These McDonald’s Employees Want You to Know What It’s Really Like Working Under the Golden Arches

Photo Credit: C. Cagnin

Fast food chains may be everywhere you turn, but there are none as famous as McDonald’s. Employing over 2 million people globally and found at nearly 36,000 locations, it’s no wonder the home of the Big Mac is hard to avoid.

But beyond their hallmark fries and secret sauce, have you ever been curious about what the employees think about working there? Let’s take you behind the Golden Arches and find out what the employees are saying.

10. The meaning of “fast-food” is in the stomach of the consumer

What is fast-food anyway? Does it mean to receive your food in less than 5 minutes? 10 minutes? Either way that is still fast! But employees want you to know, there are limits on certain foods. Like, for instance, a chicken salad.

According to Bob, an assistant manager at a McDonald’s in the midwest, chicken salads are pre-made, except for the meat. So it takes a few minutes to prepare. Same with Egg Mcmuffins (10 minutes) and McDonald’s apple pies (10 to 12 minutes).

If you’ve noticed your local McDonald’s has “slimmed” down the menu, it’s because too many ingredients hold up the cooking line.

“We are trained to go as fast down the line as we can, and if we have to stop to make something that has 10 ingredients, it tends to slow things down. Corporate has realized this and has taken many of these items off in recent years, [like] McWraps, Clubhouse, more recently the Smokehouse and mushroom and Swiss and moved to items that can go a lot quicker.”

Photo Credit: freestock.org

9. We all want fresh fries, but there’s a quicker way to get them

Have you ever sat in the drive-thru for like 20 minutes only to learn its because they ran out of fries!? It’s terrible! One of the ways McDonald’s cuts down on wait times is to have a new bin of fries already available for orders. Many customers ask for non-salted fries in hopes of getting a fresh batch. But in reality, this may cause a slow down in production. According to Andy, who has worked at McDonald’s in the past:

“People can ask for fresh fries and it’s actually way easier to do fresh fries rather than no-salt fries. For those, we have to pour the fries onto a tray from the fryer so they don’t come in contact with salt. It can get awkward sometimes getting everything into position, especially if you have a lot of people working in close proximity and it’s busy, so I’ve had some scalded hands a couple of times trying to get fries out in a timely way.”

8. “Can you please pull up to that designated spot?”

We’ve all pulled up to the take-out window expecting our bag of McDonald’s goodness to be given before we can brake, only to have an employee tells us to head over to another spot. Ever wonder why?

The corporation measures drive-thru metrics to understand how long a customer has been waiting for their food. By moving your car, this allows the employees to track a lower wait time.

Bob again:

“My store has sensors in the drive-through that actually tell us exactly how long you are at each spot in the drive-through. We get measured based on something we call OEPE. Order end, present end. [That measures] from the second that your tires move from the speaker until your back tires pass over the sensor on the present window. My store is expected to be under two minutes.”

Photo Credit: C. Cagnin

7. Careful what you say

“Can I take your order?”

That is what you hear when you pull up to the drive-thru speaker, and it’s almost immediate! Kind of creepy. Do they have cameras? They probably do, but it’s more than that: There are sensors that tell the employee someone is waiting.

So that conversation you’re having with your friend or spouse? They are listening.

From Andy:

“The speaker is activated by the metal in the car, so as soon as you drive up, the speaker turns on in our headset. We can hear everything, and I do mean everything. Loud music, yelling at your kids to shut up, etc.”

6. The ice cream machine is down

Ugh, again?? Is this a ploy? Or is the ice cream machine really that temperamental?

Bob says…

“The thing is, it is a very sensitive machine. It’s not made to be making 50 cones in a row, or 10 shakes at a time. It takes time for the mix to freeze to a proper consistency. It also requires a daily heat mode, [where] the whole machine heats up to about 130 degrees or so. The heat mode typically takes about four hours to complete, so you try to schedule it during the slowest time.”

And each location is responsible, per health code and regulations, to ensure that the machine is well cleaned. That means a complete disassemble every one to two weeks.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

5. Secret menus do not exist but…

Do you have a hankering for grilled cheese? Or do you love the Mac sauce but refuse to pay extra? Here are a couple of tips from Andy!

“I’ve made many a grilled cheese before. Sometimes it can get a bit risky doing it because the bun toaster wasn’t designed to make grilled cheeses, so sometimes you get some burnt buns or cheese or the cheese sticks inside and it slows down the other buns from getting out on time so that causes more burnt buns.”

People also regularly order McDoubles dressed as a Big Mac, to avoid paying Big Mac prices.

“I think [it’s] a way more practical way to eat a Big Mac since there’s less bun in the way, and it’s also way cheaper even if you do get charged for Mac sauce.”

4. Be kind and check your order

McDonald’s serves up to 69 million customers daily! That’s an insane number!

It means, though, that there will be mistakes, especially if you order specialized menu items or substitutions. Employees want you to check your order before driving away. And guess what? They’ll gladly fix your order, says Bob.

“Mistakes do happen. We always feel terrible when they do but when we serve 1000-plus people a day, it’s bound to happen. Be nice to us if you have a problem. It’s a huge difference between coming to us and saying, ‘Hey, I seem to be missing a fry from my bag,’ and ‘You bastards didn’t give me my fries!’”

Photo Credit: Pixabay

3. There is no passing GO for employees and Monopoly

Contrary to popular belief, the employees cannot play or participate in the McDonald’s annual Monopoly game. So don’t worry if you need to collect that “Park Place” for a million dollars, they aren’t taking it. Back in 2000, the company underwent an overhaul on the rules after an employee at their promotions company stole over $24 million.

“Monopoly pieces and things like them get sent back to corporate,” Bob says. “We aren’t allowed to touch them, open them, or redeem them as employees.”

2. Skip the grilled chicken

Sure, sure, chicken can be healthier than a Big Mac, but employees recommend skipping it all together. Usually after preparation, chicken is placed inside warming units made to keep it “fresh” for up to an hour. But chicken tends to dry out faster than patties.

According to Andy,

“That stuff has a supposed shelf life of 60 minutes in the heated cabinet, but it dries out so quickly that even if it’s within an acceptable time frame, it looks like burnt rubber, and probably tastes like it, too.”

1. Prank calls are still a thing

Unless a McDonald’s is assisting with a catering event, they are not expecting other calls. However, their phone does ring and the staff usually answers to a prank caller.

“Sometimes it’s people asking about directions to Wendy’s,” Sam a department manger in Canada says. “A lot of inappropriate ones. Most are pretty lame.”