A lot can happen at a restaurant. They're typically busy, rushed, hot, and hectic. Add any of those together and you have a recipe for disaster. It's just going to happen.
A Reddit thread recently asked food service workers to share their craziest "I'm fired, aren't I?" stories, and the responses were something else. We've selected the best of the stories and compiled them in the following article. All posts have been edited for clarity.
So, How’d You Become The Cook?
“When I worked fast food, we had a customer order a chicken sandwich with no mayonnaise. The cook was making it and forgot that it was no mayo, the customer saw him put mayo on it, and corrected him, again confirming that it was no mayo.
The manager was at the counter with me, the cook was in the back ‘fixing’ the sandwich when he decided to use a WET CLEANING RAG to wipe the mayo off the bun and keep making the sandwich.
The customer saw this and was rightfully upset. The manager saw what happened and fired the cook on the spot, then took the cook’s spot in the kitchen.
The very next day, I began training to be a cook.”
He’s Lucky She Had A Good Sense Of Humor
“I was a line cook at a restaurant. One of my managers was a black lady and we would rib on each other about our ethnicities (I’m half Mexican). One day she said that America loves Mexicans more than black people, I said that was nonsense and that we had to sneak our way across the border any way we could, and she got a free cruise.
She got a blank expression on her face. I looked at the guy next to me and he had the ‘well, it’s been nice having you around’ look on his face. I looked back at her and just grinned because that’s all I could do at that point. She slowly reached out her hand and gave me a fist bump and commended me on my comeback.
Somehow I didn’t get fired.”
He Thought That His Temper Finally Caught Up To Him With This Outburst
“The female chef at my job was – for some reason – allowed to have her 11-year-old son running around in the restaurant. He was the most obnoxious kid you can imagine (and I know they can be obnoxious!). He thought he was my supervisor because I was a waiter and his mother was a chef.
One day, I had been taking a cup of coffee in the back and I heard customers coming in. I walked through the kitchen to the reception, and halfway there, the kid ran into me and said, ‘Why weren’t you working?’ and I lost it and yelled, ‘SHUT THE EFF UP AND LET ME WORK!’ and walked out to the reception.
I plastered on a smile and hoped the customers didn’t hear me. They’d heard me, and I did my best to explain to them that there was a kid around and I did not apply for a job as a babysitter and gave them as good of service as I could.
I thought this was the point at which my temper would finally catch up to me, but it turns out that the chef did not hear and my boss was out on town to do business-stuff or something.
I can’t believe I managed to keep that job.”
They Were So Sure They Would Get Fired For This, There Was No Other Way
“I was working at McDonald’s as a teenager in the ’80s. Our store was running something like a double cheeseburger special for 99 cents. This guy who apparently had issues being bossed around at work so he liked to abuse teenagers pulled up to the drive-thru and started complaining about how he could get a 99 cent double cheeseburger anywhere, he could go to Burger King, so why don’t I give him a Big Mac for 99 cents? Now our store did run a 99 cent Big Mac special once a year. We weren’t at that time, and the order takers don’t have the ability to change the price. So I explained that our current special was a 99 cent double cheeseburger, and I had no option to change the price. I did this as politely as my teenage self could, which I admit could have been part of the problem.
This didn’t sit well for our working class hero, who didn’t like being told by a know-nothing, lazy teenager that he couldn’t have it the way he wanted. Again with the ‘I could go to Burger King’ complaining. He wasted about five minutes of my time, letting the line back up in the drive-thru. Which, of course, was his intent. When it finally dawned on him that I was not going to ring him up for 99 cent Big Macs, he became furious, but eventually placed an order.
He came to the window and paid. As I handed him back his change, he, still hopping mad, yelling up a storm, and now profane, mentioned again he ‘could have gone to Burger King for 99 cent double cheeseburgers.’
At this moment, I knew I was going to get fired that day. I know what I wanted to say, and I was going to say it. I smiled as annoying as only teenagers can, looked him straight in the eye, and said, ‘Well, then, go to effing Burger King and stop wasting everyone’s time.’
Then I slammed the window shut and started taking the next order. He bellowed like a wounded walrus, banged on the window, shouting every profanity he can think of. I was just smiling and taking the orders from the backup, not a care in the world. I was a teenager. I could get any minimum wage paying fast food job without any effort. In fact, I was already thinking of when I should go to the McDonald’s across town to apply.
Knowing those were my last moments made ignoring the furious jerk easy. Eventually, he moved to the second window to get his food. He shouted for a manager because no ‘LAZY TEENAGER IS GOING TO DISRESPECT HIM!’ He bellowed profanely at our manager for a few minutes before snatching his food and burning out the wheels to get out of there.
My manager walked over to me, and I knew this was it. She looked at me with innocent eyes and said as sweetly as possible, ‘Did you tell that nice customer to ‘go to effing Burger King’?’
Me, proudly: ‘Yes I did.’
Manager, with that same sweet voice: ‘Good boy.’
She then walked away as if the whole thing never happened.”
He Went Out To Smoke A Joint And Then The Owner Walked Up
“I worked the third shift at a cafe in downtown Milwaukee, and at around 3:30am the cops come in and I comp them their drinks and food, per usual, since my only other clientele typically consisted of the homeless, addicts, or a combo of both.
I asked the cops to watch the place so I could take the trash out back and have a smoke break. This, again, was our usual routine. So I grabbed the trash, headed out back, and lit up my usual 3 am joint. As I was standing there in the alley, this guy came around the corner from the riverwalk and I held my breath and hid the J behind me, hoping he would just keep walking.
No, he stopped right in front of me, looked at me, and crap, it was the owner of the cafe, plus about five other major restaurants in town. He was right in front of me and asked, ‘Don’t you work for me? Here at the cafe?’
Me, as I exhale right in his face: ‘Yes.’
Owner: ‘Who’s inside then?’
Me: ‘The cops.’
Owner: ‘And they’ve been comped and are watching the place?’
Me: ‘Yes sir.’
Owner: ‘Great, let me hit that.’
I handed it over to him and he hit it and complimented me on my taste in bud. We stood there, smoking the J, talking about restaurants, and whatnot. At the end, before I went back inside, he offered me a job as a waiter at his steakhouse, starting as soon as he’s able to replace me at the cafe.
Long story short, I went from making $7.25/hour serving addicts who wanted a warm place to stay the night, to making around $250 a night in tips. It was pretty sweet.”
He Was On His Way Back To The Restaurant When This Happened
“I worked at a pizza shop in college as a delivery driver on weekend nights. On this particular weekend, it was one of the biggest sporting events of the year, and we were slammed.
The manager on duty had just switched roles in the company from being a driver, and it was his first day acting in that capacity. Having anticipated a rush for the event, we had hired on three new employees that also started that week, so they had no idea what they were doing. We were located fairly close to the stadium too, so traffic was nuts. All of this culminated in a lot of messed up orders and deliveries running up to almost two hours late.
Of course, the new people on the phones kept instinctively telling people 30 minutes or less instead of a more realistic time frame, so all my customers were ticked off. I was moving as fast as I could, running crazy six or seven stop runs and probably getting stiffed of tips on about half of my orders. I understand why the customers were mad, getting things an hour late, but I’m still mad they took it out on me as a driver, having only had maybe 15 minutes of handling their food before getting it to them.
So I showed up to one of the last deliveries on my route to a crummy apartment on the run down side of town. As I approached the door, a woman out front belted out, ‘It’s about time.’ So I already knew about how this one was going to go. I was pretty exhausted from a day of abuse already, so I just tried to apologize for the wait, keep things civil and handle the transaction, but that’s about where the crap hit the fan.
I told her the total for the order which is $17 and some change. She handed me a $20 bill. So I asked if she wanted change and she did, so I handed her $2. This is where she got even more hostile. I explained to her that I didn’t carry coins and couldn’t give her back the 30 some odd cents that she expected. Then she called me a thief. When I refuted, she started saying how she was going to have me fired and how I should be ashamed of stealing from her and all these other lies. I finally just snapped.
I started just berating the woman. Screaming obscenities, insults and curses at her. Her husband came out and joined in the shouting match, so of course, I chewed him out too. I put together vulgarities in ways I didn’t realize were possible and basically insulted them both like it was a Comedy Central roast.
I made my way back to my car, and in the strangest mix of emotions I’ve ever experienced, I was cackling and crying at the same time. After just a minute or two back on the road, I got a call from the new manager asking if I just took a delivery to that person’s house and what happened. I gave a brief explanation and he asked me to finish my run and come back to the store ASAP to discuss it more thoroughly.
That’s it, I’m sure, I’m so fired.
When I got back, he told me that the lady said I threatened her with a knife, which definitely wasn’t true. I told them I don’t even have a knife or a weapon at all, and when we basically end up laughing that off, they thought the lady was just crazy and exaggerating everything. Of course, I never admitted to the cursing and what have you, but since she went so far with the accusations they just took my word over hers.
At the end of the night, the new manager came up to me and said, ‘I don’t see any reason the head manager needs to hear about this.’ I didn’t even receive so much as a written warning.
And I’m not going to lie, as rude as I was to that lady, it felt really good to let it out like that and get out unscathed.”
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
“I was bartending at a corporate chain, where we had high kitchen turnover, so sometimes they would be a little slow as new employees got the hang of it. A guy came in and ordered take out and had a drink at the bar while he waited. The food took a while, so I gave him one on the house for waiting. My manager knew I did this sometimes and was fine with it.
He wrote a letter under his loyalty guest email saying how bad our takeout was, but that the bartender was great because he gave out free drinks.
As soon as my GM got back from vacation, I was fired. I had worked there for four years before that incident.”
He Was Doing What To The Ice Cream Machine??
“I walked into the prep area of the yogurt shop I managed to find an employee ‘humping’ the ice machine. He was just goofing off, but I had a sudden evil urge to play it crazy serious.
I said, ‘Michael, that ice machine is company property and deserves your respect. I’m afraid I’m going to have to take disciplinary action.’
He literally hung his head and asked, ‘Will my parents find out?’
It took me ten minutes to convince the poor guy that I was just kidding and he wasn’t in trouble. It was my first management job and I didn’t fully understand that my authority came with a responsibility not to scare the employees.”
Everything Was Fine Until The Bottom Fell Out
“I worked as a facility engineer (maintenance manager) for a little over two years. When I first got promoted to the role, it was time to clean up after the previous guy. We had a few other managers shifted to other roles, buildings, or out of the company, so I had a lot of questions without people to answer them.
This place was a very high-end workout club with a salon, massage clinic, and restaurant. I was trying to clean out some neglected spaces in the massage areas, but I needed a shop vac. Lucky for me, I remembered seeing one in the back of the kitchen.
I went to get it, but it was way too heavy: maybe 55 lbs. If only the wheels worked properly, and one wasn’t missing, I could wheel this thing away to empty it, clean it, and use it. That would have saved me from what I ended up dealing with.
I called my manager to identify what was in the shop vac. It was orange, foamy, spotted with black and green dots, and had the worst smell I’ve ever known. I’ll save you the suspense, it was all removed from the grease trap, but then left in the shop vac for over a year. It was very bad. For those who have worked in restaurants, imagine your grease trap smelling pretty okay compared to this.
We struggled to get it out of the kitchen and into the hallway shared with the yoga studio, which was very full, much like the shop vac. We pushed all the shoes and bags to make an aisle for me to push this putrid scum bucket through to the exit doors. There was an unfortunately tall lip in the floor for those exit doors, and me being the strapping young man I was, decided to pick up the shop vac and walk it outside. It was so close, you know?
I grabbed the handles and lifted it up to about my chest. That’s when the bucket fell from the lid. The lid that I was holding by the handles while I watched it all get unleashed on the shoes and bags of the 50 people in the yoga studio (also all over myself). The smell was intensified when released from the bucket and splattered all over everything. We were getting smell complaints from all over the 75,000 square foot building. And I was in the middle of it all.
We managed to make it into a very manageable situation with great teamwork. My manager later shared with me how intense my ‘I just lost my new job’ face was. She likes to bring it up every so often, even now that we have both moved on from that place.”
He Was Like A Deer In The Headlights When He Saw The Owner Walk In
“So I worked at a small fast-food style restaurant for about three years during college. Think Subway but a step up. After my first year, I was essentially a shift lead – I knew how to do everything and I was the person in charge if the manager wasn’t there. I worked a lot of dinner shifts, and the manager and owner were generally gone by 4:30, meaning I was in charge. Everybody took things a lot less seriously once they were gone for the day – we still did our jobs, but without anybody breathing down our necks. We could make ourselves some food, take ice cream samples, pour ourselves drinks during closing, you know, poor college kid things.
So, one of these days, around 5:00, I was in charge and the owner and manager weren’t there. A former co-worker, who was fired for playing music the owner didn’t like, walked in. The owner was also fairly bigoted and this co-worker was flamboyantly gay; they got in several arguments and the music was just the owner’s final straw. My co-worker asked if he could come behind the counter and make a sandwich for himself for free. I agreed. I’d done that for him before, and everyone on that shift was friendly with him. During the dinner shifts, we all made ourselves dinner without paying for it.
So, he got behind the counter and made himself some food. Not 30 seconds into this, the owner came out from the back room – none of us knew he was there (or had come back?), and I felt like a deer in the headlights.
Owner: ‘[Person he fired]! What…what are you doing here?’
Me, stammering: ‘He just wanted to make it himself for old times sake, and I know he knows how to make them. He paid for it and it’s not busy, so I figured why not?’
My friend left the prep area and I finished making his food, and I rang it up much later and paid for it myself just to be safe. I got chewed out for that, but thankfully the manager knew I was too valuable to fire, and I was graduating soon anyway.
I’m pretty sure the owner wanted me gone at that point, so I tread a little more carefully for my last few months there.”
She Didn’t See Anything Wrong With Touching The Customer’s Food
“When I was working day shift behind the bar in an Irish bar/restaurant in France, a waitress brought a table of two their food. They were having different burgers, and the waitress never verified who was having what before putting the plates down.
She went off to take another order, and the first table called her back to say that she put the wrong plates in front of them, and she needed to switch them. I watched as she stared at them for a moment, and I could see the wheels in her head turning before she just grabbed the burgers, not the plates, and switched them, looked the customer dead in the eye and said, ‘Bon appetit’ and walked off.
The place was, and remains, an absolute disaster, as far as treatment of staff goes, everyone was constantly stressed and on their toes, and the running ‘joke’ was to tell new staff that if they did something wrong, they would be held accountable and punished, and if they didn’t do anything wrong, well, they would be punished anyway.
When she came over to the bar again, all I could think to say to her was ‘That was funny, but you know you’re fired, right?’
But the owner didn’t even get the chance to fire her because she went into the disciplinary meeting where she was going to be fired and quit before anyone opened their mouths, and left before anyone could speak.”
They Thought It Was Just Another Customer Until She Turned Around
“My fiancè and I were in a Wawa around 10 pm. We were standing in line behind a guy who was taking a while to pay, so I left my fiancè there and walked a whole five feet away to return a candy bar I no longer wanted.
In that time, the guy had finished his purchase and my fiancè turned around to look for me before stepping up to the register. We’re talking, all told, maybe a two-second delay between the end of the purchase and when the woman who had been behind us in line stomped around my fiancè and cut in line ahead of him.
I only caught her getting in front of him, so I asked my fiancè, who makes laid back people look uptight, what had happened. I thought maybe he let her go ahead or something. He said she just got in front of him when he didn’t immediately put his stuff at the register. So I asked what she was doing. She turned around and got snippy with me and said that we were taking too long to move. I asked if she’d ever been to kindergarten and learned how to wait in line. She ignored me, but I continued getting on her, and she turned around and told me to shut up.
The thing was when she turned, I caught her Wawa name tag. I immediately went and got the manager and the woman hightailed it out of the store. The next morning, I got a call from the district manager or regional manager, and he was incredibly apologetic and promised me that he had reviewed what happened and she was gone as of that day.
But that couple of seconds when she turned around to look at me and I looked down at her name tag, you could see the ‘Ah, crap’ look in her eyes. It was glorious.”
They Knew He His Days Were Over
“I work at a bagel factory, and we have this long bagel stick for picking up multiple bagels and transferring them to the bagel staging area.
This one coworker loved bagels and loved scooping bagels with the bagel stick even more than anyone else. One shift, he took one bagel stick and duct taped it to another bagel stick for a super bagel stick and started sticking it through bagel hole after bagel hole until there were just way too many bagels to handle, and I tried to tell him there were too many bagels on the stick.
Slowly, more and more workers started to gather around with worry in their eyes as the guy delicately balanced the bagels on the stick and slowly raised it in the air like a bagel tower. As it grew, he looked like he was in over his head and he was trying to head towards the bagel staging area when the stick gave way and bagels toppled everywhere. A lot of the bagels bounced into some critical production equipment, and then the guy fell over after he tripped on some bagels.
We all just looked at him and he knew his days were over.”