For diners who like to play it safe, there is no better place to turn to than a chain restaurant. That way, wherever you go, you will know exactly what you are in for. However, for some people, the experience may turn out to be anything but satisfying. It is hard to say that you are "lovin' it" while "eating good in the neighborhood" when you cannot seem to "have it your way."
The following stories come from diners who were not shy to name names when recounting their worst experience at a chain restaurant on Reddit. Good luck "playing it safe" when dining out from now on after reading these. Content has been edited for clarity.
Thank God We’re Never Going There Again
“At a TGI Friday’s in Niagara Falls, we sat ourselves outside on the patio. When the server came, he had a lot of energy and kept saying how busy work was. It was nearly empty. He kept trying to crack lame jokes, speaking a mile a minute and barely letting us get a word in until he finally asked our orders.
While we were trying to order, he continued trying to crack jokes. All the while, he was not actually writing anything down. We noticed one of the tables with couches was about to free up, so we asked if we could move there.
‘Sure,’ he said, ‘let me just find out for you.’
A few minutes went by. He went to a table beside us that had just seated themselves and said, ‘One of the couches just freed up, would you like to sit there?’
Yup. He just gave away the table we were asking for. When he came back to our table, he said, ‘So, I forgot your orders. What are you having again?’
Ten minutes went by after having to re-order our meals. We were still waiting for our food, the sun was going down, and it was getting cold. We asked a waitress if we could move our table inside and she re-seated us. Our waiter brought us our food and one of my friends ask for a glass of water.
A while went by. Everyone had finished their meal when our waiter showed up (without water) and quickly gabbed a fry off our table and stuffed it into his mouth. Everyone just looked at each other, none of us really understanding what just happened. He was still cracking stupid jokes and telling us how busy work is. Then, he grabbed the bottle of ketchup, shook it up and threw it across the room. My friend never got her water.
The only way I could rationalize his behavior in my head was either that he was trying to impress my female friends, or he was genuinely a complete butt.”
A Taco Bell Employee Almost Let Him Eat Something Unspeakable
“I went to Taco Bell about eight years ago to get my chalupa on. The people working behind the counter were Spanish-speaking immigrants who spoke barely any English. I myself am half-Spanish, but look like a pure gringo.
As the woman behind the counter handed me my food, she non-chalantly mentioned in Spanish, ‘There is rat crap in your tacos.’
I flipped out and reamed her out in Spanish, threw the chalupas on the ground, and demanded my money back. I am usually a very reserved, polite, respectful person, especially considering I have waited tables for over 10 years. But, if you are going to knowingly allow me to eat rat crap, then respect, manners, and social norms go out the window.
I have not been to a Taco Bell since… OK, maybe once or twice, but dang it, I wanted that good closure.”
His Father Sealed The Fate Of Ponderosa
“I was a small child in a small town where the fanciest restaurant was a Ponderosa Steakhouse. One night, my parents decided that a fine meal was in order, so we made our way there.
If you have never been to a Ponderosa, imagine a middle-school cafeteria buffet dropped into a steakhouse that needed to be remodeled in the 1970s. The tables were plastic, the chairs were folding metal contraptions, the indoor-outdoor carpet had a disquieting green shimmer to it, and the blinds stayed shut so that you could not quite see what you were eating.
My father was a quiet, unassuming man. I can count on one hand the times I saw him get angry. Dinner at the Ponderosa was one of those times and it was the only time I ever heard him swear in public.
When we arrived, it was clear that everyone working there wished they were working somewhere else. The hostess was surly and the waiter acted like he was doing us a favor by taking drink orders. But, it was a buffet/steakhouse – we weren’t there to make friends. We were there to eat until we regretted it. We didn’t even get to eat a bite before we regretted it. My dad and I went to the buffet, filled our plates with one for mom, and returned to the table. I slid my fork into the mashed potatoes. I brought the fork to my mouth. I realized the pepper flakes were moving.
That was when I heard my dad exclaim, ‘WHAT THE…?’ He ended that sentence by dropping the F-bomb.
I dropped my fork. My dad’s idea of harsh language was ‘gosh-durn.’ I had never heard him lay down an F-bomb before, much less one fueled by that much rage. It legitimately scared me. I was a small child. I began to cry. My father’s gaze was fixed on his green beans, which were also moving.
A waiter came over, with a manager in tow. They began to very sternly reprimand my father for using such language in a family restaurant and informed him that his behavior would have to improve if we wanted to stay. My father, who stood just shy of 6’9″, silently got to his feet and glared down at the suddenly quiet Ponderosa employees.
‘Sir -,’ the manager started, much more respectfully this time.
‘There are ants in this food,’ my father interrupted him. ‘About a thousand ants.”
‘Sir -,’ the manager started again.
‘We’re going to leave. We’re not going to pay. But first, you’re going to apologize to my family for trying to feed them this crap, and you’re going to apologize to me for speaking to me like that in front of my wife and son.’
By that point, everyone else in the restaurant (maybe four or five other families) had stopped eating and were either inspecting their food or watching this scene unfold. One guy got up and went to the buffet with a little pocket flashlight. He clicked it on, took a look at the food, clicked it back off, and began dry heaving. The manager and waiter were frozen. Neither one was apologizing, and that was ticking my dad off worse.
‘Come on,’ my father said, gesturing to my mother and me.
The three of us walked out of the restaurant, with all of the other patrons following behind. The manager snapped out of his trance long enough to flip out and start shouting at everyone that they couldn’t leave without paying. It turned out that they could. The Ponderosa closed its doors forever later that week. It belongs to the ants now.”
Cop Stories And Outback Steakhouse Food Do Not Mix
“I was eating dinner with a friend at Outback Steakhouse, which just happened to be adjacent to a major Sheriff’s department in Southern California. A group of cops came in and sat at the table next to us. Fifteen minutes later, we were eating steak and potatoes and the cops were talking EXTREMELY loud about an incident that had recently happened in which one of them was chasing a perp on foot.
When he caught the guy, he had to tackle him. In the process, the guy’s face got split open pretty badly. The cop was going into extreme detail about the snot/blood mix that was gushing from the guy’s face as the cop was trying to catch his breath. Finally, the over-exertion of the cop mixed with the disgusting scene caused him to puke all over the suspect’s face. He felt it necessary to go into great detail about the vomit. His cronies were laughing as loud as they could like complete idiots the entire time.
My friend and I just looked at each other. Without saying a word, we simultaneously came to the realization that these guys were the biggest imbeciles in the world and asked for the check. As we were leaving, our waitress stopped us near the door and apologized on the officers’ behalf, which led me to believe that these imbeciles were in there constantly being pricks.
I had not left her much of a tip, mostly because I was peeved that I just payed for a meal I wasn’t going to finish because I couldn’t help but picture a criminal covered in blood, snot, and donut sprinkles. But, after realizing that she probably does not get tipped well due to this kind of crap, we both went back to the table and left her a very nice tip.”
He Was Convinced His Disastrous Red Robin Server Was An Actor On A Hidden Camera Show
“Every Red Robin I have been to for the last few years has had extremely bad service, which is why I finally decided to stop going. My absolute worst experience took place at one in Kansas. I was going out on a triple date with some relatives and we sat in a large corner booth. This waiter was a joke. I seriously thought we were on MTV’s Boiling Points.
I ordered a float at the very beginning of our meal and the ice cream was so thick, I wanted a spoon. Since we did not even have any silverware on our table, we asked for some. No spoons came along with the silverware, so I had to ask him every time he came to the table for one. One of the other girls in our group even a new fork for some reason. The next time he came by, he brought her fork, but not my spoon! Long story short (at least for the tale of the spoon), I NEVER got a spoon the entire time we were there.
For an appetizer, someone ordered mac and cheese. He brought a salad instead.
He took it back and brought her mac and cheese, but it was cold as if it had been sitting around for a long time. He went back and microwaved it.
A few other things he did: never gave us refills, had to re-do the bill a few times because he could not remember who ordered what, and took forever to come back to our table. No, it was not busy at all. Most of the tables were empty. It was so bad we were actually writing an active list of everything he messed up on a napkin.
The final straw was at the very end of our meal. He had gotten our bills wrong so many times, he actually asked us to come up to the computer and put together our bills for him because he could not get our orders right. I don’t think we left a tip that night.”
Texas Roadhouse Employees Are A Very Entitled Bunch, Apparently
“I was at a Texas Roadhouse with my girlfriend. We sat down and did not even see a server for about 15 minutes. When we finally saw one, she walked over and looked at us.
‘I’ll get your drinks in a minute,’ she said, as if she had already asked us.
She came back with two sodas. When we told her we had not even ordered anything yet, she rolled her eyes, said we were ridiculous and walked away. We asked for a manager, an 18-year-old, who walked over and told us not to harass their servers. So, we walked out, whilst the manager yelled at us for not paying for the sodas we never ordered.
My girlfriend wrote a three-page letter in great detail about the entire experience and sent it to their corporate offices. The next day, she had a voicemail from the franchise owner of that restaurant, stating she should not be contacting corporate with service issues at their restaurant. When she finally got him on the phone after two weeks of attempting, he told her she should not be saying things that did not happen and offered her a $5 coupon for our next meal without an apology, which is what she was really after. She then promptly wrote another letter to their corporate offices about how rude he was.
After all of that, no one we know has seen any of those employees at that Texas Roadhouse ever again, although we have never gone back.”
Bob Evans Should Not Have Let This Server Work In Her Condition
“After a long day of fighting traffic for eight hours for what should have been a four-and-a-half-hour drive, my family went to dinner at a Bob Evans in Silver Springs, Florida. When we were seated, a waitress took our drink orders and said that another waitress would be serving us. The drinks came, brought by a very obviously sick, middle-aged woman. She was sweating and not at all the right color. She was sniffling and making that ‘guh’ sound afterward.
‘Excuse me,’ she said, ‘I’ve just got a little allergy thing going on tonight.’
She pulled out a chair and sat down to ask us what we would like. My mother and father were looking at the menu and ordering without really looking up. My sister and I on the other side of the booth were looking at this waitress and back at each other like What the heck?
Our eyes drifted back over to her sitting there, writing my father’s order into her little pad when the biggest, slimiest substance fell from her nose like a bungee-jumping booger. It reached below her bottom lip before SNOOOOORRRRRRRRRTTTTTTTT and up it went back into her sweaty head. My sister and I’s heads snapped away in horror. We both stared straight ahead toward our parents, whose faces were still buried in the menus.
When she asked us our order, I said we needed more time and that she would have to come back. I told our parents we needed to leave, immediately. We did, making a family emergency excuse.”
The Most Awkward And Saddening IHOP Experience Ever
“I was at an IHOP with my then fiancée having our usual Saturday IHOP treat meal. This location was always one of the better ones in terms of food quality and service, so we always went there. That particular day was different however…very different.
We had ordered our regular meals (blueberry topped, stuffed crepes for me and a bacon and ham scrambler for her), and shot the breeze for a bit while waiting. Everything was great so far. Then, the food came. My crepes were cooked badly and cold. Her scrambler was not the right one and also cold. We complained, politely since we liked this place after all, and wrote it off as a new cook. When the re-done food came out, I noticed right away that my blueberries were missing and the food was cold again.
We told the waitress, who got the manager, who apologized profusely and went into the kitchen. We were seated in such a way that we saw the cook when the manager opened the door. I noticed two things right away: the cook was, indeed, new and clearly had a learning disability.
The manager came back to us and explained that the cook used to be the dishwasher, but he was shadowing one of the regular cooks and trying his best. The regular cook had called in sick that day leaving this cook to fend for himself. The manager comped us and said that he tried to help, but was too busy to constantly be back there. Then this happened:
The manager had one of the wait staff step in to cook while he BROUGHT THE DISABLED GUY TO OUR TABLE and had him tearfully apologize to us. That caused the manager to tear up as well as my significant other. Then, the manager FIRED THE GUY IN FRONT OF US! We, of course, left pronto.
This overshadowed any and all bad dining experiences for me. Snobby waitstaff? Not as bad as a crying disabled guy getting fired by a crying manager in front of my crying fiancée and myself. Hope had dragged itself to the corner, bleated for its mother, and died that day. I haven’t eaten at an IHOP for going on seven years.”
A Therapy Session At Steak ‘n Shake
“My dad and I were eating at a Steak ‘n Shake and we had this absolutely horrible waitress. She was a young girl, maybe late high school. She was absolutely horrid.
She messed up drink orders and our main order. The whole time it was constant, thinly veiled hostility. She forgot my dad’s side dishes. When he asked about them, she literally rolled her eyes and said something like, ‘You should remember to order sides if you want sides.’ The whole meal was like that. It was actually uncomfortable to be there when she came by. Finally, toward the end, she said something else really obnoxious and my dad, I guess, had had enough.
‘Excuse me, miss,’ he calmly said to her, ‘are you going to charge extra for all the rudeness?’
She absolutely lost it and broke down in tears into a complete blubbering mess. She collapsed into the chair next to my dad and, still sobbing, told us her whole story. Her boyfriend had dumped her that day and she found out he had been dating a mutual friend and they had been lying to her about it. There was something wrong with her mom. She just absolutely could not get herself together. My dad’s fairly mild little comment then made him feel like a huge imbecile. He tried to console this girl.
It was surreal. He was sitting there with a hand on her shoulder telling her everything was going to be OK and that this guy wasn’t a good guy and she was lucky to be rid of him, that she was young, and things would get better. By then, everyone was throwing glances toward our table. The manager came over, peeking around the little glass partition thing, giving us a Do you need help? look. The girl had her head in her hands, still sobbing. My dad just waved the manager away.
It seemed like a really long time, but it was probably just a minute or two, before she finally got it together and started apologizing to my dad. He told her it was OK. She got up and went into the bathroom. We still did not have our check. She came out in a minute or two to drop off our check, apologized to my dad again, and went back into the little server/pickup window area.
My dad called the place later and talked with the manager. He told him the story, but in a way that did not make her seem really rude or crazy. He told the manager not to write her up or anything. I have no idea if that prevented her from being fired or what.
All in all, it was weirder than anything else. But, before she broke down crying, her service was the absolute worst I have ever seen. It was like we had wronged her or killed a close relative or something.”
From Hot-N-Ready To Hot And Bothered In The Worst Way Possible
“My friends went into a Little Caesars about six years ago at night time to order a ‘Hot-N-Ready’ pizza. They told the server/cook that they were there for ‘Hot-N-Ready’ pizzas. He said there were none ready and that he would have to make some. At that point, he still had not actually taken an order. ‘Hot-N-Ready’ pizzas are all the same, so they do not need to be customized.
They waited about 15 minutes for the pizzas. Then, the guy came back with a single ‘Hot-N-Ready’ pizza. My friend then politely clarified that they had wanted two pizzas. The cook got very upset and told them that they should have said that specifically. Then, he went back to make the second pizza.
When it was ready, my friend paid for it and they left the store. Just outside the store, he opened the box to find that he pizza was completely mangled. It was missing several pieces and the toppings had obviously been torn off by hand after cooking and throw randomly in the box. Some of the pieces had bite marks in them. Who knows what else they did to it?
He went back in and exploded at the guy. The guy actually had the nerve to refuse to give him a refund. Eventually, he did but, as he handed him back his $5.75, he said, ‘This is going to come out of my own pocket, you know.’
Every time I think about this, it enrages me.”
He Wanted His Baby Back Ribs, But The Chili’s Server Messed Up
“It is obvious that, when you are out with a big group of people and your meal does not come out, somewhere along the line, the server forgot to put in the order. I know this firsthand because I worked as a server for three years, and I’ve made this mess-up plenty of times. The best thing to do, if you’re the server in this position, is to just get the plate out as fast as possible without making any excuses or admitting fault. Then, just say, ‘I am so sorry for the wait.’ If you worked in a place like mine, we would pay for it.
One time when I was out at Chili’s with a group of friends, my order – I think it was ribs – never came out. After about five minutes or so (which is a bit longer than you’d expect, but I was fine at that point), the server came up to check if everything came out. I pointed out that my ribs were missing. After the, ‘Oh crap/pretend to be surprised’ look from the server, he assured me that it would be out soon. Then, he ran back to the back.
Ten minutes went by and still no ribs. Eventually, I was just picking scraps off of my friends’ plates because I was so hungry. Finally, the server came back again, this time with a story about how my order was ‘missed’ by the cooks and was accidentally delivered to another table. At that point, the server had only been to our table a couple of times and it felt like he was avoiding us. Our drinks were empty, for one.
Skeptical me went over to a manager and told him what happened. I saw him walk briskly over to the server and manage to glean from their conversation that the server had forgotten to put in the order and then never told anyone because he was afraid of his mess-up. I am not sure what his plan of action was going to be to get the ribs out to me, but he just ended up making it worse for himself.
I got a gift card out of the whole deal and the server got an exact 10% tip from my friends, as opposed to an easy 20-25% he could have made if he had not been so busy trying to hide his mistakes.”
Not Even The Staff Know What They’re Gonna Get At Bubba Gump Shrimp
“From the server side, I would like to tell a story about the worst service we gave. I work at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Monterey, California. We do trivia based on the Forrest Gump movie and generally just have a great time with our guests. The food is not bad either. Basically any party over six people is charged an 18% automatic gratuity. Considering that each server pays 3.25% of the total sales, we only get about 14.75% of the tip for taking care of large groups of people. Of course our service must be perfect, or we don’t get it.
This nice group of about 11 people came in. My friend, whom I will call Sophie, helped me with the table. We got the drinks for people as they trickled in and even managed to split the checks before the food came out. We had a blast doing trivia and everyone was all smiles.Then the food got there. We were missing FOUR entrees. I had a mini-heart attack thinking I just didn’t ring it in right. Nope. The kitchen just neglected to make four of the entrees.
The way food comes out in our restaurant is, once it is done cooking, a person on our line checks to make sure it looks good and is made properly. Then, they pass it to expo. Expo repeats the process and then hangs up the ticket after verifying everything is there. If something is missing, then is the time to say it so half the food does not go out before the rest.
Every. Single. Person. Failed. The food went out cold, there was no BBQ Burger, the fries were old. It was just bad, bad, bad. That was when Sophie and I realized, We’re going to end up paying money out of our pockets on this enormous tab. Even if you stuff your server, I still have to pay that 3.25%.
When the meal was finished, we comped over $100 off of their checks collectively and apologized as best we could. As the patrons were leaving, each of them stopped to say ‘Thank you’ for me and Sophie’s excellent service. We still made $10 a piece. It was so hard to face them. Our restaurant is amazing, but that day we messed up and we knew it.”
“I Left Denny’s Hungrier Than When I Entered”
“We were picking someone up at the airport late and they were hungry. Carrow’s was closed and I waited too long to eat so anything would work.
We went to Denny’s and ordered a starter of chicken strips. We definitely ordered chicken strips. The server brought out a plate of hot wings.
‘Those look good,’ the server said. ‘What are those?’
‘Uh, wings,’ I replied.
We were confused at that point. When our order came up, everyone got food but me. The server came back to see how things were. I asked where my food was. Then, he went back to the kitchen to see.
‘The chef is being a jerk,’ the server said when he came back out.
‘Sooo, is my food coming?’ I asked.
I left Denny’s hungrier than when I entered.”