I’m not quite sure how I managed it, but none of the jobs I’ve ever worked (so far, at least) have trained me up by sitting me down and having me watch videos. Sometimes, I wonder what I might have missed out on by never having that experience — but thanks to these vintage Wendy’s training videos from late 1980s and early '90s, I never have to wonder again. I can learn exactly how to grill a burger, Wendy’s-style, and a nice young man with some impressive rap skills will even teach me how to do it. Bless the internet’s bizarre and nostalgia-obsessed soul.
The videos — all available on YouTube, of course — have come to the internet’s attention courtesy of radio personality Brian Fink, who tweeted a link out to them on Jan. 9. This is far from the first time these videos have made the rounds; what’s more, it probably won’t be the last time, either. They popped up on Reddit in 2013, for example, and subsequently received media pickup from outlets like Gawker and HuffPo; Mental Floss picked them up in the fall of 2010; Eater had previously covered them during the summer of 2010; and so on and so forth. The batch that’s often cited, embedded, and shared was uploaded to YouTube by Chuck Drake way back in September of 2010 — and, indeed, that’s the batch that’s making the rounds again this time, too.
However, that batch isn’t the only channel on YouTube to feature these glorious messes. The two-part “Grill Skills” extravaganza actually appeared on the video sharing site almost three years before Chuck Drake added them; You Tuber PhakeNam uploaded them in January of 2008. (This upload lists them as having been from 1989, for what that's worth.) And — even better — there’s a totally different set of videos from the same era available if you look in the right places. Uploaded by YouTube user lorinnicole in April 2008, this set is a group of four — and they’re a crime procedural. They are a crime procedural… called When Clowns Go Bad.
I cannot make this up.
Here. Let us look at these videos, for they are epic, and also terrifying. I've no idea if any of these policies and procedures are still in use today, but they're a fascinating window into the fast food industry of the late '80s and early '90s all the same.
First, we have Exhibit A: Cold Drinks. This video teaches employees how to serve soda (fill the cup halfway with ice, then add the soda, tipping the cup to make sure it doesn’t foam up too much), lemonade (same deal, although foaming is less of an issue), iced tea (fill the cup all the way to the top with ice, add iced tea, serve lemon either in the cup for takeout orders or on the rim for eat-in ones), and water (which, apparently, is a courtesy for customers).
Have you recovered sufficiently? Good; let’s move on.
Next, we have Exhibit B: Hot Drinks. This video covers coffee (don’t let it sit in the pot for longer than 30 minutes), decaf (which — fun fact — was actually Sanka, an instant decaffeinated coffee drink), tea (give the customer hot water and the tea bag and let them brew it themselves), and hot cocoa (also instant).
Are you OK? Yes? Excellent. Let’s continue.
Exhibit C is Chili. According to this video, chili must always be stirred in a figure-8 motion before being ladled into a bowl (for the dining room) or cup (for to-go orders). I had no idea that stirring required such finesse. Oddly, milk, cookies, and Frosties are also covered in this video.
Still doing all right? Good. Time to tackle the next videos.
Exhibits D and E are parts one and two of the Grill Skills training unit; they also feature Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas in a special, guest-starring role. The song for the first video doesn’t kick in until the four-minute mark, so feel free to fast-forward if you’re only in this for the vintage ‘80s soundtrack.
You have not lived until you have seen a very hip man play air guitar on a spatula while rapping about grilling.
The song in Exhibit E starts at the 2:30-mark, although I think you’re doing yourself a disservice by fast-forwarding through Billy learning to rap and grill at the same time.
BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE.
Although Brian Fink’s tweet — and therefore a lot of subsequent media pickup — focused solely on the song-driven training videos available on Chuck Drake’s channel… well, remember those crime procedurals I mentioned? When Clowns Go Bad? Those are what I found when I started looking into this whole thing a bit more. They don’t have songs, but together, they make up a four-part storyline about a public defender named Nate Hale putting various employees on trial in an attempt to get to the bottom of a murder case.
Instead of dealing with food preparation, the four parts of When Clowns Go Bad deal with larger-scale procedures each Wendy’s store goes through daily: Pre-close, dining room care and cleaning, that kind of thing. The parts are all around four to six minutes long; in total, the whole thing is just under 22 minutes long.
Here's part 1:
And part 2:
Part 3 is here:
And here's part 4:
I say again: Woooooooow.
I mean, I get it. Training videos are boring. I appreciate the efforts made by these videos to make them… less boring. What’s more, the ones that feature songs are clearly designed to be earworms, which might ensure that new employees actually retain the information contained within them. But… well… let’s put it this way: I am curious how many Wendy’s employees in the ‘80s have perpetually had those songs stuck in their heads ever since they attended their very first training sessions.
They’re the kinds of songs that definitely would stay stuck in your head for 30 years.
And that is an actual nightmare to me.
Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed this bizarre and somewhat horrifying journey into the world of ‘80s job training videos. There’s plenty more where that came from if you’re really interested in it; YouTube is full of vintage training videos from nationwide chains. Heck, maybe you remember seeing some of them yourself while you were on the job as a young whippersnapper. Blockbuster in the early ‘90s? Got it. Nintendo customer service training from 1991? Got that, too. Pizza Hut, 1998? Yep. And all that's just scratching the surface.
Have fun, kids. Don’t play too hard.
And whatever you do, don’t annoy the clowns.