If your first part-time job wasn’t in retail, it was likely working in fast-food or at a restaurant chain. Working in a restaurant teaches you patience, customer service, and all the gross secrets about food that you never wanted to know. For those of us who never got the chance to experience what life is like behind the scenes of a restaurant, the internet came together to share. Users on Reddit decided to share the one dish they’d never order, and it was eye-opening. Now I’m regretting all those years I spent ordering the “healthy choice” at a restaurant. Not all heroes wear capes. We owe these restaurant workers who shared the secrets behind these questionable dishes.
Is a tuna sandwich your go-to at Subway? Read why one former Subway employee referred to it as “literal poison in a container.”
All-Day Breakfast Isn’t Your Friend
When McDonald’s announced that they were starting all-day breakfast, the world jumped for joy. Hotcakes at any time? Count me in. The only problem is that once the employees switch to their lunch menu, breakfast becomes a thorn in their side. Most of the time, they’ll microwave your breakfast item because they can’t be bothered to make it fresh.
That means you’re paying for nuked biscuits, griddles, muffins, and eggs. The only reason I’ll still order the hotcakes at 5 pm is that my standards are already low.
Keep reading to see what restaurant is famous for reusing old ingredients to make an entirely new dish.
Be Picky At Your Local Sushi Restaurant
One former sushi restaurant employee explained why everyone loves Escolar, and why they shouldn’t. Escolar is a very light colored tuna which is popular for its buttery consistency. One day, the sushi chef sent the employee home with leftover cuts of Escolar, but after eating it, the employee was left with a horrible stomachache.
That’s because to get the buttery consistency in Escolar they feed the fish wax. Yes, straight up wax. The wax won’t kill you, but most high-end sushi restaurants won’t use the cut of fish.
Eggs Benny Is Not An Ideal Brunch Choice
College girls are going to lose it after they hear that eggs Benedict is not the best choice to get on their weekly Sunday morning brunch outing. Most breakfast restaurants have high standards for their eggs, ham, and English muffins, but it’s the hollandaise sauce that can ruin the dish.
The delicious, creamy, all-around perfect sauce is usually sitting pre-made in a vat that has been accumulating mold for weeks. It looks like I’ll just have to stick to ordering bottomless mimosas.
Avoid The Daily Special
Your waiter is always going to do a hard sell on the daily special, but they are usually chosen each day because those ingredients have been sitting in the kitchen the longest.
The popular options are always the safest if you want fresh ingredients and quality food. So next time you waiter stares at you to try to convince you to order the salmon fillet, don’t fall for it. Chicken tenders all the way.
Wendy’s Chili Is Just Recycled Burgers
It’s become surprisingly well known that the meat in the chili from Wendy’s is really just leftover beef from their patties, but people still keep ordering it. If a burger patty was left out too long to be sold, it’s set aside for the chili meat.
The employees are instructed to put all the leftover patties in a vat of water, microwave them for ten minutes, pour out the water, chop up the meat, and let it cool.
A fan-favorite dessert coming up is always going to be a let-down.
Timing Is Everything
The time of day that you go to a restaurant can affect the quality of your dish. One former worker at Buffalo Wild Wings revealed that the worst time to expect fresh wings was between 12:45 and 4:30. Basically, if you miss the lunch rush, and you’re before the dinner rush, you’re going to get old, crusty wings that they reheated.
They also suggest opting for the boneless wings because they have found some questionable things in the regular wings.
Anywhere You Go, The Fries Are Probably Tested By The Employees
In any restaurant where the cooking takes place behind the scenes, expect to be served fries that may have touched a servers unwashed hands at any point. Most restaurant servers agree that if fries are already plated, then they are off limits. But the massive metal bowl that they toss the fries in to season them is fair game.
Servers will often snack on the fries as they work instead of taking an actual meal break.
The Lava Cake Isn’t Worth It
The chocolate lava cakes you can order as a dessert with you pizza are delicious, but they’re not worth ordering for delivery. According to one pizza delivery driver, the cakes are almost impossible to keep intact in the insulated bags.
They have to place the cakes on top of your pizza, and since the pizza is hotter, all the “lava” melts through the cake. You’ll end up with a sad, molten goo in a broken cake.
Continue reading to see which “healthy alternative” might be less calories, but can get you sick.
Shell Out The Extra Few Bucks For Bottled Beer
When your server comes around to take drink orders, our first instinct is usually to ask “What’s on tap?” Many restaurant workers across the board suggest choosing a bottled option instead because they rarely clean the beer taps.
If you still want to order something available on tap, consider asking when they cleaned the tap, and if the beer is brewed in small batches. The more they have to change out beer taps, the more likely they’ll get cleaned.
IHOP Only Serves ‘Real Eggs’ If You Ask
One longstanding rumor that actually is true is that IHOP mixes pancake batter into their omelets and scrambled eggs. The intention is to make them fluffier, but it also allows them to use less fresh eggs. If you want a normal omelet, you have to ask for it to be made with “real eggs.”
We’ll find out if this is still a problem now that IHOP fooled us all and turned into IHOB.
Any Salad Ever
A salad is usually the go-to item for when you eat out and you’re trying to watch your waistline, but they can be the most mishandled item in a restaurant. One person admitted that the salads are made by waiters who “shove their ungloved hands in the bins.”
It’s also a good idea to avoid any salad from a pizza place. Most of their lettuce comes pre-shredded in bags and will turn brown within just a few hours of opening it.
Vegetarians already have a harder time eating out at restaurants, but most of them don’t know about this surprisingly veg item.
Chicken Fries From Burger King Aren’t Double Fried For Freshness
The BK Boutique bring back chicken fries once a year even though people openly admit they don’t taste good. The chicken fries are rock solid with barely any chicken inside them because the standard is to double fry them.
When the fries arrive in store, they cook the entire batch for a few minutes. Then they move the chicken fries to an open bin, where they wait to be fried again once someone orders them so that BK can say they are “served fresh.” It’s no surprise that one of the BK’s most random items isn’t exactly cooked to perfection.
Always Ask For No Pickle
Even if you love the dill, you’ll want to avoid getting pickles on your sandwiches, burgers, and definitely, the random pickle served on the side of your dish. In restaurants, pickles are kept in giant open buckets. Servers and cooks have to stick their hands into the bucket to get a pickle.
Enough unwashed hands and the oil and dirt will contaminate the pickle juice and slowly build up a film on the top of the bucket.
Vegetarians Beware Of Gravy
Believe it or not, vegetarians are more likely to find a veg-friendly gravy at a cheaper fast-food restaurant than at a higher end restaurant. Cheap places will use pre-mixed sauce that only requires some cornstarch and vegetable broth to make. In higher-end restaurants, the gravy is made with pan drippings and cooked in smaller batches.
That means even the gravy from KFC is technically vegetarian, since it’s made from sauce and cornstarch. The only time it isn’t is if a location chooses to add in leftover chicken grinds.
Coming up: what Subway employees stay away from
The Filet-O-Fish Is Dividing Our Society
McDonald’s employees can’t agree on whether the Filet-O-Fish is disgusting or delicious. Some say that the fish is low quality, kept in freezers for up to a month, and becomes soggy, reheated fish. Other former employees have said that the Filet-O-Fish is higher quality than most other dishes.
The fish you get is usually dependent on what area of the country you live in. If you live on the East or West Coast, then you’ll likely end up with a high-quality cut. If you’re in Texas, then it’s best to avoid it all together.
The Tuna Salad At Subway Is Questionable
Most Subway workers will admit that overall, the restaurant does an excellent job of providing fresh ingredients and clean facilities, but the tuna doesn’t make the cut. The tuna sub is one of the fewest ordered, so the tuna is often expired before they even open the container.
To avoid getting into trouble or wasting ingredients, employees will cover the date label with a new one. One former Subway employee even referred to it as “literal poison in a container.”
Never Order A Milkshake From Anywhere
There are a few reasons why you should avoid milkshakes at all costs. First, the machines are rarely cleaned because they’re difficult to take apart. Unless the store is very strict about cleaning, most employees avoid it.
Milkshakes are also often served with a metal straw in restaurants, but those are very hard to clean. If you are having trouble sucking up your milkshake, its probably because milk, cream, and chocolate have built up walls inside that metal straw.
If They’re Not Advertising It, Don’t Order It
Your server might be pressuring you to order the daily special, but if a restaurant has any other type of special that they’re not mentioning, it’s for a good reason. Specials are promoted and heavily advertised. Once that advertising fizzles out, no new ingredients or shipments are coming in for that special item.
If it’s two months after you saw the commercial for the Taco Bell Double Chalupa, and your local store is still selling it, it’s not a good idea to order it.
The Lemons Will Leave A Different Type Of Sour Taste In Your Mouth
The lemons that come in your water are some of the most abused food items in a restaurant kitchen. Most often, lemons are not washed or disinfected after they arrive on the back of a truck. They will also often end up on the floor or rolling around into other unclear surfaces.
Servers are also the ones to grab them, usually with their bare hands. If you want lemon in your water, just squeeze the juice in and set the skin aside.
Soda Fountains Might Be Worse Than Beer Taps
One of the best parts about ordering fast-food is the unlimited refills you can get at the soda machine, but it might not be worth it. Like the beer taps, soda machines are rarely cleaned, and soda guns can grow mold and resin in the holes.
It’s even worse to get your drink with ice because the ice-maker is one of the least cleaned places in a store. You’d assume that water can’t get moldy, but black grime and bugs are common.
McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets Might Be As Old As You
The Chicken McNuggets at McDonald’s are delicious, even if they don’t actually taste like chicken and most of the consumption is from breading. However, McDonald’s workers, this writer included, can attest to the age of the McNuggets.
A timer is set for the Chicken McNuggets but it’s easy to serve them after time has expired. One McDonald’s worker said they witnessed a time expiration serving 9 out of 10 times. When I worked at McDonald’s in college I had the same experience.
That Dirty Martini Is Dirtier Than You Can Imagine
Bartenders will be the first to warn patrons that olives served in drinks are not always the cleanest option. In fact, it could be a breeding ground for disgusting germs that will leave you feeling more than hungover the next day.
“Most bars pour warm olive juice right out of the garnish tray, Yuck.” A bartending expert told Chowhound. They also explain that it’s the perfect “breeding ground for all types of bacteria.” Drink dirty Martini’s at your own risk!
Skip The Soft Serve Ice Cream Products. Period.
In a Reddit chain where workers were asked about foods to avoid, a repairman warned customers to avoid soft serve ice cream products from fast food chains.
“Avoid all ice cream machine products. McFlurry’s, Frosty’s, Soft Serve. Nope.” The repairman says hygiene should be your main reason for skipping the soft serve ice cream. There’s good reason pregnant women are told to avoid these products over listeria fears caused by poor cleaning practices.
Sonic Milkshakes And The Happy Hour Dilemma
A Reddit user claiming to be a former employee at Sonic gives a warning about toppings for the company’s milkshakes. They claim that not all food safety practices are always followed when filling up the containers that hold milkshake toppings.
“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,” the Reddit user claims. They do mention that this is against company policy which requires using a ladle. This also only seems to be a busy happy hour problem — thankfully.
Any Fast Food Item Using A Product That No Other Item Requires
Reddit user anc6 has some important advice when ordering food offa fast food menu. Avoid any option that has a product that is only used on that one item.
“For example, 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.” They admit it won’t get you sick but you’re also not getting the best the restaurant has to offer.
This Burger King Order Is A Bit Too Fishy
So you think that Burger King fish order is a smart move? If you don’t mind a refried option then go ahead and give it a try. That’s the warning offered by one former Burger King employee.
“[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.” I experienced the same type of fish practices working at McDonald’s so this seems likely. Just avoid fast food fish!
7-Eleven After Midnight. Maybe Even Sooner
This probably isn’t shocking news but it should most definitely serve as a warning. Don’t order grilled items from 7-Eleven after midnight, maybe even a little bit earlier if you’re not a risk taker. This also applies to other late night convenience store chains.
One former employee explains the practices they witnessed. “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. Around midnight you can be almost assured that these are now high-mileage.” It’s still a great drunk option.
Starbucks For All Your Coffee Needs — Not For Fresh Food
A former Starbucks employeesays they always felt bad about serving the company’s food options to customers. Mostly because it’s just a microwaved treat — even if it actually tastes pretty good.
“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.” Overpriced? This is a company that sells a singlecupof coffee for nearly the price you can pay for an entire bag!
Dairy Queen Salads Are Pretty Much What You Should Expect
Fast food restaurants, as we’ve already learned, will find obvious ways to recycle food in an attempt to lower their operational costs. Dairy Queen salads fail on two levels according to one former employee.
“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.” Because as we all know, fast food chains are known for their quality salads.
The Jimmy John’s Gourmet Veggie Club Isn’t A Dieters Friend
The Jimmy John’s Gourmet Veggie Club is delicious but it’s not as healthy as the name would suggest. In fact, it’s one of the most caloric options on the company’s menu. It also takes up more than 50 percent of your daily allowance of saturated fat and sodium.
“If you’re trying to order a healthy option, don’t order the Gourmet Veggie Club,” says a former employee. “It’s the second most caloric sandwich behind something called the ‘Gargantuan.’ 8 slices of provolone cheese will do that.” They admit that many customers don’t realize what they are eating — healthwise.
It’s Called Buffalo Wild Wings For A Reason
If you go to Buffalo Wild Wings,by all means, order the heck out of their chicken wings. Just make sure you don’t stray to far from the chicken ordering script if you are looking for quality over quantity.
“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—,” reddit user HunterOfTheSky explains. That seems fair given the company’s name.
Vegan Options Are Iffy At Best
A&W recently announced they are selling the “Beyond Meat” burger, a vegan option that tastes pretty darn close to the real thing. It was soon revealed that the burgers are cooked on the same grill as traditional real meat burgers.
Several fast food and restaurant workers also revealed on Quora that “contamination” happens all the time. “Veggie patties are often prepared in close proximity to other foods, meaning they can often be contaminated by meat or dairy products.”
Skip The Chicken Tenders At Carl’s Jr / Hardees
Carl’s Jr. and Hardees are owned by the same company and they both make the same “hand breaded” claims about their chicken tenders. That might make the food sound fresh but that’s not necessarily the case.
“We were supposed to throw them out after 20 minutes,” says reddituser i_Ryan. “We were told not to do that. We would sometimes serve 1-2 hour old tenders.” They do have a helpful tip — simply ask for fresh chicken tenders if you have five to 10 minutes to wait. It’s sad we even have to ask.
Listen To Anthony Bourdain And Avoid Hollandaise
Does that hollandaise menu item look delicious? Chef Anthony Bourdain once warned his readers in Kitchen Confidential that they should avoid hollandaise at all costs. It could even make you sick depending on where you order it and at what point in the day.
“It’s never made to orderand sits around all day,” Bourdain writes. Even more unsettling he warns, “Bacteria love hollandaise.” The late chef says this is one of a handfulof items that have probably been “festering in the walk-in” for days.
Kobe Beef At Cheesecake Factory? You’re Being Ripped Off
So you want to treat yourself to the best of the best? Sure that Kobe beef burger for $15 at Cheesecake Factory probably sounds great but it’s not the real thing. The company is even careful to call it “American Style Kobe Beef” a former restaurant employee explains.
Kobe beef is only the real deal when it arrives from the Hyogo Prefecture in Japan where it’s certified for its unique marbling of fat and other benchmarks. Only nine restaurants currently sell real Kobe beef in the United States.
Coffee And Tea On An Airplane
Gordon Ramsay is a restauranteur with dozens of locations under his control. When he talks about food ordering and safety we listen. The famous chef says he refuses to order coffee or tea on an airplane.
The restaurant guru worked with airlines for 10 years and he says tea and coffee water is stored in tanks on airplanes and he doesn’t trust how often or how well those water tanks are cleaned. I don’t need a reason to order a screwdriver but I’ll take it. Thanks Ramsay!
Blood Mary’s When It’s Not Brunch
Bloody Mary’s can taste amazing at brunch and then awful when you try one from the same restaurant later in the day. The reason? Cheap mixes are often used if the drink isn’t a highlight of the food menu.
Former bartender, Kitty Jay, told Mash: “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,” Kitty Jay writes. Other times of the week, you’re probably just paying for a cheap Bloody Mary mix.”
Avoid Those Delicious Stadium Hot Dogs
Several stadium employees posted warnings about ordering hot dogs during a baseball game and other sports stadiums and arenas. Reddit user FreakyCheeseMan explains why they won’t touch this delicious overpriced treat.
“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. 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….” Ick.
Food At The Movie Theater. Just Don’t.
We don’t want to throw every movie theater into a single category but at least one former employee of the industry warns that ordering food with your movie ticket is risky.
Reddit user YouAteYourParents writes, “… 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.” A study by KLTV seems to have verified the former employees claim.
Pasta At Panera And Beyond
If you are going to order pasta from a non-traditional pasta restaurant you are probably going to get what you paid for as Reddit user President_Pancake explained from their time working at Panera.
“Panera- pasta; it’s all microwaved, this includes Mac and cheese.” Other Redditusers also claimed that non-restaurant specific foods were met with a similar fate. Stick to a fast food chain or restaurants highly ordered items if you want a better chance at the quality and overall freshness you desire. Reheated pasta isn’t going to be served al dente.