Fast-food workers face threat of violence

Kelly Feng, Managing Editor

My first job was at Burger King. I was assigned the drink station, and I was terrible. Training another food station didn’t help and my skills only worsened.
No big surprise; it wasn’t a dream job. Customers were often annoyed. The worst that happened to me was a customer’s take-out bag bottomed out, causing a large order of fries to mic drop on the floor and the customer screamed at me.
However, my life in the fast food community doesn’t even compare to Waffle House Wendy, the social media name given to Halie Booth, recognizing her spectacular effort and Bruce Lee reflexes behind the counter.
It started at the Austin, Texas, Waffle House in September 2021. It was a long night, and customers began piling in. Booth was the only cook on the overnight shift as people started getting restless and impatient, demanding food.
Despite explaining she was the only cook on duty, angry and drunk customers started harassing Booth for not serving breakfast to all 40 customers quickly enough.
Events quickly unfurled. Customers became increasingly annoyed they weren’t getting served promptly.
A person inside decided that instead of coming to Booth’s aid, he would film footage of the physical fight, which has since gone viral on social media platforms.
While the altercation occurred in 2021, the video resurfaced online in late December 2022.
In the clip, a customer is seen attacking the restaurant employees while they defend themselves. One customer climbed over the counter while others threw items, including a chair hurled towards Booth.
The customer was in for a surprise when Booth easily dodged and caught a chair thrown at her.
Taking a cue from Rhonda Rousey or Kung Fu Panda, Booth doesn’t even break eye contact when the chair sails toward her, and she easily intercepts it, looking defiantly bored. (You can see this video at )
Based on what most viewers see, Booth has been training to catch furniture all her life.
At this point, most employees would be running for the service entrance. Not Booth, who stands defiantly, feet planted on the floor, egging her attacker with her gesturing, “Fight me.”
What kind of training does it take to be a Waffle House employee? Where on an application does it say “must have the ability to dodge chairs and deflect on your feet?”
Isn’t it enough that Waffle Houses need to stay open through hurricanes and tornados?
(Explainer: During severe weather, usually hurricanes, Waffle Houses are the barometer of hurricane’s danger. A Waffle House’s status reflects the seriousness of a storm. Hint: if you come upon a shuttered Waffle House, it’s time to run and take cover.)
Since the video resurfaced, Booth has quickly become known for having unusual strength, quick timing and impressive footwork. A social media hero, spawning memes and Wonder Woman-type T-shirts, an item that promptly sold out. Is this film an inkblot of America’s increasing violence towards fast-food employees, an issue that has been around for a decade? One doesn’t need to look for more Waffle House videos. Many classic fast-food battles have come from either McDonald’s, Burger King or Wendy’s archives.
Last September, customers were traumatized at a McDonald’s on Manhattan’s Lower East Side when a 31-year-old man went on an ax-wielding rampage after arguing with a group of men.
At a Harper Woods, Michigan, Burger King in 2019, a woman said a burger she bought the day before had tomatoes on it, and by the way, she didn’t order it that way. Apparently, she had the sandwich with her.
She was offered other food or store credit, but she demanded cash.
When she didn’t receive money, she repeatedly tried to climb onto the counter, but her friend held her back. She then launched a cookie rack and a wet floor sign at the cashier.
Last November, a North Carolina man allegedly pulled a gun on Wendy’s employees after not getting sauce packets with his meal. Wendy’s employees closed the drive-thru and quickly called 911.
The list goes on. Nobody knows why such violence has escalated; many believe it has risen since the pandemic, but specific statistics are hard to find. Because more people are taking out their phones and pressing “record,” there’s more public awareness.
The only concrete statistics come from California, where fast-food employees are now tallying and documenting 911 calls, demanding better security.
It’s clear that until certain measures are in place, the fast-food industry employees are at risk, psychologically and physically.
In the meantime, Booth can use the Waffle House Wendy video as an audition tape as a stunt double.