If you weren’t raking leaves or mowing the lawn, most people found their first jobs working at a fast-food establishment. After working for several months, several “secrets” of the restaurant’s operations are revealed to these workers — and it sometimes causes them to realize that their once-favorite meals should probably be avoided.
If you’ve never spent time behind the counter of a fast-food restaurant, consider yourself lucky. In many cases, ignorance is bliss. Some Reddit users shared the one dish they would never order, and it’s eye-opening. It’s sad to see our favorite dishes go, but we’re happy we know the truth now.
All-Day Breakfast Isn’t What It’s Cracked Up To Be
There’s a reason why McDonald’s breakfast meals used to be confined to serving only in the mornings. Expanding the meals to an “all-day” menu might have placated a lot of customers desires, but the result can be less quality, especially if you hit the rush period at lunch or dinner times.
All-day breakfast sometimes means that the menu items are microwaved, rather than being cooked “fresh” (is it ever really “fresh” though?). Your biscuits or egg sandwiches might have a lower taste value as a result. That’s just the trade-off for being able to have pancakes after 7 p.m., I suppose…
Reddit users who have worked at McDonald’s are divided on the Filet-O-Fish sandwich. Personally, if one of the words in a product is the singular-letter “O,” I’m generally a skeptic. Still, there’s a bitter divide on the product from the Golden Arches that’s a favorite for customers.
Some former employees claim the fish used in the food is of lower quality. They’ve remarked that they’ve seen the product stored, for months at a time, in their freezers. Others have said that, in their restaurants, the McDonald’s staple is well-preserved, and is actually a better option than some other menu items. It’s difficult to say who’s right, but most agree that, if you live on either of the coasts, you stand a better chance of having a quality fast-food meal.
Stay Away From Salads
Salads. I avoid them like the plague — mainly because I’ve just never been good at eating anything that’s green. That’s on me. But now, armed with the information I have about salads at restaurants, I may have other reasons to avoid them…
A lot of restaurants aren’t too picky when it comes to who is loading the salads into the bins. One user on Reddit admitted their co-workers sometimes “shove their ungloved hands” into the containers. Yikes! Pizza places are also bad for salads, sometimes. They tend to buy pre-shredded lettuce bags…which tend to turn brown just hours after opening them. The lettuce at these establishments tends to go unnoticed for a lot longer.
IHOP’s ‘Fluffy’ Eggs
At the International House of Pancakes — more affectionately known as IHOP — there’s a little known secret that is actually true: the eggs aren’t 100 percent egg-based.
The company actually places a small amount of pancake batter in their eggs while they’re being cooked. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, especially if you like your eggs to be “fluffier.” However, it does mean that you’re getting less egg than what you’re paying for. If you want an egg meal that is all-the-way, all egg, then you have to ask your server specifically to make it “real eggs.”
Escolar is a favorite kind of sushi that a lot of people enjoy eating. It’s not that special, however, and a Reddit user who used to work at a sushi restaurant explained why. Escolar is basically a light-colored tuna that has a buttery consistency. That buttery part is a misnomer, however: it’s really just wax. Wait, what??
The sushi chef once let that individual take home some Escolar sushi at the end of theif shift. Big mistake: they had horrible stomach pains after consuming it later. The wax ingredient isn’t lethal, but leftover sushi isn’t always a good idea…and it’s because of places that use that ingredient.
Beware The Eggs Benny
Eggs benedict is a go-to staple for any great Sunday brunch. But don’t go just anywhere for the meal: try to ensure that you’re brunch is a reputable place, and not a mid- to low-quality breakfast establishment that skimps on the good ingredients.
Most places take the time to cook their egss, ham, and muffins just right. But the hollandaise sauce is the issue here. Many restaurants simply have theirs pre-made, sitting in a backroom somewhere, and they don’t always replace it in a timely manner. That means the ingredients can go bad over time. The only thing sitting between you and a rough afternoon with bad bowel movements is an inattentive restaurant worker!
If you’re planning to get a sub sandwich from Subway, the chances of you getting tuna on your sub are pretty slim. It’s just not ordered that much, and that’s why it’s something that’s questionable, according to many former employees.
The restaurant actually does very well to store and serve food that is fresh, these former workers say. But the tuna is iffy — because it’s not ordered often, it’s often stored overnight day-after-day, and not replaced for quite some time. It’s not the riskiest thing in the world, but if you are one of those people who like tuna-based sub sandwiches, it might be best to make it yourself.
Avoid Midafternoon Trips, If You Can
A lot of people have irregular work schedules or have to accommodate their co-workers’ schedules, and might have to take late lunches. If you do, beware: your food might be heated by a lamp.
A worker at Buffalo Wild Wings revealed that the time of day just after the lunch rush but before dinner was the absolute worst time to try and order wings. During that period of time, the wings are simply reheated from leftovers made earlier in the day. The worker also had another suggestion: stick with the boneless meals. There were some questionable “finds” in the standard wings, they said.
The Lava Cake Is Delicious, But Not If It’s Delivered
Pizza delivery services are offering more and more extras these days. One of the top, sought after items is a dessert called lava cakes. These are actually delicious, but you probably won’t ever see a delivery driver buy these on their days off.
That’s because, in transport, the lava cakes can become a big mushy mess. One driver described the process of delivering the cakes as nearly impossible. They don’t fit inside the “insulated bags” quite right. What’s more, they’re placed on top of the pizzas — which are hotter than the cakes themselves. This forces them to melt more than they’re supposed to, which squishes the cake and makes it messy, too.
We’re All Sharing The Fries
Fast-food workers are some of the hardest working people in the service industry. A lot of times, a break is delayed or even skipped entirely in order to help out fellow workers during a rush period — so it should be no surprise that the fries that you are enjoying might have been “neighbors” to fries that workers ate off of the line in the back.
It’s not as though workers are eating YOUR fries — when they’re placed on a tray or in a bag, those fries are typically not touched. It’s while they’re sitting around, waiting to be served to someone, that the food might be touched by ungloved hands and consumed. It’s not sanitary, but it’s also not the worst thing in our list…
Bottled Beer — A Safer Bet
Ordering a beer on tap seems like a cheaper option, but if you’re ordering from a bar whose cleanliness standards aren’t superb, it’s possible you may pay more for it later, with the germs that may accumulate on the tap or within the glass itself. If you’re not sure about a place you haven’t been to yet, do yourself a favor and buy a bottled beer instead. Yeah, I’ve been a bartender, and I can tell you a lot of customers see this as a pretentious move (you’re paying more for essentially the same product). But sometimes, it’s better to pay a little extra for something if it means you won’t feel discomfort later.
Just Say No
Restaurants are getting better at sealing their pickles up, but not every place is good at it. A lot of restaurants, in fact, don’t seal their pickles up at all, waiting at the end of the day, because the workers constantly have to add pickles to the order, so they don’t see why they should close them.
You might want a pickle on your burger or on the side of your meal. But if you want to avoid contamination, abstaining from having a pickle on your plate is one of the best ways to do it. Save your burgers with pickles on them for when you grill out at home. It’s the best way you can be sure the pickles are sanitary.
Milkshakes Are The Worst
I personally love a good milkshake, but this fact alone will make me think twice about ordering one for myself or a member of my family after an outing. Milkshakes are delicious, particularly because it’s essentially flavored ice cream, which amounts to massive sugar on end. That said, the machine that dispenses the milkshakes in fast food establishments is questionable.
These machines rarely get cleaned as often as they should. That means the odds that your milkshake is being served to you in the most sanitary of ways possible are pretty low. Your best bet is to make a milkshake in the comfort of your own home. It might not be as convenient, but at least you control when the machinery helping you to create them is being cleaned.
Double-Friend Chicken Fries
Burger King keeps bringing back the chicken fries, even though a lot of people don’t like them. They’re not necessarily gross or anything, but a lot of times there is not even that much chicken inside of them! That’s because Burger King deep-fries them twice before serving them, which lessens the amount of chicken that remains.
The restaurant first fries them when they arrive to the store. Then they’re kept in a bin, where they remain until an order is made for the item. After that, they’re fried again…which gives the appearance that the food was served “fresh” to the customer. In reality, there’s nothing fresh about them.
Vegetarians, Watch Out For The Gravy!
Here’s a conundrum: perhaps you’re a vegetarian, but you also love gravy. As you’re probably already aware, not all gravy is made without meat or meat products within it. So what’s your best bet? A fast-food place, or a high-end restaurant?
Believe it or not, a place like KFC is a better option for you. The restaurant makes its gravy from cornstarch and vegetable broth, and in the restaurant itself, workers just have to add water to a packet to make it. A higher-end restaurant, meanwhile, makes smaller batches that aren’t mass produced. This means that there’s a higher chance they make their gravy their own way — and won’t accommodate your needs. That said, many sit-down restaurants are getting better at dealing with dietary needs, though some aren’t quite there yet.
It’s Not That Special
Some places push the “daily special” because it’s actually a good meal that they pride themselves on creating. But many establishments are much lazier than that — the special is nothing more than leftover ingredients from the day before, rearranged to be something different, and priced out lower only because the restaurant wants to get rid of it quickly.
Stick to the popular menu items that are there all of the time — it’s your safest bet to ensure a fresher meal, because the restaurant probably has to re-stock it regularly. Still, the special is probably better than fast-food chili! Read on to find out why…
The Ads End For A Reason
You might have loved a seasonal item at your favorite fast-food place, but if it was only there for a limited time, stop ordering it before they run out. Your best bet is to actually stop ordering it when they stop advertising it.
That’s because, if it’s no longer being promoted, chances are high that the ingredients for it are also no longer being replenished. In other words, if your favorite limited-food item is no longer being promoted on TV, the ingredients that go into it aren’t the freshest they could be, either. The rare exception is where the ingredients are ordered anyway, but even so, it’s best not to tempt fate by ordering that seasonal item after it’s done being advertised.
How To Make Chili At Wendy’s
We already explained that restaurant “specials” are sometimes just the leftover ingredients from food items that didn’t sell the night before. That’s still better sounding than Wendy’s chili. One of the biggest open secrets about Wendy’s is that the chili’s primary ingredient is just leftover beef from the patties they cooked but couldn’t sell.
How the meat is prepared doesn’t sound that appetizing, either. Employees take the leftover burgers, throw them into a vat of water, microwave that vat, dump out the water, and chop up the meat. It’s a process that makes me squirm, but apparently, it works: people still order the chili from Wendy’s on a regular basis.
Lemons Aren’t Always Clean
Lemons are a big concern if you’re in a restaurant, even a “high end” one. That’s because the outside of the lemons are rarely washed. The logic makes sense to some: it’s the INSIDE of the lemon that matters. But if you frequent a restaurant that puts a whole lemon wedge inside your water, just know that it’s possible the lemon wasn’t washed beforehand. You’ve been warned.
Your best bet? Aim to have a lemon wedge placed on the rim of the drink, or better yet, on the side, if you need one at all. You can then squeeze the juice yourself into the drink, avoiding the contaminants on the peel.
Soda Machines Aren’t Cleaned Often
You know you’ve done this. You order a cola from your favorite fast food joint. You ate “for here,” and you’ve finished your food…but you’re still thirsty. No problem: the generally-acceptable policy of free refills saves the day!
Only, there’s a problem. The soda machine you frequent is not often cleaned as much as you think it is. It’s sometimes even worse than some beer taps! Worse still? The ice dispenser. It’s cleaned even less frequently, and bugs can sometimes end up living inside of it! One way to avoid this problem is to order a milkshake…but as we pointed out before, even that’s not the most sanitary thing you can order!
Workers Probably Ignore The McNugget Timer
McNuggets are so commonplace and appreciated by fast food eaters across the world that they’re typically ordered at restaurants that aren’t McDonald’s. Trust me, I know — my first job, I got asked for McNuggets every day, and I worked at a taco-based establishment.
They’re delicious, and they’re fun to dip. But that doesn’t make them fresh. Although a timer is set to ensure peak freshness, that timer isn’t always adhered to. One social media user said that, 9 times out of 10, McNuggets are actually served past the allotted time they’re supposed to be. Truth be told…they probably still taste just the same, as long as they’re still warm.
Be Cautious Of The Dirty Martini
I’ve worked in a bar, and I’ve drank in many others. I can tell you, firsthand, that not every bar treats cleanliness with the same importance. If you see tiny little bugs flying anywhere, that’s generally a sign that things aren’t clean. If you see them in your drink, get the heck out.
But that’s more-or-less to do with the quality of the booze. Another thing you have to worry about is ingredients. For a Dirty Martini, you usually pour a bit of olive juice into the drink before you mix it up. The thing is, olive juice isn’t always kept refrigerated in many bars. That means it’s kept out in warm conditions…which makes it a breeding ground for bacteria. If you know your bar keeps their olive juice cool, you’re all good, but otherwise, your best bet is to limit your Dirty Martinis to night caps you enjoy at home.
Pregnant Women Are Told Not To Get Soft Serve Ice Cream
This piece of advice came from a repair person rather than from a food employee. This worker warned customers that the ice cream served in soft serve machines is likely not going to be very sanitary.
“Avoid all ice cream machine products. McFlurry’s, Frosty’s, Soft Serve. Nope,” the Reddit user wrote. The machines themselves are simply not cleaned often enough for this person to feel like they’re safe. In fact, pregnant women are often warned against getting these types of frosted treats, over listeria concerns. If it’s bad enough for pregnant women to avoid, it’s up to you to decide if you want to skip out on those types of treats also.
The Sonic Happy Hour
A Reddit user who used to work at Sonic provided this bit of advice: avoid the company’s milkshake (and other sugary drinks) “happy hour.”
“I’m sorry but we dig out of the huge bags of candy or chocolate with our bare hands and fill up the candy station,” this social media user claimed in their post, which technically goes against company policy. That’s incredibly unsanitary, and dangerous for people who get sick easier than others! Fortunately, the Reddit user suggested there’s a way to avoid this issue: go at slower times of the day. It’s possible that situation only happened in that particular Sonic, but you’re better safe than sorry, in my opinion.
Unique Ingredients At Fast Food Joints
You might like a specific food item at your favorite fast food establishment, but if it is because it uses an ingredient not featured in any OTHER food item, be forewarned: the ingredient might not be the freshest.
A Reddit user explained why: “My restaurant has a pulled pork sandwich. We don’t use the pork for anything else. Since it’s not ordered too frequently, it’s not fresh and the product you’re eating might be days or weeks old.” It’s not something that’ll get you sick, but it’s also not going to be the highest quality meal you can expect, either.
Burger King’s Fish
We already told you how Burger King has a two-fried policy on its chicken fries. Another rarely-ordered menu item is Burger King fish. Seriously, it’s called “Burger” King for a reason.
One Reddit user who used to work at BK explained why it might not be a good idea to order the fish from the menu. “The fish] is sitting in its little mesh pan above the fryer for hours on end — dare I say days — a batch of 8+ just waiting for the one person a day that will order one or two.” In other words, it’s cooked, and then…it just sits there. Until you arrive.
Avoid 7-Eleven’s Late Night “Hot” Food Items
You shouldn’t feed Gremlins after midnight, and you shouldn’t eat from 7-Eleven’s grilled food menu after that time of “day” either. You could probably do well to avoid that menu a couple of hours beforehand, too. The fact is, that late in the workday, the foods placed on the spinning rack simply aren’t fresh any longer.
“I used to work at 7-11, so I’m gonna say any of the taquitos or hotdogs around midnight, up through about 4 or 5 AM,” one Reddit user explained. “Around midnight you can be almost assured that these are now high-mileage.” These kinds of food aren’t great for your health to begin with, but the quality that they once had will be long gone if you wait this long to have them.
Starbucks Uses Microwaves
I’ve never been dissatisfied with how Starbucks’ food items taste (and of course, I love their coffee), but after reading this Reddit user’s thoughts on the heated items the coffee giant serves, I might think twice. That’s because the food isn’t really prepared in a special way — it’s merely shoved in the microwave, and heated up in that manner. I could do that at home (and probably for a cheaper price as well).
“All Starbucks food is reheated frozen food. Ridiculous how little people realize that. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good, it’s just not fresh at all and incredibly overpriced,” the Reddit user explained.
Dairy Queen — An Ice Cream-Based Fast Food Store — Sells Salads.
I’ve never understood why fast food places have salads. We already know these foods aren’t great for us, but now we’re going to play make-believe and pretend we have a healthy option, too? Here’s a quick tip: buying a salad from an ice-cream fast-food restaurant, like Dairy Queen, is not the healthiest choice you can make.
They cost more than they should, too. This Reddit user explains: “Salads from DQ are a rip-off. They just recently down-sized them while changing the bowl to make it look like the same amount. Over $5 for 3 oz. of old lettuce, cabbage, carrots and even older grilled chicken.”
Jimmy John’s Veggie Choices Aren’t Necessarily Healthier
Just because something is made up in a way that makes it vegetarian doesn’t mean it’s the healthiest choice you can make. Take Jimmy John’s Gourmet Veggie Club. No meats, but high in calories — about half of the total intake you should have per day, according to one former employee.
“It’s the second most caloric sandwich behind something called the ‘Gargantuan.’ 8 slices of provolone cheese will do that,” the former worker said. Most customers come in, ordering the sub, they said, thinking they’re doing good for their body. They’re not — if anything, the meatier subs might be a better choice.
Just Stick To The Wings
We already mentioned there’s a specific time to order food from Buffalo Wild Wings (don’t stray too far away from the lunch and dinner rushes). Now here’s another thing you want to do: order the wings. Seems pretty straight forward — it’s a chicken wing-theme restaurant, after all. But, as Reddit user HunterOfTheSky explains, not much of the rest of the menu is up to par, so it’s best to stick ONLY to the wings…
“I work at a Buffalo Wild Wings. Don’t get anything other than the wings. That’s the only quality thing there. Everything else is frozen s—,” they explained.
If you’re vegan, you are probably already aware of this sad truth: almost every meal that is advertised as vegan has probably touched something that’s meat-ish, or come into contact with a dairy-based product. Take A&W burgers. They’re now selling “Beyond Meat” vegan burger options. Sounds great, until you realize that the meatless burgers are cooked on the same grills as the traditional, standard-meat burgers are cooked on.
This is simply a sad reality for our vegan friends: restaurants have a difficult time producing food that’s truly, 100 percent vegan. When it comes to fast food, it’s an even more difficult endeavor.
Old Chicken Tenders At Hardees/Carl’s Jr.
Two restaurants, same company. Hardees and Carl’s Jr. is technically owned by the same company, and has the same menu, for the most part. They even have the same logo. The two fast food restaurants also make the same weird claim about their chicken being “hand breaded.” But one user on Reddit explained that their chicken is rarely fresh.
Although they’re supposed to toss out chicken that’s been under the heat lamp for more than 20 minutes, that’s not always the case. “We would sometimes serve 1-2 hour old tenders,” that user revealed. He had another suggestion: if you really want fresh tenders, just ask for them to be fresh. They’ll make them brand new for you, if you’re willing to wait 10 minutes.
Just Say No To Hollandaise
The late chef Anthony Bourdain once had some helpful advice about hollandaise: don’t get it. “It’s never made to orderand sits around all day,” he wrote one time. He had more to say: “Bacteria love hollandaise.” So if you don’t want to risk getting sick, skip the hollandaise.
Sure, hollandaise might taste good, and if you’re able to store it yourself, it’s probably a fine idea. But restaurants don’t always store things to your standards — and hollandaise, at many restaurants, isn’t stored to anyone’s standards. Just don’t ask for it, and if it’s offered, just say no.
‘American Style Kobe Beef’ At Cheesecake Factory
Only nine restaurants in the United States sell real Kobe Beef, made in Japan and shipped over here for you to consume — and the Cheesecake Factory is not one of them. “But wait,” you ask: “haven’t I seen American Style Kobe Beef on the menu?”
And therein lies the rub: American Style Kobe Beef is a misnomer, a legal way for the company to suggest the food is similar to Kobe, but not actually the real thing. A burger that’s made for $15 and contains real Kobe beef would, indeed, be a steal — but at Cheesecake Factory, it’s the customer who’s being shortchanged.
Trust Gordon — Avoid The Tea And Coffee
Soda, alcoholic drinks, water, coffee, or tea? Those are usually the choices you get when you’re traveling on a plane. If you’re smart, you’ll be wise to skip on the last three. That’s sound advice that comes from chef Gordon Ramsay.
The celebrity cook has worked with airlines to help them produce meals (though, I don’t think I’ve had any of them in the “economy class” seats I usually get). One thing he doesn’t trust about airlines, however, is how or where they store their water — namely, how often their storage containers get changed. It might just be a quirk of the famous chef’s but why take any chances? Have the soda, or maybe get some juice.
Oh, Bloody You-Know-What
Having a Bloody Mary at brunch, and then having one in the afternoon can be two different experiences — even if they’re both from the same place. That’s because restaurants skimp on the good ingredients later in the day, when they know less people are going to be ordering them.
“Even a restaurant that makes the best Bloody Mary’s in town only has the correct mix fresh and ready to go during the brunch and breakfast hours,” former bartender Kitty Jay told Mash. It’s the same for later in the week, too, so you’re best bet is to stick to “bloodies” only on Sunday brunches.
We’re Going To Ruin Ballpark Hot Dogs For You, Too
My favorite things about baseball games: the game itself, spending time with those who’ve accompanied me with, and eating ballpark franks. Well, it used to include that last item, before I learned what Reddit user FreakyCheeseMan had to say about them: that the hot dogs you’re eating today probably came out of their packaging a few days earlier.
“They made it out of the package okay, and might even have been edible after we finished grilling them – and then they went into the water,” he wrote. “We kept three pans of water at the back of the grill that held the hot dogs. Any hot dogs left at the end of the day went back into the fridge, and came out again the next day.”
You’re Not The Only One Who Likes Movie Theater Junk Food…
Well, I’m not going to see a movie anytime soon. Reddit user YouAteYourParents explains why. “Remember that sticky floor in the aisle of the theater? … Yes, that’s how you get ants… and cockroaches, and everything else. Plus it’s in the dark most of the time. It’s like a bug buffet once the lights go out and the movie starts.”
OK, but that’s just one former worker’s story, right? Unfortunately, a study by KLTV appears to verify the writer’s story. So unless you are really into entomology (the study of insects), you might want to consider staying in and streaming a movie tonight, at least until you can get this factoid out of your head.
Panera’s Not So Fancy Pasta
Panera Bread’s pasta tastes delicious, but it’s not cooked in any fancy way — not any fancier that deserves a higher price cost, at least. Reddit user President_Pancake (who you can trust, as the chief executive of pancakes!) explains that most of the food cooked at Panera is probably less prepared than you’d make it at home! A lot of the sauce isn’t fancy either, as it comes prepacked before it gets to the store, gets heated up, and is served that way, too.
“Panera — pasta; it’s all microwaved, this includes Mac and cheese,” they wrote. Come on, Panera, even I bust out the pan and the boiling water every now and again!