We’ve all been to McDonald’s so many times, it’s easy to think we know everything there is to know about the Golden Arches — the menu, the drive-thru, the ordering hacks, everything. But no matter how often you frequent Mickey D’s, there are likely a number of facts you’re not aware of. This is where McDonald’s employees come in. It’s the staff that gets to see behind the curtain and there are some things they’d like you to know.
In most cases, McDonald’s employees wish customers knew this information because it makes their job easier. And the smoother their job, the sooner you get to bite down on your Big Mac and fries. In other instances, however, employees are simply offering up some insight they’ve picked up from their time behind the register (like how to get less expensive food). Either way, here are a few things McDonald’s employees wish you knew.
Ask for fresh fries, not unsalted fries
Nothing beats a batch of hot, crispy McDonald’s fries. A carton of cold, soggy fries, on the other hand, is a major disappointment. That’s likely what gave rise to the popular McDonald’s hack of ordering unsalted fries in order to ensure you get the freshest fries possible. The logic behind this theory is sound. The fries sitting under the heat get a sprinkling of salt. If you want unsalted fries, the employee can’t use any from the batch already made. Instead, they have to make you fresh fries (and you can always add salt afterward). But it turns out there’s a much easier way to accomplish this, one that employees would prefer you follow: Just ask for fresh fries.
It might not seem like a big difference, but making a batch of unsalted fries requires significantly more work. According to former employees on Quora and Reddit, every time an unsalted order comes in, the staff has to empty the fry tray, and clean and sanitize it. This ensures salt doesn’t get to customers who really don’t want or can’t have it. Ordering fresh fries, on the other hand, cuts this step out.
Truth be told, either method is generally just giving the employee unnecessary additional work. French fries are McDonald’s most popular item, so new batches are constantly made in order to keep up with demand. This means you’re likely going to get fresh fries whether you order them that way or not.
You should always be ready to order
It might sound obvious that you should know what you want to order by the time you get to the counter or drive-thru, but according to some McDonald’s employees it’s anything but a given.
One of the biggest pet peeves of McDonald’s employees, according to those posting on Reddit, is when customers wait until they get to the front of the line until deciding what they want to eat. "I absolutely hate when the drive thru has been moving slowly and then people get to the speaker and take two minutes to decide," one shift manager wrote on Reddit. "You’ve been sitting there for at least three minutes so far, why didn’t you decide what you wanted then?!" Another problem is customers giving particularly vague orders, like a Happy Meal "for a boy," a "woman’s drink," or simply "a sandwich."
Being ready to order doesn’t mean just knowing what you want to eat, it also includes being prepared to complete the transaction, also known as being ready to pay. This means both having the money and having it ready in a convenient form. One employee complained of customers ordering at the counter only to then say they had to go to their car to get their money. Others claimed they often have customers paying for their entire meal in change. It’s easier — and faster — for everyone, if you have your money ready to go.
It’s not the employee’s fault the ice cream machine is broken
It seems like most every McDonald’s customer has a love-hate relationship with the ice cream machine. We crave the icy treat it provides but loathe the fact that it always seems to be broken when we’re most in the mood for refreshing ice cream. But McDonald’s employees want you to know that they get just as frustrated with the ice cream machine as you, and if you want to point blame at its constant malfunctioning, look at the manufacturer. According to one former McDonald’s employee posting on Reddit, the machine is poorly designed. "The ice cream machines are just not cleaned properly and display dumb error codes nobody but an authorized dude knows," they write. "So blame the machine maker because they provide bad instructions and no troubleshooting help."
A second staff member confirmed the ice cream machine’s inherent failures. It turns out, oftentimes the machine isn’t actually broken but instead going through a several-hour-long cleaning process. If anything goes wrong during this time, employees have to restart the process from the beginning. This also usually involves calling a technician to come fix it, since nobody really knows how to operate the machine.
So the next time you get to the McDonald’s drive-thru window on a hot summer day only to learn the ice cream machine is down, be disappointed, but know it wasn’t the fault of anybody in the kitchen.
Only cars can order from the McDonald’s drive-thru
If you’re walking home after a late night and pass a McDonald’s that only has its drive-thru open, it sure can be tempting to try to turn the drive-thru into a walk-thru. Unfortunately, it’s not going to work. McDonald’s policy states that the restaurant, "cannot serve pedestrians and vehicles at the same outdoor service point." This is mainly due to safety concerns — having pedestrians and cars share the same space is bound to create some accidents.
But one former employee explained on Quora why the no-pedestrian policy helps McDonald’s staff. There are only so many cars that can fit into a drive-thru lane at one time. This allows the restaurant to keep up with orders even during the busiest times. If McDonald’s opened up the drive-thru to pedestrians, who take up much less space, employees could be bombarded by dozens and dozens of orders. This would be particularly nightmarish during late nights, when fast food restaurants tend to have a smaller crew working and less of an ability to handle a rush of customers.
No, McDonald’s doesn’t have a secret menu
Whether it’s an Animal Style burger from In-N-Out or the peanut butter and bacon SmokeShack from Shake Shack, secret menu items have become all the rage. After all, who wouldn’t want to indulge in the outlandish concoctions the staff and customers have created. But search all you want, you won’t find any such items at McDonald’s.
You may have heard of some secretive items, but they’re all just customization to standard McDonald’s food or creations you have to assemble yourself. One such item in the latter category is widely known as the Land, Sea, and Air Burger. It consists of a cheeseburger, McChicken, and Filet-O-Fish purchased individually and then all stacked together.
The problem with trying to crack the secret code and order one of these items by name is that there’s a good chance the employee taking your order doesn’t know what you’re referring to. You can save each other both some grief by just asking for something on the menu and then customizing it yourself however you like.
But feel free to order a grilled cheese from McDonald’s
Although there is not a secret menu at McDonald’s, there is one off-menu item that you can in fact order: a grilled cheese sandwich.
According to several McDonald’s employees, the staff is accustomed to making this culinary staple, even though it’s not on the menu. But it’s how they make it that may be different depending on the store you visit. One employee posted on Reddit that their restaurant, "put cheese between two backwards buns and grilled it." A second staffer claimed their store’s recipe "was to toast 2 middle buns of a big mac, put two slices of cheese, and cook it in the microwave for 10s."
Another employee of the Golden Arches revealed that when a grilled cheese sandwich comes in, "It goes through our system as a cheeseburger with everything removed, except the bun and cheese." So, should you ever happen upon a McDonald’s that won’t serve a grilled cheese, now you know how to order one: cheeseburger, everything removed except the bun and cheese.
There’s a cheaper way to get a Big Mac
Don’t say McDonald’s employees never did anything for you. This ingenious hack, courtesy of the professionals at McDonald’s, will get you a delectable Big Mac for a delicious discount.
"The big mac is just a double cheese burger with 1000 island dressing, lettuce and a extra piece of bread," one McDonald’s employee posted on Reddit. "If you order a double add lettuce and big mac sauce, you get the same thing with less bread and cheaper price." Another Redditor doubled down on this life-affirming trick. "The McDouble, add Mac sauce has seriously changed my life," they wrote. "I’ve helped change many lives over the years by sharing this and I hope more people learn of this."
There may not be a secret McDonald’s menu, but there is at least one way to hack the menu that’s offered. So next time, instead of ordering an item not on the menu, just try outsmarting the menu.
There’s a good reason why you may be asked to park at the McDonald’s drive-thru
We’ve all been there before –- you place an order in the drive-thru only to get to the window and be told to go park your car. It might seem like an inconvenience to you, but employees ask you to do this for a very good reason: their jobs may depend on it. Sound extreme? Maybe. But McDonald’s employees are expected to keep the drive-thru line moving, and even slight delays can add up to big problems. One McDonald’s shift manager claimed that, "Every three seconds you save in drive is equivalent to 1% sales increase." So even asking you to park for 30 seconds is a significant savings for the restaurant.
As another Redditor pointed out, McDonald’s keeps track of the time it takes for each car to get its food. If your McNuggets, say, still need two more minutes to cook but the car behind you orders a Big Mac that’s ready to go, it makes more sense to have the other car "pass" you. Your food won’t get to you faster whether you’re waiting at the window or in the parking lot. The employees, however, can show that they kept the line moving and in doing so, earned McDonald’s more money by getting customers in and out quickly.
Drive-thru employees can hear what’s going on in your car
Be careful what you say while in the drive-thru, at least if you’re on the shyer side. Those intercoms work both ways, meaning the McDonald’s employees staffing the drive-thru can hear what’s being said in your car. One former McDonald’s manager claimed that employees can hear everything going on the entire time, even before the employee greets you. "When you pull up to the McDonald’s drive-thru with your car, a loud beep goes through the headpiece," she wrote. "Then we hear your car running the whole time you’re sitting there and while taking your order."
Another employee on Reddit confirmed as much, stating that the customer always has an open mic. "If we don’t answer you right away — we can hear everything. If we apologize and say we’ll be with you in a minute — you’re not on hold, we can hear everything. If you’ve ordered but the drive-thru line won’t let you pull ahead yet — we can hear every single thing you’re saying." While McDonald’s employees certainly get to overhear some funny and entertaining customer conversations, that’s not always the case. The same Redditor claimed that they "wish I could forget some of the stuff I’ve heard." So, unless you want to air some personal details of your life to an entire McDonald’s kitchen, hold the conversation until you get home.
You can’t get a McDonald’s burger until lunch
Most people who make it to McDonald’s before noon do so to enjoy to enjoy an Egg McMuffin, Sausage McGriddle, Hotcakes, or any one of McDonald’s delectable breakfast items. But should you have a craving for beef at this time of day, you’re going to have to find a different fast food restaurant. You can’t order a burger, or any non-breakfast menu item, at McDonald’s until lunch, starting at 10:30 a.m. Customers may have thought this policy ended in 2015 when McDonald’s unveiled all-day breakfast (which was rolled back last year). But while the breakfast menu expanded to afternoons and evenings, the regular menu didn’t get the morning treatment.
McDonald’s claims there simply isn’t enough interest in burgers in the morning to warrant offering them. There are also operational issues to consider. As one former employee explained, employees have to cook breakfast and lunch items on the same grills but since they need to be cooked at different temperatures, only one menu can be prepared at a time.
Asking for a receipt could improve the quality of your McDonald’s food order
Why would anyone ever ask for a receipt from a fast food restaurant? Are you going to return the food? Probably not, but there’s another reason why it may be a good idea to request proof of that Big Mac. It turns out, asking for a receipt at McDonald’s could help ensure you get the best meal.
You can thank McDonald’s employees for this helpful hack. According to one Quora poster who previously worked for the Golden Arches, asking for a receipt will make employees believe you’re a mystery shopper. These shoppers are paid to visit and rate the store. (They ask for the receipts to prove they were there and to be reimbursed for their expenses.) Their rating then goes back to restaurant management. Needless to say, McDonald’s staff wants to make sure their rating is as high as possible. So just by asking for a receipt, you’ll likely get a fresh burger and fries as quickly as they can be made.
McDonald’s employees work long, difficult hours – so be nice!
Flipping burgers is the easiest job in the world, right? Well, maybe when you’re in your backyard and you have a cold drink in your hand. If you’re behind the counter of a fast food restaurant, it’s a different story. The truth is, McDonald’s employees work long, difficult shifts.
In a Quora thread asking if working at McDonald’s is difficult, nearly all the respondents agreed that it is. "McDonald’s expects you to not only do quality work, but to do it quickly. There is always something else to do," a restaurant shift manager wrote. "There is no end of the tunnel. There is always more orders and more cleaning and more things to do than there is time in the day." Another worker reminded readers that McDonald’s employees are on their feet for their entire shift. Additionally, many McDonald’s workers have complained of understaffing, which creates increased workloads and hazardous work environments. And employees are rewarded with just a few bucks an hour.
If this wasn’t bad enough, employees often have to deal with unruly customers. "The average person tends to treat McDonald’s employees like they came out of a garbage can. They’re rude, nasty, sometimes violent," one employee posted on the same Quora thread. Keep this in mind next time you’re at McDonald’s and the staff gets your order wrong -– they’re very likely doing the best they can, and "please" and "thank you" will go a long way.