13+ Things Your Fast Food Worker Won’t Tell You

These surprising secrets about your favorite fast food restaurants might make you think twice next time you're in line or at the drive-thru.

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After we cook something, we put it in a holding cabinet and set a timer.

After we cook something, we put it in a holding cabinet and set a timer. reader's digest/eddie guy
When the timer goes off, we’re supposed to throw it out. But often, we just reheat the food. So for the freshest meal, come between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. or between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. More people are in the restaurant then, so we’re cooking and serving new food constantly.

That plain chicken breast may have been a healthy choice out of the package,

That plain chicken breast may have been a healthy choice out of the package,istock/Rob Mattingley
but sometimes we have to slather it with butter just to make sure it doesn’t stick to the grill.

There’s usually a way to get expensive menu items for less.

There’s usually a way to get expensive menu items for less. istock/zeleno
If you’re craving a Big Mac, for example, order a $1 McDouble with no mustard or ketchup and then add shredded lettuce and Mac sauce for a small charge. It’s basically a mini Big Mac, and you can get two for less than the cost of one Big Mac.

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Most fast-food joints clean everything, including the grills and the drink machine nozzles, with super-concentrated chemicals at the end of the day.

Most fast-food joints clean everything, including the grills and the drink machine nozzles, with super-concentrated chemicals at the end of the day. istock/Kondor83
If you’re one of the first customers in the morning, you may be getting some of that chemical residue on the food or in the drink you order.

Those grill marks on your burger?

Those grill marks on your burger? istock/REBELProductions
Not real. They were put there by the factory.

Most of us will cook something fresh for you if you ask.

Most of us will cook something fresh for you if you ask.istock/gilaxia
But if you want to make sure your french fries come right out of the fryer, order them without salt; that forces us to cook you a new batch. Then you can add your own salt.

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Avoid asking for “extra” of something, like cheese or sauce.

Avoid asking for “extra” of something, like cheese or sauce. istock/billnoll
As soon as you say “extra,” we have to enter it at the register and charge you for it. Instead, just tell us you want us to “put a good amount on there” or “not to be skimpy with it,” and we’ll load you up.

Yes, our chili is made from what you think:

Yes, our chili is made from what you think: istock/Rob Mattingley
Meat from old burgers.

It makes me laugh when someone comes in and says she’s trying to be healthy—and then orders a salad with crispy chicken.

It makes me laugh when someone comes in and says she’s trying to be healthy—and then orders a salad with crispy chicken. istock/Lauri Patterson
At McDonald’s, some of those salads have about as many calories as a Big Mac. In fact, a small order of french fries contains four fewer grams of fat than a packet of our ranch dressing.

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Because we’re timed on how fast we get customers through the drive-through,

Because we’re timed on how fast we get customers through the drive-through, istock/slobo
we always prioritize those in line outside over anyone at the front counter.

One of my coworkers once got so mad that he spit in someone’s food.

One of my coworkers once got so mad that he spit in someone’s food.istock/Lorraine Boogich
He was suspended for three days; most of us would never do something like that.

Here’s a good way to know how clean a fast-food establishment really is:

Here’s a good way to know how clean a fast-food establishment really is: istock/Alexandra Iakovleva
When you get your drink, bend down and look up into the ice chute. If you see mold and other stuff growing in there – which is more common than you might expect – they’re not cleaning the machine as often as they’re supposed to.

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Those gorgeous pictures of our food in our advertisements?

Those gorgeous pictures of our food in our advertisements? istock/gioadventures
They’re airbrushed and touched up with fiberglass and paint. It probably takes two hours to make that picture; obviously, we’re not going to be able to replicate that.

Please, please, get off your cell phone.

Please, please, get off your cell phone.istock/Marko Misic
I’ve had people pull up to the window, pay, and drive away without their food because they’re talking on the phone and not paying attention. Then they’re mad at me.

At most fast-food restaurants, it’s tough to give away free food, especially things like burgers because they’re inventoried.

At most fast-food restaurants, it’s tough to give away free food, especially things like burgers because they’re inventoried. istock/evemilla
We can sometimes give away French fries, ice cream or drinks because we get those ourselves, but it depends which manager is on duty.

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We hate it when you order an ice cream.

We hate it when you order an ice cream. istock/KassyDavis
Most of the time, we’ve got to make it, and it’s already melting by the time we hand it to you. If you order 4 or 5 cones at a time, it’s almost impossible to get them to you before they melt everywhere, and then you want new ones.

Here’s something that surprised me when I started working at McDonalds:

Here’s something that surprised me when I started working at McDonalds:istock/TonyBaggett
Our clam grills are set at 750 degrees, and they can fully cook a regular beef hamburger in just 38 seconds, a quarter pounder in 70 seconds. The first time I ever saw that, I was like, ‘Ewww.'

We’re happy to replace something if we mess up, but we can usually tell when you’re making up a story to get free food.

We’re happy to replace something if we mess up, but we can usually tell when you’re making up a story to get free food. istock/Daniel Loiselle
There was one guy who found a pebble in our parking lot, put it in his food after he ate most of it, and then asked for a replacement. Another lady took 10 tacos home. The next day, she brought just a few of them back, showing us that their lettuce was brown. She wanted another 10 tacos. But of course if you leave tacos out for 24 hours, the lettuce will turn.

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Some fast-food workers definitely follow the 10-second rule.

Some fast-food workers definitely follow the 10-second rule. istock/smirart
I have seen people drop food and then pick it back up and put it on the grill.

No, most of us do not donate our leftovers.

No, most of us do not donate our leftovers.istock/Gabor Izso
I can’t believe how much food we throw out every day, especially at the end of the night.

All fast-food restaurants are not created equal.

All fast-food restaurants are not created equal. istock/triloks
Even restaurants within the same chain can vary widely depending on the owner and manager and what kind of standards they set.

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When you take three handfuls of napkins or fill your purse with ketchup packets,

When you take three handfuls of napkins or fill your purse with ketchup packets,istock/cbarnesphotography
I don’t know what you call it, but I call it stealing. You’re just making things more expensive for everyone.

Please don’t ask what ingredients are in our fried chicken coating or in our special sauce.

Please don’t ask what ingredients are in our fried chicken coating or in our special sauce.istock/4kodiak
All of our recipes are proprietary, so they don’t even tell us what’s in them.  

At some restaurants, managers get a bonus if they hold onto their employees and keep their turnover rate down.

At some restaurants, managers get a bonus if they hold onto their employees and keep their turnover rate down.istock/Bulgac
That gives us an incentive to keep people who aren’t very good, even if they don’t know the difference between a French fry and a screwdriver. And I’m not exaggerating; I’ve had employees who were that bad.

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Most of us, even the managers, aren’t making much more than minimum wage.

Most of us, even the managers, aren’t making much more than minimum wage.istock/Kali Nine LLC
You wouldn’t believe the stuff we put up with for that kind of money. People constantly talk to me like I’m a two-year-old. I’ve had customers throw drinks at me and cuss at me. I’ve been held up at gunpoint.      

At Taco Bell, most of our food does carry over, so we reheat it and serve it the next day.

At Taco Bell, most of our food does carry over, so we reheat it and serve it the next day. istock/Wolterk
That’s why I never take my lunch break early.

For the best deal at McDonalds, order off the dollar menu.

For the best deal at McDonalds, order off the dollar menu. istock/Robert Herhold
You can get a lot of food for the same price as a meal and it will fill you up more.      

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We were supposed to wear gloves when we made food,

We were supposed to wear gloves when we made food,istock/Kemter
but a lot of times my co-workers didn’t do it, and that really skeeved me out.      

Most of us don’t wash our hands as much as we should.

Most of us don’t wash our hands as much as we should.istock/achococat
Even though there are signs everywhere reminding us it's the law.

Look around to see how much trash is in the parking lot,

Look around to see how much trash is in the parking lot, istock/Leonardo Patrizi
whether the bathrooms are dirty and if the dining room is picked up. When things that are so publicly visible are neglected, you can bet that even more is being neglected in the back and in the kitchen where no one can see them.    

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Once your order is in at the drive thru,

Once your order is in at the drive thru,istock/Kameleon007
we have two minutes to get your food before the screen turns red, and the manager asks what’s going on.  

We do laugh at you behind your back,

We do laugh at you behind your back,istock/franckreporter
like when you mispronounce our menu items or when you think we can’t hear you through the drive-thru speaker, yelling at your husband or kids.    

When it was slow, sometimes we would all take the garbage out and smoke marijuana in the back.

When it was slow, sometimes we would all take the garbage out and smoke marijuana in the back.istock/InnerVisionPRO
Really, it's true.

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