The 8 worst things you can do at a drive-thru, according to a fast food employee

As someone who works at a fast food restaurant, let me tell you there are major ups and downs. While the money isn't bad, more often than not there are moments when I seriously question my job choice. In particular, these moments occur while I'm working the drive-thru.

Worst things to do at the drive-thru
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Worst things to do at the drive-thru

1. Taking Forever to Decide

At my job, there are two menus in the drive-thru. The first one is specifically there for cars to stop and read before they reach the next menu with the speaker. Driving up to that second menu will trigger a sensor, starting the drive-thru timer and alerting me that you're there and supposedly ready to order.

I promise you, drive-thru menus are generally not too extensive. You don't need a whole lot of time to figure out which combo you're in the mood for. You may think I have all day to devote to waiting on you and you alone. However, there are actually 17 other tasks that need tackling on my to-do list as you think about milkshake flavors. 

2. Speaking Too Quietly

 Restaurants are loud places. Chances are, the person taking your order is already battling to hear you against the sounds of the kitchen, other staff members, and all of the customers in the lobby. 

Please don't talk into the speaker in the same way you would with a person who's standing right in front of you. I'm not right in front of you, and I will absolutely not be able to hear a word you say. Plus, it's just as annoying for me as it is for you when I have to keep asking you to repeat yourself. 

3. Making Several Separate Orders

We get it, everyone's paying for their own food. But making that into four different orders on separate checks in the drive-thru is simply inconvenient. It's even worse when each person has a different method of paying. Do me a favor: order everything at once and split the check later. Or even better, just come inside and save yourself the time and me the exasperation. 

4. Placing a Gigantic Order

 Shoutout to the parents who pull up with a minivan full of hangry carpool kids, fresh from the soccer field. While it's so kind of you to buy everyone lunch, orders that large do not belong in the drive-thru. Remember that timer I mentioned earlier? Your $60+ order just smashed any hope of me having a decent per customer average during my shift. 

5. Ordering More Food at the Window

So, about that timer. I'm literally on the clock to get your order out as quickly and accurately as possible. As you drive from the speaker to the window, patties are already hitting the grill and fries dropped in the fryer. Pulling up to the window and asking to add food to your order throws a major wrench into this process. This is especially true if it's a menu item that will take a long time to make.

It's rough for the kitchen staff to rush now that they have unexpected food to prepare. And it's annoying for the other cars in line who are waiting for their food as well. To make it worse, I'm the one who has to deal with all of these people's wrath. 

6. Leaving Windshield Wipers On

 Because there's nothing I like more than being greeted with splashes of rain water in my face. I shouldn't have to openly flinch from getting wet until you to realize that you should shut those puppies off while I'm at the open window. You don't need a clear windshield anyways, you're not even moving. 

7. Getting Aggressively Impatient 

 No one in the food service industry appreciates difficult customers. If your food happens to be taking an especially long time while you're in a drive-thru, I'm not the one to take it out on. It's probably just very busy in the restaurant at that moment and there are a lot of orders coming in at once. It's not as if I went to the kitchen and told them to put your food last on the to-do list . 

That being said, having a nasty attitude is also not going to make me ask them to go any faster. If you keep cool about it, I'll continue doing my best to make sure you get that order ASAP. But huffing and puffing or glaring at me through the window truly has the opposite effect on my sense of urgency. 

8. Eating the Meal in the Car

The whole point of a drive-thru is that you "drive through," not sit and eat. So why, after your order is handed to you, am I watching you devour your burger in front of the window? The timer is really important to me, okay? Please just go. But don't eat while you're driving, that's a little dangerous. Wait for a red light before digging in. 


I'm a self-proclaimed drive-thru queen. Manning one headset, two different registers, and hundreds of customers over thirty hours a week. I wish I could say good things about the people I have to deal with, but let's be real. It's a standard food service job with soul-sucking customers. So the next time you choose to take the drive-thru at your favorite fast food spot, take care to try and avoid doing the following.

For the love of everything fattening and greasy, please just keep these things in mind. The next time you decide you're craving Animal Fries from In-N-Out or chicken nuggets from Chick-fil-A, your efforts will be noticed and appreciated.

Related: Secrets you should know

What your fast food worker won't tell you
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What your fast food worker won't tell you

After we cook something, we put it in a holding cabinet and set a timer.

When the timer goes off, we’re supposed to throw it out. But often, we just reheat the food. So for the freshest meal, come between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. or between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. More people are in the restaurant then, so we’re cooking and serving new food constantly. (These are the worst meals you could order at a restaurant, by the way.)

That plain chicken breast may have been a healthy choice out of the package...

But sometimes we have to slather it with butter just to make sure it doesn’t stick to the grill. On the other hand, these healthy fast foods can satisfy unhealthy cravings.

There’s usually a way to get expensive menu items for less

If you’re craving a Big Mac, for example, order a $1 McDouble with no mustard or ketchup and then add shredded lettuce and Mac sauce for a small charge. It’s basically a mini Big Mac, and you can get two for less than the cost of one Big Mac. Check out more trivia facts you probably didn't know about McDonald's.

Most fast-food joints clean everything with super-concentrated chemicals at the end of the day

That includes the grills and the drink machine nozzles. If you’re one of the first customers in the morning, you may be getting some of that chemical residue on the food or in the drink you order—or, worse. You won't believe what was found on the ice in some fast food restaurants. 

Those grill marks on your burger?

Not real. They were put there by the factory. If you want REAL grill marks, it's probably best to make your own at home with one of these burger recipes.

Most of us will cook something fresh for you if you ask

But if you want to make sure your french fries come right out of the fryer, order them without salt; that forces us to cook you a new batch. Then you can add your own salt, and they'll still taste the same. That's because of the secret ingredient that makes McDonald's fries so addictive.

Avoid asking for “extra” of something, like cheese or sauce

As soon as you say “extra,” we have to enter it at the register and charge you for it. Instead, just tell us you want us to “put a good amount on there” or “not to be skimpy with it,” and we’ll load you up.

Yes, our chili is made from what you think:

Meat from old burgers.

It makes me laugh when someone comes in and says she’s trying to be healthy—and then orders a salad with crispy chicken

At McDonald’s, some of those salads have about as many calories as a Big Mac. In fact, a small order of french fries contains four fewer grams of fat than a packet of our ranch dressing. Also, be wary of these "healthy" fast food choices that definitely aren't.

We’re timed on how fast we get customers through the drive-through... we always prioritize those in line outside over anyone at the front counter. And after you leave the drive-through, use this trick to keep your fries crispy the whole way home.

One of my coworkers once got so mad that he spit in someone’s food

He was suspended for three days. Most of us would never do something like that.

Here’s a good way to know how clean a fast-food establishment really is:

When you get your drink, bend down and look up into the ice chute. If you see mold and other stuff growing in there—which is more common than you might expect—they’re not cleaning the machine as often as they’re supposed to.

Those gorgeous pictures of our food in our advertisements?

They’re airbrushed and touched up with fiberglass and paint. It probably takes two hours to make that picture. Obviously, we’re not going to be able to replicate that.

Please, please, get off your cell phone

I’ve had people pull up to the window, pay, and drive away without their food because they’re talking on the phone and not paying attention. Then they’re mad at me. Here are some more crazy stories from drive-through workers.

At most fast-food restaurants, it’s tough to give away free food

Especially things like burgers, because they’re inventoried. We can sometimes give away French fries, ice cream or drinks because we get those ourselves, but it depends on which manager is on duty.

We hate it when you order an ice cream

Most of the time, we’ve got to make it, and it’s already melting by the time we hand it to you. If you order four or five cones at a time, it’s almost impossible to get them to you before they melt everywhere, and then you want new ones.

Here’s something that surprised me when I started working at McDonald's:

Our clam grills are set at 750 degrees, and they can fully cook a regular beef hamburger in just 38 seconds, a quarter pounder in 70 seconds. The first time I ever saw that, I was like, 'Ewww.'

We’re happy to replace something if we mess up, but...

We can usually tell when you’re making up a story to get free food. There was one guy who found a pebble in our parking lot, put it in his food after he ate most of it, and then asked for a replacement. Another lady took 10 tacos home. The next day, she brought just a few of them back, showing us that their lettuce was brown. She wanted another 10 tacos. But of course, if you leave tacos out for 24 hours, the lettuce will turn. Love tacos? Here are some fun taco recipes to try.

Some fast-food workers definitely follow the 10-second rule

I have seen people drop food and then pick it back up and put it on the grill.

No, most of us do not donate our leftovers

I can’t believe how much food we throw out every day, especially at the end of the night. You, however, can do your part. Here's how you can cut back on food waste at home.

All fast-food restaurants are not created equal

Even restaurants within the same chain can vary widely depending on the owner and manager and what kind of standards they set.

When you take three handfuls of napkins or fill your purse with ketchup packets...

I don’t know what you call it, but I call it stealing. You’re just making things more expensive for everyone.

Please don’t ask what ingredients are in our fried chicken coating or in our special sauce

All of our recipes are proprietary, so they don’t even tell us what’s in them. But we can tell you why McDonald's Coke tastes better than anywhere else.

At some restaurants, managers get a bonus if they hold onto their employees and keep their turnover rate down

That gives us an incentive to keep people who aren’t very good, even if they don’t know the difference between a French fry and a screwdriver. And I’m not exaggerating; I’ve had employees who were that bad.

Most of us, even the managers, aren’t making much more than minimum wage

You wouldn’t believe the stuff we put up with for that kind of money. People constantly talk to me like I’m a two-year-old. I’ve had customers throw drinks at me and cuss at me. I’ve been held up at gunpoint.

At Taco Bell, most of our food does carry over, so we reheat it and serve it the next day

That’s why I never take my lunch break early. Plus, fast food can have some weird effects on your brain.

For the best deal at McDonald's, order off the dollar menu

You can get a lot of food for the same price as a meal and it will fill you up more.

We were supposed to wear gloves when we made food

But a lot of times my co-workers didn’t do it, and that really skeeved me out. Here are more dirty restaurant secrets the kitchen crew won't tell you.

Most of us don’t wash our hands as much as we should

Even though there are signs everywhere reminding us it's the law.

Look around to see how much trash is in the parking lot

And whether the bathrooms are dirty and if the dining room is picked up. When things that are so publicly visible are neglected, you can bet that even more is being neglected in the back and in the kitchen where no one can see them. That's just one of the things restaurant health inspectors wish you knew.

Once your order is in at the drive-through...

We have two minutes to get your food before the screen turns red, and the manager asks what’s going on.

We do laugh at you behind your back

Like when you mispronounce our menu items or when you think we can’t hear you through the drive-through speaker, yelling at your husband or kids.

When it was slow, sometimes we would all take the garbage out...

And smoke marijuana in the back. Really, it's true. Want more crazy food service stories? Here's everything your waiter isn't telling you.


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