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10 Secrets Fast Food Owners Are Keeping from You

These secrets are definitely not on the menu.

According to The Atlantic, America is home to some 190,000 quick-service restaurants, a pleasant euphemism for the oft pejorative term fast food. That means we have more fast food restaurants here than there are citizens of more than 20 of the world's nations.

In other words, fast food is a huge business, and it can be a hugely profitable enterprise for the people who own and operate a fast food franchise. Said owner-operators might see a bit less foot traffic and fewer cars in the drive-thru line if more customers knew some of these secrets we unearthed, though.

Most fast food franchise owners are not making much money.

money tip

According to data crunched by Franchise Business Review, most franchise owners in the food and beverage sector are not making all that much money. In fact, more than a third of them, some 37%, earn less than $50,000 per year, meaning they are making less than the average U.S. salary, which is $53,490 a year in 2022, per Jobted.

At the cleanest restaurants, you'll probably ingest chemicals.


When you step into a crisp, clean fast food joint, your first thought might be that the owner and managers take their jobs seriously and that the food must be as safe as possible. That may not be the case, according to Reader's Digest: while your food likely won't be spoiled or mishandled, it may contain traces of chemicals that are used to clean the store daily, and the cleaner the store looks and feels, the more chemicals may be present.

Owners can get bonuses for employee retention—even bad employees.

fast food manager and employee

Managers of corporate stores or fast food franchise owners can get bonuses for keeping employee turnover rates low, per Reader's Digest. This often results in locations holding onto subpar employees who should really be let go.

Those ice cream machines may have been designed to be faulty.

ice cream machine

It's almost an ongoing joke how often McDonald's soft serve ice cream machines are broken. But according to workers sharing in a Reddit thread, the constant need for maintenance may be no accident: When franchise owners are forced to pay for pricey service calls on their hardware, the McDonald's Corporation, which is partnered with the maker of the units, Taylor, makes money.

Owner-operators of color have faced systematic discrimination.


While franchisees have fought to make this fact public, corporate leadership at McDonald's, in particular, has tried to keep it quiet, but store owners of color, specifically Black franchisees, were subjected to discriminatory practices for years, according to Bloomberg. This included these owner-operators only being allowed to open or acquire restaurants in lower-income areas, thereby ensuring they would be less profitable.

Many owners ignore labor laws.

overworked fast food worker

Via Delishably, according to a former McDonald's manager who worked at multiple locations for four different owners over the course of seven years, many franchise owners totally disregard labor laws. This includes not giving workers proper breaks, hiring staff who are too young to work, and ignoring cases of harassment, to name but a few issues.

Those self-serve kiosks get you to spend more money.

woman ordering mcdonalds

Sure, some owners may gripe about the cost of installing one of those new-fangled self-serve kiosks in their restaurants, as the units can cost well over $5,000 each, per Upserve. But they also get the average customer to unwittingly spend about 20% more per order thanks to all the upsell options they present.

Your favorite fries still aren't vegetarian.

holding mcdonald's fries

Prior to the 1990s, McDonald's fries were cooked in beef tallow, aka rendered fat.  That year, the chain switched to vegetable oil frying, but if you look closely at the nutrition info stashed away on the chain's site, you'll see "Natural Beef Flavor" listed in the ingredients. Why might a Mickey D's owner want this kept secret? Because fries are the chain's best-seller, per Cheat Sheet.

RELATEDThere's Major Turmoil Inside America's #1 Fast-Food Chain

Fast food restaurants fail and close all the time.

fast food closed down

According to Reader's Digest, scores of individual fast food restaurants have shut down in 2022, including many Subways, Pizza Huts, Taco Bells, and others. And what's more, entire chains have shut down system-wide many times over the years, chains like Chi-Chis and Kenny Rogers Roasters, and White Tower. Owning a fast food restaurant can be difficult, thankless work.

Steven John
Steven John is a freelancer writer for Eat This, Not That! based just outside New York City. Read more about Steven