This is the No. 1 food to avoid at buffets at all costs, according to a restaurant owner

We've all been at a buffet at some point in our lives. With stations filled with endless amounts of food from any cuisine you can imagine, tiny desserts and a ridiculously wide assortment of seafood, there's probably a good chance a couple of questions have come across your mind as you've sat and gorged on a plate piled high with food.

In a recent "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit, an owner of an all-you-can-eat buffet answered the questions about the buffet industry that people on the internet have been dying to know. 

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

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.


One user asked: "What is one item you would advise people to stay away from at an all you can eat buffet?"

The buffet owner revealed you should avoid crab legs at all costs. "I have seen Chinese buffets at the fish market going and buying bottom of the barrel seafood including crab legs past their prime. And then they don't steam them properly either to save on volume."

Surprisingly, the sushi is "relatively safe to eat in a busy place."

18 things in your home that are covered with germs
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18 things in your home that are covered with germs

Sink: It’s where all your kitchen dirt goes (we hope). In fact, it’s home to as many as 500,000 bacteria per square inch. Spray it down often, clean out your food trap, and scrub with scouring powder like Bon Ami at least once a week.


Cutting boards: Whether you’re chopping meat, veggies or fruit, your cutting board could be Ground Zero for foodborne illness. Prevent cross-contamination by dedicating one board to meats and another to produce. And always wash your board ASAP after using it—especially if you were working with raw meat. Researchers at UC Davis also recommend plastic cutting boards over wood, because they’re easiest to sanitize—they can go in the dishwasher. Clean a wooden cutting board with soap and warm water, dry it quickly, and seal it with butcher-block oil whenever you notice the wood is drying out.


Countertops: All the action—chopping, mixing, drink-pouring—happens here, so of course they’re covered with little particles of everything. First off, cut the clutter to give crumbs and germs fewer places to hide. Then wipe them with a damp microfiber cloth after every meal.


Fridge shelves and drawers: Your refrigerator is home to both raw and cooked foods, and if it’s disorganized, they probably come in contact now and then. Store raw meat in a plastic bag to serve as an extra barrier, and stop spoiled food from turning into science experiments by throwing it away as soon as you notice it. Another cool trick we use at our house: Empty and wipe down the shelves and drawers whenever you do a big grocery shop.


Sponges: They’ve been banned from commercial kitchens—ban them from yours, too. But if you must use a sponge, rinse it with hot water after every swipe. At the end of every day, get it wet and nuke it in the microwave for a minute. Toss it after a few weeks (one week if you’re missing the daily sanitizing routine).


Dish towels: If you rush through washing your hands, some germs may still be hanging out on them and you’ll transfer those germs to the dish towel. Change dish towels a few times a week, and wash them with hot water when you do the laundry.


Makeup brushes: They touch your face every day, coming in contact with oils, bacteria and dead skin cells. Wash them with mild soap whenever you notice makeup buildup.


Towels: Like dish towels, they pick up any germs left after a shower. Plus, if your bathroom has poor air circulation, towels may get musty if they stay damp too long. Wash them in hot water at least once a week.


Tub: The equivalent of the kitchen sink for your bod, the tub takes in a lot of grime. Wipe it down with a microfiber cloth every day and get rid of mold spots with baking soda or vinegar. (Find dozens more ways to clean with baking soda here.)


​​​Floor around the toilet: It gets splashed, plain and simple. For starters, make sure to put the lid down every time you flush. Clean up noticeable spots right away and scrub with bathroom cleaner at least once a week.


Faucet handles: You touch these before your hands are clean. ‘Nuff said. Wipe them down with a damp microfiber cloth.


Toothbrush holder: It’s all about gravity: Many of the germs on your toothbrush drip into the holder. Rinse it out daily—do double-duty while you’re brushing your teeth with the other hand. Then sanitize your toothbrush holder in the dishwasher (if it can take it) or give it a good scrub with soap and water.


Electronics: Smartphones, keyboards, mice, the remote control (OK, let’s be real: 17 remote controls)—germy fingers come in contact with them all the time. In fact, the National Institutes of Health recently found that cellphones are 10 times dirtier than toilet seats. Wipe them with a damp microfiber cloth as often as possible. Don’t forget to remove any cases so you can clean underneath.


Doorknobs, handles and light switches: Even if your hand only touches these items for a fraction of a second, that’s enough time to transfer bacteria. Once again, a quick wipe-down with a damp microfiber cloth will do.


Shoe rack: Footwear is a huge culprit for bringing germs into your home, so it’s no surprise that their storage unit is a bacterial breeding ground. Put some elbow grease into cleaning this one and wipe it with bathroom cleaner—you never know what somebody stepped in.


Carpets and rugs: Even if you’re using the no-shoes rule, carpets suck up every crumb, dead skin cell and germ that hits them. Vacuum weekly and spritz high-traffic areas with a carpet sanitizer. If you can toss rugs into the laundry, do it.


Bags: Your purse holds money (super dirty!) and your kid’s lunch bag holds food (raise your hand if you ever forget to clean it out over the weekend). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning these to keep them in the best shape.


Toys: No matter whose toys they are—your kid’s or the dog’s—they probably spend a lot of time in somebody’s mouth. Consider what they’re made of, then clean accordingly, tossing them in the laundry, dishwasher, or wiping with a cloth.



"The health code standards in the region of raw food are very strict, and you cannot skimp out on prices of salmon and tuna fillet," the owner said.

And as far as those tiny pieces of cheesecakes and sponge cakes go, it turns out it's all made by the same factory. 

"The ingredients used are not half bad, but they lack preservatives to help it taste fresh. Some customers do say they get hard after some time on the trays. But I doubt these factories hire any food scientist to prevent them from turning into cardboard."

Other highlights of the AMA session include why buffets are always running out of chicken wings (it takes longer to cook) and what happens to the leftover food (most are usually reprocessed into dishes like soup for the next day). 

Watch the video above for the best all-you-can-eat buffet deals!

RELATED: The best restaurant chains in America:

The best restaurant chains in America
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The best restaurant chains in America

20. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Brews

Headquarters: Greenwood Village, Colorado

US sales: $1.48 billion

Number of US locations: 533

Financial performance rank: 13 

Value rank: 22

Customer satisfaction rank: 22

Fans of the chain swear by burgers such as the Smoke & Pepper, the Black & Bleu, and the Madlove Burger (a Black Angus patty topped with four types of cheese, jalapeño relish, candied bacon, avocado, tomato, onion, and lettuce).

Red Robin launched a rebranding effort in 2012, updating decor, revamping restaurant layouts, and doubling down on its bar business. In January, Brian Vaccaro of financial services firm Raymond James said the company is "undervalued," and that key hires could bring the chain to new heights in 2017. 

Photo credit: Getty 

19. P.F. Chang's China Bistro

Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona

US sales: $892 million

Number of US locations: 216

Financial performance rank: 19

Value rank: 42

Customer satisfaction rank: 18

P.F. Chang's debuted in the early 1990s as a partnership between Philip Chiang, owner of the staple Los Angeles Chinese restaurant Mandarette, and Paul Fleming, an Arizona restaurateur and avid Mandarette fan.

The chain is known for its lettuce wraps and dim sum. Its entire menu is made-to-order and utilizes fresh ingredients. 

Photo credit: Getty 

18. Joe's Crab Shack

Headquarters: Houston, Texas

US sales: $370 million

Number of US locations: 113

Financial performance rank: 32

Value rank: 9

Customer satisfaction rank: 7

Joe's Crab Shack is struggling — but loyal customers still love the chain. 

In August, the mid-bankruptcy chain closed 41 restaurants without warning. Executives plan to shrink the chain from 113 locations to roughly 60, Nation's Restaurant News reported.

Despite this, Joe's Crab Shack still landed in the top 10 in terms of value and customer satisfaction. 

Photo credit: Getty 

17. The Cheesecake Factory

Headquarters: Calabasas, California

US sales: $2.1 billion

Number of US locations: 194

Financial performance rank: 11

Value rank: 46

Customer satisfaction rank: 23

The Cheesecake Factory is famous for its extensive and calorie-packed menu. 

Today, the chain — which started with a single homemade cheesecake in 1949 — serves more than 30 cheesecakes. In July, the chain launched its latest cheesecake flavor: a Celebration Cheesecake made with both original cheesecake and vanilla cake and topped with edible "confetti." 

Photo credit: Getty 

16. Olive Garden

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

US sales: $3.87 billion

Number of US locations: 840

Financial performance rank: 2

Value rank: 18

Customer satisfaction rank: 32

Americans still love endless breadsticks, with Olive Garden now the No. 2 biggest sit-down restaurant chain by sales in the US. The chain has also managed to win over millennials, a generation that is typically suspicious of casual dining chains. 

"Millennials still want to come to restaurants," Gene Lee, Darden Restaurants' CEO, said in a call with investors in June. "I know you all don't think millennials go to casual dining restaurants, but 30% of all our guests are millennials."

Photo credit: Getty 

15. Yard House

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

US sales: $524 million

Number of US locations: 65

Financial performance rank: 27

Value rank: 32

Customer satisfaction rank: 25

Yard House serves more than 100 brews on draft, priding itself as a leader in chain restaurant craft beer selection. Particularly thirsty customers can order beer in a "half yard," a 32-ounce monster of a glass. 

In addition to beer, Yard House serves up an extensive list of bar-friendly offerings such as poke nachos, wings, and fish and chips. 

Photo credit: Getty 

14. BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse

Headquarters: Huntington Beach, California

US sales: $993 million

Number of US locations: 189

Financial performance rank: 17

Value rank: 28

Customer satisfaction rank: 20

BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse offers a Southern California twist on traditional Chicago deep-dish pizza. 

The chain opened its first location in 1978. In the last two decades, BJ's has also become a craft beer champion. The chain has won more than 150 awards for its craft beers, including the gold medal for robust porter at the World Beer Cup 2016 with its PM Porter.

Photo credit: Reuters 

13. Bonefish Grill

Headquarters: Tampa, Florida

US sales: $630 million

Number of US locations: 210

Financial performance rank: 25

Value rank: 15

Customer satisfaction rank: 8

Tim Curci and Chris Parker opened the first Bonefish Grill in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 2000.

Over the last 17 years, the chain has thrived by emphasizing the "elegant simplicity" of fresh seafood and the quality of its dishes. 

Photo credit: Getty 

12. Pappasito's Cantina

Headquarters: Houston, Texas

US sales: $160 million

Number of US locations: 24

Financial performance rank: 50

Value rank: 27

Customer satisfaction rank: 5

Pappasito's is a newcomer on the list this year. While the chain only has 24 locations, it's quickly becoming a cult favorite and earned one of the highest customer satisfaction scores. 

The Tex-Mex chain is just one of many chains run by the Pappas family. Other brands include Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, and Pappas Bar-B-Q. 

Photo credit: 

11. Chuy's

Headquarters: Austin, Texas

US sales: $331 million

Number of US locations: 82

Financial performance rank: 37

Value rank: 6

Customer satisfaction rank: 14

Founders Mike Young and John Zapp opened the first Chuy's in Austin, Texas in 1982. 

The chain's Tex-Mex menu draws from culinary traditions rooted in New Mexico, Mexican border towns, South Texas, and more. In addition to the food, the chain is known for its quirky decorations, with hand-carved wooden fish, hanging hubcaps, and shrines to Elvis Presley. 

Photo credit: Reuters 

10. Seasons 52

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

US sales: $247 million

Number of US locations: 40

Financial performance rank: 42

Value rank: 7

Customer satisfaction rank: 9

Seasons 52 sets itself apart from sister brands Yard House and LongHorn Steakhouse with a more upscale menu and sophisticated environment.

With an average check of $33.30, it's pricier than the average restaurant chain. However, items like Chilean sea bass and sea scallops aren't going to be cheap — and loyal customers are more than willing to pay up. 

Photo credit: 

9. Bahama Breeze Island Grill

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

US sales: $219 million

Number of US locations: 36

Financial performance rank: 46

Value rank: 16

Customer satisfaction rank: 13

Bahama Breeze is one of the lesser-known chains on the list, with just 36 locations.

The chain serves up Caribbean-inspired fare, including Jamaican jerk chicken, conch fritters, and tropical cocktails. 

Photo credit:

8. LongHorn Steakhouse

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

US sales: $1.64 billion

Number of US locations: 500

Financial performance rank: 12

Value rank: 13

Customer satisfaction rank: 15

LongHorn, which is owned by the same parent company as Olive Garden and Yard House, is known for its steak and sizable margarita selection.

The first LongHorn location opened in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1981. One year later, according to the chain, it went from a struggling single restaurant to a local phenomenon after an unexpected blizzard stranded motorists and forced them to seek food and shelter there.

Photo credit: Getty 

7. Abuelo's

Headquarters: Lubbock, Texas

US sales: $123 million

Number of US locations: 39

Financial performance rank: 51

Value rank: 1

Customer satisfaction rank: 2

Abuelo's is the smallest restaurant on the list by sales. However, when it comes to value, it's No. 1. 

The chain serves Mexican and Tex-Mex classics such as fajitas, burritos, and margaritas. Items are made fresh in restaurants, which are designed to imitate an open-air Mexican courtyard.  

Photo credit: 

6. First Watch

Headquarters: Bradenton, Florida

US sales: $174 million

Number of US locations: 160

Financial performance rank: 49

Value rank: 19

Customer satisfaction rank: 6

First Watch is all about breakfast. Unlike most sit-down chains, First Watch is only open from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 

In addition to a menu packed with breakfast classics like eggs and pancakes, the chain also offers diners complimentary newspapers and WiFi to provide the necessary ingredients for the ideal morning routine. 

Photo credit: Getty 

5. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

Headquarters: Lebanon, Tennessee

US sales: $2.32 billion

Number of US locations: 640

Financial performance rank: 10

Value rank: 8

Customer satisfaction rank: 16

Cracker Barrel is a road tripper's paradise, with travelers making up 60% of customers, according to the company. 

The chain has tried to keep up with the times with initiatives such as its fast-casual concept, Holler & Dash. However, for many fans of the chain, it's things like the semi-kitschy old country store, biscuits, and vast array of breakfast foods that keep them coming back for more. 

Photo credit: Getty 

4. Maggiano's Little Italy

Headquarters: Dallas, Texas

US sales: $412 million

Number of US locations: 52

Financial performance rank: 31

Value rank: 3

Customer satisfaction rank: 3

Maggiano's serves up classic homemade Italian dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, and chicken parmesan.

The first Maggiano's location opened in Chicago in 1991. Brinker International — also the parent company of Chili's — purchased the chain in 1995 and grew it to its current size of 52 locations. 

Photo credit: Getty 

3. Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen

Headquarters: Irving, Texas

US sales: $751 million

Number of US locations: 165

Financial performance rank: 22

Value rank: 4

Customer satisfaction rank: 10

Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen gets its name from its commitment to making every dish fresh to order from "scratch." According to the Texas chain, this dedication to fresh and speedy service requires twice the number of kitchen cooks as other restaurants. 

The chain's menu is filled with American classics like burgers, pastas, and steaks. 

Photo credit: 

2. The Capital Grille

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

US sales: $413 million

Number of US locations: 56

Financial performance rank: 30

Value rank: 2

Customer satisfaction rank: 1

The Capital Grille is the priciest chain on the list, with an average check of $53.60. However, diners still feel like they're getting their money's worth. 

That's probably because the chain is second to none when it comes to customer satisfaction. The Capital Grille's wine list contains more than 350 options, and fine-dining menu items like sliced filet and seared halibut aren't available at most restaurant chains. 

Photo credit: Getty

1. Texas Roadhouse

Headquarters: Louisville, Kentucky

US sales: $2.34 billion

Number of US locations: 499

Financial performance rank: 9

Value rank: 10

Customer satisfaction rank: 4

For the second year in a row, Texas Roadhouse reigned supreme among the chain restaurants. 

Since opening in 1993, the chain has gained a cult following who swears by its steaks, ribs, and unlimited, fresh-baked bread and cinnamon butter. When diners arrive at their table, they are given a bucket of peanuts and encouraged to toss the shells on the floor, a testament to Texas Roadhouse's casual atmosphere.

Photo credit: Getty 


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