Mistakes Everyone Makes When Ordering McDonald's

There's nothing quite like that first bite of a well-made Big Mac or that first handful of piping hot fresh fries from the drive-thru. While McDonald's isn't exactly the height of culinary perfection and there's a lot to be desired from the chain's menu when it comes to looking for something healthy, there are just some things that McDonald's gets right — which is probably why McDonald's was ranked the most popular fast-food chain among adults who dine on fast food once a month or more, based on a consumer survey.

But can you make your McDonald's experience even greater than it already is? Or is there anything you can do to better avoid the occasional lackluster McDonald's experience (because we've all had one, whether it's not getting the right food or having to wait an exorbitant amount of time for your order)? Turns out, there are a few ways you can start enjoying your McDonald's order even more — when you avoid these 13 mistakes everyone makes when ordering McDonald's.

Not using the McDonald's app

Sure, every fast-food place, every retail store, every brand pretty much has their own app these days, and many of them just take up valuable space on your phone with their useless notifications and features. However, that's not the case with the McDonald's app, especially if you frequently find yourself headed toward those golden arches. You could be missing out on tons of deals and perks by not adding this app to your phone.

The McDonald's app allows you to order take-out right from your device, gives you access to exclusive deals you won't find anywhere else, and allows you to earn McCafe points, which can be redeemed for some of your favorite menu items (though it's expected that McCafe points will be retired soon, and replaced by MyMcDonald's Rewards, which should allow for even more point redemption options). Plus, it's not uncommon to get free items just for downloading the app for the first time, such as a current promotion that gives you a free large serving of fries for downloading the app through the end of 2021.

Ordering your fries without salt in order to get fresh fries

It's the oldest McDonald's "hack" in the book. If you want the hottest fries possible, some will advise you to ask for your fries to be made with no salt. This requires the employees to make a completely new batch of fries without the salt, as all of the fries that are currently sitting around, waiting to be served, have already been salted. But, unfortunately, that's not the best course of action for getting your fries fresh. You're just annoying the employees and making things hard on them for no reason — because you can get your fries fresh without this time-consuming request.

According to a Quora user, when you ask for unsalted fries, the employee is required to either clean the fry station and scoop, and then make your new batch, in order to ensure no salt ends up on your fries, or they have to take your fries directly from the fryer oil, before they wind up in the salty station area. Usually, the user explains, the employee chooses the latter, because it's faster, but it's also riskier and can end in painful burns.

They say, "Please don't ask for unsalted fries simply to get fresh ones. We are more than happy to make fresh fries for you if you ask us to! ... There's nothing more frustrating than when customers ask for unsalted fries, only to turn around and dump several packets of salt all over them."

Ordering a box of six chicken nuggets

So you're too hungry for a four-piece box of McNuggets, but you're not hungry enough for a 10-piece box of McNuggets, so what do you do? Probably go for that middle ground six-piece box of McNuggets, right? But, actually, there's a good reason to never order a box of six McNuggets again. 

According to a viral TikTok video, a four-piece goes for around 33 cents per nugget, but the six-piece ... 58 cents per nugget! With the six-piece, you're paying a buck extra for two fewer nuggets. So, if you're trying to save some cash, the four-piece box is the way to go — but don't feel like you have to walk away from McDonald's hungry. Just go ahead and order two, four-piece boxes of nuggets. You'll save more money per nugget and enjoy an extra two delicious nuggets that you wouldn't have, had you order the six-piece box.

Not customizing your meal in order to save money

Why not save a little cash the next time you're ordering a meal at McDonald's? You may be able to get your favorite sandwich or combo at a more budget-friendly price if you order certain items or ingredients separately or on the side. 

As one McDonald's employee on Reddit explains, if you order a Sausage Egg McMuffin, you'll be charged $3.29. However, you can order a plain sausage McMuffin and a side of eggs for a total of $2.29, saving you a dollar. They say this methodology applies to pretty much all breakfast sandwiches. For those who want the taste of a Big Mac, they can save money by ordering a more affordable burger and asking for a side of Big Mac sauce, as the employee reports that McDonald's employees do not charge for sandwich sauces when they're on the side. Additionally, if you want a McDouble with fries, you can order the McDouble Mighty Kids Meal with double fries instead of fries and apple slices, which results in a full McDouble meal for $3.69, versus the $5.50 you'd pay for the adult-sized meal.

Ordering something because you assume it's the "healthiest" item on the menu

If you're looking to save a few calories at McDonald's, you'll probably be surprised at what you should order. Definitely, whatever you do, don't look toward a McDonald's salad for ideal health and nutrition. In the past, McDonald's salads have been an unhealthier option, with the Southwest Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Salad with Creamy Southwest Dressing, according to a previous Mashed article, adding up to 630 calories, 33 grams of fat, 11 grams of sugar, and 1,250 milligrams of sodium — quite a bit more than the Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Maybe that's part of the reason why McDonald's ended up removing salads from its menu in 2020; while CNBC blamed the removal on the pandemic and the need to fill drive-thru orders quickly, you still won't find salads on the menu now, even as pandemic restrictions have eased up and inside dining has resumed.

But beyond the salads, you'll find some supposed healthy items on the McDonald's menu aren't that healthy at all. For breakfast, you may assume the fruit and maple oatmeal is the healthiest, lowest-calorie item on the menu, but you'll save some calories by ordering the sausage burrito instead. At lunch and dinner, you might think going with a chicken sandwich is your best bet for fewer calories, but you might want to trade out that 470-calorie crispy chicken sandwich for one of the four different burger options that are lower in calories.

Ordering via the dining room touchscreens might lead to longer wait times

For some, those dining room touchscreens in McDonald's are a godsend. You just walk in, tap a few buttons, and then wait for your order, no talking to another human being required. But by ordering via this handy bit of tech, you might be doing yourself a disservice, by creating longer wait times for not just your order, but everyone else's too.

As Inc. explains, while dining room touchscreens increase the amount of orders that a McDonald's restaurant can take, oftentimes, that doesn't mean that there are more employees that are available to fill those orders. So, the reduced capacity results in extended wait times (in fact, a Bloomberg study found that McDonald's drive-thru wait times are now the worst in the fast-food biz). Employees are expected to work harder to fulfill more orders, which, when you think about it, is a bit of an unreasonable ask, one that could account for your cold fries and long wait times.

Not specifying the type of egg you want on your breakfast sandwich

If you consistently order the same breakfast meal at McDonald's, you might not be aware that the chain uses two different types of eggs on its breakfast sandwiches. The Egg McMuffins feature a perfectly circular egg patty, while the biscuit and McGriddle sandwiches use a folded egg sheet (for lack of a better description). For those who've tried both, the clear winner is the Egg McMuffin circular egg patty. The folded egg sheet, according to one Serious Eats writer, is pre-cooked and then reheated, resulting in a less-than-eggy flavor and an overall undesirable experience. 

The writer goes on to explain that those odd folded eggs can be a thing of the past, if you, too, find them somewhat repulsive. All you have to do is ask for the round egg — the same one that appears on the Egg McMuffins — to be added to your breakfast sandwich, as a substitute for the normal egg.

Not checking your order before you drive away — but also checking your order in the drive-thru lane

It's happened to all of us. You order your food, take it from the drive-thru employee, are in a hurry, and so you drive off without checking the bag. When you get to your destination, you open up that brown sack and discover a meal totally different from what you'd ordered. 

While this common McDonald's mistake can be easily remedied by simply checking your order before you drive away, you want to be careful with how you do so. You don't want to sit in the drive-thru lane checking your order and holding up the line (that's a sure way to gain some enemies). Instead, as She Finds recommends, drive to an empty parking spot, stop, and check things out. Then, if there's something missing or incorrect, don't go through the drive-thru line again, to get it fixed; rather, go inside, which employees report is your fastest option.

Not asking for extra sauces when you place your order

Another way that you can end up majorly holding up the drive-thru line, according to one employee's account for a Seventeen article? Not ordering the extra sauces that you want when you place your order — and we're not talking sandwich sauces that you can request on the side for free (though you should ask for those when you place your order as well). We're talking about extra dipping sauces, which do indeed cost more money at most McDonald's locations. Typically, you're allowed two dipping sauces per menu item, so if you ask for more dipping sauces after you've already paid, you'll hold up the line as the employee is required to ring up a separate, secondary order for you.

Unfortunately, some publications actually advise that you ask for the extra sauce at the second drive-thru window, so you can get your sauce for free. The Mirror is one such publication that told readers to do so, saying that the poor drive-thru employee likely isn't going to ask you to go back to the first window to pay, but they're not going to bother telling you "no" either.

Not bringing along some cash if you're stopping by in the middle of the night

McDonald's is one of the few fast-food restaurants that are open 24 hours, allowing you to get your fast-food fix regardless of how late at night (or early in the morning) it may be. However, if you visit during certain late-night hours, you may want to do yourself a favor and bring along some cash.

According to one Reddit user and McDonald's employee, "McDonald's [locations] that run 24 hours are required to restart their system nightly. This results in a 30 [to] 90-minute window where we are cash-only." And not only are the restaurants cash-only during that 30 to 90-minute time period, but since the entire system is down, the employee explains, everything has to be done the old-fashioned way, with employees taking orders with pen and paper, checking prices manually, adding it all manually to get your total, and then physically going to tell the cook what to make.

Not asking for the sauce you really want on your sandwich

So we've already discussed how you can get free sandwich sauce on the side and how you shouldn't try to weasel your way into free dipping sauces, but did you know that you can get any sauce you want added to your sandwich? There's no reason why you shouldn't be asking for that tartar sauce on your chicken sandwich, that mayo on your burger, or that Big Mac sauce on your fish filet. As one McDonald's employee and Reddit user says, "you can [substitute] any sauce on burgers (honey mustard, [Big] Mac sauce, ranch, BBQ, etc.) and even change the bun (sesame seed buns on a McDouble, for instance)."

Use this method to try out the various, best sauce and sandwich "hacks" that Mashed found on TikTok, such as adding Big Mac sauce to your McDouble for a tasty, smaller version of the Big Mac sandwich, or adding ranch dressing to a chicken-burger combo.

Placing a large order during the lunch rush

Sometimes, you and a group of friends are ready to chow down on some of the best fast food of your life, so you head to McDonald's, or send one person along with a massive order for the drive-thru. Sometimes, the entire office decides to place a lunch order for McDonald's, so they send along the office intern to pick up all the fries, burgers, and nuggets. Whatever the reason you're placing a mammoth order at McDonald's, there's a better way to probably do it. For one, don't place that large order during the normal lunch rush hour, when everyone is placing a lunch order.

As one McDonald's employee advises on Reddit, "Don't [place a large order] during the lunch hour. Do it a little later (after 1:00). Going at 12:00, when the store is busiest, will be a poor experience on both ends. This makes it a lot easier for the kitchen staff, and should get you in and out of the store a lot faster."

Not calling ahead when placing a large order

Lastly, and along these same lines, you want to make sure that you call ahead when placing a large order at McDonald's. Just showing up at the drive-thru or at the register with a massive order can make for a headache for the employees and a long wait for you. As multiple McDonald's employees on Reddit say, call ahead. One Redditor notes, "Stores have no problem handling big orders, but a bit of forewarning is GREATLY appreciated. You'll be served if you show up and ask, but you're doing the entire store a service by calling ahead."

So what exactly constitutes a "big" order? That's where employees on the Reddit thread disagree. While some say an order of 20 burgers is nothing and that staff should be able to handle an order of that size, especially when they're running at full capacity, others say an order of that size requires a call ahead, so staff can plan accordingly.

A good rule of thumb? If you're ordering for more than a few people, call ahead just to be safe.