A Taco Bell manager is leaving after 20 years for a non-food service job.
He says customers have gotten more demanding and abusive since the pandemic started.
Workers are also burnt out and pushed to their limits, he says.
After 20 years of working at Taco Bell, a worker told Insider that he's leaving because customers have gotten too difficult in the past year.
The worker, whose employment was confirmed by Insider and who asked to remain anonymous for fears of impacting his future employment, has been in the fast-food industry for years, putting in six years at McDonald's before his two-decade career at Taco Bell.
"Fast food is pretty much the only thing I've ever known," he told Insider. If customers hadn't become so unreasonable and angry, "I probably would've just kept doing what I was doing. I loved my job until Covid hit."
The employee says that things have gotten especially bad since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. Customers have become more critical and angry towards workers in the service industry, and suddenly "people think it's perfectly okay to be intolerant, demand things, and just be unreasonable," he said, to the point where his work is "almost untenable."
This shift in customers is in part thanks to the rapid advances in technology used by fast-food chains, like online ordering, and people becoming accustomed to being at home and having everything delivered, the worker said. Many customers are "starting to treat fast food as their personal catering service," the worker said, with extreme modifications to every item and no empathy or understanding for overwhelmed workers.
Understaffed stores and burnt-out workers exacerbate these problems, the worker told Insider. He was a senior shift manager at the time he left, regularly working 60 hours a week, but all crew members were scheduled for at least 45 hours a week, he said. The effects of angry customers and overwork are evident in the restaurant: in the last two weeks, he has had three separate workers break down and need to leave during their shifts, and he also had his first panic attack in 27 years, he told Insider.
"That was when I realized, it's time for me to get out."
Fed-up workers are leaving food service jobs across the country. A group of five workers, including a general manager, quit their Austin Chipotle jobs together earlier this month over endless digital orders. Chipotle, Taco Bell, and the broader restaurant industry have seen instances recently of workers walking out and quitting as a symptom of what's referred to as a labor shortage. Business owners say they're unable to find staff, and some even cite a lack of desire to work. But workers say they can demand better pay and benefits in the tight labor market. This mismatch has led to restaurants decreasing hours and closing dining rooms.
According to restaurant workers surveyed by Lightspeed, 62% said that customers are more demanding than ever before. This fits with other data coming out of the industry, including a majority of restaurant workers reporting emotional abuse and disrespect from customers. Of restaurant operators, 72% agree that customer behavior has gotten worse over the past year.
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Read the original article on Business Insider