This account has been written by my nineteen-year-old son and outlines his experience working at the Trafford Centre Slim Chickens store.
Being a tenacious and ambitious young man he consistently worked to the best of his ability – often in challenging circumstances, was eager to progress – completing training with a 100% score and even coming up with suggestions that would vastly improve both kitchen functionality and profits.
To see him then become totally disillusioned with the job to the point of no longer wanting to go in – and all down to piss poor ‘management’, unfulfilled promises and a total lack of care by supervisors is not cool.
Our young adults have had a hard time with ‘Rona, restrictions and all that the pandemic entailed and they will be the ones paying the debt off long after we’re gone. All too often they’re tarred with the ‘snowflake’ brush, depicted as lazy or loutish – the media would have you believe they’re all feral but this isn’t true.
There’s loads of decent young folk out there and all they want is a decent wage for a hard days work – unfortunately there’s too many employers that take the piss out of them and it needs to stop.
I’ve allowed my son to share his experience using my platform in a bid to forewarn other potential employees and offer those in the Slim Chicken HQ Roost a true taste of what’s going on. What follows is his own account word for word…..
“I started working at Slim Chickens Trafford on the 18th October 2021. My interview was held by Brad, the General Manager at the time and, after a friendly chat, I was extremely excited to start.
With a £9ph starting rate (my prior job at Dominos only paying £6.50ph at the time) and a new experience in a kitchen, the job seemed like a great opportunity. Shortly after my interview I was contacted and told that I had the job and was given a date for induction.
The induction was held by three members of the management team, during which we discussed progression within Slims. I was informed that the structure revolved around learning the three main stations, doing a test on said stations and then going on to receive supervisor training. I was happy to hear a clear, structured and progressive path and left my induction with some online training to complete before I could start.
Excited, I completed all my online training within a couple of days and went on to do my first actual shift at the beginning of November.
At the start of my employment, the kitchen was very functional and equipped with a solid team of supervisors – although there was no kitchen manager at this time, which I found strange. Nonetheless I was quickly trained on the ‘SSW’ section of the kitchen – assembling and preparation of Salads, Sandwiches and Wraps. I picked up the station pretty fast and was quick to learn the other two stations shortly after – starting with the Plating Station ‘QB’ and finishing off with the breading and frying section, ‘Cook Fry’.
I learnt a lot in the following weeks and was able to utilise my new skills when Christmas time arrived and we were consistently bombarded with numbers over capacity – hitting record numbers day after day. The team went over and above, working extra hard to make sure everything was completed each shift, however we were occasionally compensated with additional pay and I learnt a lot during this time, making me proficient in all areas of the kitchen.
During a shift on February 7th I overheard my name mentioned in a conversation between two colleagues and, when I asked what they were talking about, they said that I had been invited to attend a training event in Birmingham on February 9th but that no-one had told me. I immediately sought out the shift manager to ask if this was true and he confirmed that is was. He said that the event had been announced to participants a few weeks earlier but the other people within the store who had been invited had declined and they didn’t think to ask me.
Noticing how disappointed I was and how hard I had been working, one supervisor offered to help make it happen and together we managed to book train tickets and arrange cover so that I could go after all.
Birmingham was great.
It provided me with a chance to network with other members of staff from other stores around the country and abroad, which gave me a great insight on the workings, obstacles and solutions encountered by other stores.
The event was focused on creating a new team of staff dubbed ‘Team Trainers’ – as the name implies, it would entail training new staff and ensuring they felt welcomed into the Slim Chickens team. The position did not come with any sort of raise or benefit, it was more of a merit role (we were told there was no funding available to offer a wage related incentive) but I didn’t really have an issue with this as it was implied it would allow for opportunities which I hoped would further my progression.
At this point, and feeling confident in my knowledge, I decided it was time to take the station tests in an attempt to get the promised raise and/or begin my supervisor training. After around two months of attempting to get the tests (repeatedly asking management on any occasion possible and text messaging) I was given two of the three tests – for the SSW and QB Stations.
I completed these tests during the shift and they were checked by a deputy manager who then told me that I had passed both with 100% accuracy. I was delighted, not least of all as I knew I only had one more test to do until I received the promised £0.50ph raise.
After doing so well with the first two tests I was planning to do the third within the same week, however before I got the chance to do so I was pulled out of a shift by the General Manager (Brad) and Deputy Manager (Mauro) to sit down and talk at one of the restaurant tables.
I was astounded when they said I had been pulled out due to “negativity in the workplace” and began to read out a list of quotes I was supposedly have said – all alleged by the same member of staff and none of which were true. The list also stated I was taking “45 minute breaks” which is totally ridiculous claim as I often had less than 10 due to staff shortages.
During the meeting Brad also said that the station tests meant nothing to him and that he knew I was more than capable in the kitchen, promising me the £0.50ph raise from the following Monday, 14th February.
Mixed messages much…
During this exchange I found it extremely hard to voice what I wanted to say as I felt like I was put on trial, almost being interrogated in a public place. Being a person with anxiety I found this very uncomfortable and wasn’t able to properly voice my opinion on the matter.
I returned to the kitchen only to discover that a supervisor had apparently relayed some of my concerns/suggestions and twisted my words to the General Manager. I felt betrayed by this as the same supervisor had previously offered to attempt to try and help us solve some of the core kitchen issues at the time (absences, extremely high wastage, rota not following availability, favouritism etc).
There are a number of cameras within the store that clearly capture staff coming and going which also determines break times/length. I have never had a break last 30 minutes – if I did have a break at all it would be for 20/25 minutes at most before I would head back to help and there were many shifts when I didn’t get a break at all, despite having 30 minutes per shift deducted from my wages for a break.
After the meeting with management I was never given any sort of a raise and remained on the starting pay of £9.00ph until my finals day of employment (13/06/22).
Before all this I had created a 500+ word document with suggestions for the kitchen to try and make training and prep easier, decrease ticket time and reduce wastage – I think that the supervisor was angry that I had embarrassed him by having ideas that he hadn’t thought of, despite his supposed role as supervisor. *The word document is below but here is a photo of ‘waste chicken’ following a shift at Slim Chickens…
After asking around the kitchen I found out that multiple members of staff who had joined after me, completed no tests of any sort and who only have the training for a single station are on £9.50ph – stating that they thought that was the standard. Not to mention the multiple times £4.50 was deducted from my own and other employees’ pay for breaks that we were refused on any shift below six hours, amounting to £100s over the months of my employment.
The Slim Chickens Trafford branch has not had any functional male staff toilet for over five months, with the female one also being out of order for a few weeks as of 8th June ’22. The management refuse to do anything about this, or any other issues brought to their attention – stating that it’s the fault of the next person above them in HR.
Once the Arndale store opened everything at the Trafford branch began to go further downhill – the General Manager from Trafford was fired and the one from Manchester was brought in but he also did little to help the store. When members of staff worked 8+ hours extra for him, he only offered them a paid break despite knowing we had all been promised raises for months.
Shortly before the unexpected termination of Brad, he introduced us to Shaun – the new Kitchen Manager who had previously worked at Slim Chickens. The first time I properly met Shaun was at a staff party where he came dressed in a full suit and proceeded to tell me how he would call anyone who was “a singular minute late”, and then fire them. After a short night I left, wondering how the next few shifts would go.
At first everything seemed fine until one shift when Shaun began acting off towards me and my cousin, who also worked at Slims – I was denied a break until 10.00pm (closing time), despite there only being two people on the close and this would only delay our close further. Throughout the shift Shaun fluctuated between micromanaging us and throwing food around the kitchen. After this shift Shaun rarely spoke to me ever again until he left around a month later.
The conditions within the kitchen at Slim Chickens Trafford are frankly unworkable. There is no working AC or other ventilation within the kitchen, meaning temperatures easily reach 40 degrees centigrade and with no thermometer or other way to check, there’s no way of knowing if it is a safe environment.
The pass window shutter has been broken for over a month, causing it to emit a loud beeping noise every few seconds which has been causing nonstop issues.
When starting a shift at Slims it was always a case of ‘what will go wrong today?’ – I’ve seen it all, from ceilings leaking down into fryers, electricity going off mid service, multiple members of staff calling in sick etc – there have even been times when the supervisors have called in sick with no replacement, meaning that closing the kitchen was left to myself, someone with no formal supervisor training on £9.00ph.
When I had handed in my notice at Slim Chickens and was working my last shift, the new General Manager (Neil) offered me a £0.50ph raise to stay, despite knowing the entire situation with my pay and I found this deeply insulting. Why should I have the starting wage of new employees offered to me after working and learning everything in the kitchen for 8 months?
Also, during the conversation with Neil he stated that I was 17 which I found to be strange as I had never been 17 while working at Slims and it made me wonder if someone had wrongly inputted my details in the beginning.
I have now been told that I will not be receiving my final pay as there will be deductions for taking non-accrued holidays which I find ludicrous considering how many opportunities have been taken to avoid paying staff their due wage.
Honestly the entire experience at Slim Chickens has been terrible, with the only positive being the great staff team who somehow manage despite the conditions they work in.”
Copy of the proposal he presented to the Manager along with the photo of chicken wastage above…
Slim Chickens streamlining and optimization proposal
Having worked at Slims for a few months now, I have noticed a few things that I believe can be implemented to make the job either easier or reduce costs. Below are a few ideas to help optimize Slims to increase efficiency and decrease cost.
Wastage has been an issue for a while, as it can easily exceed £100 per night if precautions aren’t taken. The wastage recently has been as bad as 12kg of tenders in a single night, this is the equivalent to 75 chickens being thrown in the bin per night.
(Image at bottom)
Waste (12kg) / Average tender weight (80g) / 2 (2 tenders per chicken) = 75
I would like to propose that we implement ‘Too good to go’ which is an app that allows businesses to give out food that they would normally throw out at a discounted price. This would allow wastage to be reduced while also increasing sales.
Communication between SSW and QB will allow tender waste to be lowered, by ensuring that the tenders taken for wraps and salads are taken from the correct containers, lowering waste. Standardizing where these tenders are held will also ensure that it is maintained.
- Opens and closes
Opening and closing the store has been optimized somewhat with the usage of a prep sheet. However, I think they could be further improved to help allow the supervisors complete their necessary tasks without having to actively give out tasks.
A solution I can think of would be an addition of a checklist that outlines the setup of the stations, the steps in which to close the stations and how to use the prep sheet would allow anyone including new trainees to do opens and closes without constantly asking what to do. This also allows there to be a set way of doing things, eliminating confusion that could be caused by different ways of opening/closing being taught. It’s also a good idea to laminate these sheets and use a dry erase marker in order to make it easier.
- Training / New trainees
Recently there has been a lot of new people coming in and out of the store due to the Arndale store opening, however when it comes to trainees for the Trafford store their training could be made easier and more simple.
If there was communication between the management and the staff who will be training the trainee whenever new trainees are hired, it will allow for time to be prepared in order to train. With this, I have a training guide (attached) which can be used to help train new staff and keep track of their training.
Adding a new page to the recipe book or to the training guide with a detailed guide of how to do a boilout would also be useful for training any cookfry staff.