“Let’s start with the hot section,” said a full-time student and a part-time Moe’s Southwest Grill employee, Moe Alias (name changed for the purpose of this story), when asked to describe her typical day as a student working behind the line at Moe’s.
The “line,” or the chain of production that customers order from, starts with a “hot section,” where a line worker greets them and listens to their requests.
“I am starting the line, and there are people who have been standing forever in line and still do not know what they want,” Alias said.
Alias, like most students in the crew, works the night shift after attending classes during the day. The night shifts are notorious for being the worst because they start with a rush hour. However, in the case of Moe’s, it seems the whole night shift runs like a rush hour with a line of customers, up to 40 people long at times, extending all the way to the doors. And while customers have to wait to get their food, the workers have to produce that food at a fast rate. Even after waiting for as long as 40 minutes on occasion, Alias says some customers still do not know what they want to order, which stalls the production and angers all parties involved.
“It is not only you (the worker) who gets irritated, but also the people behind the person ordering who get irritated,” Alias said. “You can see the irritation on their face. You want to get the line moving, but the people have not decided on their food.”
The trouble with indecisive customers doesn’t end there, according to Alias.
“Then you start making their food, and they change their mind,” Alias said. “Then you have to remake it. For a place which is slammed for five continuous hours a day, this just delays the service. You cannot make a mistake because it is someone’s food, but you cannot please them.”
The process of ordering, she said, then takes customers to the “cold section,” where they add toppings to their orders and proceed to check out.
The cashier’s job, according to Alias, is the worst. On top of handling the money and taking care of special last-minute favors, cashiers have to watch out for dishonest customers.
“I mean, just because I am busy on the line doesn’t mean I cannot see you,” Alias said. “There was this one time a guy tried to steal cookies. Unfortunately, the cookie wrappers made a rumbling sound as he tried to stuff them in his pocket. The wrapper was making so much noise and he was trying so hard that his friends ended up laughing. He was so embarrassed.”
Abena Abadoh, a senior biomedical sciences major from Kumasi, Ghana, and student employee at Moe’s, is currently taking an 18-credit-hour course load. She got accustomed to working on the line after a full day of classes — with the thought of waking up for an 8 a.m. lecture the next day.
Although Moe’s is open until midnight, student workers don’t look forward to late-night customers.
“We have to close at 1 a.m.,” Abadoh said. “A customer coming after 11:30 p.m. automatically pushes our closing time by 30 minutes. So, we end up leaving work at 2 or 3 in the morning.”
Students, on their side, have a legitimate reason to come late at night.
“Moe’s and Herb’s Place are the only places that are open,” said Camri Martin-Bowen, a junior nursing major from Wetumpka. “And if I want a complete meal, then I’ll go to Moe’s and not Herb’s Place.”
The student employees have also been on the other side of the line, and they know exactly how customers feel. What the student workers said they wish the other students knew is the amount of stamina and patience it requires to pull off a night shift at Moe’s and then an all-nighter after they get home.
However, Abadoh said that hardship came with some valuable experiences such as prioritizing and working with different people.
“Your tolerance for nonsense increases,” Abadoh said. “You also learn to work under pressure because Moe’s is always crushed and understaffed.”
Alias said Moe’s taught her to deal with stress and prepared her for every job out there.
“I mean, if I can work from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. on a very stressful day, a long line and incomplete staff with students mocking my accent, I can work anywhere,” Alias said. “I now know what it feels like to get dressed and go straight to work after classes when you get a call saying, ‘The line needs you.’
“I can’t believe how quick I am to respond to something. It made me realize that in time of need, I can get to help someone quickly if I put my mind to it.”