I have a theory about McDonald's, that is, everything they make is all one thing, and in the back they have this big vat full of this stuff, these little molds combining, like SPLURT 'Hamburger!' SPLURT 'Malt!' SPLURT 'Paper box!' SPLURT 'Here's your change, thank you!'
The fictional fast-food restaurant is a unique establishment. It's the most common first job for a TV teen, and will usually teach them a lesson
about money, responsibility, or life, mere moments before they quit or are fired for odd reasons
. Usually, they are spurred to employment by a specific financial need, and a failure of "The Bank of Mom and Dad" to pony up.
But the fast-food joint seems to deliberately go out of its way to torture the unfortunate teenagers (and/or unlucky adults) who work there. Which includes the ridiculous outfit they are required to wear on the job
— a silly hat, featuring a cartoonish version of what they serve
, is almost a given, along with Happiness Is Mandatory
, and this is usually enforced by a store manager who fits the Stupid Boss
stereotype to a Q. Thus the fast food restaurant has the image of a Fate Worse than Death
The standard foil is for the show's underdog to thrive in this environment to the total befuddlement of the "cool" characters who have been successful at everything else except this; ironically, this can have the reverse effect: after all, who would be proud
of working at a fast-food joint?
refers to these as "McJobs
". In reality, these jobs can be Truth in Television
, but there's an equal chance of them being better (or worse
) than depicted, because it depends on an individual store's quality of management
and workers. The ridiculous headgear
, fortunately, is universally less common than it is in fiction (a simple baseball cap, visor, or hairnet is more common).
And yes, the trope title is a medieval-appropriate riff on "Burger King."
See also Suck E. Cheese's
and Soul-Sucking Retail Job
open/close all folders
- This TV ad for a company selling credit report monitoring tells how a guy is reduced to wearing a pirate outfit, working in a fast-food place every night singing how he is "selling chowder and iced tea" because "some hacker stole my identity." The ad tries to get people to sign up for its service "so you don't end up selling fish to tourists in T-shirts."
- In one commercial, a kid is getting his first paycheck from the fast food restaurant manager, who starts to wax philosophic about when he joined the work force. The kid notices that the check is exactly enough to buy the game console advertised and promptly says, "I quit!" (Too bad the kid forgot about paying for other stuff (like tax, electricity, rent...minor stuff, you know)).
Anime and Manga
- A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Anxious Clown, With clown-costumed waiters, balloons, and food with names like "Surprising Chicken Salad".
- In Audrey, Wait!, the main character's day job is at an ice cream shoppe called Scooper Dooper. The character introduces the uniform (bright pink hat and T-shirt) and slogan (also "Scooper Dooper!") with all the affection people might give a used piece of toilet paper.
- The main character of Michael J. Nelson's novel Death Rat! is at one point forced to work at "Medieval Burger," whose uniform includes a hat adorned with miniature battlements. The protagonist, like everyone else, is unable to figure out exactly how this helps the restaurant sell food. This mirrors his own experience. Its the job he had to pay the bills between stand-up shows before he was hired on to Mystery Science Theater 3000.
- Eric Schlosser expounds on the plight of fast food employees in Fast Food Nation, noting that McDonald's entire plan is to make the job so simple and brainless that they can teach a new employee in 15 minutes, making any given employee totally expendable.
- In Good Omens, Famine opens a chain of fast food restaurants named "Burger Lord." Its employees are perky, in a soulless sort of way, except for that one guy.... Of note is the food it sells. It's a reformulation of MEALS, Famine's line of microwave health dinners, called CHOW. Like MEALS, CHOW contains slightly fewer nutrients than the packaging they sell it in, causing the satisfied customer to die of malnutrition very rapidly, but the evil food scientists working for Famine have found a way to load CHOW with all manner of fat and sugar without increasing other nutritional content, meaning that customers essentially starve to death while growing morbidly obese. Famine finds this endlessly amusing.
- In Going Bovine, Cameron works at the Buddha Burger.
- Played straight and not at all for laughs in The Year of the Flood - not only are the pay and work conditions at Secret Burger abysmal, but the meat is implied to be at least some percentage of human meat, and the boss is a mobster who routinely rapes his female employees.
- Played for not-laughs in the podstory "It's Easy to Make a Sandwich." The protagonist's repetitive and depersonalizing job slowly drives him insane.
- The comic ""Lucky Cow"", which is set in the eponymous burger joint, revolves around this trope.
- In this strip, Jon and Garfield order from a drive-through of a place like this, and the wise guy clerk makes a crack at Garfield's weight. (Which as you can see, he doesn't like much.)
- Old World of Darkness RPG Werewolf: The Apocalypse has the burger chain O'Tolleys as a subsidiary to the big bad corp Pentex. While many of its restaurants are relatively normal, there are also some which slip evil spirits or the other white meat in the burgers, and transform their employees into spiritually possessed freaks. All of them, however, conform to the standards laid out by this page. As the splatbooks says: In most part-time jobs, teenagers learn vital business skills, decision making and other abilities that will help them in life. While working for O'Tolleys, they learn to make burgers. Period.
- In the d20 Urban Arcana setting, one of the organizations is a childrens' fast food restaurant which notes that GMs should not have its players join it (as it would offer a McJob and nothing more).
- Deconstructed in Unknown Armies, where the co-conspirators of Mak Attax (who to a one work at "The Scotsman") are actually part of an organization dedicated to bringing about a "magical renaissance" by unleashing small doses of magickal energy into people's food, then watching the results (and occasionally helping the victims if the results go bad). They're probably the largest, probably the least competent, and probably the most benign secret conspiracy within the setting. Despite this seeming aversion of the dullness of Burger Fool work, the game is pretty clear that not only do you still have to contend with that soul-crushing banality (which costs them conspirators) but also that the conspiracy stuff itself isn't as much fun as it sounds.
- On the other hand, despite the monotony and the skepticism they get from the rest of the Occult Underground, they managed to use "the Scotsman" to pull off one of the most successful magical rituals of recent memory by aligning the "chakra points" of the American consciousness.
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has multiple ridiculous fast food restaurants. Burger Shot and Cluckin' Bell in particular both equip their employees with ridiculous headgear (at least those in Well-Stacked Pizza, another major fastfood chain, have regular caps); this seems to have had a particularly harrowing effect on Cluckin' Bell's employees. OG Loc, a friend of CJ, is assigned to Burger Shot by his parole agreement as a "hygiene technician" (aka janitor), and one early mission involves getting caught in a drive-by at a local Cluckin' Bell drive-thru (a drive-by in which Big Smoke refuses to participate, because he's too busy eating).
Cluckin' Bell Employee: "Cluckety fuck. Place your order."
Cluckin' Bell Employee: "I hope you choke-a-doodle-doo!"
Cluckin' Bell Employee: "If you come back, you're a moron."
- In Grand Theft Auto IV, we learn that Cluckin' Bell's chicken-suited mascot has a name: Cluck Norris! Apparently, he's also a martial-arts master...
- In No More Heroes, there's a fast food joint just outside of Travis' hotel named "Burger Suplex", which also keeps the flow of naming many landmarks after pro wrestling moves.
- Command & Conquer Red Alert 2 managed a reference to both Burger King and McDonald's by having a fast-food restaurant called "McBurger Kong". With a giant ape on the roof, and bananas forming a shape reminiscent of the McDonald's M.
- Saints Row has Freckle Bitch's, featuring radio commercials with a chain-smoking, raspy-voiced, middle-aged broad hawking its greasy wares. The special New Zealand/Australia only collectors edition of Saints Row 2 is a large white box with Freckle Bitch herself in a suggestive position on the top. Oh yeah, just try and carry that out of the video game shop without getting noticed.
- The Sims 2 has the Culinary career, which starts you off in one of these and has you work your way up the ladder to Celebrity Chef status.
- The University expansion has the Philosophy major's final semester. "Senior Thesis: Preparing for the Fast-Food Industry". Amusingly, Philosophy is the major indicated to be best for the aforementioned Culinary career.
- Banjo-Tooie had two snack food stands in Witchy World, both proprietors were unhygienic as hell, coughing and sneezing over the food. Fortunately the bear and bird don't have to eat it, they give it to some kids.
- The "Mmm, Bison!" restaurant chain in Dead State was presumably one of these before the Zombie Apocalypse.
- Snuckey's in Sam & Max Hit the Road is a Burger Fool whose employment policies cater to the sort of poor slob who actually aspires to Burger Fooldom. In each of the three locations you can visit is a curiously identical relative of Bernard Bernoulli who will have the same conversation with you. He's a graduate of the bachelor program at Snuckey University and is thus qualified to jerk soda, cook burgers, and open difficult jars, but if he wants to make manager he'll have to enroll in their postgraduate program.
- "RAMIREZ! Secure the Burger Town!"
- Space Quest (more specifically Space Quest 2's fan-made VGA remake) gives us Monolith Burger, sporting a big yellow M to boot. It's possible to find a Monolith Burger behind a machine in the restaurant. Sitting at the empty booth and eating the burger will cause Roger to die by vomiting his skeleton.
- On Homestar Runner, the fast-food restaurant "Blubb-O's", which may just consist of a non-sequitur-spouting drive-thru speaker box ("Sever your leg, please, it's the greatest day.") in the middle of nowhere. Coach Z wears a whale costume at one point, and mangles the speaker box's creepy catch phrase to make it creepier ("I'll chop off your legs!") The chain is evidently endorsed by a hip-hop artist who promotes their "Thick n' Nasty" burger. (EEEEEEEEUNGH!) Strong Bad also wears a hot-dog-shaped "sad clown" mascot costume (the "Crying Clown-Dog") at one point to advertise Bubs' Concession Stand.
Strong Bad: Okay, then I quit.
Bubs: Fine! But don't even think about swiping that costume!
Strong Bad: Uh, you made me buy this costume.
Bubs: Oh! Pleasure doing business with you, then.
- An early comic in Bob and George (a hand-drawn one) had George working at McBoogers. The author actually stated that everyone should work in fast food at least once to see things from the other side of the counter.
- This HOUSD strip one explains itself.
- Loserz features "Mc-Hamchunks" and "Cock in the Box". Hilarity Ensues.
- Half of the strip Phil Likes Tacos is about gaming and the way people treat gamers. The other half is about this trope, though the emphasis on the hell that is customers, coworkers, and the clueless decisions of corporate management makes it pretty clear that the author has actually 'been there' instead of just working off stereotypes seen on TV.
- In Questionable Content, Pizza Girl's outfit may be a part of this, or she may just be a Super Hero who delivers pizzas.
- In Sluggy Freelance Gwynn had to work at Burger Meister before getting her job at the zombie themed restaurant, and the snooty waiter also had to work there when the expensive restaurant burns down. Despite the low pay and ridiculous uniform, he's still as unbelievably insulting to the customers as ever.
- After losing his job at the comic shop and being denied unemployment insurance, Mike of Something Positive picks up a job at a local frog-themed burger chain. The usual problems of stupid customers and paradoxical corporate bureaucracy ("the bathrooms must be sparkling clean, but we'll charge you for using cleaning supplies more than once a month") set in quickly. The fact that he accepts this fate stoically and almost cheerfully indicates some very impressive character development, though.
- Mike later finds employment at a different fast-food joint, and is surprised (and a little disturbed) to find that it's an aversion of this. The manager specifically tells Mike that being an employee there doesn't mean he has to take crap from anyone, customer or not.
- In Sinfest, Lil' Evil's job at McDebbil's.
- Thea's job as a wiener snack seller in Girls with Slingshots.
- The Trope Namer is from Static Shock, and is a thin parody of "Burger King". The uniform includes a motley hat with bells. Virgil Hawkins is forced to work there by his father, who is "unaware" of the significant commitment Virgil has to his "charity work".
- On Kim Possible, the pseudo-Mexican eatery "Bueno Nacho" figures heavily in the series, but the second episode has Kim and Ron move behind the counter. Kim, usually the best at everything, fails, while Ron invents a hybrid foodstuff called the "Naco" (nacho + taco) that becomes a running gag in the series, and earns a promotion to manager. The Naco sets up another episode plot, when the BN Inc. management send Ron a royalty check for $99 million. Which was doubly hilarious in Mexico, considering what Naco means there...
- The main characters of Beavis And Butthead work at Burger World, which is a fairly realistic amalgamation of the McDonald's and Burger King fast food franchises. The usual humiliation aspect is absent, as the store is just another place for the boys to take their roughhousing and Toilet Humor such as frying up worms and throwing meat patties around. The job is still horrible and their manager treats them terribly, but they're just too stupid to notice. Oddly, they never get fired, even when their pranks once caused the health inspectors to close the store.
- Invader Zim put the title alien in a fast-food restaurant three times. Each of which portray fast food chains as horrible and disgusting to an absurd, terrifying degree:
- In "Career Day", he winds up at McMeaties, and thinks that he'll eventually be promoted to ruler of Earth.
- In "The Frycook What Came From All That Space", he is kidnapped and sent to the dreaded Foodcourtia, a Planet of Hats that serves the sole function of feeding aliens from elsewhere. He has to escape before the dreaded "Foodening", when a flood of customers makes it impossible to leave for twenty years due to the gravity pull (a time warp thing is involved too or something).
- In "Germs", Zim's germophobic antics lead him to McMeaties again, where he discovers that the meat is germ-free. After asking an employee he discovers that the meat was NASA-developed SPAAAAAAACE MEEEEEEAT! But since they couldn't actually afford SPAAAAAAACE MEEEEEEAT, they made them out of NAPKINS.
- In "Invasion of the Idiot Dog Brain," GIR goes on a rampage to order food at Crazy Taco.
- To make it worse, one of Zim's various Weaksauce Weaknesses is a horrific allergy to meat.
- Rockos Modern Life had a restaurant called Chokey Chicken (later Retconned to "Chewy Chicken" due to the censors finally catching the name on the radar), which specifically parodied the omnipresent nature of places like McDonald's. One great example is the episode where Rocko brings Heffer to France and tries to get him to try some new cuisine. They just end up eating at a Chokey Chicken that has been built into the Eiffel Tower.
- Krusty Burger from The Simpsons, complete with pimple-faced geeky teens working there (and, in one case, an elderly man [Grampa Simpson]). The "secret sauce" is actually mayonnaise that's been left out in the sun all day. And as one character points out, the name "Krusty Burger" itself isn't all that appetizing. The boondocks outside Springfield are apparently home to even less savory chains, with names like "Burger Place", "Skobo's", and "Dimwillie's".
- In the Flashback episode "I Married Marge", Homer worked at a place called "Gulp N Blow" which was just as bad. (They wouldn't even tell him what was in their secret sauce.)
- Danny Phantom had Nasty Burger which is frequently referenced, including a special where a ghost was threatening to kill all of Danny's loved ones by overheating the special nasty sauce (no, "overheating the special nasty sauce" is not an Unusual Euphemism) to kill them. The main character doesn't take a job there to learn any form of An Aesop or some such. Nope, it's just his Local Hangout.
"Nasty Burger, it's just one letter away from tasty!"
- There is one character who takes a job there, but it's done to show how bad off her family is financially
- In an episode of Jimmy Neutron, Jimmy, Sheen, and Carl start working at McSpanky's. Ironically, Skeet, the Employee of the Month, considers Jimmy to be the idiot of the group, and forces him to stand outside the restaurant wearing a hamburger suit, repeating the phrase: "If you want cheap food with taste, put McSpanky's in your face."
- Daria had to work at "It's a Nutty, Nutty World", and announce her enthusiasm about nuts to every customer. Squirrels started to attack her because she smelled like nuts as well. On the episode where several characters find themselves in a Sam's Club-style superstore one weekend afternoon, Daria and Jane find the uber-goth, Andrea, working in a wholesale club in full uniform and is deathly afraid of them mocking her for having that kind of job, as she is aware that Daria and Jane are the school's queens of snark. However, she is pleasantly surprised to see the girls reassure her that they understand her position and promise not to tell anyone.
- Doug had the Honker Burger, which was a hangout but also managed to have a small bit of satire here and there. In one episode, Doug learns that the giant burger mascot everyone torments is his neighbor Mr. Dink. He spends some time in the suit, seeing how cruel the teasing can be, and ultimately wins peoples' respect by using the suit's buoyancy to save somebody from drowning.
- King of the Hill played this to the hilt with Bobby's first job, selling food at racing events. When he complained to his dad, he was told to suck it up and enjoy it for the sake of enjoying it, which he did... until Hank found out his boss (who was a brain - damaged sociopath) really was as bad as Bobby had said and was endangering Bobby's life.
- Carl Squared had the pirate-themed Buccaneer Burger, complete with humiliating costumes. Unsurprisingly, C2 thought it was great place to work.
- Sixteen: Burger McFlipster's, The restaurant itself appears to be a combination parody of McDonald's & Burger King.
- Teen Titans, "Employee Of the Month", Beast Boy goes to work at "Mega Meaty Meat", a restaurant wherein everything from shakes to fries is apparently made of meat. A staunch vegetarian ("I've been most of those animals!"), Beast Boy sticks with it (in the hopes of winning the moped being offered as prize for "Employee of the Month"), and discovers that the eatery is actually a front for a sentient tofu monster from space. No, really!
- On Metalocalypse, Nathan has a nightmare that his bandmates are all killed during a show, and he ends up working at a burger joint due to his never finishing high school - and he's bad at that job.
- Sponge Bob Square Pants works at such a restaurant called the Krusty Krab, but he loves the job. Squidward, on the other hand, hates it with a passion. (Of course, Mr. Krab, who runs the place, is not only a Mean Boss, his greed often fuels the plot of an episode.)
- An episode of Aqua Teen Hungerforce revolved around Frylock and Shake getting a job at "Slurp-a-Lunch", a restaurant which serves smoothies made from pureed meat.
- The waitresses in the resort restuarant in Stoked! have to dress in pirate wench costumes.
- An episode of Tiny Toon Adventures had Buster and Babs working at Weenie Burger (the series' fast food parody), complete with the overbearing boss and Montana Max deciding to be the customer from Hell.
"Weenie Burgers are so much fun to eat! If you look real hard you might even find the meat!"
- Jeremy from Phineas and Ferb works at Slushy Dawg, where their motto is "Slushy Dawg will never get any better", unless he's working at Slushy Burger, whose motto is "Pickles so green and meat so brown, Lunchtime's fun with Slushy the Clown!" Despite all this, they're both pretty nice places and Jeremy seems happy working there.
- In a flashback sequence in G.I. Joe: Renegades, we learn that Duke briefly worked the drive-through of a fast food joint between high-school and the Army. Flint rubs it in when he isn't bragging about the tackle he'd landed on Duke at a football game that won his school a state championship. Subverted at the end of the scene when Flint sees Duke leaving for home on crutches; knowing the injury is his fault, he realizes he's being cruel and offers Duke a ride.
- Despite the kids being too young to get a job at local place Slausen's on Hey Arnold!, it doesn't mean that the joint is free of squeaky-voiced teens (voiced by Dan Castellaneta, of course).
- Burgerphile in Dan Vs.. In Dan Vs Burgerphile, we learn that about 70% of Dan's diet consists of Burgerphile food. Despite the title, Dan's grudge is only limited to the Married to the Job manager who refuses to admit that he got Dan's order wrong. Notably, Dan actually likes Hortense the register girl who likes him back.
- The Toy Story short "Small Fry" takes place inside a fast food restaurant called Poultry Palace, which features ''Buzz Lightyear of Star Command'' Fun Meal toys (including an imposter Buzz Lightyear who was the main focus of the short and a mini Zurg toy), as with several discarded Fun Meal toys who secretly form an organization (who "accept" the real Buzz as one of their members) inside the restaurant's storage room.
- Taz-Mania: Taz takes a job at the Burger Thing after he quits the show in "But Is It Taz?". It includes a geriatric employee who has taken more that 20 years to make 'Employee of the Month'.
- Family Guy has a McDonald's Expy called McBurgertown, though the episode focuses more on the restaurant's inhumane methods of slaughtering animals.
- Fast food restaurants are all over the world. In America in particular, they are a common first job for high school students due to their non-existant job skill requirements.
- Comedian Dane Cook has a stand-up routine about the horrors of working the drive-thru at Burger King.
- One of Brad Pitt's first jobs was wearing a chicken outfit outside an El Pollo Loco. This might be referenced in Fight Club: "Sticking feathers up your butt won't make you a chicken."
- The Hot Dog On a Stick franchise, seen in many malls, has long had a pretty cheesy uniform◊ for its employees (notice the girls get stuck with the dorkier hat). Even stranger, Hot Dog on a Stick is an employee-owned company, meaning that the employee-owners have collectively agreed to wear this garb.
- Some teachers have been known to hand out applications to fast-food restaurants back with failed tests.