There are rules and general practices at everyone's jobs that aren't always agreed with, but everyone goes along with them. Sometimes though these general practices and rules go too far and things like health codes get pushed to the side to help save a buck or two. The people in the following stories worked in places that should have been closed down. Their stories will make you rethink ever going out to eat again.
(Content has been edited for clarity.)
It’s Gross, But It’s A Restaurant Tradition
“My restaurant had a photo album (literally) full of pictures of the general manager and other FOH managers posing with the rats they shot with the restaurant-owned pellet shooter. Long story short, this was a very old restaurant built into a hill in a nice coastal town on the Central California coast. The main building, which housed the kitchen and two of the main dining rooms was probably 80 years old by the time I was working there, so there was an established rodent problem. Anyhow, after service was said and done for the night, and the cleaners were done the cleaning, the managers would leave the hood vent and the lights on and establish a line of sight that ran about 150 yards along the pantry kitchen, the ‘Hot Line’, dish pit, and into the prep kitchen. The story goes that they would grab a bottle of whatever they wanted to drink and post up for hours drinking and killing rats. I vividly remember a picture of the general manager holding a dead rat by the tail with this massive grin on his face. Priceless.”
A Spit Shine Kind Of Place
“Restaurant worker here and I’ve been in the industry for about seven years. You’ve seen the movie Waiting, right? Yeah. It’s exactly like that. To a T.
If you’re a good customer – meaning you’re polite to us, not demanding or condescending – you won’t be mistreated, even in the kitchen behind the scenes. However, if you’re a jerk, yeah you’re going to get something nasty in your food. I’m not a server (I’m a host), so I’m speaking from what I’ve seen and heard.
Your steak may have been ordered medium-well, but if the kitchen is severely backed up, your steak may sit in the window and may turn well. You may end up sending it back to get a new steak, which could take much longer and you’re going to leave unhappy. Your best bet is to order your steak a temp above what you want.
Most of our cooks don’t use gloves.
Another thing, our dishwasher sometimes gets really backed up, and he doesn’t have time to change the water out, which is supposed to be done every couple of hours. So sometimes the dishes you’re eating off of has been through the dishwasher with dirty water. It’s been hit with sanitizer at the end of the cycle, but it’s really not enough. As host, part of my job is to roll silverware. On a particularly busy night, the silverware will go through the machine, and there will be bits and pieces of food and nastiness stuck to everything. My job is to rack it up in a silverware rack and run it back through the machine (with all the dirty water). Then I take it to my station and roll it. If there’s something gross on the silverware still, I usually just brush it off on my apron or a napkin and go on about my business.
I work for a well-established sit-down chain restaurant.”
No One Will Ever Notice
“I got hired on as a manager at this local coffee shop and quickly found out that the general manager was cutting costs EVERYWHERE. If we ran out of beans, we were instructed to put SAMS club coffee beans in the local roasters bags and sell and brew that coffee as normal. He even had us use it for espresso a few times.
The worst was the ‘frappe mix,’ which was powdered creamer mixed with Folgers instant coffee crystals and a few ground espresso beans for texture. It was disgusting.
I also found out that he hired me as a replacement and not just an assistant manager. I found that out when he put in his two weeks notice. That worked out better in the long run because we’re making a profit now and we don’t sell gross garbage anymore.”
Nothing But A Bunch Of Rotten Tomatoes
“I worked in a local chain coffee shop in my earlier teens. Well, we made sandwiches for the lunchtime customers, the tomatoes were horrible. About once a month or so we would just get a box of tomatoes and just leave them on a shelf, no refrigeration, just a box of tomatoes next to the dish drying rack and some industrial cleaning chemicals no big deal. After a few weeks, the tomatoes started to get disgusting. But we were still expected to use them in the sandwiches or salads. A few other employees and I would dig around the box trying to find tomatoes of a less disgusting stage of going bad, but the rest wouldn’t give a care and just cut off the black and brown and moldy parts. I knew I had to quit when I looked in the box and the entire top layer of tomatoes was covered in white furry mold.”
Never Fresh, Always Frozen
“I’m a former KFC worker. The place is disgusting – ALL THE TIME. The GM would come in to ‘inspect,’ and it’d be horrendous and he’d tell us how great it looked. I finally came to realize (after working shifts at two other stores because they were understaffed) that this was just the norm and that for a KFC, that was clean.
Also, pretty much nothing is fresh. The chicken comes frozen; they thaw what they need the night before to bread and fry. Sides are all fake or premade. Mac and cheese and corn on the cob came in big silver tins frozen that we had to thaw and just reheat. Regular corn off the cob just came frozen in big bags. Green beans and baked beans come from cans. Mashed potatoes and gravy both come from powdered mixes. Biscuits are frozen. Coleslaw is sort of fresh-ish. It comes separated (shredded cabbage, chopped carrots, chopped onions and this disgusting dressing stuff) and you just had to mix it together in these huge 10-gallon bins – usually makes enough for three or four days at a time. Hot wings, potato wedges, and popcorn chicken are also all frozen.”
The Bugs Add Extra Protein
“I worked at a bakery, and they had a bug zapper over the cake decorating table.
Flies would fall in the cakes all the time. Instead of moving the bug zapper, they would just pull the flies out of the frosting and sell the cakes.
Also, we had egg fights, and there was egg on the walls and ceiling that we couldn’t clean off. The health inspector was not too happy about that.
As well, when you buy something labeled as ‘fresh baked,’ it means it was frozen, and they just took it out of the box and threw it in the proofer before putting it on the shelf. It’s not homemade. Cakes are all from the freezer as well.”
It All Depends On Your Boss
“My experience is cooking at TGI Fridays. Everyone works as fast as they can. Microwaves are used only when very far behind, or a customer keeps sending food back (aside from recipes that use them, queso dip, spinach dip, etc.). No health violations. I still take dates there. Everyone just tries to get through their shift and get home, doing things right doesn’t take much longer than doing them ‘quickly.’
My experience cooking at Applebees was a bit different. It was a complete dump. Everyone was throwing things together as fast as they could with the only important part being that the food didn’t come back. I would never eat at the one I worked at ever again.
Keep in mind that for any restaurant this is entirely contingent on management. To use the previous two restaurants, the Fridays manager is a jerk frequently and runs a tight shift. As a result, everything runs relatively smoothly. The Applebees manager got fired for passing out on illegal substances in the office while we were still open.”
Enjoy Our Fresh, Not So Fresh, Sandwiches!
“I worked at a ‘bakery-cafe’ (actually just fast food) known for their bread.
There are a lot of things that are messed up about that place. The restaurant I worked in was owned by a guy who owns most of the franchises in western Pennsylvania. He bought the rights to the name and food, but by owning so many, he was essentially able to incorporate the store and create his own rules. The actual company had policies for things like time-and-a-half on holidays, insurance policies for anyone working more than 20-hour weeks, etc. These don’t happen at the locations owned by the other guy.
They talk about how fresh and healthy everything is, but the only thing fresh are the veggies and SOME of the bread. The baguettes and some pastries are made fresh overnight. They say that all of the dough comes from a ‘fresh dough facility’ daily, but the bottom line is they only make a handful of bread and pastries fresh in the store and just bake ready-made dough that’s shipped in from elsewhere.
The paninis are made every morning and then refrigerated. When you want one, they take it out, throw it on the grill, and hand it to you. You can’t get them special ordered (i.e. put extra veggies on a tomato-mozzarella) because they’re all pre-made hours in advance. Even at McDonald’s, they at least build the sandwiches for you before they heat them up.
The sandwiches are made with regular old lunch meat. The roast beef is good, but the turkey and ham are no different than the gelatinous processed stuff you can get at your local grocery store.
Their famous mac and cheese is pre-made and vacuum-wrapped, then heated up in hot water. It’s Stouffers.”
If You Only Knew
“I worked as a delivery driver for this Japanese restaurant that had two locations about 10 minutes apart. We only had one delivery driver on duty at a time, and we were not allowed to tell the customers.
What sucked about that is that both restaurants had a delivery radius of five miles, and sometimes there would be a delivery order at the other location which was only like one mile away from the house you were supposed to make the delivery. It was a long drive for you since you were like five miles away at the other location. Not only would you just get a $2 delivery fee when it should have been $5, but then you had to deal with people angry that their food took so long when they thought you were close.
On top of that, when you were working as a cashier, the only tips you were allowed to keep were the ones left on the table. Any ones left one of the two tip jars we had, or written on credit card receipts in the restaurant, went to the owners and not us. It felt nice when people would tip us because we provided a good service, but then it felt horrible that you wouldn’t see any of that money.”
There’s A Note Of Blackberry And A Hint Of LIES In This Vintage
“I work at a restaurant. We ridicule the ‘dressing on the side’ people and the gluten-free people who make it very clear so the whole place can hear that they are ‘gluten-free’ (where I live it’s mostly a fad and undermines people with serious gluten issues). Then there are the Merlot haters! Typically these people don’t know a thing about the stuff other than they watched ‘Sideways’ and whenever these individuals tell me to bring them any glass other than Merlot, I will bring them a glass of Merlot (in the computer I’ll put it as some other name with the same price). More times than not, they are delighted with its taste, texture, and body. Little do they know!”
But What About Some Cheesecake?
“I worked at a restaurant that also did catering. People would come in for tastings regularly for things like weddings, and we’d give them samples of some of our food. The big thing at these tastings was the cheesecake, which was made in-house to be served in the restaurant and was pretty great. What we didn’t tell them was that for catering events, we bought premade cheesecakes instead. I think they were Marie Callender’s. We’d sell them on our cheesecake then give them something less good that was easier/cheaper for us. Honestly, we were stretching ourselves a little thin with catering. It was always a mess trying to get all the food prepared as well as run the restaurant. We had one chef who worked every single day, and the waiters doubled as caterers, sometimes working long wait and catering shifts back to back.”
Just A Numbers Game… A Soul Crushing Numbers Game
“I work for a big pizza chain, and when we give you your receipt, there’s a two for one deal at the bottom of it. You go to a website, pop in a unique code that’s on the receipt and fill out a survey of your experience and get the two for one voucher at the end. Seems simple, but the surveys come back to us under the waitress/waiter’s name who took your order, we have to score either a 9/10 or 10/10, or we get negative feedback, which results in your hours being cut. There’s massive pressure on us to get customers to do these surveys, its suppose to help the managers and us to improve our service, but it has just become a massive number game, we are entered in leagues with other stores, and they just don’t care about the actual feedback, just the numbers.
It’s annoying because there’s only so much we can do, we can’t force the customers onto their computers and do it for us. Every time I bring a receipt to a customer I have to make a big deal out of it, I’ve even started to tell customers that it makes me look good in front of my managers and it’d be a big favor for me. So frustrating, because I’m told a lot that I’m a good waitress, and I should be proud, but if you don’t get the surveys in, it doesn’t mean squat to the managers.
So, next time you’re in a restaurant where they ask you something like this, do it! It takes about five minutes, and it sincerely means the world to us!”
A Bleak Wasteland Of Crime And Undercooked Food
“I’m a former Ruby Tuesday ‘chef’, although I was more of a professional microwave operator. Except for steaks, chicken, and fish, everything was prepped a day, two, or three in advance and microwaved or frozen/flash thawed and microwaved.
The particular store I worked at also had a lot of addicts, and it led to a completely different experience over time. It came to a point where employees were selling illegal substances to management, and that ‘clique’ was high on the job every day.
Now onto health code violations. I had to stop a guy from serving a steak he dropped on the floor when taking it off the flat top. He said it was ‘okay’ because he put it back on the grill and ‘seared the side that hit the floor.’ I ended up throwing it out once it was set in the hot window to be served.
As well, a violent dispute broke out one night over whose job it was to fill the ramekin with ketchup.
Eventually, I was caught in one of those ‘You can’t quit! You’re fired!’ scenarios, when I refused to push a, reorder WELL DONE 14oz Ribeye out that had only been on the grill for three minutes. It had an internal temp of 67f.
Lose A Cook, Gain A Chef
“So, I used to work for a local greasy spoon/pub. Sure I hated most of the customers, but my co-workers were for the most part awesome. Same with management.
We lost our chef/kitchen manager cause he turned out to be a pathological liar and stopped doing most of his work. It turns out I had been doing a good lot of his work without realizing it. Then when he left, instead of promoting one of us to take over the job, despite the fact, there was less than a half-dozen of us to hold the short staffed, cheap kitchen running smoothly. She hired this new chef who had a Gordon Ramsey sized ego.
In the time he was hired, we went from cooking poached eggs to order to mass producing and then re-heating. After leaving the eggs out for hours at a time. Our ‘always in house-made sauces’ started turning into bottles, and he was ‘improving’ the sauces we had for other products (because two cans of coconut milk were way too expensive compared to ordering in tamarind).
In any case, I was pretty vocal about my dislike for these changes. I nearly went off on him when he got snippy about my inability to make a vegan minestrone soup (just let that one sink in for a bit). I also continually complained to the management to go back to house-made mayos and the like instead of using miracle whip knockoff.
I didn’t last too long after he was hired. I guess the management liked the new chef instead of the cook.”
The Mascot Has Shifty Eyes For A Reason
“I worked at a Big Boy, and people spat in rude people’s burgers (even cops that pulled them over the night before). I witnessed but never partook. I saw two guys sweep the dead bugs from the top shelf into pancake batter and serve it, burgers dropped on the floor and rinsed with tap water before served, undercooked burgers sent back and nuked to a ‘good enough color’ before returning to the customer. All of this was due to idiot workers though, not like Big Boy has a loogie in cops burger policy.”
Cold Dead Logs
“The turkey melts and roast beef melts on fresh house-baked ciabatta were premade, kept in a whole pan in a cooler and when ordered we were to microwave them, then throw them on the press until marked, then served. It was disgusting. When people ordered the turkey melt (which was turkey, bacon, quarter avocado fanned on top then jack cheese on top, with chipotle aioli) and wanted something removed, no bacon no avocado – whatever, THEY WANTED US TO OPEN UP THE PREMADE SANDWICH AND PULL THE UNWANTED ITEM OUT. No chipotle aioli? HAH – Wiped off. I refused to do it and butted heads with management plenty about it, but would make a fresh one at least but still be forced to microwave and press it as they took the ingredients off flattop and gave it to the pantry/deli station.
This was the new owner’s decision about a month after taking over and deciding that the previous way we served them (in a 400 cover restaurant) was ‘too difficult.’ A fresh melt right off the flat top, quickly warm some freshly sliced and portioned turkey, throw on some fresh bacon then the avocado slice and lastly melt the cheese on top with a quick steam then transfer it to the lovely freshly sliced ciabatta, came out amazing.
Their solution was a cold dead log that barely got heated up in the microwave then smashed flat in the press. They even had the gall to up the price a dollar.
So many people complained that it was taken off the menu after three weeks, after being a classic at this busy restaurant for FIVE YEARS prior.”
Please Remember To Tip Your Waiter
“I worked at a Denny’s as a server once. One day my buddy’s ex-girlfriend sat in my section. We’d still make small talk and fake interest in what the other was saying. Anyways, I must have been in a good mood that day, because I decided to hook her up and give her free salad, free drinks, and discounted some other food for her. Knocked $20 off her and her friend’s ticket, then she turned me on the tip and gave me NOTHING!
She came in yet again a week later and sat in my section, and I asked another co-worker if they wanted an extra table. They said, ‘Sure, but can you get their drink order first, I’m busy.’
I said, ‘Of course.’
After working for seven hours with long, black, pants near a hot kitchen in the summer months, I had built up quite a bit of sweat on my junk. I stuck my hand down my underwear and cupped as much of that on my hand as I could and then reached into the ice bin and filled her glass up with ball-sweat infused ice, then topped it off with water. She also wanted her precious cappuccino again, so I hacked up a loogie in the bottom of the glass. What I didn’t realize is loogies are quite buoyant, and it floated to the top. Luckily that idiot demanded extra whipped cream, and I was able to mask the evidence with Reddi-whip.
Moral of the story, tip your waiters if you like to screw people over that make $2.13 an hour, don’t go back to the same restaurant.”