You might want to put your lunch or dinner down for this one. These restaurant workers reveal some of the grossest, laziest habits their restaurants have that ultimately end up on your plate.
(Content has been edited for clarity)
And This Is Just The SHORT LIST Of What’s Wrong At This Restaurant
“I work for a huge restaurant chain, I won’t say which one, but it’s a big one. Like really big. Here’s a short list:
-Servers and cooks eating and drinking where food is being cooked or prepped.
-Extremely infrequent hand washing. Shockingly so.
-Servers and cooks working and prepping food while ill. Really ill. Contagious. We are advised if a table asks us if we are sick, our default response should ALWAYS be ‘Oh, I WAS sick, I’m getting over it now! My doctor says I’m way past being contagious.’
-Servers who never wash their uniforms or aprons.
-Servers who never clean…anything. There is food on the walls, sauces dried onto the booths, gum under the tables, etc.
-In the 5 years, I’ve worked there, the ice machine has been cleaned twice.
-Most of our soups and side dishes are microwaved in styrofoam containers, the containers are usually extremely melted.
-A number of servers pick food off their guests’ plates before they take them to the table, grabbing french fries or a bit of bacon off your burger etc.
-Very little is ever sanitized in the Back Of House. I have worked double shifts where no one wiped a single counter down all day or even thought to change the sanitizer solution (which is supposed to be refreshed every hour or two).
-Few servers inspect the silverware when they roll it, resulting in dirty knives and forks being given to guests OFTEN.
-Food left sitting under heat lamps for long periods of time, then simply popped into the microwave to heat up. Heat lamps are supposed to help keep the food in the right temperature range for only short periods of time; if left there too long, you risk foodborne illness.
-Bathrooms that haven’t been checked, cleaned or sanitized for entire shifts. This is also supposed to be done every hour or two.
-Cross contamination, particularly with high allergen risk foods like nuts and shellfish.
-The use of mislabeled and expired dressings, sauces, cut veggies/fruits.
-Cooks using dirty bowls or utensils, cutting boards that have been left on the floor.
-Dishwashers only ‘cleaning’ but not sanitizing dishes and silverware.
This is all just stuff that immediately came to mind, and the stuff I KNOW about. There could be a lot more. A corporate establishment isn’t necessarily more likely to be cleaner or safer…”
One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Next Meal
“Years ago, I used to bus tables at this awful restaurant called O’Charley’s (I think it might be a chain of crappy restaurants, like TGIFs). It was the most disgusting place I ever had the misfortune of working at. They would make the bussers do this thing called a ‘trash audit’ that they even had paperwork for.
Basically, at the end of a shift, we had to put elbow length gloves on, and empty out the two or three huge trashcans we had been scraping food into the whole shift. It would take two of us to lift these huge trashcans onto their sides on a table in the kitchen, while we sifted through it looking for things written down on the audit sheets, which included: uneaten chicken pieces, uneaten rolls, etc. Basically, food that could be ‘salvaged’ and turned into different food. It was absolutely disgusting. They used the rolls to make croutons for the salad. I only did it once and would refuse to participate after that. I only lasted two weeks, but I didn’t care. Screw O’Charleys.”
Saying This Restaurant Had A Cockroach Problem Is An Understatement
“I used to work in a popular Asian restaurant (a chain) that, from the customers perspective, appeared to be a very clean establishment. However, like most restaurants, we had a bad cockroach problem (they live in the walls and the moist crannies of kitchens). An exterminator would come once a month to spray toxic chemicals all over the restaurant, but all this did was irritate the roaches so they would be even more present in the following days.
We served hot tea in little metal teapots. These pots are not dishwasher safe, so we were instructed to just rinse them out and set them back upside-down on a shelf lined with a rubber mat that had holes in it (the lids were kept in a bin). Once a month (usually on a slow Sunday evening) we would have a ‘cleaning day’ which included wiping the shelf. It was my turn to clean the tea area, so I lifted up the mat… Hundreds of cockroaches scattered. They came pouring down the wall like something out of some twisted nightmare. I immediately ran into the kitchen (two feet away), hyperventilating and on the verge of tears. I told the manager, but all that happened was that I got in trouble for ‘causing a scene.’ Yeah, a lot goes on in restaurants that you don’t know about.”
Healthy Or Sick, You Were Comin’ In To This Jimmy Johns
“I worked at a Jimmy Johns for about six months last year. The policy set in place by the franchise owner is no call-ins. You call in, you’re fired. If you have to miss a shift, you have to find somebody to cover. Absolutely no exceptions. I had some routine blood work done and it came back that I had mono (still, from two years prior) with no symptoms and was advised by my doctor to take a couple weeks off of work while they tried another treatment and another round of blood work. I was only able to find covers for the first week, and had to go back after that (I was super broke and really needed the job).
My boss was completely aware of the Mono, he just didn’t give a crap, as long as he still had people working below minimum wage for barely any tips. Also, corporate JJs completely ignored my harassment claim. Also, the ice machine and the soda lines were disgusting.”
This Chicken Ain’t So Finger Lickin’ Good Afterall
“I worked at KFC when I was a teenager. At night we had to tear all of the leftover chicken off the bones with our hands. It went into a big bucket and was put in the chicken pot pies the next day.
Also, this wasn’t a regular occurrence, but once on livers and gizzards night, I dropped a pan of them on the floor. I was so afraid of what people would do if I told them we were out, I put them back on the tray and served them to people.”
They Were Fired When Trying To Tell Their Boss All The Disgusting Things At This Restaurant
“I was a waiter for awhile at a local restaurant in my hometown. The cooks all smoked while they were cooking. I wouldn’t have been shocked to find out that ash made its way into the pasta. They would microwave some to-go orders in Styrofoam. Usually, this was done to melt cheese onto something. The cooks would rarely wash their hands. I have no idea if they did after using the bathroom, but they’d clean with chemicals and sweep the floor or take out the trash and not wash their hands before returning to cooking.
The other restaurant I worked at was much, much worse. I wasn’t a waiter there, I just cooked for lunch sometimes when the other guy was out sick or on vacation. I cooked alongside the pizza cook, who was the most disgusting human being I have ever worked with. Here’s a list of things I complained about to my boss, who fired me because I ‘whined too much.’
-There was no hand soap in the kitchen. No one but me washed their hands.
-Meat for the pizza was left out on the counter all day. People frequently complained to the boss that they were getting sick.
-The health inspector was clearly a friend of the boss, or on the payroll, or something. His inspections consisted of going to the office and having a few drinks with the boss before leaving.
-There was always something moldy in the fridge. Always. Nothing was ever dated or rotated. More than once, ingredients that were spoiled made their way into the pizza. One time someone complained to the pizza cook that their pizza had moldy pineapple on it, and he told them to bugger off. I was always really careful when I cooked, but with so much contamination and mishandling of food, who knows what got past me. Not all contamination is visible.
-The kitchen was filthy. I did my best to clean it up while I was there, and got yelled at for ‘goofing around’ and ‘wasting time.’
-They routinely poured their fryer oil out behind the restaurant into a little creek that flowed past the building.
-They had a serious fly problem. Big, blue flies were always out flying above any customer desperate enough to eat at the restaurant. It wasn’t that uncommon to see bugs crawling around the kitchen.
-The pizza cook chain smoked the whole time he was cooking.
-The employee bathroom never got cleaned unless I cleaned it. It also never had soap.
-The other cooks, including the one who trained me, instructed me to thaw hamburger meat in the same microwave we heated up other food in. No one cared about cross-contamination.
And finally, the cherry on top:
-The pizza cook would routinely scrape plaque off of his nasty blackened teeth with a straw and never washed his hands before cooking again.”
We’ll Never Look At Pizza The Same Way
“I worked for the big pizza delivery place with the initials ‘PJ.’
I twice saw the owner ‘save’ a pizza from having fallen face first on the floor, by flipping it over and into a box. He then picked off dirt, hairs, random crap from a night of work. We swept every night but with delivery drivers having to trek through God’s own backyard to make a delivery, sometimes they tracked crap back to the store unintentionally.
I only saw this man actually remake one pizza that had fell face first onto the floor, but that wasn’t for lack of trying. According to him, the cheese was ‘too ripped to play off.’
I got revenge on him for the Super Bowl night, though. It was scheduled for an all-hands-on-deck shift. He even told us that if we didn’t show up we were fired.
I sprained my ankle at the club, the doctor didn’t want me moving around at all for 3-4 days. My doctor had specified that I could not stand for long periods and could not put weight on it at all.
I called the manager, ‘Gavin.’ I told him I had the doctors note and I wouldn’t be in that day or the day after (to the end of the schedule he posted). He said he was ‘not very happy with’ that and got snippy with me. I gave notice at that point and returned to work with my first ‘written notice’ typed out by a computer, it was pretty lame looking, but dang it, I wanted to do it right!”
This Wasn’t An Easy, Clean Job
“I worked in a filthy ‘family’ restaurant run by a big, loud Greek dude. One (of many) horrible things: they kept the salad dressings in the walk-in fridge, in huge garbage cans. The only way to get the dressing out was to use a pitcher, which always lived at the bottom of the trash can full of dressing. I had to roll my sleeves up and plunge my hand in up to my armpit to reach it. Had to do this several times a week.”
All They Could Do Was Warn Their Friends And Family To Never Go To These Restaurants
“My roommate used to work at a restaurant and they reuse a lot of the things people used previously. Like, ketchup for example, after they have been dipped in by fries. It sometimes isn’t an issue to me, but most people don’t like the whole ‘double dip’ thing. They come in those paper cup things.
One day, my roommate threw away a thing of ranch because it was used. It had bits of food in it and everything. They saw him do it and fired him for it. This was a while ago and he was still considered a kid, so he didn’t really do anything or care. We just knew to never eat there and warned everyone we knew not to go there.
Might as well add a story of my own, too.
I used to work in a small, yet big (small because it’s only one company, big because a lot of people in the area know about it) ice cream business which was also a restaurant. Well, there was quite a few problems I had with it. My main problem was that they would literally bribe officials with ice cream. Like, when the health inspectors came, all they had to do was go to the take-out window and order 50+ dollars of ice cream, get it for free, and just leave giving it an ‘A.’ This was also the case for the police department, who always stuck around in the area just in case something happened.
There was also the issue of the place being FILTHY. There was dust all on the walls that always fell into the ice cream. Some employees cared about taking it out before serving it, others didn’t care or found it funny. I always scraped the top layer off before my shift started and kept my eyes on them as I used the flavors. There was also these gnat type of bugs that would constantly fall into the syrups and milk. They’d get into the milkshakes and would be mixed up, so customers never noticed. The same thing as before though, some employees didn’t care or found it funny.
One time a customer came back because there was a ball of hair from an employee in his shake. Now, the hair was really easy to identify who it belonged to. The only black dude with the thick afro. Well, all the restaurant offered him was another shake, WHICH HE TOOK!”
Ice, Or No Ice?
“The Nation Restaurant Association (the company that supplies Serv Safe, the industry standard sanitation certification tests) lists ice as the most potentially dangerous food for the danger of spreading foodborne illness because of neglect of cleaning ice machines and that nobody thinks of ice as food, so people are laxer about preventative measures (like scooping the ice with the cup, which occasionally has ungloved, possibly gloved hands touching the ice, dropping the ice scoop and using it without sanitizing it, etc.). That being said, ice is still rather safe as ice is constantly at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 Celsius) which is detrimental to bacterial growth. As far as physical contaminants, remember that ice is water which is used as a cleaning agent (or mixed with cleaning agents) and is still relatively safe. Source: I am a Serv Safe Certified cook and I still like my drinks chilled.”
Everything Looks Nice And Clean, But Is It REALLY Clean?
“I’ve worked in three restaurants as a host, busser, food runner, barback, and now a server.
-The chefs and food expeditors arrange the food on your plate by hand.
-There is no sink for hand washing anywhere near the kitchen. I have never seen any of them wash their hands. Same goes for servers.
-They wipe the edges of your plate (to make it look prettier) with super dirty rags that get reused all day.
-The ice machine is hardly ever cleaned.
-Plates that come back ‘clean’ from the dishwasher frequently have food particles on them still. Bussers or servers usually just wipe them off with their hands before bringing them to a table.
-Unused bread that comes back from tables is always re-used or made into croutons for soups.
-Basically, anything reusable is reused. Ex: Ketchup bottles are refilled and cleaned to appear new.
-Seriously, seems like nobody ever washes their hands. And your waiter/BOH people have their hands all over your food to make it appear presentable. Presentation, ‘Does it look pretty’ is more important than safety. They don’t care because there really is no tangible repercussions for their actions. You’re way more likely to get in trouble for being slow than being dirty. It is quicker to be unsanitary and everything in the restaurant industry is focused on speed.
On a plus side, I’ve never seen someone deliberately sabotage a customer’s food (spit in it, etc). As a waiter, I try to respect the customers. I refuse to touch the food on their plate and try to wash my hands as often as possible.”
These Local Restaurant Owners Were The Rudest People They’d Ever Met
“The restaurant I worked last summer was wonderful. We were always on top of cleaning, hand washing, labeling and rotating, and there was, not once, any issues with things becoming moldy or unusable. The one I worked at last fall, however… I’d recommend the homemade bread, as that was made every day. Everything else? You never knew how long it had been around. That place was a pit. But the locals love it, and it looks clean on the surface, which is all the woman running the place cared about.
The waitstaff (consisting of the female owner and her son’s girlfriend, because no one else would stay or they’d get laid off for not learning the local’s preferences in less than three weeks) is rude and unfriendly, which deters some of what I consider the more refined tourists who favored their dignity over a cheap meal. It’s always ‘Screw this’ and ‘Screw that’ with them- really unprofessional. The chef (the male owner/ husband) was pretty rude as well, but nice to customers. The dishwasher (owners’ son) was their biggest asset before he joined the Marines. Ugh. I could go into detail about the number of times the chef has purposely undercooked something because he didn’t like that particular customer, or the waitstaff added salt to drinks out of spite. My favorite is the time the female owner got water out of the employee bathroom toilet for a customer that asked for bottled water. That’s when I lost it.”
One Man Can’t Clean Up The Numerous Problems At This Restaurant
“I had a friend who worked at one of those buffet places. I won’t give a name because I’m not sure which one and I don’t want to discredit the better one. Anyways, he worked as a cashier there and often had to do jobs for the cooks, boss, and other employees. He told me that in order to continue operating a franchise, you had to have so many customers per month. He often had my friend ring up a few extra customers here and there.
He also let anyone he was close to eat there for free and they ate there often. He said the kitchen was by far the worst. Cockroaches weren’t a rare occurrence. He said you didn’t see one all the time while back there but they happened with such occurrence that there most certainly was a problem.
None of the meat was stored at the correct temperature and sometimes even left in a microwave overnight and the owner figured it would be fine to cook it on the grill and pass it for the taco meat. He also said that they hadn’t had their ice machines or ice cream machines cleaned in years.
The only one who swept or tried to clean up was my friend (which was true, I came in a few times to wait for him until the end of his shift because it was cold out and he needed a ride), no one would help him clean and he was often there until 45 minutes after closing to clean up, I helped sometimes as well. Rat droppings were also common. They would have to wipe off the cooks’ prep tables when they got in for the morning.”
“Some Of The Things We Did Were Downright Criminal”
“I worked in a chain restaurant known for its ice cream and friendliness. I believe some of the things we did were downright criminal. Common minor offenses included scraping cheese off a burger and sending it back out and simply removing fixings that the customer wanted held. When we were remodeled, we tore apart the walk-in and cleaned the whole thing. It was terrible. We had to pull all the shelves out and powerwash them. They probably hadn’t been washed since the place opened 15 years prior. Soup would sit in the warmer all day, be put in the walk-in hot, and set back out the next morning.
They washed the floor mats in the industrial dishwasher at the end of the night. Granted, the water would be changed, but it just seemed gross.
The worst things I saw were waitresses spitting in the food of rude customers. My friend did some nasty crap. He put pubes in the quesadilla of some dudes from our school that were buttholes. He even wiped his bum with their hamburger bun. One time an old teacher came in that he didn’t like. He made his ice cream Sunday, stuck his junk in the whipped cream, and then brought it out to him with a smile.”
There’s Nothing “Special” About This Manager Special
“I worked in a deli at a Coles supermarket in Sydney. The deli manager was always being pressured by the store manager to cut down on waste which resulted in us having to sell things that were off. I remember the deli manger once filled up a big sink with off chicken wings, filled it with water and just kinda sloshed them around in there for a while to get the slime off. We were then told to dry them off and sell them with the ‘managers special’ sign for a dollar less a kilo. I felt so bad selling this stuff knowing people might not even cook it for another five days, but we always had to keep to the freaking budget.”
It Was The Wrong Bottle The Whole Time
“In high school, I worked for a movie theatre chain. The manager was about 30 and had been there some time. I was cleaning the glass popcorn bins which held all the popcorn we made for the shows and heated it, when I would get light headed. Looked at the label. Was stainless steel cleaner with a big warning to not use where it would come into contact with food. I quietly mentioned this to him in person. Next day was replaced with a vinegar water solution that smelled awful but was safe and actually did a better job. I know this was the right thing he did, but I have a feeling he knew all along and only made the change once I brought it up.”