11 Things You Should Always Ask For At These Fast Food Restaurants

According to a study by the CDC, around 37% of the country which represents roughly 50 million Americans consume fast food every day across over 200,000 fast food restaurants. In terms of money spent, the average American household spends 10% of its annual income on fast food.

When you're going somewhere that often and spending $8.35 per visit on average, it might be a good idea to know the ins and outs. Specifically, knowing what to ask for is key. However, not all questions are good questions as pointed out by a Reddit thread where fast-food employees mention things customers do that they hate. One Reddit user mentioned "Asking me to suggest food items. I've never met you before, how am I supposed to know which, of the 40 food items on the menu, you would like." Another user and former Chipotle employee said "if you ask for hot salsa and wait three seconds to tell us that you wanted it on the side, it's already on your food."

On the other hand, some questions can make your experience a whole lot more enjoyable and might not piss off the employee standing in front of you. Whether it's a practical ask like making sure your veggie patty is truly vegetarian or simply knowing to ask for free food when you can, these are the questions you should ask on your next fast food visit. 

1. Ask for a free treat at Panera Bread

If you're a regular at Panera Bread you probably know all about its delicious bread bowls and tasty salads. You've probably also already tasted some of its heavenly pastries and fresh baguettes and bagels. Panera Bread is definitely on the healthier side of the fast food spectrum and while not as known as McDonald's for example, it's a crowd favorite for sure. If you are not convinced, we have two words for you: free cookie.

Fast food chains will often mess up your order. According to a study by QSR magazine, there is only an 84.4% chance for your order to be accurate. While Panera Bread is not in the 10 fast food chains picked for the study, the chain isn't exempt from drive-thru mistakes. And when it does, you are allowed to go notify management of the error. When you do, Panera Bread will be so kind as to apologize with a free treat. A customer went over to Yelp to confirm it with a picture captioned: "If they get your order wrong. You get a free treat. I got a cookie as a treat. Explained on the receipt."

While the policy guarantees you a free treat, you'll likely get a chocolate chip cookie. However, if you've ever been to Panera Bread you know firsthand how kindly you are treated by the employees and chances are you can probably get a similar pastry or cookie if you ask for it nicely.

2. Ask for a free Grand Slam at Denny's on your birthday

While this one's a classic, we had to include it because it might not be common knowledge and free food is always a good thing to know about. On your birthday, you can head over to any Denny's location and ask for a free Grand Slam. What a way to start your birthday. You might say this is ordinary because what self-respecting restaurant doesn't offer free food on its customers' birthdays in 2023? 

Well, you're right, a good number of them do but the difference here is that to get your free Grand Slam all you need to do is show up and prove that it's your birthday (fair enough) while other fast food restaurants offer free food but only to reward program members, fidelity card-holders, or in exchange for a newsletter sign-up. You might not want to hand out your email address to receive yet another daily email that will clutter your inbox and Denny's knows that!

3. Ask for fries with no salt at McDonald's

McDonald's fries are probably as iconic as it gets when it comes to fast food menu items. As soon as you have one, you often go back for more. That's the addictive taste of the "natural beef flavor" added to the vegetable oil, btw. However, while you can't deny how delicious they are, have you ever gone to McDonald's, ordered fries, and wished they had been a little bit more fresh?

While batches of fries are pre-made all day long and chances are you're getting some that have been sitting there a while, there is one thing you can ask for to guarantee that you'll get fresh fries straight out of the McDonald's fryer. Sounds like a dream doesn't it? The secret to hot and crispy fries is simply to ask for them with no salt. A McDonald's employee on Reddit, confirmed, "lots of people say they want no salt because then you have to make fresh ones." A former employee on another Reddit thread went one step further saying that the same applied to burgers: "If you order a burger or fries always ask them without salt or the seasoning on the burger, they will have to make them fresh since they always put [salt] on them, that is if you don't mind waiting five minutes." Basically, if you customize your food item, chances are they'll have to make it from scratch and you are guaranteed fresh food.

4. Ask for a small-sized coffee at Panera Bread

We're back at Panera Bread for another hot tip on how to make your fast food experiences better. Are you a coffee lover? Because, if you are, you're in luck. At Panera, the best thing to do when ordering a coffee is to always ask for the small size. This is for the very simple reason that refills are free so ordering a bigger size will cost you more money, when in the end, you can get the same amount for cheaper by refilling your small-sized cup.

This hack is available to all customers, however, Panera Bread is all about unlimited refills so you can go one step further and subscribe to Panera Bread's Unlimited Sip Club. Sounds elite, doesn't it? Well, it does turn you into quite the privileged Panera customer that's for sure. With the Unlimited Sip Club, you can get much more than free coffee refills. For $11.99 a month (or $9.99 if paid annually), you also get charged lemonades, iced and hot coffees, iced and hot teas, and fountain beverages! You also get special Saturday offers, a $0 delivery fee, and a Shutterfly calendar.

5. Ask for half and half meat at Chipotle

With who-knows how many fast food restaurants specializing in burgers and pizzas, Chipotle Mexican Grill came in strong with Mexican fast food that won over the United States. While there isn't much you can do about paying extra for guacamole, there is a hack to get more meat for no extra cost!

The key to more meat and no extra cost is to ask for half and half meat. Chipotle employees know exactly what portion they need to scoop up when you ask for beef or chicken. There's no guarantee this will always work, however, if you ask for both, you may end up getting a bit more meat, perhaps even a double portion. Employees are working fast and don't have time to carefully scoop up half of the portion they would normally give you. This hack will also work for beans and rice although you'll likely not pay extra when you ask for more rice or beans like you do when you ask for more meat. We will say, vocabulary is key here since if you ask for "extra" rice or beans, the word will likely trigger the green light for them to charge you more. Instead, try to ask for "a good amount of" or "a little bit more" rice or beans.

6. Ask for breakfast and lunch at the same time at Chick-fil-A

Calling all chicken lovers! From opening to 10:30 a.m., Chick-fil-A offers quite the breakfast selection including the very popular biscuits. However, from 10:30 on, the menu switches to lunch and dinner items.

The best way to get a mix of breakfast and lunch is to order right around 10:30, items for both menus are likely in the kitchen so chances are they will let you get creative. Something especially great about this plan is that you'll be able to get the much-loved and sadly discontinued in 2016, spicy chicken biscuit. Although it's back in select locations, if you aren't one of the lucky ones, there is something you can do. If you arrive as close to 10:30 as you can, order a buttered biscuit on the breakfast menu and a spicy chicken sandwich on the regular menu, now swap out the bread and there you have it, your very own spicy chicken biscuit!

Similarly, the closer you are to 10:30, the easier it can be to negotiate ordering an off-menu item like the chicken quesadillas. The breakfast menu offers a burrito and you just know that the kitchen is full of chicken so you just might be able to convince them.

7. Ask for your veggie patty to be cooked separately at Burger King

For a couple of years now, fast-food chains have been making an effort to include vegetarian options on their menus. Burger King did not hesitate to jump onto that train. As recently as 2020, YouGov conducted a survey amongst vegans and vegetarians asking them which fast food restaurants had the highest quality options for them. The results had Burger King at the number three spot, only a point behind Subway and Chipotle.

Amongst the most popular fast-food veggie options: the Impossible Whopper. The burger has a plant-based patty and should be okay for vegetarians to eat. However, as mentioned on Burger King's website, "[the] patty [is] cooked on the same broiler as beef patties," which makes it not 100% vegan. This detail has made a couple of customers mad. One customer even filed a lawsuit against the king of burgers, claiming he bought an Impossible Whopper, and would not have done so if he had known that patties where "coated in meat by-products."

But there is no need to stop going to Burger King just yet. According to an employee on Reddit, for your meat to be cooked separately, you just need to ask: "we have an option on our registers under the button for 'Impossible Whopper', where it says "Impossible Whopper NO-BROIL", and that tells the kitchen to cook it separate from anything else." No need to give up the Impossibly delicious Whooper.

8. Ask for your fries fry well at In-N-Out

We've already talked about the sad reality of getting soggy fries at McDonald's but what about In-N-Out? Unfortunately, it's a case of different fast-food chain, same issue. If you've never been to In-N-Out, you're likely from the East Coast. The fast food chain has locations primarily in California and the Southwest. The burgers particularly have a special place in the hearts of Californians as they are simply incredibly delicious. However, the Animal-Style fries have also become a big crowd pleaser and consist of their classic fried topped with their famous sauce, a slice of melted cheese, and chopped grilled onions.

Unfortunately, the sauce combined with the melted cheese that lays on top of the fries means that when they get to you, they'll likely be soft. Lucky for us, there is a solution. According to Kathy, a former In-N-Out employee, you need to tell your cashier how you want your fries done (an amazing option now alaways available in fast foods). She advises that you ask for them "fry well." What this means is that they'll spend some extra time in the fryer, and will better hold their shape once all those extra toppings hit them. In case you aren't too sure about this, just know that Kathy worked at In-N-Out for 12 years so if there is one person you can trust on this, it should be her.

9. Ask how long ago the coffee was brewed at Dunkin' Donuts

Let's head over to the East coast now with the Massachusetts-based fast food, Dunkin' Donuts. Much like wanting fresh fries at McDonald's and In-N-Out, having fresh coffee can be pretty nice as well. But in fast food joints, you can't know whether you're getting your coffee fresh or not, right? Wrong. Unlike many coffee shop chains, where you don't quite know what kind of coffee you're getting, Dunkin' is the place for fresh coffee. As a matter of fact, Dunkin' can grind your coffee beans right in front of you, on the counter.

At Dunkin' Donuts, fresh coffee is brewed every 18 minutes. This means that if having a freshly-brewed cup is important to you and you aren't in too much of a rush, you should definitely ask the Dunkin' employee when the coffee was last brewed. You don't have much to lose by asking. If they tell you 15 minutes ago, you can always wait three minutes for a fresh cup, and if they say five minutes ago, you know you're getting pretty fresh coffee. No down-side!

10. Ask for the receipt at McDonald's

Nowadays, most of us probably very rarely keep our receipts, let alone look at them. Most of the time, we don't even ask for it or tell the cashier we don't need it and it goes straight to the trash on their side of the counter. Well, that might be a mistake, at least in America's favorite fast-food restaurant. According to Kamran Adnan, a former McDonald's employee in the U.K., you should always ask for your receipt when going to McDonald's. Believe it or not, asking for your receipt could make your cashier think you are a secret shopper.

Having the employees think you are the secret shopper is a surefire way to get the best customer service you've ever seen. According to this former employee, this worked especially well during rush hours in their store because it was during the lunch and dinner rush that those mystery shoppers would swing by the restaurant. The employee stressed that their managers wanted to make sure customer service was especially good during these times. 

On top of it being the likely hours for a secret shopper to drop by, rush hour is too busy for them to think about it too much. The employee may just assume that you are a mystery shopper, and with that privilege comes hot and crispy fries, faster service, smiles all around and dare we say, an extra nugget?

11. Ask for grilled items first at Taco Bell

The original fast food tacos are crowd-pleasers for sure. With over 7,000 locations and $12.6 billion in sales in 2021, Taco Bell is fourth on the list of America's favorite fast foods according to QSR magazine. Additionally, it doesn't look like it's going anywhere since, on average, a Taco Bell location opened every two hours in 2022. Amongst its most popular items, you'll find Crunchwrap Supreme and Quesarito. You'll also have a pretty nice selection of grilled items like their Grilled Steak Soft Taco, Grilled Cheese Dipping Taco, or the Grilled Cheese Burrito which has become quite successful. 

This last hack to get the best possible experience at Taco Bell is all about saving time. For a piece all about fast food Buzzfeed allowed former or current fast food workers to share things they wanted customers to know. Amongst the stream of comments left in the anonymous comment box, one Taco Bell employee said: "If you go to Taco Bell and want anything grilled, please order those items first. It takes a few more seconds than usual to make those items." Ordring grilled items before the rest of your order will help employees get your order to you that much faster.