30 Restaurant Secrets We Customers Aren’t Supposed To Know
When you order a meal, a lot goes into preparing it. Of course, there are differences between places that offer fast food and fine dining, but both the former and the latter (and every establishment in between the two), have things they would like to stay behind their closed kitchen door. So no wonder there are plenty of posts on 'Ask Reddit' where people are asking servers, chefs, and other restaurant insiders to share the industry secrets most customers aren't aware of. To give you a better understanding of what you're paying for, we compiled the most interesting answers into the list you see below. Bon appétit!
Not so much a secret but a lesser known fact...
Kirkland products, the white label brand from Costco, are independently tested to beat OR EXCEED the industry leading product in that category. Razor blades. Cookies. Cheese. Laundry pods. If it doesn’t beat the industry leader, they won’t put the Kirkland name on it.
Ice-machines are RARELY cleaned out. Like almost NEVER. Bugs, dirt, food particles, whatever.
At two previous restaurant jobs I felt bad that customers were getting gross ice (both places had a single machine), and mentioned it to my managers at the time. They both brushed it off as having better things to do with my time, so I used to "accidentally" kick the plug out of the wall in the evenings, come in the next day, and find a half-melted ice machine. I was stuck cleaning it, but it was worth it, since I felt better about the ice being served. We had to use ice from the store down the street for the rest of the day, but it wasn't like it cost the restaurants much money.
One bartender told me he would "accidentally" drop/break a glass into an ice machine to serve the same purpose if the management wasn't being cool about it. Broken glass = scoop out and dump all the ice, and might as well clean the thing since it's empty.
I worked in a fancy country club ($25K initiation fee, then $7K/year in the 90s). A slice of "homemade" cheesecake was $7 each on the menu. One of the sous chefs stopped by the Giant Food grocery store every day on the way to work to pickup a whole cheesecake for about $5.
Alright, I've worked in fast food, in causal dining, and fine dining, in kitchens and front of house. In my experience, casual dining is usually the most dirty/unsanitary.
In fast food, supervision and rules are the most strict, so they're usually pretty clean. In fine dining, you have kitchen staff that takes pride in their work and actually knows *why* all those health department rules exist. They know how to handle raw meats, contaminants and allergens correctly. They don't follow all the rules to the letter, but they know their s**t and they care, so stuff is usually pretty damn clean and food safety is important to them.
Casual dining (especially non-chains) is right at the intersection of people not knowing/caring about food safety and not having strict rules and supervision. That's where s**t gets gross.
Of course these are just generalizations, but pretty true in my experience.
Most of our desserts are purchased from the Wal-Mart directly across the street then marked up 500%. For the price of a couple of pieces of cheesecake, you could just go across the street to Wal-Mart after your meal and buy a whole one.
We just drizzle a bit of chocolate or raspberry sauce on it so that it doesn't look exactly like the one from Wal-Mart.
Also, a smoker outside the building doesn't mean your barbecue is fresh. Most of it is frozen. Sometimes we just throw logs on there so it looks and smells like we're barbecuing. Homey, we made that shit two days ago. That's just wood you're smelling.
Everybody wants to believe that fast food restaurants are disgusting and have terribly low standards for everything, but the reality is that they wouldn't be able to stay in business if this was the case. On the contrary, many fast food places have absurdly high standards for cleanliness and food preparation. For two years, I managed a Jimmy John's franchise, and frankly, you could eat off the bathroom floor, and that's not an exaggeration. Corporate stoolies keep such a tight watch on individual franchises that a business owner risks losing their contract if they stray from compliance in any major way. The food may not always be the best quality (though JJ's meat is surprisingly decent quality), but you know that you get what you pay for. If you want a $5 meal, most fast food restaurants will provide that to you without you having to worry about what's going on behind the scenes.
Edit: Since some people are getting upset over the fact that their anecdotal experience didn't match this statement on one or two occasions, I would like to clarify that no, this doesn't apply to 100% of restaurants. I wouldn't think that would have to be said... but I guess it did.
Had a customer once ask if the Tomato Soup is vegetarian. I said I think so, and she asked if we'd check. Sure enough, she was right... most tomato soup starts with Chicken Broth.
Veggie burgers were grilled on the same grill as the meat, and were often cooked in the grease of other burgers.
Maybe not a "secret secret" but just not something people realized.
At Wendy's, the cooked burgers that don't get sold, those go into a pot in a refrigerator, and they get made into TOMORROW's chili.
The crispy chicken that doesn't get sold today? Those go into a pot in the fridge and those get made into TOMORROW's crispy chicken salads.
Back when Wendy's had a salad bar ... the burger buns that are going stale at the end of a day? Those got made into tomorrow's garlic bread on the salad bar.
None of this is unsafe, all of this is approved by the department of health, and none of this is a trade secret ... but I bet you didn't realize that.
We buy tiny wine bottles for $7 and sell for $37. Spaghetti Factories house wine is Franzia box wine.
Health inspection is really kind of a sham. Health inspectors tend to inspect all the restaurants in an area around the same time. When the inspector shows up at one restaurant the manager will typically notify the other restaurants in the area. I worked at a Taco Bell. When we got a call from the BK down the street that the health inspector was there, we knew he would be showing up at our place sometime in the next week. We would call in extra people to do a deep clean of everything. It did not matter that most of the year every time we hosed out under the fryer or food prep lines, we drowned hundreds of roaches. When the health inspector showed up everything was clean, so we still had a 100% on our health inspection.
Okay everyone. I JUST left my job at Wendy's that I've been at for quite some time. I worked my last shift this last Friday. You want to know why? WE GET TREATED LIKE S**T. that's the most disgusting thing. That's the big secret. I know at any job the potential for that will always be there. But it gets to the point where when my felon coworker is throwing food at me and spraying me in the face with a power hose and drunk people are coming in, reaching across my counter and threatening me and nothing is getting done about it, I knew I have to leave. And I did. Best thing I ever did to improve my quality of life.
Used to work at Silver Mine Subs. I think the grossest/weirdest things were probably the ice machines (I always was extra careful to inspect the ice, before filling it, because I found quite a few frozen bugs in there) and the fact that people sometimes smoked weed in the walk in freezer. I never did this but I caught several co-workers doing it. I mean sure I get high sometimes, but can't that wait until after work?
One notable story: I did delivery driving for a while and one time I was in a big rush with a bunch of orders. I had a customer's food and was running up the stairs to their apartment with it, and tripped over the top step (it was weird because you'd go up the staircase, turn the corner, and there was a random diagonal step there that was about half the height of all the other ones and nearly impossible to see.) I fell flat on my face and the bag of food went FLYING over the railing. Extremely embarrassed, I immediately went up to the customer's door, knocked, and admitted what happened. I apologized profusely, said I'd have the order remade, and comp him out for it.
He said to me with a smile "Don't worry about it. That step is f*****g annoying and I've honestly seen at least 3 or 4 other drivers do the exact same thing. You're the first to admit it happened; they all just went and got the food off the ground. And brought it up hoping I wouldn't notice. Thanks for being honest."
So I call my boss explain what happened and can they please remake the order, and bring it back to him, everything is fine, and he tips me like $15 on the comped out order. I think he tipped me more for the order than it originally would have cost, just because I was *honest* that I *dropped his food on the ground.*
I was pretty horrified that other drivers would do that. And that he'd be so impressed by me being honest about something that I'd have assumed any other employee would own up to.
Back when I was a fry cook, some customers thought they were being slick and would order unsalted fries to make sure they got fresh ones. Us cooks would just put already salted fries back into the fryer to wash the salt off.
Ex starbucks barista.
-All the pastries come frozen and we defrost them. We think they're overpriced too, don't complain about the price, if it's too expensive for you then starbucks is not the place for you. Everything is overpriced here, DD is cheaper and even cheaper is just going to the grocery store
-Lots of syrups are made with milk and/or honey so they're not vegan; this is problematic for customer's who pay extra for soy milk because they want to avoid animal products
-Cleanliness and freshness really depends on the individual location. I worked at a 24/7 location with some of the highest traffic in the US (comparable to Times Square starbucks) and I assure you that hardly anything was properly sanitized and things were not always fresh. We tried but it's very hard to keep up with cleaning and such when you have 50 customers in line and people yelling at you wondering where their drink is
-If you're rude, chances are you might get decaf shots. Cause f**k you. Or if you're rude and you order a skinny drink someone might use real syrup (may it go straight to your a*s, b***h!) But no one would ever do anything other than this pettiness, it would be super f****d up to actually ruin someone's drink or make it gross
-If it's rush hour and you ask for a complicate drink, we hate you
-We're supposed to regularly check and log the temperatures of the milk carafes that are available for customers to use but we get so busy that the milk usually has been sitting out for hours, rising above safe temperatures.
-The ice machines are probably nasty. I don't think we ever cleaned ours in my 2 years there
-Iced coffees and iced teas are automatically sweetened using "simple syrup." You can switch for another syrup free of charge or ask for fewer pumps of syrup if you prefer it unsweetened.
-We're supposed to sanitize the foaming nozzle between drinks; the container holding the sanitizing agent gets super nasty very quickly from all the milk but it doesn't get switched often
-During rush hour, baristas often leave the milk jugs out rather than return it to the fridge between use because you're pouring milk literally every 30 seconds. Unfortunately this means the milk temperature rises above safe levels and bacterial growth duplicates
-Please don't order a special "secret menu" drink. There is no secret f*****g menu. Tell us what strips you want in it and we can make it but if you just tell us a ridiculous name (snickers crunch frappuccino!) chances are we have no clue how to make that and we probably will make it up. Which it probably will end up tasting fine anyways.. Unless you're used to having it made one way and suddenly someone makes it up using different ingredients
-When you approach the cashier, put down your phone and know what you want to order. Be polite not rude! It's crazy how many times people come up and are like "hold on, I'm getting a drink for my friend, let me call her real quick." Um no.
The only thing that is fresh and healthy, not pre-made, bagged and/or frozen at like all fast food places. Is the tomatoes.
I work at Taco Bell, and 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. Yeah, don't go to Taco Bell.
Not gonna say which chain but the one i used to work at was very clean and well managed. The only real secret we had was...well... Nobody was drinking the sodas they thought they were. We didn't use regular syrup in the fountain machines. If you ordered a coke, you got "panda cola". If you ordered a 7-up you got "panda lime-up".
My ex use to work at Applebees. She told me that everything you eat there is pre-packaged and just microwaved once you order it, including the ribs and steak.
Zoup! The Fresh Soup Company:
All the soups are frozen. They come in frozen and if there are leftovers at the end of the night they are refrozen and served another day. Pretty standard for fast - casual dining, but I found it unusual considering "fresh soup" is in the name.
I'm not fast food, but I work at an Outback, and none of the servers practice anything like proper sanitation with the bread coming from the bread oven. No one has time to wash hands and use tongs and everything when grabbing bread, often even if you were just offloading dirty dishes at the dish pit.
And speaking of dishes, our dishwasher only works properly maybe 1/3 of the time, so the dishes you're eating on? Those were probably run through dish, came out still dirty, and were just wiped down with the same towel we've been using all night.
Then there's the ice machine. Last time I saw it properly cleaned was well over a year ago, when we found a serious black mold infestation in it, and I had to scrub it out by hand, with basically just hot water and a weak sanitizer.
TL;DR: Dirty hands, dirty bread, dirty dishes, dirty ice.
At KFC, we were supposed to change the fryer oil every couple days. Our penny-pinching manager had us change it every couple weeks. We'd just skim off the 'floaters' and cover it at night.
McDonald's tea is just Lipton with 4 cups of sugar . Made in the morning right after the coffee.
Worked at Taco Bell in college.
The most disgusting thing was probably that salaried managers made about the same or less per hour than hourly wage employees.
There was really nothing unsanitary. The food is all low-quality cheap s**t, of course, but there's nothing actually *wrong* with it. I don't know how the hell people get sick after eating there; they must have incredibly weak digestive systems. There's never any raw meat in the store; it all comes pre-cooked and just gets warmed up.
Oh, actually, thought of one thing: the taco salad bowls are all fried up in the morning, so if you get one late in the day, it's been sitting in the warmer for a while. That's about it.
Sometimes the chalupa shells sit around a while, too. If you want fresh ones, just ask. It's appreciated if you come inside the store, though, so it doesn't affect the drive-thru times, as they take a couple minutes to fry.
Whenever we have ingredients that is going to expire or just expired, we tell our cashiers to subtly "promote" certain foods when a customer seems unsure about what to buy.
I saw a cook at Ihop f**k up an omelet and put the wrong sauce on it, he just washed it off in the sink and than tossed it back on the grill.
My brother services coffee machines in restaurants.
Never, *EVER* get coffee from McDonalds.
Candy man here. We left chocolate out in display cases for months on end. When my friends came by to the store I told them to avoid it at all costs.