Beware the wings at Buffalo Wild Wings. If you get them less than 10 minutes after you ordered, you might want to send them back. It should take at least 15 minutes for the wings to arrive at your table since it takes about 12 minutes to fry them. One BWW employee revealed that, in order to combat food waste, the company encouraged workers to serve "old crusty wings" instead of throwing them out as they had done in the past. This is especially a problem when the restaurant isn't particularly busy, between 12:45 and 4:30, since the chefs have to make a minimum amount of wings to serve any guests who wander in. It's better around the dinner rush since the influx of diners keeps the wings in a revolving door. Another former Buffalo Wild Wings server made a point to only order the boneless chicken because of the things they kept finding in the wings, like feathers and, one time, a razor blade in a drumstick. If it's too much of a hassle for you to remember all of that, you might just want to avoid BWW altogether.
Continue on to find out if the "Baked Fresh Daily" at Perkins really holds up.
If you want breakfast fast, you go to Perkins. That quickness will cost you a bit in quality, though. Perkins definitely has a love affair with the microwave. Most sides, except for fried food, will go through the microwave. It's not just limited to sides, though as there are quite a number of main course dishes that are nuked before they're sent out to your table. Turkey, roast beef and pot roast are all frequent visitors to the microwave. Actually, the only items that are never microwaved are burgers and steaks. Even pasta is microwaved as it's sent to the restaurant already pre-cooked and stored in bags.
Not a whole lot in the restaurant is made fresh. The bacon is liable to be left on the grill for up to 12 hours if no one's ordered it in a while. The vegetables are frozen when they arrive at the restaurant and even the baked goods, most notably the pies, aren't as fresh as the restaurant would have you think. Despite the fact that the hosts wear aprons that read, "Baked Fresh Daily," that's only technically true. They really do bake the goods every day, but those goods are baked somewhere else, frozen, then sent to the store. The pie that you order could very well have been baked the day before, or even the day before that. If the workers forget to label them, they could be even older than that.
Now let's discuss the eggs. There seems to be a difference between stores, with some cracking and whisking their eggs to order, while other restaurants do things a little...differently. One former Perkins employee claimed that the restaurant where he worked would keep the egg mix for scrambled eggs in a five-gallon bucket, out in the open, all day long. At the end of the day, they would add more eggs to the bucket and set it aside for the next day. Most stores don't seem to do this, but you never know what goes on behind closed doors.
If the lack of fresh food at Perkins is shocking, you'll be even more surprised to learn about the steaks at Outback Steakhouse...
Don't expect a freshly made steak at Outback Steakhouse. Just because it's got "steak" in its name doesn't mean that you should go for it. Their steaks, according to a former employee, are sometimes made up to two days in advance. When someone orders the steak, it's warmed up in the microwave then placed in the oven for about three minutes. This is all so that the kitchen can cook quickly in order to get orders out to customers in as short a time as possible, especially during a rush. Some restaurants even have their chefs cook up extra steaks just to have on hand.
Other items in the restaurant are usually given more time to be prepared. The croutons are baked fresh every morning. The ribs are also smoked to perfection, cheese is grated, and produce is prepped for the day.
One thing you'll probably want to avoid is the fries. Some servers can't resist sneaking a few fries whenever they can and if your plate is waiting for you in the service window, who knows how many people stuck their hands on your plate. Even when management makes rules outlawing such barbaric treatment of customer food, servers can still find a way around them to get their paws on your delicious fries.
Screw steaks, time to carb load at Olive Garden, but wait, how fresh are those breadsticks?
Olive Garden is known for their amazing breadsticks, unlimited soup and salads, and their cheap pasta, but how much of the food can truly be considered fresh? There are a few items which are actually impressively fresh. The pasta is made in-house every morning. It's then bagged up into individual servings and heated up before it makes its way to your table. That's pretty standard for most restaurants, so it's nothing special. There are some exceptions, namely ravioli and manicotti. Those are shipped frozen to the restaurants, so they're not quite as fresh as the rest of the kinds of pasta.
The soups are all made from scratch in the morning, as are the sauces. Alfredo sauce actually has to be made fresh every day because the ingredients will separate after it's left out for too long. As for those tasty breadsticks, they aren't made from scratch in the kitchen. Olive Garden receives a shipment of unbaked dough sticks, which are then baked on-site and slathered with that delicious buttery, garlic sauce. They're usually baked right before they reach your table, so they truly are freshly baked. That's not a bad payoff.
Still a frequenter of Applebees? Well, you might want to reconsider...
Applebee's isn't the classiest eatery, but at least it's cheap and fast. Those aren't exactly the qualities that breed good food, though. In order to keep up with the demand of their voracious customers, Applebee's often turns to microwaves to get food on the plate and out to the customer as quickly as possible. That includes everything from steamed shrimp, to chicken tenders, to steak. If you're a fan of the riblets, we're sorry to say we've got some bad news for you. According to one source, the meat used to make those tasty little morsels is apparently, "dog-food quality beef sternums slathered in BBQ sauce and cooked until edible." Mmm, sounds yummy.
One former Applebee's employee specifically warned potential diners away from ordering the wings. All the wings are tossed in a large metal bowl to coat them in sauce and the bowl can hold a little over 40 wings at a time if the restaurant is going through a rush. "On a busy night, if you are tossing more than 40 at a time, there is almost a guarantee that there will be a few to hit the ground," they revealed. "What happens at this point? They go right back into the bowl." Well, that's enough information to kill anyone's appetite.
Now on to personal hygiene. The chefs and servers are typically very good about washing their hands often. That's quite the relief, considering how much time they spend in close proximity to your food. Hosts, on the other hand, aren't as good at keeping their hands nice and clean. That should ring some alarm bells for you since hosts often run food for servers when they're too busy to do it themselves.
Wait, Cheesecake Factory has to be better, right?
The Cheesecake Factory is probably more famous for their cheesecakes than their entrees, but those entrees deserve their fair share of attention as well. Most everything they make is hand prepared in the kitchen. You might think they use frozen chicken to make their popular Cajun chicken littles (their version of chicken tenders), but you'd be wrong - everything in the kitchen is made to order. There are no microwaves in the restaurant, which just cements the fact that everything is made from scratch. Well, everything except for the dish that the restaurant is named after.
The cheesecakes at the Cheesecake Factory, despite the name, are not made in-house. They're actually made offsite in the corporate offices in, no joke, an actual cheesecake factory. The cheesecakes are then frozen and shipped off to each restaurant.
There are also some claims that many of the dishes CF serves are just knockoffs of what other restaurants have, but with a heftier price tag. A former server at CF claimed that their Tons of Fun burger was really just a "$10 Big Mac." That same server also had a warning for customers who want to take some food home in a doggy bag. "When they offer to box your leftovers for you, the servers are legit back there taking bites of your food, so just say you'd rather box it yourself." Sticky-fingered servers aside, the Cheesecake Factory isn't all that bad, just as long as you're willing to pay the price.
Well, maybe its better to stick to the home cooking at Cracker Barrel, but not all of it is cooked in-house.
Cracker Barrel has a reputation for being a homestyle eatery, but how much of their menu is really cooked in-house? Well, according to former employees, quite a bit actually. There are a lot of items that come to the restaurant frozen, but some things, like the chicken pot pie, are used with ingredients like real, raw chicken. On the other hand, if you order a salad that comes with egg, then you're going to be eating an egg that came in a bucket of pre-cooked, hard-boiled eggs.
Generally speaking, the microwaves in Cracker Barrel aren't used to cook much of anything in the restaurant. Mostly, it's just for when they are running low on baked potatoes and need to get some ready in a hurry. Baked potatoes are usually cooked in the oven, so it's not even something that happens all that often.
While some former workers didn't have a problem with how the food was prepared, they did take issue with how management ran the place. Workers are made to keep a "country fresh" style and if their general manager doesn't feel like their looks fit in that style, whether it's a haircut or anything else, they can make their employees change it.
There's also the issue of food waste. Instead of giving away unused food that they no longer plan on serving customers to food banks or homeless shelters, Cracker Barrel just throws it away. They have a pretty good reason for doing so since if there was something wrong with the food, it could make people sick. They just don't want to be liable for making people sick and they don't need that sort of incident messing with their reputation.
There has to be somewhere fresh, and maybe Red Robin could be that place...
Red Robin's famous burgers are prepared with fresh beef patties, so if you don't like it when restaurants use frozen meat to make your meals, you should check out this burger haven. Not only do they have amazing burgers, but the burger toppings are prepared fresh daily every morning. Other RR workers say that you should go easy on certain sauces since there's so much mayo in them. So, if mayonnaise isn't your jam, stick with the basic sauces.
It's also an impressively clean restaurant and that didn't happen by accident. "My particular restaurant is borderline neurotic about cleanliness," wrote one Red Robin employee. "The first few weeks I worked there my hands were raw from washing them so much." It's not just a matter of pride for them, but a matter of practicality. No restaurant wants the Health Department breathing down their neck.