If you’re especially picky about the kind of food you eat or the way your food is prepared, it’s probably more likely that when you’re in need of a quick lunch you’d hit up a trendy, all-organic, hipster salad place long before you would hit the drive-thru of a fast food joint. After all the horror stories you’ve heard about employees doing unthinkable things to the food they’re serving you, or the tales of food being stored in warming drawers for hours on end, it’s understandable that you’d opt for a tiny $27 salad over a $5 value meal.
But let’s say that an intense craving for a chocolate Frosty hits, and you find yourself headed for the Wendy’s drive-thru, your usual diet of greens be damned. What should you order to eat with that Frosty, and is the Frosty even a safe bet?
When it comes to what not to order, we’re not just talking about high calorie count here. We combed Reddit to find the worst offenders on the Wendy’s menu, from sketchy food preparation practices to gross revelations about the cleanliness of equipment. As always, you should take the tea that these alleged current and former employees spill on Reddit with a grain of salt, but here’s what those who say they’re in-the-know recommend strongly against ordering at Wendy’s.
Fries, if you want ’em fresh
When it comes to fast food french fries, you might not consider Wendy’s to be the cream of the crop. They are competing with McDonald’s, after all, who happen to have the very best fries on the face of the earth. But regardless of whether or not Wendy’s take top honors, french fries are still an essential part of any fast food meal, and you’d be remiss not to order them to go alongside your Baconator. Or would you?
You know that hack that’s been floating around the internet for years — the one that suggests that for the freshest fries you ask for "no salt"? Well, according to one Redditor, "’unsalted fries’ were just old fries thrown back in the fryer for 30 seconds to ‘get the salt off.’" Another Redditor suggests that skipping the whole pretense of no salt and just flat out asking for fresh fries is also pointless, saying, "My fiancee used to work at Wendy’s and would tell me about how it was super common practice when people asked for fresh fires to just take the fries already in the warmer and put them in the fryer again just long enough to heat them back up."
Apparently the saying amongst Wendy’s employees about the fries is true: "They aren’t old until they’re sold."
You won’t find the fish sandwich on the Wendy’s menu year-round, but it does pop up seasonally, and you’re likely to find it during Lent. Whereas McDonald’s famous Filet-O-Fish is made with pollack, the Wendy’s offering is made with North Pacific cod. While some prefer the classic Mickey D’s version, others pick Wendy’s as tops. The question is: Should you order it?
If you take it from these two in-the-know Redditors, the answer is no.
One employee dished, "I work at Wendy’s and I will say that the worst thing to get is the fish. When I started a month ago they brought out a new bag of fish, and the same bag is still there."
Another former employee agreed, saying, "As for a specific thing at Wendy’s I wouldn’t order is the fish, it’s just common enough to keep around, but as for how often we would get a new shipment… let’s just say some of those fishes could have been old enough to have a birthday."
Maybe freezer-burn is part of its charm, though?
We’ve long been cautioned against fast food salads that masquerade as the healthiest choice on the menu but actually pack in more calories, fat, and sugar than the biggest, cheesiest burger. But we’re not here to talk about what’s healthy — we’re here to talk about what’s gross, and according to these Redditors, Wendy’s salads might be just that.
This insider warned diners from ordering them too early in the day, saying, "Don’t order salads from Wendy’s until at least 12:30. The first salads are yesterday’s salads that have been flipped upside down and a layer of lettuce taken off the bottom." Presumably, that layer would be the mushy, brown lettuce.
Another former employee explained that the chain’s seasonal salads with berries can be a roll of the dice, saying, "… Strawberries for some reason are the easiest to get moldy even while sitting in the walk in fridge. The kicker is employees will ask managers to throw them out but the manager will just tell you to pick the ones without mold in them and wash it a bit. When I worked there I literally had to sneak those moldy batches into the trash can."
Anything with cheese sauce
Mmm… cheese sauce. Not quite liquid, not quite solid, but 100 percent delicious. Who cares if it can’t even be classified as real cheese? Who cares if it contains over 20 ingredients? We’re willing to overlook a lot when it comes to cheese sauce, but these Wendy’s insiders who spilled the tea on Reddit have us questioning our next order of Baconator fries.
According to one Redditor, the cheese sauce topping your baked potato might be a lot less cheesy than you’d hoped for, thanks to shady food prep practices. They warned, "… watch out for the liquid cheese. Some managers will make the crew pour boiling water from the coffee maker into it when it’s almost out to ‘make more.’"
Anything with bacon
Say it isn’t so… how in the world could bacon possibly be on any "what not to order list"? Let’s be honest, Wendy’s bacon isn’t exactly the thickest, meatiest bacon we’ve ever seen, but even the thinnest, cheapest bacon deserves our love and affection, doesn’t it? What if that thin, cheap, already-cooked bacon sat around for a week, though? Or what if, possibly even worse, it was burnt to a crisp? That could be the fate of the bacon on your sandwiches and fries at Wendy’s, says these Redditors who dished on what never to order at the chain.
"Avoid getting anything with bacon at Wendy’s," one Redditor said. "Usually the bacon is a couple days old, if not a week, and it’s just stored in open trays in a fridge. It’s pretty nasty sometimes… "
Another specified that it’s the Baconator fries you should avoid, because "they use the bacon that got too burnt to use on burgers." And don’t forget, Baconator fries also come topped with cheese sauce, which might be watered down, lumpy, or both. Yum.
No, severed digits are actually not the reason Wendy’s insiders say to avoid the chili (that was a hoax, in case you hadn’t heard). And really, if you go into it expecting fingers and don’t get them, you’re already ahead, right?
But while you might not have to worry about body parts, Wendy’s employees still have a lot to say about the chain’s chili — in particular, the method in which it’s made. In Reddit threads asking employees what not to order from their fast food joints, Wendy’s chili dominates the conversation.
Here’s a fairly typical example: "Wendy’s chili. It’s made from dried up, leftover hamburger meat. It sits in bags of its own grease in the freezer for god knows how long, until it’s pulled out and boiled. Then it’s mixed with giant cans of beans and tomatoes that smell like vomit, and boiled again for hours. Whatever wasn’t used at the end of the night was poured back into vats and stored in the walk in until it would be reheated in the morning."
And another standard claim: "Wendys chili is made with the old leftover unserved burger meat. After its sat in the plastic bins under a heater (sometimes for hours, all day) its chopped up and soaked in water. Then packaged up in large plastic bags and stored in the freezer till used."
Wendy’s chili: Delicious? Maybe. Questionable cooking procedures? Also maybe.
Chili, for another reason
Whether or not you’re on board with the practice of using burger rejects in chili, one thing’s for sure: If you’re lactose intolerant, or have a milk allergy, Wendy’s chili is not the dish for you.
According to a Wendy’s employee, "… a new procedure was just implemented to put a slice of cheese on the patty immediately after it comes off the grill. We are told to scrape as much cheese off as possible and to still use it as chili meat. If you’re lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy please do not order the chili now."
It turns out this isn’t just one location doing some sketchy cheese-scraping. Sure enough, if you check the allergens for Wendy’s chili, you’ll find milk listed. The company explained the change in their cooking procedure, saying, "Wendy’s hamburgers have always served as the meat base for chili. For quite some time, Wendy’s has included a ‘may contain’ milk statement on its allergen information related to chili because hamburgers are cooked on the same grill as, and may come in contact with, ingredients containing milk such as cheese. The recent changes to cooking procedures for hamburgers introduces meat with some cheese directly into the chili."
In a perfect world, there would be two things on the Wendy’s menu that employees across the country can agree is on the "do order" list: the Frosty and the french fries. Because really, is there any better fast food treat than salty fries dipped in a chocolate Frosty?
Unfortunately, we already know that fries are on the "maybe don’t order" list for being less than fresh, but now the Frosty? If what these Redditors say is true, it’s best to avoid your former favorite frozen treat.
Says one Redditor, "Never order Frostys at Wendy’s. Most employees don’t care to properly clean out the Frosty machine correctly. The leftover Frosty is poured into buckets and left in the fridge overnight. Sometimes they’re even too lazy to wrap the top of the bucket, leaving it wide open for anything to get in. We pour the leftover Frosty from the buckets back in the machine at open."
Another former worker put it simply, saying, "The frosty machine was rarely ever cleaned…"
Cue the inconsolable sobbing.
Ketchup, when you’re dining in
We get it — you’re trying to be environmentally-conscious by not requesting those individual plastic packets that are no doubt clogging up landfills. But unless you’ve actually lifted the lid of the ketchup dispenser in the dining room to verify its cleanliness, you might want to think twice about pumping from it.
That’s according to this former employee, who said, "Worked at Wendy’s when in high school… I was filling up the catsup pumps. The catsup comes in gallon or so plastic bags and you just take the lid off the pump, and squeeze this whole gallon of catsup in there. The store manager […] walks by and goes. ‘Here’s a tip whenever you eat out, never get catsup from this pump. They don’t get cleaned.’ […] So yeah, the inside of the catsup pump may look like a reverse catsup volcano. Old, petrified catsup on the outside borders of the bin (and probably inside the pump nozzle), with slightly less gross, hard layers a little further in, and eventually mushy and red enough to make it through the pump, into your little port-o-catsup container."
What could possibly be wrong with Wendy’s nuggets? Bet you never would have thought that melted plastic might be part of the chain’s secret recipe. But it turns out that depending on which location you hit, it just might be…
One Redditor — perhaps inexplicably, but hey, we’re just here for the tea — dished on his ex-wife’s shady (if not kind of genius) nugget-making practice, saying, "When they were about to fry a new batch of chicken nuggets, the other employees would just dip the bottom of the plastic bag into the fryer so that it would melt and the nuggets would fall out. They were too f***ing lazy to open the bag properly."
And much like the fries, this former worker confessed that the nuggets they were serving might not have been as fresh as you’d expect, saying, "Ex-Wendy’s employee here. Those chicken nuggets are usually old as hell… and the warmup for new orders is to throw them in the fryer for a sec so they look fresh."
We’d all very much like to believe that the fast food workers handling our orders are following strict, company-enforced guidelines when it comes to hygiene. In fact, we need to believe that to continue patronizing these places. But one employee blew the lid off Wendy’s corporate policy when it came to manning the grill, and not only might this information make you hesitant to order burgers and grilled chicken sandwiches, but, oddly, cookies, too.
The worker explained in a Reddit AMA, "Well in company training the person […] on grill (someone on grill makes burgers, all chicken, chili, bacon, cookies etc.) are not allowed to wear gloves when handling meat of any kind. Yes NOT allowed! While all employees are required to wash their hands (duh) I personally would prefer if they wore gloves. However it is company policy."
While it’s obviously nice to hear that hand-washing is required, can we be certain that employees are scrubbing up at all, let alone doing so properly? Gloves really would go a long way in making us all feel better about the food we’re eating.
Lemonade and soda
According to the Wendy’s website, their "real lemonade" is "all-natural" and has "no artificial ingredients or preservatives." According to these Redditors, though, employees aren’t exactly squeezing lemons in the back to whip up a fresh-from-the-tree beverage, so if that’s what you’re expecting, you might be a tad disappointed.
Said one worker, "The ‘fresh’ lemonade comes from a carton and mixed with tap water." Another echoed the same sentiment, saying, "… honestly the fresh handmade lemonade is a lie that stuff is frozen concentrate honestly just go ahead and order the Minute Maid lemonade from the soda fountain it’s cheaper."
Okay, so you can save yourself a bit of money with that order of Minute Maid instead of lemonade. Good tip, right? Maybe not. Because when it comes to the soda machines, one Redditor warned against those, too, saying, "… soda fountain nozzles were just put in a bucket of water for a few minutes. Never saw them scrubbed." Combine that with the probably disgusting ice machine, and well, bottled water might just be the best option here.
One of the perks of the Wendy’s menu is the baked potato — no other fast food chain offers this particular menu item. Sure, it’s easy enough to make one at home, it just takes an inordinate amount of time — unless you use the microwave, which leads to that weird, chewy skin nobody likes. That’s precisely the appeal of the Wendy’s baked potato — you don’t have to do it yourself. Plus, the chain promises that they "cook them from a raw state, in an oven, wrapped in foil, baked for an hour, just like you would at home."
But one former employee warns that they might not always be freshly oven-baked, saying, "If you come during/at the end of a lunch or dinner rush and you order a baked potato, there’s a decent chance you’re getting a microwaved potato."
If the turnover isn’t high, the freshness could still be questionable, as this former Wendy’s manager explained: "If you order a baked potato, and see that it is a translucent brown color, don’t eat it. Hell, after a certain time frame, don’t order them at all. They take over an hour to bake, and then they are supposed to sit in a heat drawer for only one more hour. I used to find potatoes that were absolutely squishy from sitting in the bin all day."
One more sketchy piece of intel: Another former employee says the potatoes in their store were "stored on the ground and mopped around every day."