McDonald’s is the world’s most popular fast food chain, with more than 68 million customers served each day in its 36,000 restaurants across the globe. Since the company was founded in 1940, its reach has expanded exponentially, with stores in more than 100 countries to date. However, while McNugget and Big Mac connoisseurs may think they know everything there is to know about the Golden Arches, only McDonald’s employees really know what goes on behind the counter.
From how likely you are to get your hands on fresh fries to what’s really in those Egg McMuffins, these McDonald’s secrets—straight from McDonald’s employees who spilled the beans on Reddit—are sure to surprise even the most die-hard fans. However, McDonald’s isn’t the only fast food chain with a few tricks up its sleeve: These 30 Secrets From Panera Employees might just shock you!
If you want your World-Famous Fries and McDouble fresh out of the oven rather than precooked and reheated, you have to speak up and ask. Don’t just assume everything is fresh based on their high ingredient turnover. “Some places do a bad job at keep[ing] track of the fresh timers. I’d personally ask for everything fresh even if you have to wait 3-5 min[utes] for it to be ready,” one Reddit user dished.
That joke about the ice cream and milkshake machines being constantly out of service isn’t so far off. McDonald’s employees confirm that the reliability of the frozen dessert machines is questionable, at best. “The McFlurry/milkshake machine is prone to breaking all the time and the amount of time it takes to get it repaired can put it out of commission for a day or two,” says one McDonald’s employee. According to the insider, there are also separate, but visually similar, mixes for McFlurries and milkshakes, and when they get poured in the wrong place, the machine has a habit of shutting down.
We’ve all heard rumors about what really goes into fast food meals, but fear not: Your Egg McMuffin is made of actual eggs. While it may be hard to believe that anyone could get an egg so perfectly round, it’s the result of a precise cooking method. “We have to break the shells and place the eggs in special rings on the grill. We then place a cover over the top of the rings (our store cooks eight at once) and put a bit of water into a small funnel at the top. The eggs are steamed and cooked at the same time,” says one McDonald’s cook. “It’s actually pretty cool, and it takes a while to ‘master’ the right technique to get the eggs looking perfectly round.”
Want to save a few bucks on your next Mickey D’s order? It’s definitely possible. “You can order a sausage muffin ($1.29) and a side of round egg ($1) cheaper than you can order a Sausage Egg McMuffin ($3.29),” says one Redditor, who recommends other menu hacks, like ordering kids’ meals with double fries, or ordering an egg and cheese muffin instead of an Egg McMuffin.
While McDonald’s employees may not be the best-compensated individuals in the restaurant world, they do get some pretty sweet savings. “We get things like discounts with Apple, Via Rail, Hotels, 25 percent off shoes at Payless,” reveals a McDonald’s employee.
If you stumble up to a McDonald’s drive-thru on foot and employees won’t serve you, they’re not just being difficult. “We have a policy that forbids us from serving people who are not in a ‘motorized vehicle’ in [the] drive-thru because it can be unsafe,” says one employee. “Bicycles, electric scooters, and pedestrians cannot be served.”
Bummed about the sauce on your Big Mac? Go ahead and ask to swap it out. If you’re not happy with the sauce that comes on your food, you’re welcome to substitute any other one in its place, according to one McDonald’s worker.
If you find yourself craving McDonald’s in the middle of the night, you might want to bring cash with you. “McDonald’s that run 24-hours are required to restart their system nightly,” says one employee. “This results in a 30-90-minute window where we are cash only. The person taking the orders has to literally write down the orders, check prices, and add the total because nothing can be entered into the system.”
If you’re making a whole lot of substitutions on your order, it’s going to take a while to come out of the kitchen. Worse yet, you’ll be holding up the whole store in the process “Anything that has to be ‘custom’ we label it as ‘special request,’” reveals one employee. “So, they have to literally stop working just to come over and ask what the special request is.”
Fast food and artisanal food are generally mutually exclusive, so don’t be surprised when your artisanal sandwich takes forever to get to you. One employee says that the artisan chicken sandwiches are the most time-consuming menu items, with the chicken alone taking an average of eight minutes to prepare if they don’t have any already made.
Go ahead and swap out your sauce, but don’t be surprised if your double lettuce, double cheese order costs you extra. “You will be up-charged for certain ingredients,” reports one McDonald’s employee. “Like the ‘Poor Man’s Big Mac’ (a McDouble with Mac Sauce and shredded lettuce). We will upcharge you $0.30 for the Mac Sauce and $0.20-$0.30 for the shredded lettuce.”
Just because that apple pie is hot and crispy doesn’t mean it’s fresh. In fact, one McDonald’s employee claims that those pies could be much older than they appear. “When they expire, we just slap on a new expiration date,” reveals the insider.
While most McDonald’s workers report sanitary work conditions, the occasional unscrupulous employee will serve outright disgusting food. “Aside from your usual—serving food that was cooked hours and hours ago—many times, buns and nuggets would be dropped onto the floor, just to be picked up and served anyway,” admits one McDonald’s employee.
If the fact that a McDonald’s employee isn’t wearing gloves grosses you out, don’t worry: There’s still some serious hygiene protocol in place. “Every hour, we take the time to send each employee to the sink station to wash their hands until every employee has. Using gloves would not be much more sanitary because the bacteria that would build up on ungloved hands would also build up on the gloves if they weren’t replaced every hour (or more) too. We do have special, heat-resistant gloves that we wear when handling raw meats before placing them on the grill or in the vats,” reports one McDonald’s manager.
The milkshake machine may be working, but that doesn’t mean it’s clean. One employee says that their milkshake machines were cleaned just once a week. “We actually have these tubes that hook up to tubes in the machines. The machine then sucks soap, water, and sanitizer through all the pipes. We did it every Saturday.”
While there are rampant rumors that everything from eyeballs to worms are in your McDonald’s hamburger, that’s hardly the case. In fact, their burgers are made of surprisingly high-quality stuff. “[It’s] Grade A beef. That’s it,” says one employee. “The only stuff we added on it was salt and pepper after it cooked.”
Looking for a job that keeps you on your feet? Try applying for a drive-thru position at your local Mickey D’s. “We’re not allowed to sit, but we’re expected to stand at our windows for hours on end. It really sucks!” says one drive-thru employee. “Standing in one spot for long periods of time really takes a toll on my lower back and feet.”
While many people cite McDonald’s as an example of a job anyone could do, getting hired is harder than you think. “Although McDonald’s is a no-skills-required job, not just anyone will get hired. We turn down a lot of people during the hiring process,” says one longtime McDonald’s employee. She goes on to say that good communication skills, a team player attitude, extra-curriculars on your resume, and potential for advancement are all qualities that managers look for when hiring.
If there’s one menu item at McDonald’s to steer clear of, make it the breakfast burrito. Not only are the eggs in the breakfast burritos cooked in a microwave, the burritos aren’t exactly flying off the shelves. “They end up sitting in the cabinet for a long time,” says one employee. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make your morning meal healthier, like choosing from one of these 37 Best Breakfast Foods for Weight Loss instead.
While McDonald’s employees will make you pretty much anything the menu allows, there’s no actual list of off-menu items to order. “That’s a huge myth,” says one McDonald’s employee. “We don’t actually have a ‘secret menu.’ Whenever people ask about the secret menu, we just roll our eyes… Just order a McChicken on top of a McDouble; hardly anyone knows what a McGangBang is.” If you do want a super-secret order, try starting with these 20 Secret Menu Items instead.