Everyone has a soft spot for their favorite fast food restaurant, but it’s not exactly surprising that behind the drive-thru windows and shiny counters, all is not always as it appears. While most fast food restaurants surprisingly boast excellent health scores and cleanliness standards, there may still be sacrifices in quality behind the scenes in order to save time and money.
Most fast food places are franchises, so it’s important to remember that while the company may have certain standards for all of their restaurants, the individual locations could operate slightly differently. But from deceptive names to sketchy ingredients and prep methods, it’s apparent that there are quite a few secrets floating around the fast food industry. Employees from a variety of restaurants have taken to the internet to share helpful tips for dining at their former workplaces. Here are some of the juiciest secrets that the average consumer wouldn’t know.
Subway sub rolls aren’t allowed to be called ‘bread’ in Ireland
We all know the smell of Subway bread. Its deliciously sweet scent can be sensed from a mile away, whether it be walking down the street, at the local Walmart, or browsing the mall food court. But there’s a reason that bread smells so delicious and is incredibly addicting — it’s actually full of sugar, with sugar making up 10% of its overall composition. Yup, even the super savory Italian herb & cheese bread. Tragic. But Ireland actually has standards for any bread sold within its borders; it has to clock in at less than 2% sugar. So Subway can’t actually call their bread "bread." They use the name "sub rolls" instead.
If you were wondering how this even came about, a franchisee in Galway, Ireland tried to challenge a takeout food tax, arguing that it didn’t apply to his Subway restaurant because bread was a "staple food." Five judges concluded that Subway bread doesn’t count as a "staple food" because it isn’t actually bread at all. The takeaway from this story? Maybe we should raise our food standards here in the States.
Panera’s soup isn’t as fresh as you may think
If you were a child of the suburbs, chances are you made quite a few visits to Panera during your youth. Moms love it for the variety of options to satisfy any picky kid, and the broccoli cheddar soup became a staple in the diet of many American kids raised in the early 2000s. However, a former employee revealed that Panera’s soup isn’t as fresh as you might think, and those delicious bread bowls are actually filled with soup that arrives frozen in a bag and is thawed in a sink with a special heating system that is rarely cleaned.
But that’s not all. The same employee shared that sometimes the bagged soup would burst in the sink, and the soup that survived would still be cut open with scissors found in the manager’s office or in the prep line. If that’s not bad enough, it’s transported from the sink to the soup line in a pitcher that’s rarely ever cleaned.
Get the most bang for your buck at Chipotle
Yes, we all know guac is extra, but did you know that you’re probably paying too much for what you actually get at Chipotle? A former employee shared that the tacos and burritos at Chipotle contain significantly less food than the bowl. Instead, they recommend ordering a bowl with all your favorite fixins and free tortillas or taco shells on the side. That way, you can build your own tacos or burrito and get the most bang for your buck.
Also, if you ask for half and half meat (for example, you could order half chicken, half steak) the employee might be nice enough to give you full scoops of both, which ends up being double the meat. And depending on how much you eat, you might be able to get two meals out of the bowl. Prices vary by location, but that nets out to like $4-5 per meal, which is pretty exceptional.
Beware of the gourmet veggie club
Jimmy John’s is a great spot for the semi-health-conscious folks out there, offering lettuce wraps and all-natural meats on their menu. But the Gourmet Veggie Club at Jimmy John’s isn’t quite as healthy as it seems. Clocking in at 670 calories on regular French bread (1,350 for the giant size), this sandwich has the highest amount of calories on the menu, besides the aptly named "Gargantuan," which boasts five different types of meat.
You might wonder why this deceptively named "veggie sandwich" contains so many calories. It’s because it has double the cheese of the regular sandwiches, which ends up being eight slices. It also contains avocado spread, which has a high fat content, making it a calorically dense ingredient. If you’re watching your calories, you may want to steer clear of this one and opt for something lighter, like a Turkey Tom Unwich, which contains 250 calories.
Your veggie pizza might still contain meat products
Pizza is a late-night staple food, so when all of your friends are ordering it at midnight, you should be able to make something work even if you follow a plant-based diet. You’d think that a pizza with just sauce, veggies, and no cheese is harmless, but think again. Some pizza sauces actually contain animal fat, which may or may not be listed in the ingredients.
One Redditor wouldn’t say exactly which pizza chain they worked for, but they described it as "red and green with a weird guy with a jet pack." After further research, it appears to be Jet’s Pizza, which has locations in 20 states and serves Detroit-style pizza.
Actually, most fast food pizza chains have sauces with questionable ingredients disguised as "natural flavors" and "proprietary blends," so you can’t safely assume that a tomato sauce is completely plant-based. But honestly, it can’t be as bad as that deliciously mysterious garlic butter sauce served at some other pizza chains.
The difference between Domino’s mild and hot wings is just the amount of sauce
After eating Domino’s buffalo wings, you may never order a pizza from the chain again without a side of wings. The meat practically falls off the bone and they’re served with a generous amount of sauce, making them perfectly spicy, saucy, and delicious. However, one Dominos employee revealed that the only difference between their "mild" and "hot" wings is the quantity of sauce. They just put more of the same buffalo sauce on their hot wings. It seems like a weird method, but we can get behind it if that means super saucy wings.
Speaking of sauces, the employee shared another revelation: "Very rarely do we take notice of ‘no garlic,’ ‘light/extra buffalo sauce,’ or ‘well/lightly done,’" they wrote, "so if you order with any of those things, keep in mind that drivers usually prepare the food and box it out of the oven. Unless specifically told, it’s difficult to spot the instructions given by a customer." In other words, if you want something made exactly to your specifications, it might be best to just call in that order.
A Dunkin’ employee exposed the company’s secrets on TikTok
Dunkin’ recently went through a rebrand, but we all remember the OG Dunkin’ Donuts. There were probably a bunch of reasons why they wanted to change the name, but the biggest one might be that the donuts and other baked goods at Dunkin’ aren’t actually baked in the store, as the name might imply. One employee took to TikTok to expose the secrets of the coffee chain, showing frozen baked goods and breakfast items that didn’t even look like what they were supposed to be.
The employee, who goes by @hannz57 on TikTok, made a series of videos exposing Dunkin’s secrets behind the counter once she decided she was quitting and put in her two weeks. In the videos, she shared that the pink velvet and French vanilla syrups are the same with different food coloring, and that the avocado for avocado toast comes pre-packaged and "tastes like tuna."
Taco Bell cinnamon twists are just fried pasta
If you do a quick Google search, you’ll learn that several people have shared that Taco Bell’s Cinnamon Twists are just deep fried corn noodles coated in cinnamon sugar. Seriously. Before frying, the cinnamon twists look like rotini noodles going in, and puff up after the frying process is complete. Their ingredients include wheat flour, yellow corn meal, rice flour, and salt. You could say that Taco Bell was way ahead of the pasta chip TikTok trend.
And while we’re talking about Taco Bell, it would be a shame not to mention the biggest not-so-secret of all: Taco Bell’s meat is only 88% beef and it arrives at the restaurant in a bag. But honestly, the other 12% isn’t all that alarming. It contains a mixture of onion powder, sea salt, chili pepper, and other spices, as well as some preservatives and other additives. But the most surprising ingredient of all has to be cocoa powder, which they claim they use sparingly for color richness. Basically, Taco Bell gets really creative with their ingredients. Frying pasta, adding cocoa powder to beef mixture … what’s next, cayenne pepper in a Baja Blast?
Grande and Venti espresso drinks at Starbucks contain the same amount of espresso
The next time you find yourself walking in late with a latte from Starbucks, remember that size doesn’t really matter there. Actually, all of the grande and venti espresso drinks have the exact same amount of espresso — one shot unless you order more. A grande is 16 ounces while a venti is 20, and many of us definitely forget which one is which every time, to the disappointment of our baristas. Either way, that’s four more ounces of milk that you’re paying for.
After a former employee shared this on Reddit, people were quick to reply with their takes. One Reddit user claimed, "This is true for almost every coffee joint, including the bougie roasteries that pride themselves on their special hand-crafted bean juice." Another mentioned that they should specify that this only applies to hot drinks, not cold ones. A venti iced latte gets three shots of espresso while a grande iced latte gets two.
Stuffed crust pizza is just string cheese in pizza dough
There’s nothing quite like the power that Pizza Hut has over us with their cheesy stuffed crust pizza commercials. They somehow make it look so cheesy and melty and delicious, making you want one right now. But you may be surprised to learn that Pizza Hut and Little Caesar’s stuffed crust pizzas are actually just string cheese sticks rolled into dough.
Throughout the years, Pizza Hut has experimented with specialty crusts, starting in 1995 with their original stuffed crust, which is still going strong today. But in the past, the chain has tested out crusts featuring tater tots, garlic knots, hot dogs, and more, including a mini cheeseburger pizza that was briefly available in the Middle East. At this point, Pizza Hut is challenging all pizza crust norms and their wildest ideas are probably still yet to come. We can’t wait for the taco crust.
The trick to getting fresh eggs at McDonald’s breakfast
Picture this. It’s the weekend, you wake up a bit groggy from the night before, and nothing is going to cure your woes like a McDonald’s breakfast. A former employee shared a hack for getting fresh items on your breakfast sandwich (if, of course, you’re willing to wait a few more minutes). "If you want something fresh on your breakfast sandwich, order anything with rounders on it," the employee claims. "Those were eggs cooked fresh in a little ring mold on the grill. The bright yellow folded eggs were frozen."
In their post, they also explained why McDonald’s is so strict about switching between breakfast and lunch times — and why they can’t just make a breakfast item for you at 5pm unless you have an in. "The grill needs to be set on a different temperature for breakfast than lunch/dinner. That’s why they have a breakfast cut off time. Better hope someone doesn’t change the grill back to breakfast to make something for a friend, then never set it back, leading to dozens of undercooked burgers that day."
Most drive-thrus have cameras
Have you ever wondered whether employees can see you when you’re ordering at the drive-thru? How do they know you’re there? Well, it depends on the chain, but many fast food restaurants do have cameras at the menu board for order efficiency. Previously, they were used to help sense when a car was there, but most restaurants now use the same technology as traffic lights that detect an oncoming car from magnetic sensors, not a camera. This makes a sound in the headset, where the employee presses a button to activate their microphone.
Luckily for us, most fast food employees don’t care too much about the video feed, and they definitely don’t care about what you look like. So next time you roll through the Starbucks drive through before you’ve even gotten ready for the day, know that the employees couldn’t care less and are probably doing a million other things besides looking at you.