If you think about it, we really don't know much about fast food. Other than the fact that it's cheap and typically tastes good, what goes on behind the counter is a total enigma to consumers. From old food being served as fresh to machines not being cleaned regularly, many workers hide these disturbing incidents behind a smile. These fast food employees dished out some of the most horrid secrets behind your favorite menu items.
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#35 Don't Go For The Chili
When I worked at a convenience store years ago, we had a nacho machine that had a big glass bin full of chips and two heated cookers with spigots on the bottom; one for chili and one for cheese. It was pretty popular. I don't know if there was supposed to be a cleaning schedule, but we never had one. Cleaning it meant emptying the cookers, and the boss didn't want to do that because he said it wasted food.
In any case, the cheese wasn't so bad. When it was low, we just dumped in another tub of cheese. There was some oily separation, but it seemed okay. The chili, on the other hand, tended to mold, and it grew on the insides of the cooker. When it got low, we'd scoop the mold off the top and wipe the inside a bit, then just dump another batch of new chili in on top of the old. If I wasn't young and stupid about things, then I would probably have said something, but all I did was avoid the stuff myself.
#34 They'll Never Know The Difference!
At the store I worked at, old tuna just got mixed in with new tuna and people usually didn’t notice. It came in like a giant, flaky, pressed tuna patty that didn't even look edible in the first place. We mixed it with a bunch of mayo and just mashed everything together with our hands. We usually used two bags of mayo for one tuna brick at my store and I thought that was way too much mayo.
#33 Melt With You
Don't get lava cakes for delivery. They're really great, but they are damn near impossible to keep intact in the insulative bags that are used for delivery. They're small and therefore easily crushed by inexperienced drivers, and also the sauce melts through the cakes because the main dishes are hotter than them.
#32 Lettuce Know Soon
I worked at a popular pizza chain for a while. The pizza was really good and the ingredients were fresh—the sauce and dough were made every morning, the veggies were sliced by hand, and whole blocks of mozzarella were shredded throughout the day. I felt good about the quality of the food.
The only thing that was consistently gross was the lettuce we would use for our sandwiches and salads. It would come pre-shredded in a plastic bag that was who-knows-how-old and would turn brown within the first hour or two.
When our store opened on Chicago's north side, we took the neighborhood by storm. People instantly became downright addicted to the pizza. But at least once a week, people would call in angrily, complaining about how disgusting the salad was.
#31 You're Really Growing On Me
Sweet tea. I worked at a fast food place for a couple of years and when they ran out of clean bags for the sweet tea, would rinse out the old one but not thoroughly enough to get it completely clean. They kept using it and using it and at some point, stuff started growing in it. Disgusting.
#30 Lime After Lime
I worked at a fast food place that used to sell limeades, and we actually used whole limes and cut them up when we needed them. We kept a case of them in the walk-in cooler. I went to grab some to prep for the day and almost all of them were moldy. I told the manager about it and she told me to cut them anyway. I refused and threw the case out.
Any kind of fruit item should be examined thoroughly before consumption. If they ever brought limeades back, I would never drink one.
#29 Silm For A Reason
We sell a group of sandwiches called "slims" that are popular among those with kids. I've tried them all except the Slim 6. The Slim 6 is just 2 pieces of provolone cheese on bread. It might not be the grossest thing ever, but since we don't have a way to toast the sandwiches, it doesn't sound good to me. It's just two pieces of cold, bland cheese on bread.
#28 Roll It Up
I worked at a Japanese fast food restaurant for a while and we had this thing called a volcano roll. It cost $7.25. For reference, a California roll there costs $3.75. The volcano roll was basically a California roll cut into the shape of a triangle and topped with spicy mayo that had been heated up with about ten cents worth of fish, literally just a few bits. You are much better off ordering a California roll and paying fifty cents extra for spicy mayo on the side and asking them to heat it up.
I had a couple come in once and they ordered a volcano roll. When we served volcano rolls in the restaurant, we would typically put the sauce on top so it looked nice, like a volcano. When I brought the volcano roll over to them, the guy was like, "Oh, I didn't know you guys put the sauce on, I've only gotten it for pick up and the sauce is always on the side. I don't really like it, could you bring me one without it?" I tried not to laugh and said sure. I went back and the sushi chef asked what was wrong. I told him that he didn't like the sauce and want one without it. He laughed, then took a California roll, cut it up, and put it on the plate. I brought it back to the guy and he was super pumped.
Basically, this guy paid $7.25 for a roll that would have cost him $3.75. I would have told him about it, but the dude was being pretty arrogant the entire time.
#27 Shake It Out
I worked in fast food for five years. Never order the milkshakes! The machine often breaks and when it does, the milk base stays inside until it is fixed and it usually goes bad. The machine gets regular cleanings, but it's never as clean as it should be. Every time there is a special edition shake flavor, the syrup pipes get all gunked up and the only way to fix it is to shove something in the pipe, like a broken fork or chopstick.
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#26 Milk Was A Bad Choice
Cafe ex-employee here. Honestly, everything was pretty safe there except for the skinny mocha. I worked at a store for four years before we realized we weren’t cleaning the pump properly and it was naaaaasty. Clumps of foul-smelling chocolate, fuzzy green bits everywhere.
Oh, and the steam wands for all your beloved sugary lattes. Corporate cared more about not damaging the machines than about cleaning them properly, which mean that every time you asked for your drink “extra hot," you're just adding another layer of scalded milk to the inside of that steam wand. I absolutely will not order hot drinks anymore.
#25 Just Add Water
The meatball marinara.
Not only is it a pain to make, but it's also disgusting. Not enough people order it, so although you're supposed to throw it out every few hours, we keep it out all day. The new batch of meatballs is poured on top of it and it's just mixed up so the dried out, older bits are spread throughout. If it gets too dark or crunchy from being held at a certain temperature for too long, water is added and mixed in.
#24 Stick With Water
I work at a soup and sandwich spot, and the food we make is all generally pretty fresh. We get fresh produce delivered once a day, and our truck comes twice a week to deliver the things we heat up from frozen, like the mac and cheese and our soups.
The one thing I wouldn't suggest buying is our espresso drinks, especially if you have an allergy. In our store, we only have one machine that doesn't get cleaned enough. We just rinse out the one container and use it for both almond and regular milk. We aren't really known for our amazing lattes either, so half the time no one knows how to actually make them.
#23 Trashing The Entire Menu
I work at a Chinese food chain. The Beijing Beef, Sweetfire Chicken, and Orange Chicken are all just deep-fried meat covered in melted sugar. The Honey Walnut Shrimp is deep-fried shrimp covered in yellow-dyed mayonnaise. And the egg rolls are probably the most disgusting abominations to Chinese food ever invented.
Basically, get something that isn't a deep-fried travesty. The Black Pepper Chicken, the Mushroom Chicken, and Kung Pao Chicken are the best.
#22 "Fresh" Means Six Hours Old
I used to work at a donut chain. They used to make us prepare the bacon, eggs, and sausages in big batches, then put them each in a warmer to speed up our sandwich times. We couldn't make any "fresh" ones until the warmer ones were already used up. If you wanted the cheese to be melted, we would literally have to microwave the whole sandwich for like, 15 seconds to make it seem like everything came out of the machine fresh.
I cannot tell you the number of times we were forced to serve old eggs and meat to customers... It was disgusting and actually got a few people sick (myself included before I worked there).
#21 Not Wasting Any Pennies
I worked at a restaurant chain. During my first training session to be a server, the cook threw a plate with a porterhouse steak on the eye-level counter and the steak slid right off, onto the dirty floor. The trainer picked up the steak, inspected it, dusted it off and put it back on the plate saying something along the lines of, "This is an expensive cut of meat, " as if he was personally paying for it. I was stunned. I quit that same night.
#20 Trying To Please Management
Movie theatre pretzels.
They gave us this huge pretzel steamer to cook pretzels in and keep them moist. The issue was, we would prepare a bunch and nobody would buy them. The pretzels would, therefore, spoil by the end of the day, and $8 would be taken off of your weekly inventory. If your spoil numbers were too high, then you'd have to explain yourself to corporate.
Nine times out of ten, we just microwaved them on demand.
#19 The Sticker Is A Lie!
Don’t ask for your fries well-done. Nine times out of ten, we'll just put a sticker on a normal fry that says “Well Done” and you'll never be able to tell the difference.
In terms of food prep, I trust all of our food and processes. It’s all pretty safe and well-maintained. But if you think you’re some genius cheating the system with your well-done food... You're wrong. We don't have time for you, and we won't make time for you.
#18 A Decent Trade-Off
I wouldn't recommend the slaw at my restaurant. You can trade it for another piece of toast. While you're at it, get it buttered on both sides!
Also, get the lemonade. They juice real lemons, then add water and cane sugar. It's pretty good.
#17 You Spin Me Round
Never order gyros from a place that doesn't have a big hunk of meat on a spinner behind the counter. The burger place I used to work for had gyros on the menu, but it was just some pre-made, frozen mystery meat that we heated up on the grill. Not gross, just utterly flavorless rectangles of meat.
#16 "Special" For A Reason
I worked at a chicken chain for a year, and I can say that you should definitely avoid any chicken offered on the manager's special.
My boss found two large steam trays filled with thighs stuffed in the back of the fridge. By all accounts, that chicken was bad. I gagged when I opened the lid. The boss literally had us double-season the chicken thighs, then put them on sale rather than throw them out.
#15 An Unnatural Mixture
I did a five-year stint in an Australian sandwich chain location and the tuna bricks they used made my eyes water. The tuna dried out really easily, no matter where or how you stored it. The top would get crusty, so we'd mix it around so people couldn't tell. We were also instructed to rotate the tuna in front by slapping the old mix directly on top of the freshly prepared mix. “It’s just tuna. It’s made to last longer than the expiration date," my old manager would say.
We also offered a thing called a "seafood sub" that was basically seafood extender mixed with mayo. The issue was they came to us frozen in solid bricks, so most staff would rapidly defrost the bags by placing them in boiling hot water. The bags would occasionally split in the water and get filled with nasty sink waste, but nobody cared. They’d just fish them out, dump them into the bowl, add enough mayo to put your cholesterol at a critical level and punch all of that into a fine paste. It was gross.
#14 Avoid The Magical Fruit
At my Mexican restaurant, don't order anything with black beans in it. Only like, two items on the entire menu have black beans, so we usually never have to get more throughout the day. The same black beans we stock in the morning are probably going to be the same ones we have during dinner. They'd be sitting out all day. Hard pass.
#13 Hold The Lettuce
I worked at a Mexican food chain a very long time ago. I still eat there, but I do not eat the lettuce. Too many times it would be moldy and my manager would tell me to just pull out the moldy part. If it looked questionable or was past the expiration date, they would tell me to put it in an ice bath to freshen it up.
Also, they had chili when I worked there. Don't order it. We kept the same container of chili for weeks.
#12 Getting Juiced Up
I work at a fast food chain that primarily sells ice cream. Despite not having a working grill, we have a select few food items were advertised as grilled options. Never order the chicken because it’s all kept together in a plastic tub. It sits in juices composed of God-knows-what until it is heated in a microwave.
#11 Number Nine Comes With A Side Of Mold
I worked at a fast food restaurant that was recently renovated, so I'm not too sure if things are still as dirty as they were.
All of the eggs were actually somewhat fresh, but every time they were cooked, we'd use an egg disc mold that usually had a moldy green edge. It was just so off-putting. I still don't know how our customers ate them without a problem.
Then there was this one time I was tasked with cleaning the entire underneath of the soda bar. I knew there was a leak under there way before I started cleaning because every time I went to get cup lids or napkins, they'd be soaking wet or sticky.
When I lifted up the machine floors, I just felt so disgusted with how much black mold was under there. There were so many customers around too. I'm surprised they didn't see, smell, or even complain about the filth going on under there. I told my manager about it and I did my best to keep customers from seeing it, but to this day I don't know if they ever cleaned it out. I didn't even touch the soda machine after that day.
#10 A Sandwich For A Giant
We used to sell this massive sandwich called the “The Doublegutbustah”. It was a 16” sandwich with two portions of every meat we had (excluding bacon and tuna). It cost $35.
One guy actually ordered it and I felt sick just looking at that monstrosity.
#9 Maybe We'll Just Take It To-Go
Pizza chain here. I wouldn't eat anything for the sole reason that drivers are responsible for doing the dishes and half of them are too lazy to scrape the old food and cheese off the pizza pans before they get washed. The people who do the pizza prep are, in turn, too lazy to send dirty dishes back.
If your pizza chain is as busy as mine, you can trust that nothing is getting cleaned the way it's supposed to be.
#8 Take Your Time!
I worked at a fast food place for a couple of months over the summer. I will never order a quarter pounder. We only cooked three at a time because they were ordered so infrequently. They would sit there for hours. When we got the lunch and dinner rush, it was fine because they'd be made fresh, but if you ordered them at any other time, I can guarantee they'd have been sitting there for a bit.
In general, if you don’t mind waiting an extra couple of minutes you can ask for it be freshly cooked and they’ll make a new batch of whatever you ordered.
If you want fresh fries, ask for unsalted fries. We automatically salt fries when we pull them out of the fryer, so they’ll have to make you a new batch. You can then grab the free salt packets.
#7 Got Any Cheese?
When I worked at a fast food chicken restaurant, and I got probably way too involved in the nitty gritty of the kitchen and inventory. I learned their soups and "cheese sauce" are frozen in bags, and the bags are placed in hot water to serve. I would probably be okay with the soups, but I'll never do the "cheese sauce" or whatever it actually is. And you know what, the lemonade just has too damn much sugar in it, so I'll stay away from that too.
#6 What A Waste!
Don't order the pies. They have been sitting on the shelf since earlier in the day and sometimes up to the previous day. So, if you order an apple pie sometime between 11 p.m. and 10 a.m., more than likely you'll receive a pie from the day before made around 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sometimes, I'll work during the day and come in the next day to find the same pies in the heater... THAT I MADE.
A good way to tell if your pie is old is to look at the pie carton. If there's grease bleeding through, it's probably been sitting for a long, long time.
#5 A Soggy Chicken Patty
I worked at a sub shop. The only thing I wouldn't eat is the chicken parmesan. It's a frozen, pre-breaded chicken patty that we just microwave for a few minutes so that just turns to mush in the sandwich. It was gross. Stick to the cold cut subs or cheesesteaks.
#4 Pulse Of The Maggots
I work at a donut chain. The soups are frozen and I've found maggots in them before. The sandwiches are alright, but they're iffy most of the time. I suggest sticking to the bagels and butter cream cheese. They're aren't made in store, but they're better than pretty much anything else.
#3 Don't Butter Me Up
Don’t EVER get the breadsticks at the Italian chain. Literally tons of day-old butter is painted onto the bread. I’ve seen co-workers pick up breadsticks off the ground and put them back in the bag just because they are in a rush.
#2 A Fly's Meal
Fast food apple pie. A friend of mine told me they leave them out in the open until someone who's not busy can package them and place them in the little-heated cabinet for them. They can stay out for up to an hour if the store's busy and flies often land on them.
#1 Another Overpriced Mess
I used to work at a pizza chain, and their bread items were a complete rip-off. They charged $7 for literally half a ball of medium dough, with some oil and garlic topping. The dough itself costs literally less than 20 cents, and the oil and seasoning both cost pennies. They’re selling you something that probably costs less than $2 to make when you factor in labor and oven costs.