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13 Times Employees Exposed Restaurants’ Dirty Secrets

Updated: Jan. 27, 2023

These stories may make you rethink dining out at many of your favorite fast-food restaurants.

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Concept of mock up burger and french fries on white background. Copy space for text and logo. Clipping Path included on white background.
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Food for thought

Considering the average household in the United States spends around $3,459 on dining out every year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the care with which restaurants prepare food is incredibly important. Each day we put our trust in dining establishments, regardless of whether they’re serving up fast food or finer fare, with the belief that the items we’re being served are handled safely, and are what they say they are. These restaurant employees blew the lid off of some of the habits and quirks of where they work—and the news went viral. These are the secrets a fast-food worker is dying to tell you but typically doesn’t dare.

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panera bread
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Panera Bread

When a Panera Bread employee posted a video to social media app TikTok showing frozen packets of macaroni and cheese being heated at the location in which worked, the Internet exploded in anger. Some comments even called the restaurant’s version of the comforting dish “hospital food” because of the way it was prepared. The employee was fired (though reportedly for her long nails which are considered a food safety hazard and not the video) and Panera released this statement to ABC4 News: “Mac and cheese is made offsite with our proprietary recipe…it is shipped frozen to our bakery-cafes. This allows us to avoid using certain preservatives that do not meet our clean standards.” Panera Bread is one of the 15 restaurants you didn’t know changed their original names.

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dunkin donuts

Dunkin’ Donuts

Another chain found themselves freezer-burned (get it?) by a TikTok video when a Dunkin’ Donuts employee showed the restaurant’s muffins, bagels, and donuts arrive frozen to stores and aren’t freshly made on site. According to the New York Post, the employee, who went only by the name Morgan, chose to expose the situation because she was planning on quitting her DD gig and wanted folks to know the truth. However many Dunkin’ fans came to the chain’s defense, saying it’s fast food and it’s preposterous to think each item is made from scratch in-store. These are the first locations of 8 famous fast-food restaurants.

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People clamoring for one of Popeyes’ coveted chicken sandwiches may change their minds after seeing a video of the unsanitary conditions of a Detroit location filmed by an employee. In 2018, former Popeyes employee Shakita Shemere shared a video that showed poor food storage (like raw chicken thrown in a freezer), filthy containers piled high with the intention of reuse, and garbage strewn across the floor. Shemere was fired after the video went viral. Find out 11 things you never knew about Popeyes chicken.

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Here’s the thing about McDonald’s soft-serve and McFlurries—they’re delicious. Unfortunately, even the most die-hard ice cream fans might find their stomachs turning after seeing some gross-out photos posted by an employee on Twitter. The images showed the sludge that allegedly accumulates in the chain’s ice cream machines, and it’s pretty unappetizing. Although many were understandably disgusted, others came to McDonald’s defense saying this likely isn’t the case for every location. You have to read these mind-blowing facts about McDonald’s.

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golden corral
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Golden Corral

If buffets make you nervous because of the many patrons serving themselves, you’re not alone. A Golden Corral employee in Florida made a case for being skeptical of what goes on behind the scenes, too. He filmed a video showing raw baby back ribs and other meat sitting next to a dumpster outside the restaurant. In response, Golden Corral issued this statement, according to CNBC: “A video was recently posted showing an incident of improper food handling at our Port Orange, Florida location. None of these items were served to a single customer. All were destroyed within the hour at the direction of management.” If you’re still a believer, check out the best buffet in every state.

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When you want to get more bang for your buck at Chipotle, the chain’s employees seem to agree that you should ditch that taco order from the restaurant. In a Reddit thread that was picked up by a number of media outlets, workers say you get far less food than you would if you ordered a Chipotle burrito. “I used to work at Chipotle, and never ever, ever order the tacos,” said one former employee. “You get less than half the regular portions.”

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We’re all for maintaining cleanliness at work, but one employee took things too far when a video went viral of him bathing in a Wendy’s kitchen sink. The 90-second clip shows other employees championing a young man to get in the sink for a quick dip. According to Newsweek, Department of Business and Professional Regulation inspectors paid a visit to this particular Wendy’s after the video made the news. Aside from the prank, the location passed its inspection.

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If you can handle the truth about your favorite eateries, there are tons of Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) threads on Reddit on which people question employees about what happens behind the scenes on the job. The U.K.’s Mirror reported on one such AMA where a Subway employee admitted their chicken teriyaki option is typically far from fresh. “Our CT had a five-day shelf and we were told that once it reaches the fifth day to just change the date,” said the Subway Sandwich Artist. “With all of the shift changes and varying factors, we never knew how long this chicken was out (between five to nine days). I quit after I got reprimanded for throwing out CT on the fifth day.” Here’s how Subway became the world’s biggest fast-food chain.

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papa john's pizza
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Papa John’s

In another Reddit AMA, a Papa John’s employee called out the truth about one of the chain’s “specialty” pizzas—Spinach Alfredo Pizza. “Papa John’s has a spinach alfredo sauce that’s delicious, but only gets ordered maybe once a week, and it hits its sell-by date three days after you open the bag,” writes the employee. “But no one actually throws it out until it’s either gone or nasty looking.” Before you head to Papa John’s, read up on the 27 things your pizza guy won’t tell you.

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raising cane's
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Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers

While this isn’t the way Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers typically mixes up their batch iced tea, a viral video showed just how things can go awry when employees aren’t watched closely. In the clip, an employee of a Kansas City location is captured stirring the tea with her arm, then pouring it into a dispenser to serve to customers. Not surprisingly, the employee was promptly fired, according to the Kansas City Star. These fast-food “facts” are actually completely false.

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olive garden
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Olive Garden

Remember when Olive Garden attempted to rebrand itself as a more authentic Italian restaurant, citing a Tuscan Cooking School for their chefs that sounded all sorts of prestigious? Well, the “school” does exist, but it’s not exactly instilling the virtues of Tuscany. Eater followed a Reddit AMA with one of the lucky Tuscan Cooking School Students who shared the real deal: “It was more like a hotel, during the off-season, with a restaurant on-site,” he writes. “They let Olive Garden stay in the rooms and they would use the restaurant as a classroom for maybe an hour here or there and talk about spices or fresh produce before going sightseeing all day.” These are 17 more of the secrets Olive Garden doesn’t want you to know.

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taco bell
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Taco Bell

Again, only approach a Reddit AMA if you’re willing to hear stories from the fast-food frontlines. According to HuffPost, a Taco Bell employee put the chain’s beans on blast for looking really unappealing out of the gate, not to mention the instructions on how to cook them. “The beans start out looking like cat food, and the directions are, ‘Add water and stir until you can’t see white anymore,'” writes the disgusted worker. Not exactly our idea of the company’s tagline “Live mas.” Check out these wacky reasons fast food restaurants got sued.

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burger king
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Burger King

Listen up, breakfast lovers! A Burger King insider called out the company’s eggs as being a little disturbing, mainly because of the liquid egg mixture and the speed at which said mixture cooks up. “They have a piece of equipment that you spray non-stick onto and lay down the metal grid then fill it up evenly with this liquid egg mix,” he writes in, you guessed it, an AMA about BK. “In about a minute you have six eggs.” Still, those breakfast sandwiches are delicious. Read on to find out 11 things you never knew about the Burger King Whopper.


  • ABC4 News: “Panera Bread worker fired after mac and cheese secret exposed”
  • New York Post: “Dunkin’ Donuts employee reveals frozen muffins, bagels and donuts in TikTok video”
  • NewsOne: “Popeyes Worker Fired For Recording Viral Video Of Unsanitary Kitchen Before Restaurant Gets Closed”
  • Delish: “A Former McDonald’s Employee Just Leaked The Most Disgusting Photos”
  • Newsweek: “Wendy’s Employee Takes Bath in Restaurant’s Sink. Social Media Gets Frosty”
  • Mirror: “Subway ’employee’ reveals sandwiches you should never order – and spills more of chain’s ‘secrets'”
  • Food & Wine: “The One Pizza You Should Never Order from Papa Johns According to a Former Employee”
  • Kansas City Star: “Stirring iced tea with a hand? Raising Cane’s employees’ viral video gets them fired”
  • Eater: “Olive Garden Actually Has a Tuscan Cooking School, Kind Of”
  • HuffPost: “14 Fast Food and Restaurant Employees Confess the One Item You Should Never Order”
  • PopSugar: “You Can Technically Order a Whopper Taco at Burger King, Says a Former Employee”