Secrets Your Fast Food Employee Won’t Tell You

Activity is seen near the order-counter area inside a Chipotle restaurant

The busier the restaurant the fresher the food. | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Have you hit up your favorite fast food restaurant recently? If so, you’re following the trend of busy American families. At last count, fast food restaurants serve 50 million customers per day, and 44% of people admit to eating their food from the drive-thru at least once per week.

Health concerns aside, fast food can be a quick and easy solution for those nights when you work late or have barely enough time to make it to your evening activities, much less cook a healthful meal from scratch. On those days, you might be tempted to get dinner on the go. But before you do, check out some secrets that you never knew your fast food cashier would never tell you.

1. You’ll get the freshest food during busy times

During off peak hours, employees often cook your food and keep it in a warming holder until you come along to order. They have to set a timer and throw it out eventually, but if you want a made-fresh burger, time your arrival during the lunch or dinner rush between 11AM-1PM and 6PM-PM. You have a much better chance of getting freshly made food when the restaurant is busy.

Next: This is the best way to get a cheaper Big Mac.

2. Customize your order to get expensive menu items cheaper

McDonald's Big Mac

Hack your Big Mac. | Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Instead of ordering a pricey Big Mac, try ordering a dollar menu McDouble without ketchup or mustard and then ask to add shredded lettuce and Mac sauce for a small extra charge. This custom sandwich is basically the same thing as the mighty Big Mac, but for half the price.

Next: It’s not a good idea to be the first customer in line.

3. Early morning customers could be ingesting chemicals

Taco Bell Grilled Breakfast Burritos

Your breakfast probably has some cleaning residue on it. | Taco Bell via Facebook

Closing shift employees wipe down the drink machine nozzles and grill surfaces with some potent cleaning solutions. If you’re the first person in the drive-thru line the next morning, you’ll probably get more chemical residue in your food than you would visiting later in the day.

Next: Don’t believe this common misconception about burgers.

4. The grill marks are a lie

Cheeseburger on the grill

Those grill marks might be fake. | rpernell/iStock/Getty Images

Those perfect grill marks on your burger aren’t authentic — they were added by the manufacturer to make the food look more appealing.

Next: Here’s how to get fresh food.

5. If you want fresh food, just ask

Fries fryer cooking

Fries can’t sit for more than a few minutes. | SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Remember, the restaurant owner’s goal is to make you happy — within reason. If you want your food cooked fresh, all you need to do is ask, and they’ll usually oblige.

French fries aren’t allowed to sit for more than a few minutes before employees must throw them away and start a new batch. But if you want the freshest fries possible, order them without salt and then just add it yourself later. Ordering this way forces the fryer to whip up a new batch just for you.

Next: Don’t bother ordering a salad.

6. Our salad isn’t necessarily healthy

Wendy's Partners With Style Icon Molly Sims To Launch New Salad Collection

The dressing will get you in the calorie department. | Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Some salads at McDonald’s have just as many calories as a Big Mac. If you’re trying to watch your waistline and still want to dine on fast food, opt for salads with grilled chicken instead of crispy and be very stingy with the dressing — or just eat your salad dry.

Next: Choose this line for faster service.

7. Drive-thru customers get preferential treatment

mcdonald's drive-thru

Drive-thru customers get served first. | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Trying to decide whether to brave the drive-thru line or go inside? Chances are you’re better off staying in your vehicle. Since employees are timed on how quickly they serve customers in the drive-thru, you’ll be moved along faster than if you were physically standing in the restaurant.

Next: Here’s the place to check and make sure the restaurant is clean.

8. Check cleanliness by looking at the ice chute

Soda Dispenser Machine

Peek at the ice machine. | AHPhotoswpg/iStock/Getty Images

The next time you’re filling up your cup at a fast food restaurant, bend down and take a peek inside the ice chute of the soda machine. If you see mold residue, it’s a good indicator that the employees aren’t taking the time to clean every area the way they’re supposed to.

Next: The billboards are lying to you.

9. Don’t expect your food to look like it does on the billboard

burger king Enormous Omelet Sandwich

Food ads are just as touched up as fashion. | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

The food you see on ads is staged with cardboard, paint, and glue to make it look perfectly appetizing, and is later touched up with photo editing tricks. So don’t come in expecting your meal to look that amazing when you order.

Next: Here’s the rudest thing you can do in the drive-thru line.

10. Hang up the phone when you’re ordering

Chipotle Becomes First Non-GMO US Restaurant Chain

Do your server a favor and put down the phone. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Don’t be rude. Your call can wait the three minutes it takes to place your order, pay for it, and collect the food. Be courteous and kind, and you might even score some extra ketchup packets.

Next: Sorry, but you’re not going to get a free burger.

11. Don’t expect free food

fast food workers at McDonald's

They keep track of things. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Fast food managers keep inventory on high ticket items like burgers, so don’t think that your cashier can just give it away without getting caught. They can sometimes get away with giving you free fries or ice cream, but it’s always risky and could cost the employee his or her job.

Unless you receive an incorrect order that needs to be fixed, plan on paying for everything you get.

Next: It’s obvious when you tell this lie.

12. They know when you’re lying

The customer is not actually always right. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

That story you made up about finding a hair in your food after you’ve already eaten 80% of it? Yeah, that looks an awful lot like your hair.

Bottom line: lying to get free food is stealing. And you don’t want that on your conscience, do you?

Next: Not all McDonald’s restaurants are created equally.

13. Fast food restaurants aren’t all the same

Pay attention to the cleanliness of each restaurant not the chain. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Just like anywhere, some managers and owners are more meticulous than others. If you want to know how they’re doing, take a look around the restaurant and notice the cleanliness of areas like bathrooms, condiment stations, and tables. If the public areas aren’t kept clean, then you better believe the back areas are even more of a disaster.

Next: Yes, they’re rushing you through the line.

14. It’s all about speed

McDonald's Reports Second Quarter Earnings and Record Sales Reflecting Revitalization Progress

They have two minutes to get you your food. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Once your order goes in at the drive-thru, the employees have two minutes to hand you your food before the screen turns red and alerts the manager.

Next: Just be nice, OK?

15. Remember, fast food employees are just people

McDonald's Japan To Offer Chocolate Topped 'McChoco Potato'

They’re people just like you. | Christopher Jue/Getty Images

Even the managers at a fast food restaurant aren’t making much more than minimum wage. Be kind to them, and you will be rewarded with good karma and maybe even some free French fries!

Read more: Fast Food Horror Stories: You Won’t Believe What Was Found in This Fast Food Restaurant’s Burgers!

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