It’s no secret that the food at fast food joints can be hit or miss. Sometimes you’d really rather not know why a McDonald’s hamburger doesn’t ever seem to go bad (hint: it’s actually not as bad as you think), or what’s really in those greasy fries you love so much. Still, there are times when it can be helpful to know the foods you should absolutely avoid when hitting up the drive-thru — especially if it’s because they’re unsafe, unsanitary, or just plain nasty.
No one knows what really goes on in the kitchens of your favorite fast food joints better than the staff, so several fast food workers (past and present) responded to an AskReddit thread to tell us exactly that. These are the menu items you should never order according to the people who know exactly how they’re made. Read on, and place your next fast food order very carefully.
Jimmy John’s Gourmet Veggie Club
When it comes to favorites, each and every one of us has our own. Favorite football team. Favorite Star Wars movie. Favorite dessert. Favorite pizza. And favorite sub shop, of course. For a lot of people, the answer to that is a wholehearted, "Jimmy John’s!" But even if you’re a die-hard, devoted super-fan of this popular chain, you should know that there’s one thing you just shouldn’t order — at least, not according to the people who work there.
When Redditors asked, "Fast food workers — What should we never order from you?" one Jimmy John’s employee spoke up and warned fellow Redditors against ordering the Gourmet Veggie Club. The problem, they say, is that it’s easy to look at an all-veggie sub and think it’s a healthy option. In reality, it’s anything but.
Let’s talk worst case scenario here: you order a 16-inch, 9-grain wheat sub. Sounds like a pretty solid choice, doesn’t it? It’s all veggies, and veggies are good for you. So is 9-grain wheat. There’s fat, sure, but avocado is good fat, right? It might seem that way, but let’s look at the numbers.
That sub — with no substitutions or additions — clocks in at a calorie count higher than what you should be eating for the whole day: 2080 calories. More than half of those calories—1180—come from fat. And speaking of fat, you’re also getting 134 grams of that. Yikes!
We’ll put that into perspective. If you had chosen McDonald’s instead, you could eat four Big Macs, have only a few more calories (2160), and less fat! Those four Big Macs only contain 112 grams of fat, and when you start using the word "only" when it comes to Big Macs? There’s a big problem.
The Mayo Clinic says that if you’re on a 2000-calorie-a-day diet, only between 400 and 700 calories should come from fat. That’s between 44 and 78 grams of fat each day, and we don’t have to point out that one of those Gourmet Veggie Club sandwiches comes in at way, way more than that. Even if you get the smaller versions of the sub, you’re looking at getting your day’s daily value in pretty much every size. Even the Unwich, which means it’s wrapped in lettuce instead of bread, contains 55 grams of fat!
Now, let’s share some more bad news. The American Heart Association has some definite recommendations when it comes to sodium, and they say adults should realistically limit their salt intake to 2300 mg per day. Sodium is in a ton of foods, though, and if you want to talk about what’s ideal, that number shouldn’t be higher than 1500 mg. Our 16-inch, 9-grain wheat Gourmet Veggie Club sandwich from Jimmy John’s has more than twice that ideal limit: 3230 mg of sodium.
Who would have thought a veggie sub would be high blood pressure and a heart attack on a roll? And we’re not even done yet.
Finally, let’s talk about the sugar. Wait, sugar in a veggie sub? Absolutely. The American Heart Association recommends women limit their sugar intake to 25 grams (or 6 teaspoons) per day, and men limit their sugar consumption to 36 grams (or 9 teaspoons). Our same 16-inch Gourmet Veggie Club has a pretty shocking 22 grams of sugar! To use McDonald’s to put that in perspective again, a vanilla cone from the Golden Arches has about the same amount of sugar (24 grams).
Most of the problem here comes from the double provolone and the mayo. Another Redditor volunteered, "…the standard amount of mayo we’re supposed to put on there is disgusting," and another suggested if you have your heart set on this monstrous sandwich, you should at least skip the mayo and opt for adding some of the freebies — like peppers and onions — to make up for the flavor you’re losing without the mayo.
When it comes to monsters on the Jimmy John’s menu, there’s only one sub that’s comparable: the JJ Gargantuan. That tops the Gourmet Veggie Club by 150 calories, and strangely, it actually has less fat — 1040 grams for a 16-inch, 9-grain wheat. But here’s the thing. No one expects a sandwich called the Gargantuan to be healthy, and that makes it sort of acceptable. You know what you’re getting — a massive sandwich, and way more than you should probably be eating for the whole day. (The Gargantuan also has a mind-numbing 7120 mg of sodium, meaning anyone concerned about their blood pressure or heart health absolutely shouldn’t be ordering this one.)
But the Gourmet Veggie Club? It sounds healthy, and at a glance it even looks like it should be. Anyone who stops it at a Jimmy John’s and happens to be watching what they eat would probably at least consider this one. There’s plenty of vegetables in it, sure, but there’s also way more than a healthy serving of mayo and cheese — and that makes this sandwich a very, very deceiving fail. Skip it — even employees recommend giving this one a miss.
"Wait… Domino’s has sandwiches??"
That’s one of the responses on a Reddit thread where an employee warns us what we should never, ever order from Domino’s, and it illustrates the point pretty perfectly. Did you know Domino’s has subs? No? It’s not surprising, then, that the ingredients might be less-than-fresh.
"At Domino’s, don’t order the Philly steak or American cheese," the Redditor says. "… it’s only used on the sandwiches and one specialty pizza, so it usually goes bad…"
The ingredients usually get thrown out before they’re used, the employee notes, but that’s pretty much a textbook example of something that you might not want to leave to chance. When ingredients are only used on one or two things that aren’t a chain’s best-seller, there’s a good chance that keeping on top of freshness and labeling might get overlooked.
There’s also the possibility a manager or enterprising employee might try to stretch ingredients just a few more days, and that might leave you regretting your life choices. There’s no one in the world that wants to eat steak and cheese that’s gone past their prime, after all.
And on top of that, there are a lot of people on Reddit who are of the opinion that Domino’s subs just aren’t worth it. When one person asked the hive mind whether or not they were worth ordering, there were a few reasons people suggested giving them a miss.
One volunteered this bit of simple economics: "They are priced too high to be worth it to me. You could get a medium pizza instead and have way more food."
A look at their app says there is some truth to this argument. Prices vary by location, of course, but their sandwiches tend to ring in at about $7.50. Their medium pizzas usually cost around $11, but they almost always have a promotion going on that gives customers a medium pizza with multiple toppings for anywhere from $7 to $10. Sure, the pizza might cost a few bucks more, depending on the promotion, but do you know what you get with pizza? Leftovers — something that’s not going to come with that sub. Well, you might get leftovers with a sub, but no one is going to want to eat them later.
Next, we’ll talk quality. One Redditor volunteered this review: "Sandwiches there remind me of something you’d get out of a vending machine. Open plastic packaging and microwave thusly."
Others agreed, with one Redditor saying "Their sandwiches taste really cheap, like it’s all made of fake cheese and meat." Another unhappy customer noted that "the bread is covered in some greasy oil butter stuff," and yet one more Redditor who isn’t a fan says, "It’s just all super processed meat and cheese…"
Eat This, Not That! took a closer look at Domino’s sandwiches, and found they can — at best — only loosely be described as sandwiches. Why? Because they’re more accurately described as pizza toppings piled on strange bread. That "greasy oil butter stuff" coating the bread that Redditors found super disgusting is actually a combination of soybean oil and salt, and that’s just weird. Who wants slimy bread?
Even worse than the texture is what it does to the nutritional numbers. It’s why every one of those sandwiches comes loaded with more sodium than actual toppings, and every single one of them has way more than the American Heart Association‘s recommendation for daily sodium intake.
You’re also looking at eating your daily limits when it comes to fat with most of these sandwiches, too. Let’s put it this way: the healthiest sandwich there is the Mediterranean Veggie, and it’s only healthy if you cut the 8-inch sub in half and save some for later… or share with a friend.
It might be a different story if Domino’s was the only chain in the sandwich game, but they’re definitely not. There are so many other chains that are doing sandwiches — and doing them so much better — that there’s really no reason to order a sub from Domino’s if that’s what you’re really craving. Go somewhere that specializes in fresh ingredients and getting their subs right, and you’ll dodge the regret that comes with ordering one from Domino’s.
That’s not to say that Domino’s didn’t try. According to AdAge, Domino’s made a huge push with their sandwiches back around 2008, and when they debuted this particular addition to their menu, they were trying to become a serious player in the sandwich game. But in order to do that, they seemed to feel they needed to come up with something that no one else was doing… and while they did, they also seemed to prove that not everything needs weird, innovative changes.
Sonic vanilla ice cream
If you’re one of the many people who go to Sonic for their shakes and their ice cream, we have some bad news for you. According to multiple employees and ex-employees, that ice cream — and, by extension, their shakes — are on the short list of things you should skip.
Why? Let’s say this, first. It was only in 2010 that Sonic, seeing their sales falling, decided to make the switch from a product they legally had to call "soft serve" to one they could actually call ice cream. According to CBS News, the chain was 100 percent transparent with what that meant.
Sonic’s CEO during the switch was J. Clifford Hudson, and he said, "The new ice cream is richer, it is thicker, it is creamier than our current soft serve, which is what we have to call it because that is what it has been — a non-ice cream, lower-fat dairy product."
Now, it’s real ice cream, so that’s a good thing, right? Sure, but employees say there’s a whole host of problems with it.
A group of Sonic employees and managers chimed in on a Reddit thread that asked workers about the "most hated menu item" at their restaurants, and they all said it was the blast.
One former manager volunteered, "The blast by far are the worst to make. And the more complicated you order it, the harder it is to make, and the more I hate you."
They’re not just recommending you stay away from them because they’re hard to make, though. Employees say once you start adding candy and a ton of other ingredients to those blasts, it makes it almost impossible to blend correctly. They use a blender with a downward-facing blade to mix the ingredients, and when there’s a ton of ingredients and the blender (and employee) is working extra hard, there’s a good chance the cup is going to burst. Some start over, while others just add a second cup and keep going. That papery texture in your blast? Might be actual paper.
And occasionally, you get something else with your shake. When one Redditor asked why his cookie dough master blast came filled with more plastic fibers than cookie dough, the answer was that it was blended remnants off the dome lid.
Even if you don’t get bits of your cup blended into your blast, there’s also the chance you’ll have it made by someone like the Redditor who admitted when it came time to refill his candy station, it was just easier to use bare hands instead of the proper ladles.
And others say the ice cream isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. One former employee describes ice cream that comes in bags (and swears they’ve been them marked "10% real ice cream"), which are then poured into what’s essentially ice cream tanks. Yum?
That general process was supported by another employee who took to Reddit to share just how bad it could get. They said they "worked at one location that just about never cleaned the machine out. We added new milk into the old milk over and over without first dumping the old milk out." While there are undoubtedly plenty of locations that are way more responsible than that, how is the customer supposed to know ow their local Sonic does it?
In 2018, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution ran an article about a local Sonic that proved just how gross a less-than-sanitary restaurant is. Among the violations? Mold in the ice machine and ice cream mix being stored in a hand sink well above the correct temperature. They’re definitely not alone in it, either: Food Quality & Safety says keeping ice cream, frozen yogurt, and other dairy machines clean and sanitized is one of the biggest health-and-safety challenges many restaurants face.
If that’s not enough to dissuade you, let’s talk about just one more reason you might want to rethink Sonic’s ice cream and ice cream-based treats: it’ll ruin any ideas you might have about eating even the slightest bit healthy for the day.
Some of their blasts and master blasts are packed with way more calories than you should be eating in a day. The peanut butter and cookie dough, triple chocolate, turtle pecan, and even the banana split master blasts clock in at around 2000 calories each, and they’re all hovering around that 100 grams of fat mark, too. (The peanut butter and cookie dough has an almost unthinkable 144 grams!)
The shakes aren’t much better, and even the basic hot fudge sundae has 520 calories and 26 grams of fat. So, after all that, are employees right?
Starbucks "secret menu"
When you go to any fast food restaurant, you’re hoping for a pleasant experience, right? Helpful, polite staff, a team that’s concerned with cleanliness, and decent food. In other words, you want people to be good at their job, and that’s legit. In general, that’s pretty much what you can expect when you visit your local Starbucks, which is one reason they’re so beloved.
There’s a flip side to this, too: employees want nice, polite customers… who don’t make their job completely miserable. And do you know what kind of customer makes a Starbucks barista’s job miserable? Someone who orders off the "secret menu" with just a drink name they picked up off the internet.
If the sheer number of Redditors-by-night, baristas-by-day who are pleading with anyone who’ll listen not to order off the so-called secret menu are right, it’s one of their biggest pet peeves. According to one Redditor: "… there’s nothing more annoying than getting requests for drinks from the "Secret Menu." A lot of them … are not actually a part of our menu, but simply things that customers have made up over the years."
That’s not to say you can’t get the drink you want, but it all goes back to being a good customer. If there’s something not on the regular menu that you want, you should know exactly what adjustments need to be made. They’re trained on the official menu… and that’s pretty much it. Be clear and be specific instead of just coming in with a name someone made up. As this Redditor says, "Employees would be more than happy to make you a drink if you just explain the recipe rather than the name of it."
Employees can’t seem to stress enough that there really, honestly is no secret menu, and along with that comes another plea: "Just don’t get mad at me for not knowing a whole menu customers created."
There are a number of fast food places reported to have secret menus, but somehow, the rumors about Starbucks just got out of control. The Motley Fool took a look at the phenomenon, and says there are a few things that contributed to it. (And, they confirm, as well, that there is no official secret menu!)
Some locations have been known to sort of adopt "secret menu" creations as unofficial drinks, posting handmade signage to encourage customers to do a little off-menu ordering. Other customer creations have actually made it onto the Starbucks’ menu. In 2015, six customer-created frappucinos made it on to the menu temporarily for the frappuccino’s 20th anniversary celebration. That meant those six drinks started as secret menu items, then became legit menu items… then went back to being retired/secret menu items. No wonder people get confused! The next year, the favorite of those six, Caramel Cocoa Cluster Frappuccino, made another temporary appearance, further confusing fans of the drink. That leads to the last contributing factor to menu confusion at Starbucks — sometimes, there’s a bit of crossover between discontinued menu items and "secret menu" requests.
But, even if a drink was once on the menu, that doesn’t mean the barista taking your order was around for it. And discontinued drinks can only still be made as long as the store still carries all the ingredients.
Thrillist talked to some other employees about the "secret menu", and it’s not all bad news. Many don’t mind at all when customers order something off-menu… as long as they come in with the details of what they want. In other words, don’t just go in and order a Butterbeer Frappuccino, order a creme frappuccino with three pumps caramel, three pumps toffee nut, and a caramel drizzle. Anyone who has spent time working behind the counter of any fast food joint or coffee shop knows it can get monotonous, so the option to make — and try — something different isn’t always a bad thing.
There are limits, though, even if you know exactly what you want. Hoping to take one of DQ’s Blizzards and turn it into a coffee drink? Not so fast.
Baristas may perform magical feats with your coffee drinks on the reg, but they aren’t going to be blending brownies, cookies, cakes, or any other types of food (with the exception of some fruit) into your drinks — and no, not even if they carry those desserts right there in the refrigerated case. There are actually a few practical reasons for this rule, with the first being the potential to destroy the equipment they’re working with. Second, it’s a mess and a half to clean up, which means not only would it not make the barista happy, but the next person in line shouldn’t have to wait an extra 15 minutes while they clean up after your special order.
The other reason is possibly the most important, and that’s allergies. Starbucks might have an infinite customization policy, but food isn’t covered by that because of the possibility that one customer’s dream frappuccino is the next customer’s emergency room visit. Again, that’s not being a good customer.
Baristas also stress that making one of these special drinks for you is going to take longer than just ordering off the regular menu, so they also ask you don’t get too crazy during rush times. You might not mind waiting 10 minutes for your special drink, but that person behind you that just wants a caramel macchiato before they have to get to work? They probably mind… a lot.
Panda Express orange chicken
It’s time to get controversial.
There’s a huge difference between authentic Chinese food and American Chinese food, but as food historian Jennifer 8. Lee points out (via NPR), American Chinese food has become so popular and so ingrained in America’s culinary landscape that it’s become a different sort of authentic. The history of American Chinese food is a fascinating tale of adaptation, and Panda Express is the poster child for the entire experience.
When it comes to what you should skip, though, you may be surprised. According to employees on Reddit, the dish you shouldn’t get is their most popular: orange chicken.
We did say it was going to get controversial.
"… you should never order the orange chicken," one employee volunteered. "Yeah, it might be the most popular item, but sometimes when it isn’t busy, and the food gets dried up, we put uncooked sauce on it to make it more moisturized. Even my manager says it’s ok, as long as I do not do it in front of customers."
There are a few big problems here, aside from the use of the word "moist." No one wants chicken that’s been sitting out for a while, and it should be sort of a golden rule that employees shouldn’t be doing anything they wouldn’t want the customer to see.
Another Panda Express employee addressed the issue of slow times and just what happens to the food, and had this to say: "Getting the food fresh really depends on when you come. … If you come at like 3 or 4, you’ll be getting the food that’s been out the longest…"
Still, they must be doing something Americans love, because according to NPR, orange chicken an almost insanely popular dish. They sell around 80 million pounds of orange chicken a year, and to put that in perspective, Panda Express Chef Jimmy Wang says that’s enough for every man, woman, and child in America to have four pieces of chicken.
And even if you know the orange chicken you’re getting from Panda Express is totally fresh, you should probably still think twice before you order it. Sure, it’s super-sweet, it’s goopy, and you’ll feel like you’re slightly sticky until you can hop in the shower, but how unhealthy is it… really?
Pei Wei Asian Kitchen has embarked on The Wei Forward, a clean label initiative that calls on restaurants to be completely and 100 percent transparent when it comes to their ingredients. They’re saying it’s a basic right of customers, and that people should know what they’re buying and putting into their bodies. Legit, right? They published the full ingredient list for their orange chicken, and challenging other restaurants to do the same. They called out Panda Express by name, but the chain didn’t come forward with their orange chicken ingredients list — unsurprisingly.
So, Pei Wei did some research and published it for them on Twitter. It includes things (they say) like frozen "dark meat chunks" with "(binders added)", along with a whole slew of scientific-sounding ingredients, like potassium chloride, sodium benzoate, disodium inosinate, and disodium guanylate.
By comparison, Pei Wei’s ingredient list contains things like fresh oranges, Sriracha, sake, chicken base and fat, and only a few sciency-sounding things, mostly included in the ingredients for things like baking powder.
Just because something sounds technical, that doesn’t make it bad, though… so let’s take a look at Panda Express’s nutritional information.
There’s a ton of stuff in a single serving that’s really not great for you, and it starts with the fat (23 grams) and calories (490). Then, there’s the sugar. The American Heart Association warns that people get way too much sugar in their diet already, and says that women should limit their daily intake to 25 grams, while men should limit theirs to 36 grams. That single serving of orange chicken has a whopping 19 grams, and that’s pretty much you done for the day.
It’s not much better when it comes to salt, either. The AHA says that in an ideal world, most adults should get around 1500 mg of salt per day. (The current nationwide average is 3400 mg, so it’s a huge problem for many people.) That order of orange chicken comes with 820 mg of sodium, which is more than half what you should be getting.
And don’t forget, all of these numbers are for the orange chicken only — and who eats it without rice? An order of fried rice will more than double the sodium and the calories. So if you thought those numbers weren’t horrible… think again.
If you’re craving orange chicken, look at it this way: it’s super easy to make at home. It’s not as time- or labor-intensive as some Asian dishes (we’re looking at you, egg rolls), and not only is it easy to make, but you can do it much healthier, too. All you need are spices you already have — like black pepper, garlic, ginger, and red pepper — along with oranges or orange marmalade, orange juice, chicken, and chicken broth. It really is that easy… so why pay someone else to make it for you?
Dunkin’ Donuts donuts
There’s something weird going on with Dunkin’ Donuts, but wait… they’re not Dunkin’ Donuts anymore, are they? In September 2018, corporate announced they were going to be officially changing their name to just Dunkin’, with all merchandise and signage changing with the start of 2019.
That’s sort of appropriate, because if you ask some employees, they’ll say one of the things you should never order from Dunkin’ is their donuts. Why? Part of the biggest reason was summed up like this on a Reddit thread: "… I used to work at a Dunkin’ Donuts. I’m sorry my fellow East Coasters, but all of these donuts come frozen in a box and are ‘baked’ for 30 seconds."
Yikes. We all know there’s nothing that can possibly compare to a freshly-baked donut, and if you’ve ever gotten one that tastes a little, well, old from Dunkin’, that might be why. And that dirty little secret of the frozen donut was confirmed by another employee interviewed by PopSugar.
"Hell, the ones in my store came shipped frozen only to be baked later. That’s not quality," he says.
That’s both strange and sad, too, because Dunkin’ has made such a big deal out of their donuts for so long that they’re literally the reason "donut" became the favored spelling. They built their image on the baker who dragged himself out of bed every morning, muttering, "It’s time to make the donuts," and in turn, on the image of fresh, made-in-house donuts. So how true is the claim?
Well, it turns out that not all Dunkin’ locations have gone the way of the frozen donut. But even if your location doesn’t serve frozen donuts, its pretty likely that they’re still not exactly fresh.
In 2014, Chicago Business went behind-the-scenes at Dunkin’s largest donut factory. The building is a huge section of an industrial estate in Bedford Park, and people flying in or out of the Midway International Airport actually fly over the donut factory — perhaps not even knowing that’s where their "freshly-made" breakfast had been created. It isn’t the only factory, but it is the largest, a 100,000-square-foot facility that makes more than 90 million donuts every year and ships them to Dunkin’ locations all over.
Strangely, the factory was fairly new at the time. It was built in 2011, when 39 Dunkin’ franchisees chipped in to consolidate their donut-making process into one massive location. One-third of the building, they say, is filled to the brim with bakers’ racks of donuts. The rest is home not just to the baking operations, but the decoration operations as well. They made everything from Dunkin’s standard, year-round varieties to those seasonal favorites, and that… sort of makes donut-lovers everywhere a bit sad.
Donuts at Dunkin’ are being increasingly pushed to the wayside in favor of a growing coffee trade, and at the time franchisees decided to outsource their donuts, those same donuts made up less than half of their revenue. Small kitchens in independent locations are expensive to run and maintain, so it was a logical business decision to make.
So, how fresh are the donuts? Workers start their daily shift at 3 p.m., bake and decorate thousands of donuts, and then those tasty pastries are loaded onto delivery trucks by midnight. Trucks make the daily delivery to Dunkin’ locations, and off-load the donuts before the stores open.
So, long story short? Those donuts that look mass-produced absolutely are, and they may be worse for you than you think.
In 2018, Cooking Light did some digging into just what went into a Dunkin’ donut. You might assume that with factories making them daily, they might not need all the crazy, unpronounceable ingredients you’d get from other donuts.
You would be wrong.
You can make donuts at home with just seven ingredients: milk, flour, butter, sugar, yeast, salt, and eggs. That’s it! Dunkin’ uses more than 30 ingredients just for a basic glazed donut, and that seems unnecessary.
The list includes things like dextrose (which is nothing more than added sugar), guar and xanthan gums (for texture), and strangely, something called enzyme. That’s an additive that extends the shelf life of a product, and isn’t an extended-life donut the exact opposite of what you want?
There’s also artificial flavors on the ingredient list for many donuts. Dunkin’ did promise to get rid of artificial dyes, but it seems they only went halfway on the "artificial" front.
And here’s the final catch. No one expects donuts to be super-healthy, but no one expects them to be quite as bad for you as Dunkin’s are. That’s in part thanks to one particular ingredient: palm oil. Palm oil is the stuff that’s getting a lot of attention for its environmental impacts, particularly in the rainforests of Southeast Asia. Dunkin’ made a commitment to use only 100 percent sustainable palm oil, but here’s the thing — it’s still one of the worst oils for you. It’s high in saturated fat, it’s not heart-healthy by any stretch of the imagination, and seriously, if you have to have a donut, don’t you want one that’s at least fresh and not terrible for you? Skip this one, no matter how tempting the sprinkles.
Don’t worry, you can exhale. This isn’t about something gross at Chipotle, just getting your money’s worth. Getting tacos isn’t the way to do it, apparently. According to a poster claiming to be a former Chipotle employee, "never ever ever order the Tacos." The poster went on to explain, "You get less than half the regular portions. Instead, order a bowl with whatever you want in it, then ask for the taco shells, hard or soft, on the side. When [I] was there, the shells were free to get on the side." Even if the shells are no longer free, that still sounds like a better deal than the tacos to me
Breakfast at McDonald’s
Not all fast food is created equal, and that’s definitely true for fast food breakfasts, too. If you’re one of those people who just can’t get started in the morning without getting something good to eat, McDonald’s can be a tempting option. It’s quick, it’s delicious, and it’s affordable, so it seems to check all the boxes. We hate to break it to you, but one of the things McDonald’s employees suggest you stay away from?
There are a few different reasons you might want to opt for making yourself a delicious breakfast the previous night and grabbing that on your way out the door, but let’s start with what one Redditor had to say about McDonald’s — particularly, breakfast served first thing in the morning.
"I have seen how they prep that food. I have seen on more than one occasion the guy cleaning the bathroom without gloves on goes into the kitchen area and starts putting food on the grill. I’d also like to tell you this was[n’t] at just one McDonald’s, but nope I have seen this done at quite a few. Guessing rules are more relaxed in the morning."
While that might be enough to turn you off breakfast first thing in the morning (although it’s unlikely this is happening at all locations), other Redditors (and employees) say you might want to rethink getting something off the all-day breakfast menu, too. Those from older McDonald’s locations say the kitchens simply aren’t big enough to allow employees to run both breakfast and lunch equipment, and that — according to one Redditor — also leads to longer wait times and employees who aren’t as diligent about cleaning.
That’s a big deal, says one employee. Look at it this way — when the grill is used for bacon, eggs, sausage, and lunch-time beef patties, it needs to be completely and totally cleaned between switching menu items. Part of that is because anything cooked on the same grill where bacon’s cooked is going to taste like bacon (apparently, that’s a bad thing for some people), and the other, more important part involves allergies. Customers might come in to order a burger and not think twice about their sensitivity to eggs. But if the person before them ordered an Egg McMuffin, and it was cooked on the same grill, that could be a huge issue.
One McDonald’s employee from Australia also added that there’s a good chance that all-day-breakfast wasn’t cooked fresh just for you — or even cooked recently.
"… sometimes, [employees] just cook a bunch of egg and then use that for the next 5 hours, IMO do NOT order all day breakfast after 3 because you don’t know what you’re going to get, some of my co-workers disgust me."
Those aren’t the only arguments Redditors have against McDonald’s breakfast items, either. Another Redditor pointed out if you think you’re getting something decently healthy when you order sandwiches with egg whites, you might want to think again. Those "healthy" egg whites are cooked in butter.
"The egg white delight is just as unhealthy, if not more so, than the regular round eggs. The amount of butter (at least in my store) sprayed on the grill must up the calorie and fat count like crazy."
And who wants to start their day with a soupy, butter-and-egg sandwich? Others chimed in to point out that substance was, without a doubt, not even real butter. That makes it even worse!
If you’re still determined to get your McDonald’s breakfast sandwich, you should know still other Redditors warn budget-conscious breakfast lovers that before ordering, you should do a little math. Sometimes (and they stress this varies by location), it’s cheaper to order your sandwich with some ingredients on the side. In order words, they found ordering a Sausage McMuffin or a Sausage Biscuit with a round egg on the side is around a dollar cheaper than ordering a Sausage Egg McMuffin. That adds up — especially if you frequent the Golden Arches several mornings a week!
Do you know what else adds up? The shocking amount of fat, calories, and sodium that’s in many of McDonald’s breakfast offerings. Even if you’re not counting calories or watching the scale, there’s enough in here to be pretty horrifying.
Take their Triple Breakfast Stacks Biscuit, then check out how much total fat is in that one sandwich: 65 grams, or 99 percent of your daily recommended intake! That includes 27 grams of saturated fat, and that’s 137 percent of your recommended daily value. How about a simple — and popular — Steak, Egg & Cheese Biscuit? You’re ordering 530 calories and 30 grams of fat, or 47 percent of your daily value there.
We won’t even get into the dietary nightmare that’s served up with dishes like the Big Breakfast or the Hotcakes and Sausage, because frankly, you don’t want to know. (OK, they’re 750 and 790 calories, respectively.) When it comes to healthy, it turns out that the best options there are the ones that will help you also avoid all the other potential pitfalls of cross-contaminated kitchen equipment, dirty hands, and gross butter substitute: the Fruit and Maple Oatmeal, and the Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait. Stick with those, or better yet? Skip McD’s completely for your morning meal.
Pizza Hut deep dish
Similar to the Chick-fil-A Hot Brown, the biggest issue with Pizza Hut deep dish pizzas is what happens after the previous pizza has been baked. After all, something that’s baked for a long time is probably going to be pretty hard to remove from a pan unless it was greased super well.
According to a reported former Pizza Hut employee, the pans are run through the dishwasher with the leftover pieces of the crust still attached. "They come out the other side with chunks still attached (soap has soaked in and then they are steam dried) which are still wet." According to the employee this process is repeated time and time again. That means that deep dish pizza that’s making your mouth water might include crust from the previous pizza… and even some soap for extra flavoring. Yum. You mean that’s not what you were expecting to get with your deep dish pizza? Weird.
Little Caesar’s chicken wings
Little Caesar’s Hot-N-Ready deal can be a lifesaver for those days when there’s just not enough hours for a busy family to get everything done, and hey, the kids always like pizza, right? It might be a win for everyone, but if you want to keep it that way, there are a few things employees say you should never, ever order.
We’re sorry to say that Redditors claiming to be former employees and managers alike warn against ordering some of your family’s favorite sides — and we’ll have to start with the Crazy Bread.
One former Little Caesar’s manager took to Reddit to warn customers not only about the Crazy Bread, but the Jalapeno Bread and the Italian Bread, too. The problem was with the toppings that get smeared on it when it comes out of the oven, and they describe it like this: "[it] is NOT butter, it’s some nasty imitation that comes in a huge bottle and does not need to be refrigerated."
The debate raged about what, exactly, the imitation butter topping was, and if that’s not enough to deter you, another former employee posted further concerns.
They say that not only is it just the exact same dough that’s used to make the crust, but that it’s simply "basted in a load of garlic butter and pounded with Parmesan." If that sounds like something you can make at home pretty quickly and very easily, you’re 100 percent right. (You can probably do it healthier, too — nutritional information says one of those sticks is going to set you back 100 calories and 3 grams of fat. That doesn’t sound like much, but absolutely no one eats just one stick.)
Another Little Caesar’s manager chimed in to say that while there was nothing technically wrong with the imitation butter spread, it was "extremely unhealthy"… and while you could probably guess that, it’s worth repeating just for some official confirmation.
There’s another concern, too. The Redditor notes that they’re often not cooked the right amount of time, because of the way the ovens are set up. Crazy Bread that’s put on the bottom belt or toward the back of the oven — positions that are much hotter — are going to cook faster than other orders. Each position in the oven has particular instructions on how long it should be in, but they say that those instructions are ignored a lot of the time.
The results? What you get is "large amounts of both over and under done breadsticks."
Other commenters (and Little Caesar’s customers) responded that the explanation made a lot of sense, and that it completely explained why they had gotten so many orders of Crazy Bread that seemed very, very undercooked.
So, now you’re skipping the Crazy Bread but you’re still looking for a side to go with your pizza. According to more former employees chiming in on Reddit, you might want to skip the wings, too. One Redditor claimed to have worked there when they first added chicken wings to the menu, and while it might seem like there’s nothing that goes better with pizza than chicken wings, they warn not to get them from Little Caesar’s.
"They literally cook them in the same pan as our deep dish pizza for the same amount of time as the pizza, which is usually undercooked as well. First time I ever had raw chicken."
Yikes! Raw chicken is no joke, and according to Mother Jones, the potential for getting sick from chicken that has been broken down — like those chicken wings — is much higher than it is from whole chickens. In 2018, 35 percent of chicken-producing facilities failed to meet Food Safety and Inspection Service guidelines for salmonella-free chicken, so it’s still a big deal.
And if that’s not enough to dissuade you, a former Little Caesar’s manager also warns about the wings for another reason. "… Hot-N-Readys and chicken wings have been known to sit in the warmer for hours at a time until sold."
While you don’t expect a Hot-N-Ready pizza to be made to order (you can’t have the best of both the ready-on-demand and freshly-made worlds), pizza that’s been sitting a bit isn’t a bad thing. You’re probably going to heat it up once you get it home anyway, but wings? Wings are one of those things that are so much better fresh, and if you’re going to get them, you might as well get good ones, right?
And here’s one final cautionary tale from an alleged former Little Caesar’s employee. If you’re tempted to order banana peppers, don’t… "whatever you do," they warn, describing them like this: "They just sit under the make-table in the grimy corner and fester until somebody has the misfortune of ordering them."
Burger King Whopper Jr.
Have you ever had a Whopper Jr. from Burger King? Neither have most people. If you’re going all-in on Whopper flavor and ingredients, why not just get the full-size Whopper? It’s not like you’re eating healthy anyway (you’re at Burger King, after all).
Not only are the little guys unpopular with customers under the age of 10, they apparently take a while to make (though we’re not sure what’s so time-consuming about stacking a patty on a bun with tomatoes, lettuce, mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles, and onions). That means instead of making one fresh when it’s finally ordered, you’re likely looking at an old, crusty Whopper Jr. coming out of the kitchen — at least at some Burger King establishments. Take it from the supposed Burger King employee who said, "Never never never buy the whopper junior, not enough people buy them so they just sit out and go bad. They take to [sic] long to make fresh and managers get a bonus check when they have a low enough time so they tell the workers to just use the super old ones that have gone nasty."
Of course, there are Burger King locations where the freshness of the Whopper Jr. isn’t an issue. To hear this poster tell it, their Whopper Jr. patties at a particular Canadian location are the only part that sits out for a while, so the bun and all the toppings are still fresh. That’s not too bad if you don’t mind hockey puck-like meat — it might not be fresh, but at least it’s freshly assembled!
Another alleged employee on Reddit told a similar story, warning customers never to order unpopular items, since they’ve probably been sitting on the warmers for quite a while. And in case you’re wondering, he did include the Whopper Jr. patty as one of these seldom-used food items. This time, though, he offered a solution.
"We didn’t serve anything that was gross or unhealthy, but the less popular products might not be fresh off the grill/fryer. I wouldn’t order them unless you specify fresh ones," he explained. "You might want to ask specifically for fresh (kitchen knows you asked for fresh in your order so it should be fresh). Just be ready to wait an extra 2-6 minutes depending on what’s cooking."
So there you have it. Burger King is all about having your food "your way," so it shouldn’t be problem if your way is fresh, right?
Burger King fish sandwich
Apparently, the Whopper Jr. Isn’t the only unpopular menu item at Burger King. It may not come as much of a surprise, but there aren’t a whole lot of people heading to BK for their fish. It may sound unappetizing to eat an old hamburger patty, but eating an old fish patty seems a million times worse.
"THAT is sitting in it’s [sic] 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," explained an alleged employee on Reddit.
On a different Reddit thread, another supposed employee had the same warning. "I worked at a BK for a few days in college and the fish was the worst offender. we had the same 2 or 3 fish filets in the warmer for entire days sometimes." Granted, this is not a long-time Burger King employee so we’ll take that with a grain of salt, but it doesn’t take long to notice what food hasn’t moved in hours — plus, that’s not the only employee to notice it.
Anyone who does go to Burger King specifically for the fish may wonder why it’s an item that doesn’t sell. After all, a look at their menu promises a thick Alaskan Pollock patty, crispy panko breading, a fluffy bun, and a perfect ratio of toppings. Who wouldn’t want to order that? Perhaps it’s best to take the word of someone who’s tried it: Business insider placed Burger King’s fish sandwich in fifth place out of seven fast food fish sandwiches, claiming the sandwich was flat, and the fish was gray. If a gray fish patty doesn’t convince you to order a burger instead, an old gray fish patty definitely should.
The moral of the story, at least at Burger King, is to only order popular items, otherwise they may have been sitting there for a while. Then again, maybe you don’t mind it if your fish sits out for hours or days.
It’s no secret that Starbucks isn’t cheap. It’s never been a place where you can pick up a cup of coffee with the change from your cup holder, and when you start thinking about getting something to eat, too, you can plan on pulling out at least a $10 or $20 bill. There’s an old saying — you get what you pay for — that you’d hope would apply here, but according to Starbucks employees and managers past and present, that’s not the case.
"All Starbucks food is reheated frozen food," said one Redditor. "Ridiculous how little people realize that. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good, it’s just not fresh at all and incredibly overpriced."
Another Redditor volunteered a little insight into Starbuck’s entire marketing plan, developed to keep customers happy with their pastry purchases. "They’re thawed overnight," they say. "The warming is so you feel better about paying $3 for a single f***ing cookie instead of going to the grocery store across the parking lot and paying the same price for a dozen."
Of course, you expect to pay for convenience — that’s why fast food is so popular — but Starbucks has always marketed themselves as the sort of place that’s above your average McDonald’s. That may true for their coffee, but when it comes to pastries, you’re definitely not getting anything baked fresh in store… and you’re not even getting something that’s baked fresh and delivered from, say, a local bakery. If that bothers you, employees say, skip eating here.
Another Redditor clarified the process: "Everything is frozen and comes in individually wrapped packages. Pastries are taken out of the freezer the day before to thaw overnight. Same with sandwiches, except those are put in the walk-in fridge."
Other commenters asked a very legitimate question: How do they do it so well? We all know that frozen pastries and bread don’t act or taste like they’re fresh, so how is this such a well-kept secret?
According to The Daily Meal, Starbucks does things a little differently when they’re developing new pastries for their shelves. They have to taste good, of course, but they also have to be made in a way that accounts for the fact they’re going to be made, frozen, transported, and thawed. There are usually a lot of weak spots along the supply chain for restaurants, places where food can be kept at improper temperatures or exposed to cross-contamination. That’s why Starbucks has strict controls in place all along the line, all put in place to guarantee pastries go from factory to freezer to store in the most efficient way possible.
Still, even with the most rigorous expectation is place, slip-ups do happen. Foods aren’t packaged properly, trucks break down, people get distracted. How can you be sure that $4 pastry hasn’t been thawed out and refrozen a few times before it reaches your hands? Well… you can’t.
We’ve been talking about the foods from Starbucks’ regular menu, so how about those small, artisan pastries that show up in some of their stores? Starbucks has partnered with a range of small businesses — like Rip van Wafels, Bantam Bagels, and Moon Cheese — to make their products available in some stores. Surely, the local offerings are fresh, right?
Not so fast. Bon Appetit spoke with Meghan Ritchie of Megpies, and found that’s not the case. Ritchie began making her jam-filled pastries (which Bon Appetit describes as "Pop Tarts that went to finishing school") for a food fair booth. They were super fresh and super labor-intensive, and when Starbucks approached her and wanted to put the pastries in their stores, things had to change.
Now, Ritchie contracts with a "co-manufacturer" she refused to name, only saying it was a "family-run bakery." There, they make Megpies on a large scale, flash freeze them, and ship them to various Starbucks locations that thaw them as they’re needed.
Yep, even those specialty pastries are not exactly fresh.
So, even if you still opt for getting a pastry along with your coffee, you might want to conisder this Redditor‘s advice into consideration. "… never get a pastry on a Friday," they warn. "It has been on the shelf for a week, and it tastes like stale death."
Can that really be true? Others were quick to jump to the defense of Starbucks and point out that pastries do have a shelf life, and that cautionary tale of week-old baked goods might have been an exaggeration or a location that exists well outside the norm. But even that one or two day shelf life, depending on the pastry, isn’t what some customers expect when they’re paying top dollar for a muffin.
"Once a customer overheard me telling a new barista the pastry shelf lives (some are one day, some are two days)," shared one Redditor. "[She] stopped me and asked, ‘Do you mean to say that this danish could be two days old??’ … it was two weeks old before it came in the door, please calm down."
To do it any other way would be insanely difficult, especially considering the space constraints that many Starbucks locations are working with. Head in the back, and most often you’ll find what one Redditor describes as room for "a computer, a phone, and a safe… aside from the closet for the grounds/cleaning supplies." So it does make sense that they’d need to be baked off-premises.
But that doesn’t excuse the fact that many customers just assume they’re getting fresh baked goods, just because of the price point alone. So should Starbucks be more transparent about their baked goods, or have they already been forgiven?
At least now, if you want to order the food at Starbucks, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting (and it’s probably not your money’s worth).
McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets
It’s safe to say that almost everyone has had Chicken McNuggets at some point in their life, whether they’re a fond childhood memory or a grown-up guilty pleasure. Seriously, we’ve all had those nights where we just can’t be bothered, and a 20-piece order of McNuggets and a bag of fries is just what the doctor ordered.
Well, maybe not the doctor, but life… and that counts, too, right?
But according to some of the people who work at McDonald’s, you might want to rethink heading up to the counter or through the drive-thru and just ordering a ton of McNuggets without giving it another thought — and it’s not for the reason you might think. When one person asked "Fast food workers of Reddit, what should we NOT order at your restaurant? Why not?", one Redditor had this to say about the Chicken McNuggets:
"If you order, especially chicken nuggets, just ask for them fresh. Otherwise they’ve just been sitting in their container in the heat. They have a timer, but 9/10 times when that timer goes off, people just reset the timer instead of making new ones. This could go on until all the nuggets are sold."
Not so appetizing now, are they?
And that brings up an important question: how long should food really be sitting there? If it’s kept at the right temperature, is there a problem?
Well, here’s the thing: it’s tricky. According to research done by the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods, the limits for food safety are — technically — met, as long as those McNuggets aren’t sitting out for more than 8 hours and if they’re kept above a temperature of 135 degrees. That’s all well and good, but they go on to say that if the temperature of the nuggets is kept at above 140 degrees, that it’s fine "indefinitely."
That’s just a matter of safety — that’s the temperature needed to keep bacteria from growing, and it’s the other findings that are very, very icky. About a quarter of food service establishments surveyed by the FDA weren’t in compliance with that 140 degree temperature mark, and once it drops much below that, they say food in hot holding is the perfect place for the "multiplication of vegetative cells from spore-forming microorganisms."
Only 5 degrees can mean the difference between food that’s fine and food that’s going to be growing all sorts of nastiness, and different environmental factors — like how well calibrated heating equipment is — can increase the risk of food dropping below that safety margin.
And that risk is where timers come in. Take the catering department of the NHS, England’s National Health Service. It’s in their rules that food in hot holding should only be there for an hour before it gets to the point where supervisors need to think about throwing it away.
And that brings us back to those nuggets. While some Redditors argue that getting anything at McDonald’s isn’t so much about getting something that’s fresh than it is about getting something that’s "less old," others testify to the fact that there is a huge difference between something that’s just been made and something that’s been sitting for, let’s be honest, an indefinite amount of time.
And the number of McDonald’s employees who chimed in about not caring about hold times is chilling. The problem seems to be that nuggets in particular are one of those items that literally any car in the drive-thru might order a few hundred of. They’re pretty perfect for feeding a Little League team or an after-school group, after all, and not having those out and ready to go delays a good number of orders behind them in line.
One Redditor said their co-workers ignored hold times and reset timers so often that they would "occasionally make a point of ‘accidentally’ ruining product in some fashion" just to keep stale, old food that had been sitting around a while from being served. Another volunteered that they would keep track of how many times they had reset it, and would make three or four the limit before it actually got thrown away.
By now, you might be asking: Why even use the timer, then? Someone asked that on Reddit, too, and the answer was deceptively simple: the timer was what turned the heating unit on. If the timer isn’t running, they’re definitely not going to be edible.
And here’s the thing: McDonald’s has fought an uphill battle for years, regarding the quality of their weirdly-textured McNuggets (spoiler alert: They’re not made with pink slime). Surely, sitting out for hours on end doesn’t help matters in the least. And yes, they might be super-cheap, but you still want food to be the highest quality it can be… right? So, skip the McNuggets, or at least ask for them to be made fresh for you. It’ll be worth the wait.
McDonald’s sweat tea
Eating right is hard — really hard. At a time when most of us have our days packed so full of stuff to do that it doesn’t seem like there are enough hours available for us to get it all done, meal planning often falls by the wayside. That’s especially true since we have so many fast food choices available to us, and that’s not always a good thing.
Many fast food joints are trying to do their part by putting healthier options on their menu. Take McDonald’s, for example. According to Shape, there are plenty of not-so-terrible items on the menu, like their grilled wraps and egg white sandwiches. Ordering healthy food is great, but you also might be sabotaging yourself — in a big way — when it comes to your drink.
When one Redditor asked, "Fast food workers of Reddit, what is the one menu option at your employment that you would recommend people never eat?", one Redditor responded with this: "McDonald’s sweet tea. Pound. Of. Sugar. Per gallon."
Yikes! We all know that sweet tea has sugar in it — it wouldn’t be sweet otherwise — but many people might not realize just how much sugar we’re talking here.
If you take a look at McDonald’s nutritional information, you’ll find the sugar content is pretty staggering. A small has 21 grams of sugar, a medium has 28 grams, and a large has a whopping 38 grams.
That might not mean too much in context, but let’s dig a little deeper. According to the British Heart Foundation, added sugars are bad and sugary drinks are extremely bad. They say that sugar-filled drinks are the biggest source of unnecessary, added sugar for many people, and part of the problem is that they usually come with lots of calories, lots of sugar, and no good nutrients whatsoever. That large sweet tea comes with 160 calories, and absolutely nothing else your body needs.
Look at it this way. There are about four calories in one gram of sugar — so that large sweet tea has around 152 calories’ worth of sugar… out of the 160 calories in the entire drink. That’s 152 empty, pointless calories that are doing nothing whatsoever for you.
The BHF says a good rule of thumb is — if you really need sugary drinks — to stick with ones that have less than 5 grams of sugar per 100 ml… and McDonald’s sweet tea isn’t anywhere near that.
There’s another consideration here, too. The American Heart Association has issued recommendations on just how much sugar people should actually be getting in a day, and say that women should limit themselves to 25 grams per day, while men should have no more than 36 grams. Compare that to the sugar content in that sweet tea, and you’ll see just how bad it really is.
Still, need more context? Let’s take that large sweet tea — and the 38 grams of sugar it has — and compare to some other treats that you probably assume are way worse than your favorite drink. When The Independent reported on just how horribly sugary a Cadbury Creme Egg was, people were outraged — and it "only" has 26 grams.
Visible Sugar has some more unbelievable stats. A standard-size package of Twix "only" has 24 grams of sugar, a Butterfinger has 24 grams, an Almond Joy has 21 grams, and a KitKat has 22 grams. That means those candy bars don’t just have less sugar than a large sweet tea, they have less sugar than a medium one, too.
And here’s the thing: no one expects candy bars to be good for you, so at least everyone’s aware of the fact that they’re shoving a ton of sugar in their faces when they eat one. But when you’re standing at the drinks machine or the menu board, it’s easy to think you’re making a healthier choice getting the tea over the soda, and you kind of are. That sweet tea has way less sugar than a Coca-Cola, but that’s actually not saying much. Both are terrible for you, but it’s only one that’s a deceptive kind of terrible.
So, what should you do? Opt for the unsweetened tea, as that has 0 grams of sugar. We’ll be honest, though: unsweetened tea is definitely an acquired taste. Some of the more health-conscious Redditors had some suggestions for that, too: mix one quarter sweet tea with three quarters unsweetened tea. You’ll get only a fraction of the sugar, and still have a sweeter drink that’s more palatable to anyone who’s not a fan of straight, unsweetened iced tea.
Alternately, pick up a reusable water bottle and keep your own drink in the car. There are plenty of options when it comes to mixing up a low-sugar, low-calorie drink to keep in your own fridge at home, and while it might not seem like much, it’s these little changes that end up going a long way in making you — and your family — healthier.
This is another one that’s all about meat sitting around for an undisclosed amount of time. More than one former Wendy’s employee said to stay away from the chili. One of them even admitted that it’s delicious, but after seeing how it’s made, they’ve changed their mind about ordering it.
"They take the dried out beef patties that have been on the grill too much long, and put them in a steamer," the poster said. "Then at the end of the night, they mash up all those dried out and rehydrated steam patties, and put them in the fridge. Then the next morning, chili mix is made, and all that old meat is plopped in there and left to simmer for awhile." Another poster echoed that this is a gross way to serve meat, saying, "The gross part to me is that it was hours usually a full shift before they were removed and drained and froze the left over burgers."