The worst confessions from fast food workers

Okay, let's be honest here: We might love occasionally treating ourselves to our favorite fast-food chains, but we don't go there for the pristine upper-class environments or the impeccable service. We go there because, well, greasy cheeseburgers and salty french fries are delicious. Sometimes that diet we've been trying so hard to stick to needs to take a backseat to our love of a Big Mac or our infatuation with the almighty Whopper.

Even though we're not walking into Eleven Madison Park or Per Se, we still expect the employees to handle our guilty pleasures with care. We put our trust those "Wash Hands After Using Restroom" signs in every bathroom are taken seriously, even though at the bottom of our hearts, we know the likelihood of every worker following rules to a T is, ultimately, unlikely. But, we do our best not to think about the renegades who live by their own rules (and hygiene).

Those of us who know people who work (or have worked) in a place like McDonald's or Burger King certainly have gasped in shock at some of the alarming things employees did without customers knowing. In fact, the chances are pretty good most employees have at least one unsettling behind-the-scenes story under their own belts.

Eater, beware. You're in for confessions sure to scare.

Check your vegetarianism at the door

Now more than ever, restaurants need to prepare for any kind of dietary restriction and allergy that walks through their doors. You have an array of celiacs, vegans, and vegetarians (to name a few) that crave delicious food just like all of us, but they need it prepared a certain way. A carnivore has a tough time understanding why anyone wouldn't want a juicy glistening steak placed before them, but then again, a hardcore vegetarian has no idea how someone could sleep at night knowing their dinner had, at one point, four legs and a face.

One ex-employee of A&W divulged a secret any vegetarian would gasp in shock at. Sure, the place had veggie burgers as an option, but those "veggie burgers were grilled on the same grill as the meat, and were often cooked in the grease of other burgers," they spilled on Reddit. Of course, it was only trace amounts, but try telling that to a vegetarian (in other words, prepare for one helluva dress down).

Cheese or pepperoni? You'll pay the same

There are times when a basic cheese pizza is all you need to be satisfied, and there's no reason to shell out any extra for topping add-ons. Other times, the idea of pepperoni, meatballs, onions, and green peppers atop your pie is so enticing you don't mind spending a little extra. We can all be slaves to our appetites at times, but at Little Caesars, there might be something fishy going on with those add-on prices…

One Redditor who worked at a location in Sumner, Washington, thought it was strange that both "the 'Cheese Pizza' cost $5.99 whilst the 'Pepperoni Pizza' cost $5.99." How could you charge $5.99 for both when clearly one has a meat addition that obviously costs something. According to their manager, "It's that way because the customers are informed that more cheese is added onto the 'Cheese Pizza.'" Is it really, though? This person let it be known the pizzas absolutely did not contain anything extra. "This was a blatant lie as we put equal amounts of cheese on all the pizzas," they said. "The cheese is added before any other toppings. DOUGH–>SAUCE–>CHEESE–>WHATEVER YOU WANT TO IMAGINE. So you don't really know which ones are going to be baked as 'Pepperoni'…"

Be wary of those "helpful" employee suggestions

Sometimes when you finally reach the register after a frustratingly long wait behind a slew of people who act like they've never ordered a meal before ("C'mon man, the menu hasn't changed in decades!"), the tired-eyed worker might suggest certain items for your dining pleasure. Normally you know exactly what you want — unlike that completely confused and overwhelmed diner a few people before you — but occasionally you think, "You know what? I haven't had one of those in a while. I think I will take the suggestion."

One Redditor who works at an undisclosed eatery admits there's a shady reason behind those suggestions at their place of business. "Whenever we have ingredients that are going to expire or just expired, we tell our cashiers to subtly 'promote' certain foods when a customer seems unsure about what to buy," they explained. So, the next time someone suggests a Big Mac, know that it might not be because they want you to enjoy a delicious bite of "two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, and a sesame-seed bun." It's probably because that special sauce is coagulating.

We don't mean to enc-"roach" on your sanitation rules

Unfortunately, bugs enjoy food about as much as humans, and leaving a mess of crumbs behind sounds the alarm for anything with more than two legs to come out of hiding and mount an attack. One word no one wants to ever hear in a restaurant is "infestation." Flies are a menace, ants are unruly, but there's one nuisance a cut above the rest: cockroaches. They look like little armored vehicles with legs, and they love to reproduce like their species depends on it every time.

As popular as Starbucks is, they, too, are privy to the mayhem-inducing woes of roach takeovers, and one ex-employee had a particularly nightmarish experience. "They were everywhere. The pastry case, in the storage, around the dry powders…" they dished on Reddit. But, the absolute nastiest sight, they said, was watching one "crawl out of the espresso spout in the machines." No one wants their Venti with an added cockroach carcass floating on top. Keep that image burned into your mind the next time you wake up craving your daily 'Bucks.

It might taste good, but it smells disgusting

We're all aware the food prepared by overworked high school students at our local fast-food joint isn't getting a raving write-up from Pete Wells in next week's edition of The New York Times, but we expect a certain quality, even if that bar is fairly low. If it tastes good, or even just if it tastes fine, we're happy. We like to keep our heads in the sand when it comes to how our meals arrived at good or fine, because oftentimes in fast-food prep, the less you know the better. Which leads us to this unfortunate discovery about Taco Bell's fare…

As one Taco Bell employee so eloquently expressed on Reddit, people might want to stay the heck away from anything on the menu involving meat (which is basically everything, so good luck with that). "You DO NOT want to see how the meat comes into the store. The meat we use for the tacos and other things of the sort comes in big plastic bags labeled 'Suitable for human consumption.' They smell absolutely awful until we put the seasonings in." Brace yourself: Another former employee dished, "…we sometimes use meat pas[t] expiration time." 

Say it isn't so, Taco Bell. Stinky? Expired? As enticing as a chalupa sounds, you might want to stick to thinking inside the bun.

Maybe you'd rather order the McNothing

Those Golden Arches of McDonald's seem to tug at our tummies every time we look at them, even if we're not in the mood for a quick and cheap meal. Maybe it's our appetite's devil urging us to give in to the diet-breaking delights of fast food, or the nostalgia of those childhood Happy Meals might very well be the culprit. Either way, that urge sometimes hits, but one employee implores people who catch the "Golden Arch Giddies" to order with extreme caution when it comes to the McCafes.

According to their testimonial on Reddit, they "make sure everyone that matters to [them] never orders anything that comes out of the 'McCafe' machine as these are routinely neglected…" What kind of disgusting buildup occurs inside? "A couple of times I stuck my hand in the machine to pull out a literal fist-full of black soot… The insides are caked with it, the lines where the product comes out as well," they explained. As horrific as that sounds, the smoothie machine innards also belong far away from the human stomach, according to the same employee who said, "…the McDonald's I'm at now also has us cleaning the smoothie machine with f***ing glass cleaner." Those Golden Arches now seem a lot more tarnished, and that's one stain that Windex won't buff out.

Best you know as little as possible about the chili

During those frigid days of December when Old Man Winter tortures you as best he can, you need something warm to keep that soul kickin'. Hot chocolate often does the trick, and sometimes a rich cup of soup hits the spot. But nothing satisfies quite like a hearty bowl of chili when those cold winds batter us to the bone. Lots of people have their own secret recipe, as do many fast-food spots, and Wendy's is one that definitely shells out chili by the cupful every day. Once you hear how they create their meaty concoction, though, no amount of cold weather warrants a helping.

It's not so much the recipe as it is the gnarly method of making chili. One ex-employee describes the horrendous procedure in vivid detail on Reddit, saying, "Wendy's chili. It's made from dried up, leftover hamburger meat. It sits in bags of its own grease in the freezer for god knows how long, until it's pulled out and boiled. Then it's mixed with giant cans of beans and tomatoes that smell like vomit, and boiled again for hours. Whatever wasn't used at the end of the night was poured back into vats and stored in the walk in until it would be reheated in the morning."

Yum?

Gloves not required when handling the chicken of the sea

When sushi-philes hear the word "tuna," their mind immediately goes to a delicate cut of marbled bluefin draped over a mound of rice. But you likely can't purchase that at your local grocery store, no matter how badly you wish management would cave and start importing sushi-grade cuts of fish. No, the tuna they have comes densely packed in cans, but even though it might be cheap, when you make a batch of tuna fish correctly, you're not upset you opted for the chicken of the sea. At one particular Subway, however, customers would gag at what one employee witnessed first-hand.

The Subway worker took to Reddit to caution customers against a certain sandwich, saying, "Do not order the tuna fish at subway. I worked there in high school and my boss showed me how to mix the freeze dried tuna and mayonnaise together with her bare hands on my first day." There's nothing quite like a tuna sub with a hint of fingernail grime for flavoring. Another employee also pointed out the bags tuna arrive in "used to have a label on it that said that it didn't contain dolphin or turtles in the meat, then that label suddenly disappeared in 2012." So now we're looking at possible fingernail grime, turtle shell fragments, and chipped dolphin teeth? Subway: "Eat Fresh?"

Jack in the Box or pain in the stomach?

Long ago, eateries didn't pay much mind to allergies. But, nowadays, establishments need to arm themselves with every tool necessary to ensure allergic reactions stay as far away from the customer experience as possible. Whether it's dairy, nuts, shellfish, or any other anaphylactic shock-causing food popping in to ruin someone's week, restaurants must employ an efficient line of defense. However, at one particular Jack in the Box location, those with fruit allergies dine with their lives in their hands.

One employee spilling the tea on Reddit was quick to point out that it's mandatory to avoid milkshakes like the plague if guests even have the slightest allergy to fruit. "We do not clean the mixer very well, and it's used for smoothies and milkshakes. Like, we're TOLD to just half-a** it. In the training video," they explained. If what they say is true, whoever hosts that training video ought to lose that acting contract and face up to some pretty serious negligence charges. An allergy to fruit is bad enough (raspberries are just so good), but now the Jack who lives inside that Box has it out for them, as well? 

The health department will "rat" you out

As much as the words "health department" make managers panic and throws a kitchen into complete chaos for the duration of those unannounced visits, their existence is vital when it comes to safety. That milk better clock in at the correct temperature, and heaven help any restaurant that has an army of rowdy ants marching single file along the stockroom floor. Everything square inch of both the kitchen and dining room falls under the microscopic eye of health department employees, and they'll try their hardest to find even the smallest infraction. Because let's be honest: Docking points from a wide-eyed nervous staff feels… strangely empowering.

During one surprise visit to a KFC, the health department stumbled upon the Golden Ticket of infractions, according to one Redditor, who said, "There was a dead rat at the bottom of one of the fryers. The sanitary city council group came to do the 6 month check up or whatever and found it at the bottom of the fryer and came to the realization that it had been in there for quite some time. Needless to say the place was shut down immediately."

Is that KFC's secret seasoning?

Grilled chicken from Sonic? You might want to pass

It shouldn't come as a huge shock many fast-food places use frozen patties for their burgers. C'mon, it's fast food for a reason. Employees need to crank out potentially hundreds of orders throughout the day, so they need a quick and efficient way to accomplish the mission. But, it's not just the beef patties that come frozen by the dozens, either. Chicken patties arrive the same way, and just like beef, they're thawed out and tossed into a steam broiler to keep warm, awaiting their journey into a paper bag alongside some fries.

One person who worked at Sonic in high school took to Reddit to tell some dreadful tales about their steam-broiling process. They issued a dire warning to those seeking a chicken patty, saying, "DO NOT, EVER, GET THE GRILLED CHICKEN. Sure it's grilled. From a frozen chicken patty. After it was cooked, it was then thrown into a steam broiler to keep it warm." But even worse, their manager completely ignored the steam-broiling rules. "The rule book said replace them every 2 hours, but my manager would yell at me if I pulled them out earlier than 4 hours," they spilled. "After 2 hours, the chicken becomes hard and rubbery and tastes like crap." Come in with an appetite for chicken, leave with a stomach full of rubber. Now there's a slogan for you.

Some establishments have "high" expectations for their employees

Usually on the first day of a job — or maybe during that dreaded training period where you stand behind a seasoned employee and awkwardly shadow them for the day — a new recruit gets handed an "employee guidelines" packet outlining the company's rules and regulations. The strictness of the criteria varies from place to place, but there are always those staple expectations: Don't arrive late. Always dress appropriately. Do not disrespect the customers or coworkers. And, definitely keep drugs as far away from the premise as possible. It's "puff, puff, pass," not "puff, puff, work."

However, some employees do, in fact, abide by the latter saying. One person who used to work for Domino's Pizza admitted to lighting up before nearly every pie-slingin' shift. "I was always high when I worked for Domino's" they bluntly (get it?) admitted on Reddit. But, not only were they standing glazed-eyed with a grin behind the register, but who was supplying them the devil's lettuce? "I bought my weed from my boss," they said. Yep, they were buying the sticky icky from their direct superior. Turns out great customer service wasn't their "high"-est priority.

Clean ice is always nice

Ice: The cornerstone of any drink you intend on keeping cold while it stays in a hot car on your way home. Some people might prefer their drinks without it (a nifty little tactic to get more beverage for your buck), but most people welcome that hefty scoop of frozen cubes into their super-sized cola even though by the last sip, it's thoroughly watered down the flavor. No one wants to sip a lukewarm soda during the dog days of summer, c'mon now.

But, watered down drinks aren't the only thing you need to worry about when it comes to ice. According to one Redditor who's worked at multiple establishments, ice machines are "RARELY cleaned out. Like almost NEVER. Bugs, dirt, food particles, whatever." Yikes. And when the employee tried to bring it to the attention of their managers, "they both brushed it off as having better things to do with my time." There's nothing quite like a manager who really cares about what they're serving paying customers.

Luckily, many places do tend to their ice with care, but you never really know until that fly catches a one-way ticket to Tongue Town.