There are many secrets that perhaps people would like to be privy to, and questions we’d like to be answered. What really went down at Area 51? How many spices are in KFC’s fried chicken recipe? Who was holding the camera in the Cloverfield movie?

Many things kept on the hush-hush can be pleasant surprises. Yet, there are some secrets we think we want to know, but once we find out, we change our minds. After reading this piece on what happens behind the scenes at fast food restaurants, you can decide how you feel about each of these.

Please, please, we ask that you reserve judgement until the end, and keep in mind that this list does NOT include each and every fast food chain you’ve visited, worked at, adored, or hated. Nice, nasty, or in between, here’s a peek into what the workers know that you may not.

  1. Ice Dispensers are Icky

    Compared to toilet water, ice machine water is dirtier. A 12-year-old got famous after conducting a science experiment for school where she collected samples of ice and post-flush toilet water from five fast food joints. Traces of E. coli were found in 70% of the ice samples.

    Those machines are cleaned less often than bathrooms! Be aware that mold and other grimy things could be infecting the chute.

  2. Grill Mark Tricks

    They are works of food art and not from being cooked on an actual grill. Flavor enhancements are added to make things taste smoky, and the marks are often added before the food is frozen and shipped to individual locations.

  3. You Could Be Eating Chemicals

    Some food items are treated with chemicals to preserve color, crispness, cleanliness, and taste. Chemicals like propylene glycol and others are tossed on or into veggies, burger patties, meats, and potatoes. If you want to research more on this issue, don’t forget to look up experiments on McDonald’s in a jar. Ew.

  4. Food is Not Always Fresh

    Reheats. Pre-cooked meats. Sitting food. Packed and sealed veggies. Leftovers. All those things might await you in the form of chili meat (leftover hamburger), “fresh toppings” for your burrito, or “grilled” steaks. An example comes from a Chipotle manager who posted on Reddit:

    “All peppers, lettuce, and tomatoes now come pre shredded and washed. Steak also now is pre cooked (well heated in hot water before being shipped to us).”

    Additionally, employees don’t always toss the food after the heater timer dings or at the end of the day. It sits for hours and served later, or sometimes the day after that. . .or the day after that.

  5. Speaking of Freshness

    If you’re willing to wait, you can request an item to be made fresh rather than have them tuck a lamp-heated package into your bag. Try it the next time you order something but be aware that some foods (like brownies and bread) are frozen and packaged when they arrive at the restaurants.

  6. Hot Dogs are Risky

    At certain times of the day, the food is in decent condition, but those of you needing to feed late-night cravings should watch out for roller bar food (i.e. taquitos) at convenience stores. Hot dogs and other menu items often sit on the heat for hours. That means by midnight or later, it’s the Cinderella effect and the magic has worn off.

  7. Oven Roasted May Mean Something Else

    According to a Subway worker, it means the oven roasted chicken was “boiled in the microwave.”

  8. Secret Menus are a Secret to Employees Too

    Okay, so at certain restaurants, there is a such thing as a “hidden menu”, but in most cases, there isn’t one. Starbucks does not have a secret menu with special names.

    If you hear about something on the internet that isn’t on the menu, it’s likely not a real thing. Employees would rather have you explain the recipe because they’ll have to make it from scratch. It’s essentially a DIY project.

  9. Save Money on Expensive Stuff

    Order something like a $1 McDouble with a side of Mac sauce instead of a Big Mac to save money. You can also try this with ice cream by forgoing the cone and having it served in a sundae cup. One Chipotle worker advises to order burrito bowls and getting taco shells on the side – which are usually free.

  10. Sonic Fixes Errors

    If they mess up your order in some way and you still have your receipt, they will comp you a free replacement meal.

  11. Drive-Thru Shenanigans

    At some joints, employees are timed on how fast they can deliver, and the screen will go “red” if things are too slow. Try not to be one of those people ordering for an army in the drive-thru and come inside. It takes longer to prepare certain orders! And definitely don’t be one of the winners who shows up 10 to 15 minutes before closing, or you run the risk of an unsavory meal.

  12. Gloves May be Optional

    Not all fast food places enforce the glove rule for prepping, cooking, or serving. One Auntie Anne’s employee shared that it’s in the manual that employees should skip them because it’s easier to make pretzels that way.

  13. Chicken Nuggets are Questionable

    A former Mickey D’s employee left a post on Reddit about one experience with nuggets:

    “I accidentally left a whole bag of about 100 chicken nuggets out on a counter for way too long. They melted. Into a pool of liquid. I never understood why. But they were completely indiscernible as being the nuggets I once knew.”

    It is thought that was the result of the way the meat is processed in the machine with chicken bits and other additions.

Ultimately, it’s up to you where and what you want to eat when you go out, so use this information in any way you see fit. Fast food is just that – fast. It’s cheap, filling, and usually high in things that aren’t healthy for us, but to each his own.

Do you have qualms about eating at certain fast food places? Have you ever worked at a fast food restaurant? If so, what secrets would you add to this list?



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