Spend a couple of hours watching reality shows on Food Network, and you'll realize that there’s a world of its own behind the door of every restaurant kitchen. Sure, there are health scores to go by, but, as diners, we never really know what's happening in our favorite food joints.
Let's take a peek behind the curtains. Reddit admissions and news articles have revealed some of the dirtiest little secrets behind the restaurants we love.
Panera Bread is a company that prides itself on serving fresh food made with natural ingredients. When an employee posted a TikTok video revealing how the raved-about macaroni is actually made, faithful patrons of the popular chain restaurant were shocked.
One restaurant has a photo album nestled in the back of the kitchen where customers will never see it. Whenever a rat is discovered in the kitchen, employees take a photo smiling or posing with the rat before they...dispose of it. The album is packed because this older restaurant in California has a serious problem with rats.
A former KFC employee named /u/MaggieMoon on Reddit revealed that coleslaw is the only dish sold in the restaurant that doesn't come in frozen, canned or powdered. The mashed potatoes and gravy come from a "just add water" powdered mix. The chicken is frozen, but it is breaded and fried in the restaurant.
In some countries, it's common for grocery stores to leave soon-to-expire food out at night for the less fortunate to eat. In America, concerns about liability from someone getting food poisoning have stopped many stores from doing so. According to /u/a_brilling_a_day on Reddit, Trader Joe's donates every bit of expiring food it possibly can.
Wendy's and Domino's were two of the restaurants mentioned on Reddit, but this happens everywhere. Many fast-food restaurants have pounds and pounds of food left over at the end of the night, and company policies stipulate that the food must be thrown away. Employees can't take it or donate it.
A Reddit user named /u/GingerSnatch used to work for Starbucks, and she said that it was common practice at her particular location to substitute types of milk. If they ran out of skim milk, they’d use whole milk, 2% or any other type of milk they had, without telling the customer.
At Cold Stone Creamery, guests can sample as many flavors of delectable ice cream as they want before deciding on the right flavor. According to /u/wr08 of Reddit, the manager at a particular location was having employees wash and re-use the little plastic spoons customers used to sample ice cream flavors.
A user named /u/romanpa and other disgruntled ex-employees on Reddit expressed frustration over the way Panera markets its ingredients. Panera is known for using fresh, high-quality food. Some of the ingredients are premium, but, according to these former employees, many of the ingredients are the same as what anyone can buy in the grocery store.
Fast food is often made in large batches and then either microwaved or kept warm throughout the day. This isn't a shocker. So many people know about this common practice that customers request things like "hot fries" or a "fresh burger." Despite the clear request, it isn't always honored.
Soda dispensers are quite possibly the germiest equipment in any restaurant. Soft drinks in a restaurant start off as a thick syrup concentrate. When the syrup runs through a dispenser, that concentrate gets blended with water and carbonation. The spigots of these dispensers are made up of several small plastic parts.
Policies and procedures are only as strong as the people who follow them. At one unnamed Italian restaurant chain, employees complained that the manager was pressuring them to change the dates on food packages. If food was expired, employees were told to carefully write on the bottles to change the dates.
In many chain restaurants, a surprisingly low percentage of the food you eat is actually cooked on-site. Some chefs do more microwaving than traditional cooking. Many of the biggest chain restaurants in the world also sell microwavable versions of their most-popular meals in grocery stores.
Dairy Queen Blizzards are known for being perfectly blended. Reddit user /u/wintuition says that there’s a metal ring employees use to blend the Blizzards. At the locations she worked for, the rings were just placed in water in between uses rather than being thoroughly washed. This can pose a serious risk to people who have allergies.
Some bartenders on Reddit claim that they’ve worked in bars where expensive liquors and beers are regularly switched with similar, less-expensive products. According to /u/misterbuckets, a bottle of more-expensive Jack Daniel’s whiskey was displayed where customers could see.
In addition to all of the less-than-clean things that employees might do, you also have to worry about other customers. Customers don't have rules to follow, they can't get fired and they’re often left alone to do whatever they want.
It doesn't matter how upscale the restaurant is. The employees are just people, and people can be careless sometimes. In the midst of a long shift, even the best chefs in the world can be tempted to cut corners.
Tips can be a hot-button issue. Regardless of how much you leave, most people assume that the tip goes to the staff member who served them, but that's not always true. Tip policies vary from restaurant to restaurant.
Everyone who works in the food industry doesn’t necessarily have the customer's best interest at heart. Some people are burnt out and couldn’t care less. On social media, many food-industry employees express a disdainful attitude toward people who ask for things like gluten-free, vegan or lactose-free options.
A California restaurant made headlines for selling Popeye's Chicken as their own. Although passing off another restaurant's entree as your own is frowned upon, the idea of selling another restaurant's food is actually pretty normal. Breads and cakes are commonly purchased in bulk from one restaurant and sold at another.
Profit is extremely important to chain restaurants, so statistics on performance and income are carefully kept for each franchise of large chains. These numbers are used to compare one franchise to the next. Good numbers can result in awards and promotions, while bad numbers can lead to shutdowns.
In many chain restaurants, food is made off-site, and re-heating, along with a little preparation, is the extent of the "cooking" that happens in the restaurants before people eat. That's why orders are often wrong when you ask for small adjustments to the offerings on the menu.
According to /u/genericxname from Reddit, McDonald's employees have been encouraged to focus on making children have memorable experiences in the restaurant. These experiences are called "golden moments." The idea is to give children special attention and special treatment so that they remember McDonald's as a positive place.
Steak gets sent back more than any other dish. Customers ask for it rare, medium-rare or well done. Servers write down these requests, but, in reality, not all restaurants have the ability to make these kinds of steaks.
Unless you see something concerning, it's pretty rare to sit down in a restaurant and think about how people are making the food. Still, we tend to imagine that the people cooking our food are wearing gloves. That’s not always the case. It sounds gross, but gloves aren’t legally required in some states.
Many fast-food workers complain about being forced to dispose of several pounds’ worth of food at the end of every night. Why would a restaurant waste all that food when it could go to employees or to hungry people?
It's no secret that eating out means you're probably going to consume way too many calories, but some restaurants would rather not have you know how many calories you're eating. Back when Reddit user /u/creeper_of_interests worked for the popular chain, she was discouraged from letting customers know how many calories were in the meals.
Although it’s a work environment, the behind-the-scenes conversations in a kitchen can be extremely NSFW. Yelling and even cursing are ways of life in some kitchens. Some Reddit users commented that drug use became the company culture at their places of employment.
In movies, there are plenty of scenes where waitstaff and kitchen staff will put saliva, dirt and who-knows-what-else on the plates of an annoying customer. Sadly, this happens in real life. There have been countless cases of employees getting arrested for tampering with customers' food.
Although franchises are all supposed to follow the same recipes, the food that comes out on your plate depends solely on the manager and the cooks at the particular location you visit. An anonymous social media user who claimed to work for a popular cafe chain said that she was often forced to sell run-of-the-mill coffee for premium prices.
There's a high chance the silverware you eat with in a restaurant has never been washed by hand. Utensils are dumped into a strong detergent solution en masse. Sometimes they might get washed off, and sometimes they’re just left to soak there. If the restaurant is really busy, several sets of utensils are washed in the same dirty dishwater.