treat their employees well. My faves tend to be mom and pop restaurants that are family-owned – a lot of the times they’re hole in the wall dives, but it’s the best service and you just feel the love in there!

    • John says:

      Lol! We’re the same way Anna! We much more prefer those restaurants that are family owned and care about serving their clients as opposed to most chains. I feel like most chains have 90+% of the same food, feel and look anyway.

  • The McDonalds near my old place was directly next to one of the city’s high schools and I swear the entire workforce of that restaurant was in high school. I used to joke that the reason why it was the only non-24-hour McDonalds in town was because they didn’t have any employees who were allowed to work past 10!

    • John says:

      I’d imagine that would play a big role in having a lot of teenagers working there. I bet a good chunk of them were in high school in that case.

  • Jim says:

    That is wonderful about InNOut burger and Five Guys, hadn’t heard they paid their employees so well. It doesn’t seem to have affected the price of their burgers, they seem to be competitively priced. They must be doing something to make up for the high labor costs? Still that is good to see!

  • AverageJoe says:

    Dude, you’re becoming the WalMart search king!

    The stats on low-paying jobs is frustrating. Sure, we’re adding more jobs again, but largely they’re in this uber-low paying arena. It isn’t the type of job you can build a future around.

    • John says:

      Lol, I am getting quite a few hits each day off of Wal-Mart.

      I agree Joe, it is frustrating as so many are not able to build that future around. Now you have teenagers losing out on them which impacts it even more.

  • Justin says:

    You make a great point John. The tough times has required people to get by on jobs that are below their skill set. Another reason to try to create your own income if you can’t find a decent paying job.

  • Scott @ Youthful Investor says:

    I concur with what Glenn said. Myself and colleagues I went to university with are all taking very strange jobs we never would have imagined we would before graduation. We knew the economy was tough but, nothing like this.

    Obviously, there is some blame and certainly responsibility on our hands for not making ourselves more aware or preparing what we could. However I would say the average guidance counselor at the high school and college level is doing an incredible disservice to the average student. You can tell them, to be what you want to be, but you also have an obligation to explain to them the odds of you landing that career or that no one will be hiring for it!

    No offense but, by and large those that are flipping the burgers (I can say that because I have been in the food industry for years and have a slightly better although comparable job now) are mostly the arts graduates. It was really eye-opening when we graduated to find that people were not hiring art historians right away. Our fault? To a degree, yes, absolutely. The sad thing is, right out of graduation, fast food was offering me more money an hour than jobs using my history and international relations degree.

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