August Bank Holiday Monday 1984 was the most chaotic day I think I have had in my life. It was, of course, also one of the most fun.
I was scheduled to work a normal eight hour shift at McDonald’s in Leamington, where I had been earning the princely sum of £1.25 per hour for the past four months, in between taking some exams and being annoyed by the rest of my family (I was nothing if not a stereotypical 16 year old). If possible, I was going to work more hours than that, because I was being paid time and a half for being at work, and being at work meant not having to go home.
On arrival at work, I discovered that I had been assigned to be a part of the ‘grill team’ – that is, the people responsible for churning out Big Macs, hamburgers and cheeseburgers (the menu was a lot more limited in those days). My job was to add ketchup and mustard to the burgers, and the special sauce and lettuce to the Big Macs. Oh, and that lovely pickle to all of them.
The other members of the team were PK, who was working the grill cooking the burgers, and Simon Rogers, who was in charge of toasting the burger buns. As it was a Bank Holiday, we thought we were in for a reasonably easy day.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. We had been told that the company had printed a ‘buy one, get one free’ coupon for Big Macs and placed it in the local papers. What we didn’t know was that someone had forgotten to print the normal ‘only one voucher per order’ rider on it. Which meant that people were coming in with fistfuls of the things. And when someone orders 16 Big Macs it is something of a problem, because you can only cook six at a time.
To say that it was frenetic would be something of an understatement. We were doing everything that we could to get the food out in time, taking over other parts of the kitchen to cook on, putting meat onto the grill faster than the automatic timers could cope with and yelling our heads off at each other. At one point PK started singing and the rest of the kitchen joined in. I wish I could remember what the song was!
We ran out of burger buns and had to send one of the managers to another store to collect some. We ran out of lettuce and ended up buying whole lettuces from the local supermarket and shredding them.
Out front, the till staff were trying to persuade people to have anything but Big Macs with their vouchers – which was great, but everything else took about three times as long to cook, so the level of chaos wasn’t really reduced.
I think that we finally got a break after about 9 hours, and finally got to leave after about 11, exhausted but exhilarated. Funnily enough, that promotion was never run again.