Working in the restaurant industry can be fast-paced and demanding. For many people, fast food restaurants provide their first job and introduction to the food service world. But when building your resume and applying for restaurant positions, an important question arises: does fast food count as real restaurant experience?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Fast food experience does count as restaurant experience in most cases. While fast food and full-service restaurants have some differences, the core skills you gain are transferable.

Key Similarities Between Fast Food and Restaurant Jobs

Customer Service Skills

Working in both fast food establishments and traditional restaurants requires excellent customer service skills. Employees in both settings need to be friendly, attentive, and able to handle customer inquiries and complaints.

They must possess strong communication skills and the ability to work well with a diverse range of customers.

Food Safety and Prep Knowledge

Both fast food and restaurant jobs involve handling food and ensuring its safety. Employees in both settings need to have a good understanding of food safety practices, such as proper handwashing, safe food storage, and correct cooking temperatures.

They also need to know how to prepare and assemble menu items accurately and efficiently.

Ability to Work Under Pressure

Working in the fast-paced environment of a fast food or restaurant setting requires the ability to work well under pressure. Employees must be able to multitask, handle a high volume of customers, and manage time effectively to ensure prompt service.

They need to stay calm and composed even during busy periods and be able to solve problems quickly and efficiently.

Cash Register and Payment Skills

Both fast food and restaurant jobs involve handling cash and processing customer payments. Employees in both settings need to have basic math skills and be comfortable using a cash register or POS system. They must be accurate in handling money and be able to provide correct change to customers.

Inventory and Stocking Experience

In both fast food and restaurant jobs, employees need to have experience with inventory management and stocking. They need to keep track of stock levels, monitor expiration dates, and restock supplies as needed.

This ensures that both fast food and restaurant establishments are well-stocked and ready to serve customers.

Differences Between Fast Food and Full Service

Pace and Volume

One of the key differences between fast food and full-service restaurants is the pace and volume of operations. Fast food establishments are designed to serve a large number of customers quickly, often through a drive-thru or counter service.

This means that the focus is on efficiency and speed, with orders being prepared and served within minutes. In contrast, full-service restaurants typically prioritize a more leisurely dining experience, with customers being seated at tables and served by waitstaff.

The pace is generally slower, allowing for a more relaxed and personalized experience.

Food Preparation

Another notable difference between fast food and full-service restaurants is the way in which food is prepared. Fast food establishments often rely on pre-packaged ingredients and standardized cooking methods to ensure consistency and speed.

This can result in less variation in taste and quality compared to full-service restaurants, where chefs have more flexibility in preparing dishes from scratch using fresh ingredients. Full-service restaurants may also offer a wider range of menu options and the ability to customize dishes according to individual preferences.

Customer Interactions

The level of customer interaction is also different between fast food and full-service restaurants. In fast food establishments, customer interactions are typically brief and transactional, with minimal opportunity for personal interaction with staff.

On the other hand, full-service restaurants provide more opportunities for staff to interact with customers, taking orders, answering questions, and providing recommendations. This personal touch can contribute to a more engaging and enjoyable dining experience for customers.

Alcohol and Bar Knowledge

One area where fast food and full-service restaurants differ significantly is in their handling of alcohol and bar knowledge. Full-service restaurants often have a bar area and may offer a range of alcoholic beverages to complement the dining experience.

This requires staff to have knowledge of different types of alcohol, mixing techniques, and responsible serving practices. In contrast, fast food establishments typically do not serve alcohol, so staff members do not need to possess the same level of bar knowledge.

Listing Fast Food Experience on Your Resume

When it comes to listing fast food experience on your resume, there may be some debate about whether it counts as restaurant experience. While fast food establishments may not offer the same level of fine dining as traditional restaurants, they still provide valuable experience that can be relevant to various job opportunities.

Here are some tips on how to effectively showcase your fast food experience on your resume:

Be Specific With Your Accomplishments

One way to demonstrate the value of your fast food experience is by being specific about your accomplishments. Instead of simply listing your job responsibilities, highlight any achievements or recognition you received while working in the fast food industry.

For example, you can mention if you were consistently recognized as Employee of the Month or if you were responsible for increasing customer satisfaction ratings.

Focus on Transferable Skills

Although fast food and fine dining may differ in terms of ambiance and menu offerings, many of the skills acquired in fast food can be transferable to other roles in the hospitality industry. Highlight skills such as customer service, teamwork, time management, and problem-solving.

These skills are highly valued in any customer-facing role and can be applicable to positions in restaurants, hotels, or even event planning.

Use Your Resume to Connect the Dots

When listing your fast food experience on your resume, it’s important to connect the dots and show how your experience is relevant to the job you’re applying for. Emphasize any similarities between the fast food industry and the industry you are targeting.

For example, if you’re applying for a restaurant management position, you can highlight your experience in handling high-volume orders, managing a team, and ensuring smooth operations during busy periods.

Remember, regardless of the industry, employers value candidates who can demonstrate a strong work ethic, reliability, and the ability to handle fast-paced environments. Fast food experience can demonstrate these qualities and should be included on your resume as it can provide valuable insights into your skills and abilities.

How to Discuss Fast Food Experience in Interviews

Share Examples That Demonstrate Your Skills

When discussing your fast food experience in an interview, it’s essential to share specific examples that demonstrate your skills. Talk about instances where you successfully handled a high-pressure situation, such as a long line of customers during lunch rush.

Describe how you efficiently multitasked, took orders accurately, and managed to maintain a positive attitude throughout. These examples not only showcase your ability to work under pressure but also highlight your excellent customer service skills.

Discuss How You Provided Excellent Service

Fast food experience can provide valuable insights into your ability to provide excellent service. Emphasize your commitment to customer satisfaction by sharing stories of how you went above and beyond to ensure a positive dining experience.

For instance, you can mention a time when you proactively resolved a customer’s complaint or accommodated their special requests. Highlight your ability to listen attentively, show empathy, and resolve issues promptly.

This demonstrates your dedication to delivering exceptional service, regardless of the fast-paced environment.

Talk About Times You Showed Leadership or Initiative

Fast food experience doesn’t just involve following instructions; it also offers opportunities to display leadership and initiative. Share instances where you took the lead in coordinating tasks or training new employees.

Discuss how you efficiently managed a shift, ensuring that everyone was on track and providing support where needed. Additionally, highlight any initiatives you took to improve processes or enhance customer satisfaction, such as suggesting menu changes or implementing more efficient systems.

These examples illustrate your ability to take charge, think critically, and make proactive contributions to the team.

Explain How You Learned New Skills Quickly

In the fast-paced environment of fast food, learning new skills quickly is crucial. Use your fast food experience as an opportunity to showcase your adaptability and ability to pick up new skills rapidly.

Talk about times when you quickly learned how to operate new equipment or mastered different stations in the kitchen. Highlight your ability to absorb information, ask questions, and proactively seek out opportunities to learn and grow.

This demonstrates your willingness to take on new challenges and adapt to changing circumstances, valuable qualities in any work environment.

Remember, when discussing your fast food experience in interviews, focus on the skills and qualities that are transferable to the job you are applying for. Emphasize your ability to work under pressure, provide excellent customer service, display leadership, and learn quickly.

By effectively communicating your experiences and skills, you can demonstrate the value of your fast food experience in a professional setting.


At the end of the day, fast food and restaurant work share many core skills and experiences. With the right resume framing and interview preparation, you can leverage fast food jobs to propel your restaurant career.

The food service knowledge you built in a fast food setting does count as valuable experience that restaurants will appreciate.

The most important thing is focusing on the customer service, multi-tasking, and food prep abilities you developed. With the right approach, your fast food background can open up doors to amazing restaurant roles.

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