Waiters, waitress, baristas, cooks, and busboys know a whole lot of secrets about the food you eat. You may never eat out again after reading some of these. Of course, they also know so pretty good tricks to get ahead! (Content has been edited for clarity)
"Pei Wei's chicken lettuce wraps? The chicken is the fatty bits we cut off during morning prep work. Whoever carves the chicken all day just gets a little sloppy so that the pieces he cuts off are 80 percent fat and 20 percent meat, then it all gets minced in a meat grinder. Its one of their top sellers and it costs the company next to nothing since the alternative is throwing away the fatty pieces.
Since PF changs is the parent company of Pei Wei, I am 99% sure this applies there as well. A lot of our recipes were identical to PF Chang's recipes."
"I work at Red Lobster.
1.The biscuits are 130 calories each.
2. None of the food is homemade, it's all prepackaged and frozen.
3. Every type of pasta is just microwaved, actually a lot of the food is microwaved.
4. You can buy the chocolate lava cookie or the apple crostada at Kroger for 1 dollar."
"The mayo at Burger King is very old. When the mayo starts to look like jello, we don't replace it, we just stir it. Don't ask for the mayo."
"Former Starbucks barista here. I guess these are really more of ordering tips than unscrupulous secrets.
There is an unlisted size: short (8 oz). This is most cafes' 'small,' but Starbucks shifted the sizes up a number of years ago (which is why 'tall' and 'grande' weren't weird names then), making the venti the largest. You can get any hot drink short.
We have a number of flavor syrups that aren't listed on the menu, just ask what we have. Also, despite what many customers think, we have peppermint year round, so we can make peppermint mochas and peppermint white mochas any time of the year. Gingerbread and pumpkin spice are seasonal, but we may not run out of stock for quite a while, so if it's February there's still a chance.
Bring your own cup, save 10 cents. Might have to remind the cashier, we forget sometimes.
You can get a drink 'for here' and get it in ceramic/glass, feel fancy, waste less.
Other secrets, both good and bad:
-50 cent refills on coffee, iced tea, or iced coffee (not espresso beverages).
-Iced large drinks have extra everything, on account of being 24 and not 20 ounces. Extra espresso shot, extra pump of syrup, etc...
-It's honestly not that annoying that you have a very specific drink order. It breaks up the monotony, and it's nice not to be a vanilla latte robot. Sometimes people would ask for weird things that I'd make for myself later and end up liking! Protip: green tea latte with peppermint.
-You can get the matcha green tea as plain, non-milk tea. It's pretty cheap for matcha tea, too.
-Adding a syrup to a drink always costs extra (unless the cashier likes you/doesn't care, which is frequent), unless it's already in that drink. i.e., a caramel frappuccino with extra caramel doesn't cost extra.
-That delicious caramel sauce is in fact real caramel. That plastic-tasting caramel syrup is not. Many people don't realize we have both - the caramel sauce is what decorates the cup of the caramel frappuccino and on the whipped cream, the caramel syrup is what flavors the actual frappuccino or a caramel latte.
-A caramel macchiato is a vanilla latte with caramel sauce, and least importantly, the espresso shot put on top of the steamed milk.
-Infrequently ordered, but delicious drink: a marble macchiato. It's like a caramel macchiato but with half mocha syrup, half white mocha.
-If you want a legitimate cappuccino and you see jugs of milk on the counter, ask for them to use milk from the fridge. Milk needs to be cold to foam that well. Likewise, if you want a soy cappuccino, you can be a pain in the butt and ask for soymilk from the fridge (they might not even have any in there), since soy will barely foam at room temperature since the cartons are shelf-stable.
-If you have no idea what to order, ask us. Since we get free drinks, you can count on us trying every single drink in every disgusting combination. Our favorite drink will probably be something excessively complicated we'll be happy to make for you.
-On that note, if you're like, green tea latte? Disgusting or delicious? You can ask us to sample it. We'll make a whole drink and split it into sample cups. No big deal, our manager will probably like us better for promoting drinks anyways, and you don't have to spend money to find out raspberry mochas are gross and green tea is delicious.
-Same thing for pastries. We'll sample it if you ask and we have enough (generally we do).
-If you really like a certain coffee we have, but we don't have it brewing, you can ask for a french press version. French press generally tastes better anyway, and if I recall correctly, it doesn't actually cost any more and you can order whatever size you normally would. We'll probably sample the rest of the pot anyway. However, this will take significantly longer since, for once, we actually have to brew the coffee ourselves.
-We often forget or get too busy, but we actually have gift wrap, especially around the holidays. Ask and we'll make that overpriced mug pretty.
-I had a few customers with impossible or silly requests. Like impossibly hot beverages, in excess of 210F. Guys. Seriously. People who ask for extra hot cappuccinos and are disappointed by them still not being hot enough. This is how a cappuccino is, there's too much air/surface area for the foam layer to ever be hot. If you want hot, get a latte. Sometimes people will ask for less-hot milk from the pitchers we've already made. We can't serve milk that has gone below 135, you have to have us make a fresh batch. Sucks for waste, better for you not puking.
-In terms of dairy allergy/vegan stuff, the caramel sauce, white chocolate syrup, and pumpkin spice syrup all contain dairy. The chai contains honey. The whipped cream is 100% heavy cream. The caramel syrup, mocha syrup, and other syrups are non-dairy. This stuff might not matter to the lactose intolerant, but to some it does. For the caffeine-sensitive, the mocha syrup does not actually have any coffee - it's chocolate sauce and is just named that because it's what we use for mochas. The 'creme-based' list of fraps is usually pretty short, but there are usually more caffeine-free options, just ask.
-You can get an 'old school' iced americano, which is espresso + all ice, instead of espresso + ice + then water to fill
-You can get a café au lait, but it's called a 'Misto' (mee-sto). It's half brewed coffee, half steamed milk. Handy if you like lots of milk in your coffee and don't like making it room temperature with it.
-If you want a little soymilk in your americano, iced coffee, or regular coffee, just ask for it at the bar. I've never seen anyone charge for it. A full cup of soymilk for a latte, yes, 1" for another drink? No one cares.
-If you want chai but no sugar/honey, get a Chai Tea Misto. It's half brewed tea (Tazo stuff) and half steamed milk. Also costs less! You will have to wait a little longer since there is actual tea brewing happening.
-If you like honey, we have it at the bar and can make your drink with it. Works better with hot drinks.
-We have two forms of vanilla - the syrup, and vanilla bean powder used for vanilla bean frappuccinos/caffe vanilla frappuccinos. You can get the powder in any drink, many people think it's tastier, and it has those magical vanilla bean speckles.
Finally: You are probably worried about being weird, inconvenient, and a prick. Starbucks customers are the nicest in my experience. I think it's because you're all worried about being a prick. KEEP WORRYING, THANKS!
Now for the unscrupulous part:
-In terms of cross-contamination, it's pretty bad. We had blender pitchers labeled 'dairy' and 'non-dairy,' but no one cared. The metal pitchers and blender pitches are rinsed out with pressure and continue to be used throughout the day. The steam wand on the espresso machine (used for heating milk) is cleaned with a rag that soaks in cleaning solution as well as using the steam to clean out the inside, but the cleaning solution is often pretty contaminated with all the milk (if you think about it, wiping off a little milk and then putting it back in the same liquid... even if you change it out frequently, cross-contamination is almost immediate).
-The soymilk does not cost more than the dairy. What's more, is its shelf-stable packaging, and so there's less waste than with dairy.
-Frappuccinos have the highest profit margin. Watch someone make the drink and it's apparent - it's mostly ice, generally more than the iced drinks (non-blended) gets. Not a real shake by a long shot, but so delicious...
-Those overpriced sandwiches below the pastry case get tossed every night. Yeah, we could take some home, but you always get tired of the food at work and none are particularly great, so yeah. Same goes for 'morning' pastries mid-day in many Starbucks. Other pastries are given a shelf life of 2-3 days upon arrival, but generally, some of those are always tossed too. Occasionally I had a whole, unopened package of something that was expired, though ideally this is minimized. These things go in the dumpster, and many people will understandably go dumpster diving for these - I mean, it's a trash bag full of slightly-dry pastries, some still shrink-wrapped. They purposely place the dumpsters somewhere more secluded to avoid this (they don't want to be liable), but apparently, it can easily be figured out.
-We can and do guess what people will get before they order when we're bored. We have stereotypes, they hold pretty well. Except for that one skinny woman who got caramel frappuccinos. Breaking barriers, man."
"I used to work at a restaurant that sold SUB sandwiches a certain WAY, but to save time we'll just call the place Subway. Anyway, everything had a shelf life of three days, and after the third day, we had to throw it out. Except our manager would come in and smell the stuff that was supposedly past its pull date, erase the old dates and put on new ones if it didn't smell or taste bad.
Literally, all the meats, with the exception of pepperoni and salami, were mechanically separated, ground up, recolored, flavored, reformed hunks of 'meat' I wouldn't even feed to my dog."
"I knew a man who was a 4th generation veal guy. One of the last people to be in NYC's meatpacking industry he explained to me why I should never eat veal (and I don't)
The 'European way' of raising veal was to cage baby calfs with a chain around their neck so they don't move even an inch. The American way which was legally implemented is to have about 12 baby cows in a pen 10x10. This way they have a little movement and its considered more 'humane.'
Well NY restaurants consider white veal to be the industry standard. Meaning the whiter the meat, the better it tastes (it doesn't actually taste any different its an old Italian myth) so in order to get white meat what does that mean? You have the bleed out the animal
In order to bleed out the animal while it's alive, they pump the calfs with chemicals to make them anemic. But because they are anemic and living in spaces where there are 12 to a pen, they constantly get sick. So in order to keep them alive, they have to pump them FULL of antibiotics just so they are barely alive before they are slaughtered. This guy looked me dead in the face and said, 'Don't EVER eat veal,' and he owns a business in veal."
"I worked in a butcher shop for quite some time, and there are some basic misconceptions and confusion on stuff out there.
This one is less of a secret and more of just truth. When you're at a meat section of a grocery store, many places try to push the black Angus beef under the guise that it tastes 'better and is of higher quality.' It's also usually more expensive than the regular stuff.
While black Angus is a distinct breed unless you're a head chef, butcher, purveyor, you eat beef a lot or you have a really good palette, a person generally will not be able to tell the difference between Angus and regular.
You can taste the difference when you're eating different grades. Prime is a better quality than choice which is better than select. Prime obviously is more expensive while choice is what you will see in most stores. So if the choice came down to Choice Angus and Choice regular, you're basically going to pay much more for not too big of a difference if you went with the Angus. However Prime regular will be a better quality than Choice regular.
Australian beef is grass fed, carries a slight bit of a gamey natural taste, and can be a bit less costly than US stuff.
It's a very costly and kind of stupid move to ask a butcher to grind you tenderloin for burgers. If you're spending all that money for such an expensive cut, you're better off cooking it as a filet mignon cut and going with that. It's a super lean cut and will not really taste anything special in the form of a burger.
To hop off that, if you're at a restaurant and they have Kobe beef burgers, don't go for it. Obviously, the taste of Kobe beef is held in high regard, but you're not really going to experience any of the blends of texture and flavor if the meat has been ground up into burger meat. Heck, the restaurant may be complete pricks and be grinding up a randomly mixed percentage of fat and beef and calling it as Kobe beef."
"I used to work at a well-known chain restaurant when I was young.
People would ask all the time if something was microwaved, due to their food varying in temperature, their plate being hot, the taste of their food, or whatever.
Yes, the food is microwaved. No, we will not actually tell you that. From what I could tell, your main course was made to order. So if you ordered the chicken, they would actually cook the chicken on the stove right after you ordered it. Everything else, like your sides, were shoved in plastic bags and 'cooked' in the microwave. Like your potatoes, veggies, rice, soup, whatever. I think fries were actually made to order as well since they were meant to be crispy.
Also, it really boggled my mind when people would order dessert. It's literally a frozen piece of cake, cheesecake, or whatever. None of it is fresh. And the ice cream is the cheapest vanilla bean ice cream on the market. We got our's from Aldi's by the brand 'Dean's' which is well known for being a large tub at a low price."
"I worked as a cook for a restaurant owned by Emeril. We had an open kitchen that patrons could see into from the dining room, not unlike the kitchen from Gordon Ramsey's show. There was also a dozen barstool seats where you could eat your food and converse with the cooks in front of you/watch us work. During the hiring process, one of the papers I had to sign said I was not allowed to exclaim 'Bam!' while I seasoned food, or any other time, regardless of how much a guest begged. Apparently, it's his word..."
"If you shop at a grocery store that sells whole rotisserie chickens, the chicken you're buying probably isn't older than about 3 hours (that was when we had to pull ours). However, if you buy a chicken pot pie or a BBQ chicken pizza, it's hard to say exactly how long ago that chicken was cooked. Why? Because the chicken that we pulled after it sat for 3 hours, we pulled off the skin and tore the meat off the bones and then threw the meat in a big container in the prep fridge. So your Safeway chicken pot pie is made out of rotisserie chickens that no one bought."
"Ex TGI Fridays employee here.
-Everything is frozen.
-Most of it is microwaved.
-Most of the 'cooks' would be dishwashers at any other restaurant.
-You can literally run up your bill and just leave without paying. If they stop you, just say everything was awful. They won't do anything because they are more worried about complaints to corporate.
This would make you a terrible person, but hey...free meal, bro!"
"Former fast food manager here. I don't know if this is a company-wide thing, but our regional McManager 'strongly discouraged' us from firing anyone who had worked there more than six months, since they'd be eligible for unemployment. Instead, we were encouraged to make their lives into a living nightmare until they (hopefully) gave up and quit."
"Most food places don't follow all the legal requirements for food prep, storage or care.
I swear to God, I had a trial in a hotel kitchen and their freezer wasn't working, but they still used it to store things despite the fact it was technically just a chiller. We're talking fish and stuff like that. Slowly defrosting in a cold box, which, I was informed by my shift worker, had been that way for over a month with no technician in sight. He didn't seem happy with that, but there's an overseer/ manager above him that didn't seem to care. It wasn't my place to intrude.
I also worked at a hospital where one of our workers never swept under the work surfaces at the end of shift, as required in the duty roster because she hurt her back, despite the fact that we provided ergonomic equipment for her to do so.
I'm not saying don't trust an establishment, but definitely, never assume your food's being held to the standards expected.
Also, a little tip:
Before you order at an unknown or new place, go check out the toilets. If they can't clean and maintain a toilet, they can't clean and maintain a kitchen."
"I used to bartend at a high-end restaurant/lounge. We had a lot of well-off customers who were very particular about their drink orders. I was working there when word came down that the place had been bought out and was going to close in four months. During that last four months, the beverage manager would order one brand of all our major drinks and have me fill the top-shelf bottles with the well stuff. I remember one night, one of our regulars brought what I assumed was a high-end, overpriced lady of the night in, who had a very bad attitude with pretty much our entire staff. She came to the lounge and ordered a a drink, which I shook up with our well stuff, Pinnacle. She waited for me to finish making it put it in a glass and serve it to her before saying, 'Umm you probably can't tell any difference, but I don't drink that trash. I need something off the top shelf.'
I replied, 'Certainly ma'am, coming right up' and poured her the exact same stuff out of another bottle.
She took a sip and said, 'Mmm, much better.' Uppity witch."
"I worked at a local taco shop that made its own sauces.
The hot sauce was basically tomato juice and a buttload of cayenne pepper. It was okay, but not great.
I don't know exactly what went into the enchilada sauce. It was absolutely fantastic, though, and incredibly underrated. According to the people at the shop that actually made the sauce, it was a lot more involved.
But the one the customer's wanted more than anything was the white sauce. People would steal bottles of it. They loved it so much. I personally hated it. But everyone who ate there couldn't get enough of it. What was in it?
Mayonnaise, milk, salt, and pepper."
"Most people involved in any sort of service industry, such as food service, retail, or the entertainment industry don't give a flip about you or how you feel. They're there because they're paid to be, they smile because they're paid to smile, and the job almost certainly made them so jaded towards people that they automatically assume the worst about you from the moment they set eyes on you.
I'm not exaggerating, either. I've worked as a waiter, in retail, and in a casino. Of the hundreds of coworkers I interacted with in those jobs, the only people who don't fit the description above are upper management and brand new employees, and it doesn't take long for those newbies to realize what a mistake it was to enter that industry."