No one wants to admit what we all know - that behind the scenes at restaurants can get pretty disgusting. Well, now some restaurant workers are willing to pull back the curtain and admit just how gross it can get. Warning: It's grosser than you think!
(Contents are edited for clarity.)
Piled On Mess
“Was a tradesman working on a hotel in the middle of nowhere, Alberta. The reason I was working on it was because a new owner was renovating/updating the hotel. Their restaurant had a salad bar. Every single member of the kitchen staff got fired when the new owner discovered that the salad bar hadn’t been cleaned/sterilized in months; they just kept adding more food on top of the old stuff.”
“Struck up a conversation with the health inspector as he inspected my kitchen; he told me about our neighboring restaurant he just shut down. While walking to the freezers, he noticed the frier had not been drained, and the oil had congealed, but not before a rat had fallen in. It’s tail was protruding from the now solid oil. After bringing this to the attention of the manager, the inspector went on to find various violations. When the inspector passed back through the frier area, he saw that the solution to the frier/rat problem had been yanking the rat by the tail and cutting around the body before firing up the oil for the day’s needs. He had been having trouble/complaints with this place for months and after the rat corndog incident, he ordered the doors locked and restaurant closed.”
A Good Source Of Iron?
“I worked at a restaurant that was barely skirting by on health inspections.
We had a big roach problem, but we did a good job keeping them out of the actual food, which I guess is the big thing they look for with health inspections.
The most egregious issue, though, was the time I was making milkshakes and accidentally cut my arm on the metal counter. Well, I didn’t notice how bad the cut was until I saw blood in the ice cream tub. Being a responsible person, I go to throw the ice cream out when the manager interrupts me, saying I should use the first aid kit and they’ll take care of the ice cream.
Well, I come back to the same tub of ice cream returned to the freezer, but the blood scraped out of it. They kept using the ice cream.”
Nothing But Roaches As Far As The Eye Could See
“One trendy local restaurant has the worst roach infestation ever. If you picked up the ticket printer and tapped it on the table, you would have 40-60 baby roaches scatter. Roaches everywhere you look. They would fall from the ceiling or crawl onto the plate of food before the server could take it out. It was the most disgusting place. I quit and its still super popular and still buggy.”
Shut It Down!
“When I was working at Papa John’s, we were next door to a Chinese restaurant and a Subway. Health inspector came by one day and dinged the Chinese restaurant for having shrimp not properly refrigerated. The owner argued with the inspector for like ten minutes in front of the store, but obviously, the inspector wasn’t budging. I told him ‘No big deal, just throw out that shrimp and expect to get re-checked in a few weeks.’
He comes next door to our store and wants to see what we’re doing with our expired dough trays, so I take him out back to show him where they’re stacked up waiting for the truck…to find Chinese guy taking the shrimp back OUT OF THE DUMPSTER.
They got shut down on the spot.”
Waste Not Want Not
“I worked for a company that had a lunchroom with an older woman who cooked our breakfast and lunch. I think she was friends of the owners. She would bring in a daily special, like chili, but also made sandwiches and whatnot.
We had out-of-town customers, and when lunch time came around, the secretaries would set up lunch in a conference room by the lunch room, and the lady would make something special just for them.
So I’m taking away plates after these people had eaten and bringing them to the lunchroom for lunch lady to load the dishwasher. Now, not everyone had finished their meals. It was chicken and rice this day. It was rather late, and an employee had come in asking her to make him something. I’m going back n forth doing my thing, and I see her scrape the leftover food back into the pot. From several plates. I couldn’t believe my eyes, so I just stare with question marks floating over my head. Then I hear her ask the guy (who was reading something, so not looking at her) if he wants chicken and rice?!? He says ‘Sure,’ and she makes him a plate, of left-over food she scrapes off the plates I gave her. I should have said something, but I noped out of there real quick.
It bothered the heck out of me so I confessed to a co-worker and she’s all ‘You have to tell the boss!’ I did, it escalated to the owners, and lunch lady was fired.”
Just So Dirty
“Former employee of a few food/drink related places…
Rat/roach droppings in the pizza boxes.
Fry cook dropping things and picking them back up to fry (he reasoned that the oil was hot enough to burn off anything. The oil was changed only weekly if not bi-weekly sometimes).
Ice cream shop where no hairnets or gloves were offered/needed, so managers hair ended up in ice cream. Also, questionably clean hands making cones.
Slime/mold colonies (not growth, whole civilizations) in the ice makers and soda spouts at a whole chain of gas stations. As far as I know, I was the only one who ever cleaned those at my location alone, and whenever I babysat another store… Also, the coffee urns. Black bottoms and grinds caked on inside. If you live near ’em, go to Racetrak or Sheetz. Cleanest urns and spouts I’ve ever known.”
“About seven or eight years ago I worked briefly at a small, family-owned restaurant.
One day when I was putting ice in a customer’s drink and getting ready to serve it to them, I found little specks of mold floating in the glass. They had come from the ice maker.
I told the manager and showed her the mold. Her response was to shrug, dump out the water and refill it from the same ice maker and the same tap, then walk away. The second glass had mold too.
I didn’t work there for very long, and I didn’t get any drinks there after that. One of the biggest sources of contamination in restaurants is the ice maker. Think about it. How many lazy restaurant owners are willing to empty their ice maker and melt all the ice to clean it, even once a month? The answer is they don’t.”
Everyone Loves Expired Chicken
“I picked up a case of wings to be dropped in the grease but when I took the lid off they smelled bad and then when I saw the blood at the bottom was a dark brown instead of a bright red I instantly started heading to the back to throw them out. My manager caught me on my way back there and said nothing was wrong with the wings, he sprayed water on them and put them in the grease, it was truly disgusting.”
Luckily This Was The “Mock Inspection”
“I used to be a shift manager at a fast food place and had to do health inspections to prep for the real inspector.
The entire store was slanted downhill slightly. Because of the slant, water would gather under the ice cream machine in a giant puddle, and ice cream would leak down into that puddle.
The mock inspection involves checking the machines for missed messes. Everything was going fine until I reached the ice cream machine.
I moved the machine, and an awful, sickening smell wafted into the air. The whole puddle was covered in mold, and it smelled like a combination of sickly sweet ice cream and the worst rotting food you can imagine. The puddle was so big, and the floor drains were in such a place that we had to stand in the puddle at some points to properly clean it.
Somehow the smell wasn’t noticeable unless the machine was moved or you were standing right at the drive-thru window.”
“I worked in a McDonald’s years ago, and I had a co-worker that would lick her index finger every time she peeled a cheese slice off of the stack of cheese we would use to make cheeseburgers. It was as if she was trying to separate a sheet of paper from a stack of papers. I would watch her do this all day. I never said anything and I sure as heck never ate the cheeseburgers.”
I Don’t Think That’s Olive Loaf
“I worked in a deli/convenience store type thing.
All our meat came prepackaged and sliced ready to be put on the rolls in airtight plastic bags. Now, the setup would be like a chill tray on top with pans, and underneath was like a sideways fridge to stock extra meat and things.
Well at some point a pack of ham must have dropped on the floor and got kicked all the way under.
It must have been there a month because the meat was all green and the bag had swollen to the size of a small cantaloupe.
Thank the nine it didn’t pop.”
A Surprise At The Bottom!
“My dad was a health and hygiene officer in the air force back in the early ’50s and was stationed in England. His job included inspecting kitchen and latrine facilities at bases, overseeing quarantine on troops returning home from Europe, and doing health inspections on said troops.
He and some fellow H&H officers were on leave in London and decided to have lunch at a pub that was advertising a soup and sandwich deal. They sit down to piping hot bowls of tomato soup and are talking and eating when one of the guys says ‘Mmm good soup, nice and meaty.’
Everyone stops talking as it sinks in that tomato soup should not have meat in it, and my dad reluctantly digs his spoon to the bottom of his bowl and comes up with several well-cooked cockroaches. Being trained in such things, they stormed into the kitchen and confirmed that the place had their soup heating on a back burner uncovered and directly below a cold water pipe. The rising steam condenses on the pipe, makes it slippery and causes whatever scurry across it to fall into the soup. They yelled at the owner and reported the place, but beyond that, they couldn’t do much about the unexpected protein.”
Fifty Pounds Of Onions And Rotting Meat
“I work at a produce market, and we sell to lots of local restaurants including this little shady Chinese restaurant, one day I was loading a 50-pound bag of onions into their truck (not like a box truck, like an older GMC Sierra with a cover), so I open the tailgate and smell this just awful smell, the back of the truck was loaded up with meat and egg rolls. They were probably transporting it to their restaurant, but it was like 90 degrees and sitting in the back of a truck with no refrigeration. I don’t eat there anymore.”
He Was Only Fired, He Should Have Gone To Jail
“My manager had to look at the camera for some unrelated reason. He is skipping forward and accidentally goes too far forward. He notices a worker putting a bin of tuna on the floor. He keeps looking at the tape. The worker pulls his pants down and proceeds to ‘enter’ the bin of tuna. He makes sweet, sweet love to the tuna. Finishes up and goes into the bathroom to clean off. He proceeds to smooth out the bin of tuna, wraps it back up, and puts it in the fridge. My manager immediately has me throw out the tuna and make more. Needless to say, he was fired. And while this was 20 years ago I still can’t eat tuna I didn’t make or see made.”
No Sense Of Cleanliness
“I worked for a company as a vendor for restaurants and other food service type operations (from hospitals to prisons) for nearly 20 years, so it’s safe to say I’ve probably been in several hundred if not thousands of restaurants. I’ve seen some stuff.
Probably the worst was a large Chinese restaurant that did a lot of banquet type work. In the back of the house, they used these wooden slats that were raised off the floor on boards they had cobbled together. All of the food debris that fell on the floor was mashed under them, and it looked like they never moved them to clean underneath. Rotten composted gunk throughout the entire prep and cookline.
They also had a big conveyor type dishwasher that had no functioning heating system so the wash water was cold and it the rinse was tepid at best. The rinse arms were missing nozzles so half the stuff they put through it didn’t get rinsed off and the inside of the machine was coated with a 1/4 inch of grease/food build up, and it reeked of rot. Pointed this out to the owner and he just shrugged. Gross.”
They Call Him “Old Fungus Fingers”
“I work at a fast food burger place, and I make the sandwiches. My manager has a fungal infection all over his hands because of the constant hand washing that is required (This, in turn, killed all the “good” bacteria from his hands which led to the fungus growing).He does not wear gloves and takes the sandwiches/fries/nugs/etc. and bags them, and hands said bags to the guests.”
The Wonderful Odor Of Old Milk
“I deliver food, so I see the backs of many restaurants on a day to day basis as we’re dropping the product in their storage areas. The worst was a buffet that had an inescapable smell of hot rotten milk. Not sure how I even know what that smells like but it was like they had been microwaving rotten milk for an hour and left it somewhere. I had to leave the delivery. My coworker was sick with a stuffy nose and did the delivery for me as I gagged outside. Talked to a couple of coworkers later that week and they agreed that place always has a weird smell.”
Cross Contamination Is Real
“I’ve been a chef and cook at quite a few places over the past several years, and one place I worked at never had soap.
Another location would place their raw chicken on the top racks above their fruit tubs, which led to a lot of food poisoning.
The last place had a massive puddle of raw protein (chicken/beef/pork) juice (blood) in their fridge, which somehow seeped through the walls and into the corner of the kitchen, where it was a host for several maggots and mold.
Thankfully as of late, two of those three places have been shut down. I’m sure the owner of the first location finally got some darn sense and soap for the place.”
This Is Where Your Meat Comes From
“I worked for a large meat processing plant, and so it was my job to clean the machinery so it could pass USDA inspection. They only see what our crew and specifically our supervisor wanted the inspector to see. I have pulled out pieces of meat that were at least a week old out of belts seconds before inspection without sanitizing anything. I have seen machinery pass inspection and think only if you checked the other side instead of the side we knew you were checking.”
The Chef Knows
“I used to deliver food to restaurants and bars. Worst ever was a Mexican place that was so filthy that besides the usual things you’d expect in a dirty place, the kitchen floor tiles were only visible in paths where the employees walked, the walk-in cooler door was falling off its hinges and was a humid 55 degrees, all the time. The toppings assembly area was littered with old brown lettuce. The cutting boards were black in the middle like someone had ground potting soil into them and they were cutting tomatoes on them. I always warn people not to eat there.”
Yum! Dirty Sushi!
“I used to work at a sushi place with a 61 (out of 100) health score. My city does that thing with health scores that must be posted in view of the public. I think anything below 90 is pretty bad because, c’mon, you want an A with food safety!
Anyway, I was grossed out and surprised that they were still even allowed to operate. It’s the lowest score I have ever seen, even some of the grittier Chinese restaurants around manage to get something in the ’80s. And they serve sushi! Raw fish! I think I was the only server there that washed their hands regularly and followed health codes. They also had mice, and I would see so much cross contamination — touch raw meat, plate some potstickers, pick up stuff near the ground, cut some chicken, make a salad. I quit after a few weeks.”
One Scoop Two Uses
“I have worked in food for many years. The worst things I saw were both at the same place. It was a meat shop with a catering place inside. I worked for the caterer. The boss was cheap and would reuse dropped meats, reserve potato salad from two months ago, etc. But the worst one had to be using the scoop the butchers used to scoop fat, to scoop ice for drinks.”
The Lost Bag Of Raw Chicken
“Fast food employee here. I think the worst thing I’ve ever seen was an entire bag of raw chicken that had been thrown into the bottom of a 240-liter bin in the middle of an Australian summer and left for three or four days underneath other assorted garbage. They made me take it INSIDE the kitchen and clean it. I’ve never seen as many maggots since, and I’ve never smelt anything worse.”
At Least Some One Is Trying
“I work at McDonald’s. I was pretty surprised when I started working there.
First off, there are roaches. There are not a ton of them, but I’ve seen at least ten in the month I’ve been working here. That doesn’t bother me too much since pretty much all places with food are going to get mice and roaches. I don’t know if we have mice, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we did. Our shake machines ‘spit’ shake at us all the time and it gets all over the floor in front of it and on the walls. We clean that like 20 times within an hour (depending on how many shakes are ordered of course), but it grosses me out because if we’re having a rush of people, then the shake stuff sits on the floors and walls for a while.
The thing that we make smoothies in is pretty gross to me too, because we have two pictures that we use and we alternate them. They get rinsed between making the frappes and smoothies but, I mean, I think they should be washed better.
Another thing is that we have tons and tons of flies and crickets. I’m not sure where the crickets come from, but god it’s like a plague of crickets! Other than that were really clean. We mop, sweep, sanitize, scrub, and clean all the time. That’s what we do when we don’t have a ton of customers, and in the hours that I work, we just have a busy drive through. We also wash our hands when we come in, and I use hand sanitizer after touching money and cleaning because sometimes I either make fries or put your food into your bags and even though I never actually touch what goes into your mouth.
I just find it common courtesy to make sure that I’m clean. I wouldn’t want nasty hands making my food.”