Weird Rules That McDonald's Workers Have To Follow

McDonald's employees (like most fast food restaurant employees) often get a bad wrap — the roles of cashiers and cooks are often (and unfairly) viewed as less-glamorous jobs for people without higher education. But what many people fail to realize is, that working for McDonald's can actually be a pretty great gig, especially for crew members who want to follow a foodservice career path that could help pay for a college degree. 

According to Indeed, McDonald's front-line workers often make over $10 per hour (depending on location and years of service), which isn't terrible considering the 2020 federal minimum wage is a measly $7.25. On top of that, the McDonald's Courtesy Corporation website, which details employee benefits, points out that hourly crew members can participate in McDonald's Stock Purchase Plan, contribute to a 401(k), receive meal discounts, and participate in two education programs, Archways to Opportunity and the McScholars tuition matching program. Not to mention, employees who log enough hours each week are also eligible for health insurance. All-in-all, for individuals looking to start a career, an hourly job at McDonald's shouldn't be scoffed at. 

That said, McDonald's employees are held to a very high standard, and some of the corporate rules can seem a little strange — with swift repercussions (i.e., termination) if they're ignored. Before you apply for a gig at Mickey D's, make sure you're ready to abide by these rules. 

Once the McDonald's dining room has closed, customers can't use the bathrooms

Many McDonald's are opened 24-hours for drive-thru service, but most close their dining rooms to the public late at night. This allows the restaurants to run a skeleton crew and sufficiently clean and prep the interiors for the morning rush. Once the interior is closed, it is closed. McDonald's employees aren't supposed to let anyone in — even paying customers who just want to use the bathroom. Part of the challenge is in keeping the bathrooms clean with just a few employees on the clock, but part is a safety issue. Store managers don't want people traipsing in and out, especially when there aren't many customers, leaving the store and employees more at risk for burglaries. 

This rule made national headlines in 2011 when a 7-year McDonald's crew member got fired after breaking the rule for NFL Pro Bowl running back, Adrian Peterson. According to an article in Inc., McDonald's employee Tiffany Langeslay initially turned down the Minnesota Viking's request to use the toilet when he walked through the drive-thru where she was working, but after he told her who he was, she went ahead and let him in. Unfortunately, when she showed up to work the next day, she was fired for breaking the rule, because you know, a rule is a rule. But, after the media caught wind of her firing and it started to make headlines, she was quickly rehired. And Peterson was grateful

Employees have to wash their hands at least once an hour

Be honest — you hope the people handling your food at McDonald's are washing their hands frequently. You really hope this is true. But you may not realize that McDonald's staff policies require employees to wash their hands at least once an hour with antimicrobial soap, and in some countries, at least once every 30 minutes. It's not clear why this rule varies country-to-country — it could simply be that some countries' laws regulating food service hygiene are stricter than others — but, for instance, according to the McDonald's regional website FAQs, in the United Arab Emirates, the standard is at least once an hour, while in Great Britain, it's at least every 30 minutes. 

If that has you wondering what the rule is in the United States, you're not alone. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be a standard guideline that all United States McDonald's employees are told to follow (or at least not one that has been well-communicated). In a subreddit group titled "McLounge," and dedicated to McDonald's employees, a question was posed about updated hygiene standards related to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Answers from different employees varied from changing gloves after every customer, using hand sanitizer after every customer, washing hands every 15 minutes, washing hands every 30 minutes, or some combination thereof. The good news is, it appears personal hygiene is strictly enforced. The bad news is, it's not 100 percent clear what the hygiene standards are.

Ronald McDonald must only answer to the name Ronald McDonald

For any Generation X child reminiscing about childhood birthday parties at McDonald's, it probably goes without saying that Ronald McDonald himself — the yellow and red clown representing the Mickey D's brand — plays a significant role in those memories. And while the bigger-than-life clown has gradually faded from public view, with articles referencing his slow demise dating back to the early 2000s, his character was so well known that in the 1970s, the company hired a "Boss Clown" whose sole responsibility it was to hire and train the men who donned the big shoes and bright wig. 

According to an article on Today I Found Out, the first "Boss Clown," Aye Jaye, penned a book titled Ronald and How. This book detailed a slew of rules that all Ronald McDonald actors must strictly abide by (most of which are still enforced today). One such rule is that actors must maintain the illusion that Ronald is, in fact, real (not just a company mascot). As such, these actors can only respond to the name Ronald McDonald while in costume. According to this article, there's at least one incident that took place in Saginaw, Michigan in 2000 when following a minor car accident, a Ronald McDonald in full costume was detained temporarily by police because when asked what his real name was, he would only respond, "Ronald McDonald." Now that's a true commitment to the role. 

They can't give out free food under any circumstance

It's pretty standard practice that restaurant employees aren't supposed to give away free food. That's considered stealing from the company, right? But some restaurants have exceptions, like offering a free coffee to police officers or other first responders. 

McDonald's is not one of those restaurants. Okay, so very occasionally they'll offer a company-wide exception, like in April and May 2020, when they offered free "Thank You Meals" to healthcare workers and first responders in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. But generally, they enforce the "no food rule" rigidly and without exception, with those who dare to break the rule facing the potential of immediate firing. 

Take, for instance, an example cited in Dutch Daily News, in which a McDonald's employee was fired (yes, fired) after giving a colleague (yes, another McDonald's employee) an extra slice of cheese on her hamburger without charging for the slice. Ultimately, the fired employee took McDonald's to court and won a small settlement, with the Dutch judge stating that termination was too harsh an outcome for such a slight offense. So while firing may be off the table for giving away a slice of cheese, if you have friends who work at McDonald's, don't expect any freebies while they're on shift — management clearly takes all types of corporate theft very, very seriously. 

Highly tattooed and pierced individuals need not apply

McDonald's official "Grooming Policy" is strict and includes 11 very-detailed bullet points covering everything from hair color (natural colors only) and length of side-burns (they can't extend below the earlobes), to fingernail length (you must be able to touch the touch screen register with "the flesh part of your finger") and jewelry (chains must be tucked into shirts). But where things get really strict is with piercings and tattoos. McDonald's wants their crew members to look clean, neat, and well-kempt, and apparently that's just too hard if you've got rings and ink all over your body. 

For instance, under no circumstances are piercings around the mouth allowed. If you have a nose piercing, it can't have a hoop or ring, and it must be approved by the Area Supervisor. "Extreme stud piercing is not allowed," although it's not abundantly clear what that means, only later stating that a maximum of three piercings are allowed in each ear. The same goes for "extreme tattoos," although again, more details aren't readily given. Presumably, this means that if Mike Tyson decides he needs a job at McDonald's, thanks to his face tattoo, he won't make it past the first interview. So before you put in your own application, don a long-sleeve shirt to cover your tattooed forearms and remove at least a few of your earrings — it'll go a long way toward helping you get the job. 

People can't be served if they try walking through the drive-thru

It's late, maybe you're a little drunk, and you're hungry. There's a Mickey D's right around the corner, and because you know better than to drive while under the influence, why not just walk through the drive-thru to order fries and a milkshake? Well, there's a rule against that. Chances are if you try to walk through the drive-thru, you'll be turned away. 

According to the McDonald's website, crew members are not supposed to serve pedestrians at the same point where they serve vehicles. Apparently, it's for safety reasons, which when you think about it, makes sense. If a car is pulling up to a drive-thru late at night and doesn't see someone standing in the drive-thru lane, it's an accident waiting to happen. That said, the website also notes that they're aware of pedestrians' desire for late-night grub-fests, and as such, have installed some pedestrian walk-up windows at restaurants that operate 24-hour drive-thrus. That way, when the dining room is closed for the night, but the drive-thru is still open, you may still be able to order your chicken nuggets and Quarter Pounder if you're so inclined. 

The order of ingredients is important and strictly enforced

According to a 2019 article in Mental Floss, there are more than 36,000 Golden Arches worldwide, staffed by more than 2-million McDonald's employees. For any food corporation that has that many restaurants and that many employees, it's absolutely essential to figure out how to effectively deliver consistency to customers who expect every McDonald's hamburger to taste exactly the same, regardless of location. One of the ways McDonald's does this is with strict enforcement of food construction — every ingredient must be added in the exact order described by McDonald's corporate.

In the Mental Floss article, one department manager explains that meats, cheeses, and sauces must be arranged in a specific order, and failing to do so can make a big difference in customer satisfaction. For instance, if the cheese isn't placed between the two burger patties in a McDouble, the cheese won't melt, which more-or-less ruins the perfect McDouble experience. People who aren't good at paying attention to detail may struggle to keep their jobs at McDonald's.

When a drive-thru order takes too long, they'll ask you to park

The whole point of hitting the drive-thru at McDonald's is to quickly be served your food within the comfort of your car. It's simple — you pull up to the menu board, have a somewhat frustrating and mumbled conversation with a crew member as you try to place your order, pull up to the service window, and receive your food. So if you've ever pulled up to the window and, after a few minutes, been asked to pull forward and park to wait for your order, you may have been both confused and somewhat irritated. Why add another step to your process of receiving your food? 

Well, according to an article on Mental Floss, McDonald's restaurants are expected to have a fast turnover of customers through the drive-thru. In fact, many stores have sensors that time each customer's progression from the menu board to the service window, and restaurants are expected to serve each drive-thru customer within a set period of time. If an order requires more preparation and is interfering with this rate of turnover, drive-thru employees will ask you to park to wait for your food. If this extra step is too much of a hassle for you, try not to order menu items that take longer to prepare, like pies or grilled chicken. Your basic Big Mac is probably the way to go. 

McDonald's employees can't mess with the Monopoly game pieces

Chances are, you're pretty familiar with McDonald's ongoing Monopoly promotion which encourages customers to collect Monopoly-inspired game pieces attached to drink cups and fry containers for the chance to win various prizes, including free food, gaming systems, and cold hard cash. You'd think it would be pretty easy for McDonald's employees to pocket a few pieces here or there in an effort to score some extra freebies, but if someone does and they're caught? It's grounds for dismissal. 

According to the Mental Floss article, employees aren't allowed to touch, open, or redeem Monopoly pieces, although it does happen. In a Reddit thread featuring questions to, and answers from, McDonald's employees, one crew member detailed an incident in which a co-worker was promptly fired after trying to redeem stolen game pieces at the same store where he was employed (obviously, management realized something untoward was afoot). While another Mickey D's crew member detailed how a co-worker got away with his thefts, although management quickly realized game pieces were missing and tightened up security to prevent more pieces from "walking away." 

Employees are supposed to turn you away if you order a McGangBang

Okay, it's obviously a terrible moniker, but there is an unofficial McDonald's "secret menu item" titled the McGangBang. According to #HackTheMenu, the McGangBang is a McChicken Sandwich that's placed directly inside of a McDouble. Both items are on the restaurant's Value Menu, so you essentially get a giant burger featuring chicken and beef patties, all for about two dollars. For this reason, the McGangBang "hack" is an incredibly popular order. 

But, to be clear, this is not a McDonald's-sanctioned title, and for the obviously not-so-family-friendly picture it conjures up, their corporate office is not a fan of people trying to make it "a thing." According to a McDonald's employee "ask me anything" Reddit thread, when asked about the corporate policy regarding this sandwich, most respondents said the official policy is to decline the order, although depending on the location, you might be served without so much as an eyebrow raise. Or, if you're really lucky, you might learn a local nickname for the popular item. For instance, the "McDank," "McChurger," and "McDicken" were all offered as viable alternatives. Although to be clear, none of these are corporate-sanctioned, either. Maybe you should just ask for a McChicken placed between a McDouble since that's literally what you're ordering. 

There are rules for how long a burger can sit before being tossed

If you're worried about how long the burger you ordered has been sitting under the warming lights, you don't have anything to worry about. For one thing, at busy McDonald's restaurants, the turnover for popular menu items is quick, so almost as soon as new items are prepared, they're being sold. But if you happen to visit the Golden Arches when it's quiet, or the restaurant you frequent is slow, you still don't have much to worry about — McDonald's corporate has very strict rules about how long each prepared item can sit before being tossed. According to a very detailed Reddit thread with answers from a former McDonald's employee, any burger made with the "regular" meat had to be thrown out every 15 minutes. But burgers made with more high-quality beef could be kept around a little longer — quarter meat for 30 minutes, and Angus beef or crispy chicken, 60 minutes. Chicken nuggets would get tossed after 20 minutes, along with the Filet-O-Fish. 

The respondent went on to detail all of the rules regarding shelf-life for everything from condiments to oil, making it clear that well-managed stores keep strict tabs on food safety and quality. Sure, there are "hacks" for getting "fresher" food, like ordering french fries without salt, but there's no reason you should feel the need to use them — you're almost always guaranteed freshness when eating at McDonald's.