"The place where I worked wasn't an upscale restaurant, it was just a local burger joint. On my first day on the job, as they were showing me how they cooked the patties, the cashier called back, 'Make this one a fly burger.' Then the manager who was training me took the spatula, swatted a fly against the grill, and deposited it on the burger, then covered it with cheese and explained that this is how they dealt with rude customers. That very minute I quit and got on the phone with the local health inspector. Needless to say, it got shut down within the week."
"First night at a pizza place, they had me clean up at the end of my shift. In the fridge was sausage with a nice, fuzzy layer of mold on top, lines of mold running top to bottom. Nasty. So I threw it out. Next morning I go in, tell the manager, and he freaks out. It always comes like that, you're supposed to toss the top layer and use the rest. He grabs it out of the trash, discards the top fuzzy bits and made me put it on people's pizza. By the end of the bag, 80% was blue/black fuzzy nastiness, but we still used it. I was relieved when it was gone...til the next bag came from corporate. Yep. Mold included. SO gross."
"Middle of an Australian summer, I'm shift manager at McDonald's. Three people called in sick, we had rolling power outages for hours, so many pissed off customers and not enough employees. My poor grill girl made a weird sound behind me and, as I turned to check on her, I heard sizzling. She had passed out from heat exhaustion on the grill... Her arms were fried, but thankfully her arms saved her face. Extensive skin grafts for her arms and weeks in hospital...urgh...the worst."
"Years ago, I used to bus tables at this awful restaurant called O'Charley's. It was the most disgusting place I ever had the misfortune of working at. They would make the bussers do this thing called a 'trash audit' that they even had paperwork for. Basically at the end of a shift, we had to put elbow length gloves on, and empty out the two or three huge trashcans we had been scraping food into the whole shift. It would take two of us to lift these huge trashcans onto their sides on a table in the kitchen, while we sifted through it looking for things written down on the audit sheets, which included: uneaten chicken pieces, uneaten rolls, etc. Basically food that could be "salvaged" and turned into different food. It was absolutely disgusting. They used the rolls to make croutons for the salad. I only did it once and would refuse to participate after that. I only lasted two weeks, but I didn't care; Screw you O'Charleys."
"I got a job cooking at a place where I lasted less than two days. The place was so disgusting. It was infested with roaches. Put bread in the toaster and push down the lever, fifty roaches would run out of it. When you wanted to cut the toast, you had to wave roaches away from the cutting board. They were crawling up the walls. I saw a server nonchalantly scoop one up from a table while the customer was ordering (who didn't notice). The servers were all good at stealth roach removal.
Besides that, the owner/cook kept an ashtray on the grill shelf and chain smoked while she cooked. There were ashtrays on prep tables and people would just smoke while prepping food. Nobody EVER washed their hands that I could see. They kept catfish in a bucket of water next to the grill all day, hamburger patties and chicken breasts in Tupperware tubs on a shelf all day. No refrigeration. The list is endless. I immediately quit. The roaches did it for me. I saw one crawl out from under a servers collar and into her hair AND SHE DIDN'T EVEN BAT AN EYE!
I told them I was going to the bathroom and ghosted out the back door and called the health department immediately; Screw that nasty place."
"In college, I was working at this Steakhouse part-time. I worked there just so I could have cash for beer. I had no immediate need to see myself in a long-term career choice as a short order cook.
I happened to work with this gentleman named Bob. Bob was a meth head. Bob was 100 lbs soaking wet and had no teeth. He would use his back molar to eat anything that the consistency higher than Jello. Bob would also whip his shirt off to show off his woman's scratches from sex. Repeatedly. Bob was also the full-time cook back in the kitchen.
Whenever an order came back that had a high degree of difficulty, he would reach up to the grease traps over the grill, and scrap off a ketchup packet worth of crud and scrape it onto whatever meat he happened to be cooking. He saw it as a way of teaching the customers to order food regularly.
Grease traps are square metal filters in the vent overhead. They are used to catch grease splatter, smoke, and crud that is too heavy for the air and need to be caught. If they are not cleaned repeatedly, a layer of yellowish debris starts to collect and grease starts to drip back on the food. These were never cleaned.
I reported him multiple times, but the managers had their own worries skimming money off 25+ parties of people and using the money to buy lottery tickets."
Orange Line Media/Shutterstock
"Years ago, I worked at Wendy's while in college. The day shift manager had his 9-month-old kid behind the counter near the carry out window. He stuck his finger right in the tray of mayo that was used to make customer's hamburgers, then into his kid's mouth so he could laugh about the expression his kid made. Then he stuck the same finger in the ketchup and then the mustard, just so he could hee-haw at his kid's reactions. Meanwhile, low-level employees worked around him to make hamburgers to give to unsuspecting customers.
All I could think of was the breeding ground of germs in that kid's mouth and how many people could get sick from his 'unhygenics.'"
"Pastry shop/cafe: owner never washes his hands before serving customers, cleans the empty portion of ice cream cases with bleach-soaked rags, knowingly continues to use mildewed ice machine and sour-smelling, crusted milk jugs. Iced coffee is leftover drip coffee from the end of the night and is usually anywhere from a week to two months old. Also steals tips from employees, which while not a health code violation, is still disgusting."
"Where to begin? One store had 10 large, deep fat fryers, only five were used on a regular week so we would rotate five on, five off. One Monday morning, we fired up the five fryers that had been shut off the previous week and about twenty minutes later, the store started to really stink. After a few minutes, we found the cause: during the week that these fryers had been shut down, a rat had fallen into the shortening and drowned. Yep, we had fried a rat...
On the subject of rats, the store had an acoustical tile ceiling the 2X2 ft. square type from a dropped ceiling. This made a rather convenient 'rat highway' for them to run above us without being seen. Well, you could not see them, but you could hear them running back and forth throughout the restaurant. When a customer asked what the noise was we told them 'ghosts.' One night, while I was in the lobby doing paperwork, a very drunk lady comes stumbling out of the restrooms pulling up her pants screaming, 'A freaking rat hit me in the head.' The security guard and I went to investigate, a large rat had been walking in the ceiling and had broken through the acoustical tile and hit her on the head while she was sitting on the toilet. The rat bounced off of the customer and hit its head on the flush valve, stunning it, leaving it twitching on the floor. I instructed the guard to kill it and he them proceeded to finish the rat off with his baton. We never got a complaint from the customer, I guess she was so drunk she just forgot about it.
The 'Famous New Orleans Chicken' place used copious amounts of Cayenne pepper for their signature spicy chicken. The chicken was seasoned by hand in large (120lb.) batches. The person who seasoned the chicken had to wear both goggles and long heavy gloves to protect themselves from getting a chemical burn from the spices. We had just hired a rather large, tough, motorcycle riding 'lady' and she wanted to do 'a man's job.' After training her on the proper safety/sanitation requirements of the seasoning station I left her alone. At the height of the lunch hour she took a bathroom break, about five minutes later she comes running out of the back screaming, 'My coochie is on fire, my coochie's on fire.' She ran out of the restaurant, got on her motorcycle and was never seen again. She had ignored my instructions to wash her hands well both before and after using the bathroom. Apparently, Cayenne pepper will set a coochie on fire."
"I work for a huge restaurant chain, I won't say which one, but it's a big one. Like really big. Here's a short list:
-Servers and cooks eating and drinking where food is being cooked or prepped.
-Extremely infrequent hand washing. Shockingly so.
-Servers and cooks working and prepping food while ill. Really ill. Contagious. We are advised if a table asks us if we are sick, our default response should ALWAYS be, 'Oh, I WAS sick, I'm getting over it now! Doctor says I'm way past being contagious.'
-Servers who never wash their uniforms or aprons.
-Servers who never clean...anything. There is food on the walls, sauces dried onto the booths, gum under the tables, etc.
-In the 5 years I've worked there, the ice machine has been cleaned twice.
-Most of our soups and side dishes are microwaved in styrofoam containers, the containers are usually extremely melted.
-A number of servers pick food off their guests' plates before they take them to the table, grabbing french fries or a bit of bacon off your burger etc.
-Very little is ever sanitized in the back of house. I have worked double shifts where no one wiped a single counter down all day or even thought to change the sanitizer solution (which is supposed to be refreshed every hour or two).
-Few servers inspect the silverware when they roll it, resulting in dirty knives and forks being given to guests...OFTEN.
-Food left sitting under heat lamps for long periods of time, then simply popped into the microwave to heat up. Heat lamps are supposed to help keep the food in the right temperature range for only short periods of time, if left there too long you risk foodborne illness.
-Bathrooms that haven't been checked, cleaned or sanitized for entire shifts. This is also supposed to be done every hour or two.
-Cross contamination, particularly with high allergen risk foods like nuts and shellfish.
-The use of mislabeled and expired dressings, sauces, cut veggies/fruits.
-Cooks using dirty bowls or utensils, cutting boards that have been left on the floor.
-Dishwashers only 'cleaning' but not sanitizing dishes and silverware.
This is all just stuff that immediately came to mind, and the stuff I KNOW about. There could be a lot more."
"I used to work at a fast food place that, after a while, ended up with a mouse problem. The owners hired someone to come in and take care of them, but he did a poor job. The mice would sometimes get into the traps, but apparently, he had also sprayed poison in some places. If the poison actually killed any of these critters, we never saw those. We did, however, see the ones that were unlucky enough to survive this ordeal. And smell them. It would be in the middle of the day and mice would come walking out from under counters or workstations very slowly and they stunk like death. I called them zombie mice because they smelled like they should be dead, were gross looking and just moved very lethargically...they also didn't really seem to be afraid of people anymore. I had swept up a couple and tossed them out the back into the grass, I figured they'd probably wander off and die. Others I think got tossed in the dumpster. The worst was when I was at the dish station filling orders and my cook was standing in front of her fryers and a mouse fell from the freaking ceiling, almost hitting her on the head. We both freaked out and the thing just kind of stood there."
"Pizza place I worked at. They went through a conveyor oven to cook. The problem was that there was no surface for them to feed on to when they came off of the conveyor, so if nobody was watching, they'd hit the floor. Myself and the few workers there knew that this was a, 'Shoot. Start making another, I'll inform the customer that there was a mishap, and we'll give a discount, too,' moment. So there was one time this happened while the boss/owner happened to be there. The pizza came out and plopped cheese side down on the floor (side note: dirty floor). I, wanting to pick it up with as little mess as possible, shoved a pizza tray underneath of it super quickly. I picked it up and flipped it over. It was still pretty much intact and there was only a bit of sauce on the floor (the boss has been watching the whole time). I set it on the counter next to the oven and turned my attention to the next pizza that was on its way out. When I turned back, the boss was just staring at the floor pizza on the counter. I took care of the other one and then went to get a towel to clean up the floor. When I came back, he was finishing putting on a few fresh toppings and a bit of cheese before putting it back in the oven. I was dumbfounded. My co-worker looked like he wanted to murder the guy. Neither of us said anything, though. We both regretted it ever since. It was one of those things where we couldn't decide if challenging the boss was a good idea. He was someone who would cut corners and do anything to save a buck, like serve a pizza that had been on the floor. Fully on the floor. Face down. For upwards of a minute. And that's exactly what happened. He cut that pizza, took it out to a table, and served it to paying, human customers.
If I ever work with food again and am put in a similar situation, I'm not going to stay quiet."
"I worked fry station at Logan's Roadhouse in Texas and fry items that weren't fries were pre-portioned into small sandwich bags so they could be quickly 'put down.' When the restaurant was busy, we would just touch the bag to the hot oil, burning off the bottoms releasing the portions into the oil. I know those fry-o-laters had filters, but I'm pretty sure those are just for bits of burnt food and not the oil based chemicals from which plastics are made."
"I was serving someone a chicken sandwich. The chicken is already prepared into little baggies. I was opening a baggie and I realized that there was mold on the chicken. I looked at my boss who was standing beside me and I started to throw the bag out-- he stopped me, grabbed the bag, poured the chicken onto the bread, and turned the moldy chicken over so no one could see it. This all happened in front of the customer, who didn't notice anything. My boss then continued to serve him moldy chicken. I nearly vomited. I found out later that, during inspection, our chicken was expired, so my boss took them out of the freezer so the inspector would see that we planned on throwing it out and once the inspector left, he put the chicken back into the freezer. Never. Eating. There."
"Many years ago, I was an ice cream chef (yes, it was just as amazing as it sounds) and one of my coworkers was making some burnt caramel. Keep in mind, he was wearing shorts at the time. He had the caramel at a very hot rolling boil and while reaching for the cream, he knocked the large pot over and about a quart of the molten sugar splashed on his legs. He was rushed to the ER and ended up needed a ton of surgeries and skin grafts. Being burned by sugar is bad because it hardens on the outside while still cooking underneath."
"I worked at a Jimmy John's in a college town. The restaurant was located within walking distance of several bars, and we were one of the only places in town open after last call, so naturally, we had an abundance of drunken idiots come through. One night, an extremely messed up girl walked in and, instead of going into the restroom, she walked into the kitchen across the hall. My manager saw this out of the corner of his eye and went to go tell her she wasn't allowed in the kitchen. We couldn't find her at first, but then we opened the walk-in cooler to find her squatting down with her panties around her ankles taking a piss on the floor. Somehow, she was drunk enough to mistake a freezing metal room filled with vegetables and lacking any toilets for a bathroom stall."
"I was a cook at a 'southern comfort food' type restaurant. Every food item was required to have a label with the expiration date on it, and fairly often when I went to toss an old item out, my manager would come over and slap a label on it with an 'extended' expiration date. A few days wouldn't be bad, but it would happen until things were on the cusp of becoming biohazard material."
"The restaurant I worked last summer was wonderful. We were always on top of cleaning, hand washing, labeling and rotating, and there was, not once, any issues with things becoming moldy or unusable. The one I worked at last fall, however... I'd recommend the homemade bread, as that was made every day. Everything else? You never knew how long it had been around. That place was a pit. But the locals love it, and it looks clean on the surface, which is all the woman running the place cared about. The waitstaff (consisting of the female owner and her son's girlfriend, because no one else would stay or they'd get laid off for not learning the local's preferences in less than three weeks) is rude and unfriendly, which deters some of what I consider the more refined tourists who favored their dignity over a cheap meal. It's always, 'Screw this,' and 'Screw that,' with them- really unprofessional. The chef (the male owner/ husband) was pretty rude as well, but nice to customers. The dishwasher (owners' son) was their biggest asset before he joined the Marines. Ugh. I could go into detail about the number of times the chef has purposely undercooked something because he didn't like that particular customer, or the waitstaff added salt to drinks out of spite. My favorite is the time the female owner got water out of the employee bathroom toilet for a customer that asked for bottled water. That's about when I lost it.
Yes, I reported them. Several times. Nothing has been done yet, and nothing will be done, because of small town politics and the price that everyone in power has- which is why this cesspool called a restaurant exists."
k r e f/Shutterstock
"I worked at Hardee's in high school and one of my coworkers was tasked with dumping bacon grease into our oil barrel out back. We cooked the bacon in an oven on sheet pans and drained the leftover grease into a five-gallon bucket until it was full. A full bucket was quite heavy, so the preferred technique for transport was to grip the bucket's wire handle with both hands and waddle towards the barrel. The poor sucker took maybe five steps before the wire handle detached and sent the bucket hurtling towards the floor. The drop was only one or two feet, but upon contact with the floor, the entire contents of the bucket shot upward and covered my coworker from his knees to his paper hat with thick, congealed goo. We all turned to see what happened. He stood still for a few seconds while saying nothing, then walked briskly over to the time clock, punched out, and left. He reported back the next day like nothing happened."