"It Often Has The Biggest Markup On The Menu": Restaurant And Fast Food Workers Are Spilling Insider Secrets That Customers Would Probably Never Guess

    "I'm an Olive Garden employee. Anything labeled as 'endless' is truly endless, so some people stuff themselves until they are literally sick. All the employees hated the never-ending pasta bowl promotion because people would literally throw up at the table and keep eating."

    Chances are, you've eaten out at a restaurant, placed a take-out order, or grabbed a meal from a fast food drive-thru. But do you ever wonder about what goes on in the restaurant and service industry that you don't see as a customer? I rounded up a bunch of responses from restaurant and grocery store employees, chefs, servers, hostesses, and more on the subreddit r/askreddit and from the BuzzFeed Community. Here are the industry secrets they spilled.

    1. "I work as a host in a restaurant. If you’re a jerk to me either over the phone or in person, the server will be warned about you. We also have a warning tag if a reservation was made with a slightly alarming request (for example, a guy who insisted on a female server as they 'pay more attention to him'). Managers get notified about the major issues as well. In a nutshell: be nice to the hosts. We are the ones who can get you that nice table by a window or can squeeze you in when things are full. We go above and beyond if you’re nice to us."

    2. "I'm an Olive Garden employee. Anything labeled as 'endless' is truly endless so some people stuff themselves until they are literally sick. All the employees hated the never-ending pasta bowl promotion because people would literally throw up at the table and keep eating."

    A plate of spaghetti and meatballs.

    3. "The only thing that is fresh and 'healthy' — aka not premade, bagged, and/or frozen — at, like, virtually all fast-food places is the tomatoes."

    A Burger King burger.

    4. "Former fast food employee here. Don't trust the ice machines. In my experience, they are rarely (read: almost never) cleaned. They probably contain bugs, dirt, food particles, whatever. At two previous restaurant jobs there was only one ice machine, and I felt bad that customers were getting gross ice. I mentioned it to the managers, but they just brushed it off as if they didn't have time to deal with it."

    A person scooping ice.

    5. "At the supermarket chain I work for, I catch customers picking food off the hot and cold buffets with their bare fingers all the time."

    A hot buffet with slaws and potato salad.

    6. "I work at a Five Guys, and our burgers cost what they do (on the expensive side) so that we can provide customers with unlimited toppings made from fresh ingredients. Also we open each store at 7 a.m. to hand-press each patty, cut each tomato, prepare each piece of lettuce, cut every fry. It’s a lot of work and it's exhausting — so please be kind to your local Five Guys crew members and managers. We do a lot more than other fast food chains."

    Five Guys employees assembling burgers.

    7. "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."

    French Fries coming out of the frying basket.

    8. "Candy store employee 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."

    Selection of penny candy in a candy shop.

    9. "I worked at a restaurant. A smoker outside the eatery doesn't mean your barbecue is fresh. Most of it is actually frozen. Sometimes we just throw logs on there so it looks and smells like we're barbecuing. But we made that shit two days ago, and that's just wood you're smelling."

    Spare ribs on a cutting board.

    10. "As a former pizza restaurant cashier, starting with an existing item and making lots of substitutions is the easiest way to piss off every employee. This sort of order just messes up our inventory since it goes into 'special instruction' rather than the main ticket, which includes the weights of the toppings."

    A slice of Domino's pizza.

    11. "I worked at Subway and the 'baked fresh everyday' promise is wordplay. The bread comes in frozen dough sticks that we thaw."

    A Subway sandwich.

    12. "If you're someone who purchases bulk nuts, grains, etc. — just know that those bins are probably rarely cleaned, and even when they are 'cleaned,' odds are they were just rinsed out/wiped down to look clean. When I took over, our bulk department had no cleaning logs or sanitizing procedures. The bins had moths/insect colonies and mold in them. Our store was opened nearly five years prior."

    Bulk nuts at a supermarket.

    13. "The cooked burgers that don't get sold go into a pot in a refrigerator, and they get made into TOMORROW's chili. The crispy chicken that doesn't get sold today? It goes into a pot in the fridge and gets made into TOMORROW's crispy chicken salads."

    Chili and cornbread with onions and beans and cheese

    14. "The cheapest bottle of wine at a restaurant often has the biggest markup."

    A close-up of a woman holding a glass of wine at a table.

    15. "Having worked in grocery stores, I can tell you everything is frozen. Even in the bakery section when it says 'made fresh daily' — it's usually frozen and baked. Typically, the older items are in front and fresher stuff is in back. And ALWAYS check the expiration date. Especially if you shop in the morning. Most stores clear out expired items each morning, but things are often missed.

    A woman shopping for bread at the market.

    16. "Kirkland products (the Costco brand) are independently tested to beat the industry-leading product in that category, whether it's razor blades or laundry pods. If it doesn’t beat the industry leader, they won’t put the Kirkland name on it."

    A Kirkland (Costco) rotisserie chicken.

    17. "There's a rule for how long something can sit under the heat lamps, but no one follows it. If you're not ordering during the lunch or dinner rush, assume whatever you get has been sitting out for hours."

    Hot dogs at a gas station.

    18. "At any fast-food drive-thru, the speaker box hears everything from when you pull up until after you drive off. If you talk crap about us, we hear it. If you are arguing with your other passengers or on the phone, we hear that, too."

    A car at a KFC drive-thru window.

    19. "Please don't ask your server how an item is or what meal you should order. It puts us in a really awkward position because 9/10 times, you'll blame us if you don't like your meal. I swear some customers do this on purpose so they have an excuse to stiff us on a tip or demand everyone's meal be comped since 'the waitress told me I should order this and I didn't like it.' Also, we don't know what your personal preferences are. No two people have the same palate."

    20. "Restaurant health inspection is really kind of a sham, in my opinion. Health inspectors tend to inspect all the restaurants in a given area around the same time. When the inspector shows up at one restaurant, the manager will typically notify the other restaurants in the area. 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."

    A restaurant with a health inspection grade in the window.

    21. "I used to work at Panera, and it shocks people that other than the meats, veggies, and salad dressings, everything comes in frozen. The pasta, soup, dough for bread, bagels, and pastries are all frozen. The pasta gets microwaved, the bread and pastries are defrosted, baked, and decorated, and the soup gets tossed into what is essentially a hot water bath."

    Plates of food on the counter inside Panera Bread.

    22. "Starbucks supervisor here. There is no secret menu, and we're not trained to make those viral TikTok drinks. Some of the more common ones, like a Cotton Candy Frap, the baristas might know, but don't bank on it. If you want us to make something 'off-menu,' have the recipe handy. As a side note, many of those drinks also rely on seasonal ingredients, so you should have a backup choice ready."

    A woman holding a blended Starbucks drink.

    23. I have worked in the service industry for a long time. You can probably bet that restaurant menus, ice machines, lemons and limes for drinks, and slushy machines are dirty."

    Waters with lemon and lime wedges.

    24. "I work at Wawa. Good news: if something is said to be made fresh (hoagies, salads, coffee) it IS pretty damn fresh. Bakery items and salad bar supplies come every day, and the sandwich supplies are regularly checked and replaced. The bad news is that everything that's scooped (mac 'n' cheese, mashed potatoes, meatballs, soup, etc) comes in frozen."

    The outside of a Wawa.

    25. "If a restaurant has a one-page menu, that's usually a pretty good sign. It means their line cooks have become specialists and can usually nail all the dishes listed. Conversely, if a restaurant has a giant, multi-page menu, that's a gigantic red flag."

    A person looking at a menu.

    26. "I worked in a fancy country club ($25K initiation fee, then $7K/year back in the '90s). A slice of 'homemade' cheesecake was $7 on the menu. One of the sous chefs stopped by the grocery store every day on the way to work to pickup a whole cheesecake for about $5."

    Pouring fruit syrup over a slice of cheesecake.

    27. "I was a shift supervisor at a fast food place and years later, I still refuse to eat anything with ice cream in it. The machine we had was always covered in mold and spoiled cream, while the owner's 'fix' was to scrape off a layer of mold and spray some Clorox on it."

    An ice cream machine

    Do you work in the restaurant or service industry? What's an insider secret that customers might not expect to hear?