me, ordering a 3x3: is this a recuperation?
October 17, 2018 9:19 AM   Subscribe

The Weird World of Secret Menus, Alison Pearlman
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that variations on the expression to hack the menu have been used to describe off-menu ordering at fast-food chains almost exclusively. This language, derived from computer hacking, encapsulates the secret-menu subculture that revolves around them. When I hear the verb hack used this way, I picture someone trying to game a system. Convinced that an organization can’t be trusted to act in her interests, she resorts to work-arounds and trickery. At the root of her approach is a reciprocal alienation: the system treats the individual as faceless and interchangeable, so the hacker views the system as a monolithic adversary.

13 fast food chains with secret menus — and what you should order at each one

Secret Menus Give Restaurants A Not-So-Secret Boost - ""If you have a secret menu or if customers know the secret menu, they feel like they're insiders," says Bret Thorn, senior food editor of Nation's Restaurant News, a trade publication. "They feel kind of a personal connection to the restaurant; they feel they know something that maybe not everybody else does. And everyone loves that.""

23 Fast Food Menu Hacks That Will Save You Money

The Secrets of Secret Menus - "Most casual restaurants recognize that accepted menu modifications work best when they are driven by customer demand. The moment you try too hard to be cool, you become deeply uncool; restaurants run the same risk, as Panera Bread found in 2013. Just keeping regular-sounding menu items off the standard menu has advantages in that restaurants don’t have to invest in signs and promotional materials, but it doesn’t capture the fun of making customers feel like savvy insiders."

Hack The Menu - previously

The real story behind “secret menus” is the key to hacking them - "The most secret menus of all are impossible to hack "

Hidden Menu NYC, apparently defunct.
posted by the man of twists and turns (68 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Restaurants need real secret menus, not that In N Out nonsense. Spaghetti should be on In N Out's secret menu. Doesn't even have to be very good spaghetti. Just something that blows the other customer's minds.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:32 AM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Spaghetti should be on In N Out's secret menu. Doesn't even have to be very good spaghetti. Just something that blows the other customer's minds.

I think the difference is that the In N Out secret menu results in a semi-legendary "whispered truth" status, something people share in disbelief if they haven't ordered a "secret" item, or pride if they have. On the other hand, the visible oddity has the feeling of more of a publicity stunt.

Though in this internet era, that publicity stunt then gets shared on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, which is something that companies love (see Domino's desire to get shared as #PizzaPics, including four steps to taking a better 'gram, though it was their depiction of five noble dairy cows that riled up some).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:39 AM on October 17, 2018


Your favorite off-the-menu item sucks.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:39 AM on October 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


I've had the grilled cheese with fries and onions on it. Hell, at Wendy's I once got a frosty with fries in it. Taco Bell and Burger King are particularly flexible on this.

My approach, as with any fast food chain, is not to ask if you can have it, but to ask how much would it cost. This reframes the question in the mind of the 16 year old kid taking your order. I have, at times, met resistance even still. At that point, my tact is to break it down for them.

Look, you have the buns and cheese for the grilled cheese, right?

Yes.

And you can add onions to that, right?

Sure.

And you have fries back there, which you could just charge me for a full fries, put some on the grilled cheese, and then toss the rest of the fries, right? So that I don't have to do it myself?

Usually the light goes on by this point, but if not, my last resort is to follow up with "So how much would it cost me to have you do that?"

Everything is for sale, for the right price.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:41 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Man those 23 save money hacks are deeply stupid. Here is one that I cannot puzzle out how it saves you money.

13. Save $0.58 when you ask for light ice in your iced coffee.
When you order more ice, you end up with less beverage in your glass.

Okay but... it cost the same!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:43 AM on October 17, 2018


When I do get fast food I'm already worried about getting everything I order and hoping the quality is decent. The last thing I want is to mess with the mind of a stoned teenager. The thrill of the "hack" is the last thing I'm concerned with.
posted by Splunge at 9:47 AM on October 17, 2018 [18 favorites]


Mentioning problems for the kitchen was not to dissuade diners but to warn of an obstacle to overcome.

Yeah, these people annoy the ever-living fuck out of me; children who can't handle being told what they can and can't order by a giant corporation instead make the lives of powerless underlings that much more frustrating.

So you can't get your McShitty Sandwich exactly the way you want?  So what?  If you live 80 years you'll eat something like 80,000+ meals.  Why get worked up if one is only so-so instead of slightly more so-so?  I just can't wrap my head around it.  It's not menu hacking, it's haggling.  Since we can't haggle over price any more, people are now haggling over content.  Ugh.  And the desire to join the secret club of fast food diners- in-the-know is just slowing everyone behind you down.  Just eat your fuckin' McShitty, please.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 9:49 AM on October 17, 2018 [36 favorites]


Huh, guess I need more coffee. That was awfully cranky sounding.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 9:51 AM on October 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


Okay but... it cost the same!

Yes, but you get more actual product. This is why I order my drinks at fast food places "no ice" now.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:51 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


OnTheLastCastle:

If you order a "16 oz" iced coffee that comes with 8 oz of ice, you get 8 oz of coffee. If you order a "12 oz" with "light ice," you get 8 oz of coffee, for a lower price.
posted by explosion at 9:52 AM on October 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


The thing about the labor issues - it’s only a problem because of Taylorism micromanaging. Most workers would much rather have something interesting and fun to do. The thing is, that means that you can’t get by with the bare bones staff you’ve been operating with based on a breakdown of movements. But that bare bones staff model sucks anyway, so it needs to go, for the dignity of workers and other reasons.
posted by corb at 9:53 AM on October 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Starbuck's short size is my go-to, especially the double short cappuccino. Lots of coffee flavor and just enough milk to smooth it out.
posted by J. Tiberius at 9:55 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


guess I need more coffee.

Maybe a specialty item off the secret menu?

I don't really frequent fast food or chain restaurants so I don't do the secret menu thing there, but I've gotten to be enough of a regular at a few places that I got to make my own specials from time to time. Some of them even ended up on the menu afterwards.
posted by Candleman at 9:55 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


The last thing I want is to mess with the mind of a stoned teenager.

Oh please. These are minimum wage jobs, which means they're the most likely to have had background checks and ongoing drug tests.
posted by rhizome at 9:57 AM on October 17, 2018 [30 favorites]


Arg, the save money hacks include one of my pet peeves from working fast food years ago: the old canard to ask for no-salt fries to ensure you get fresh fries. All you do is make wait times longer for everyone, because when you ask for no-salt fries we had stop everything, clean everything of salt, and get clean utensils so as not to give salt to someone we assumed had health issues. And to see the person then pouring salt all over their fries was infuriating.

If you ask for fresh fries, they'll give you fresh fries! No need to try to do an end-run around it by asking for no-salt fries!
posted by telophase at 9:58 AM on October 17, 2018 [36 favorites]


I worked at an A&W drive-in at one point in my younger years that would make something called a "doo-wop" burger that was basically one larger patty the size of two smaller ones. I gather that at some point in decades past it had actually been on the menu, but that now we didn't routinely stock non-frozen ground beef. So we had to break our normal routine to thaw regular-sized patties in the microwave and then combine them by hand. This was basically only ordered by a few people who had been regular customers since the days when it had been on the menu. The owner was friends with these customers. The kitchen hated these customers with a passion, especially when one would show up during rush.

Some of these special items look pretty inoffensive, but when people order stuff and are like "but you have all the materials here" when the kitchen is busy, I am still going to judge that pretty harshly. Mid-afternoon? I would have been fine with experimenting then. 6pm? I didn't want interesting at 6pm; I wanted to not die or get yelled at for letting our wait time get too long.
posted by Sequence at 10:01 AM on October 17, 2018 [12 favorites]


Dairy Queen frozen hot chocolate - huh. I remember ordering this a lot back when it first appeared on the menu in, say ... 1995ish? If I were to go into a DQ now and not see it on the menu I never would think to order that tasty drink I was enjoying TWO DECADES AGO oh my lord how does time pass so quickly
posted by komara at 10:02 AM on October 17, 2018


Fast food is not an entertaining sport for me, so these kinds of spellbook secrets and their pursuit are only amusing from the sidelines.

Somewhat relatedly, I wouldn't be surprised if "McDonalds Monopoly" turns into collecting the right incantations from a series of soon-deleted social media posts instead of scratchoffs from the grocery store and in your McNuggets bag.
posted by rhizome at 10:03 AM on October 17, 2018


I think every person I know from CA has "their" in-n-out order that's just perfect for them. I iterated on mine (grilled cheese with grilled onions, extra toasted bun) for quite some time. As someone who doesn't eat beef, it's pretty amazing that I can go to in-n-out and get a sandwich at all, let alone one I think is perfect, and the secret menu is why. It absolutely drives customer loyalty.
posted by potrzebie at 10:11 AM on October 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


When I was a vegetarian learning how easy Taco Bell was with "no beef, sub beans" on any menu item was a revelation.
posted by peeedro at 10:15 AM on October 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


13. Save $0.58 when you ask for light ice in your iced coffee.
When you order more ice, you end up with less beverage in your glass.


I'll explain. So let's say you were getting 350mL of coffee+ice and 100mL of that was ice. So you were getting 250mL of coffee and apparently you were fine with that. Now you order half ice, you get 300mL of coffee. Since you only wanted 250mL, you drink your 250 mL and save the extra 50. Every 6th day, you add up all your 50mL and you have a free coffee which would otherwise have cost you .58*5=2.90. So each day you order half ice, you've saved 58 cents, which you cash in every sixth day by drinking your free coffee that you saved up.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:17 AM on October 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


Arg, the save money hacks include one of my pet peeves from working fast food years ago: the old canard to ask for no-salt fries to ensure you get fresh fries. All you do is make wait times longer for everyone, because when you ask for no-salt fries we had stop everything, clean everything of salt, and get clean utensils so as not to give salt to someone we assumed had health issues.

I order no salt fries at McDs because they oversalt their fries. I do not have any salt-releant health issues. I do not add salt to them after because they don't need it. If I see them preparing to sterilize the whole set-up I tell them not to bother. Usually they just pour from the fry basket into the fry container by tilting the basket and pouring it in, all done over the fry receptacle area so that any that spill just go to the salt people.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:21 AM on October 17, 2018


Oh please. These are minimum wage jobs, which means they're the most likely to have had background checks and ongoing drug tests.
posted by rhizome


Then substitute bored or annoyed for stoned. My point stands.
posted by Splunge at 10:23 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


aw man y'all are makin a fella thirsty for a lukewarm bucket of fountain soda that contains 40% more product
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:25 AM on October 17, 2018 [33 favorites]


Why do there seem to be so many fast food places that offer no vegetarian protein options on their menu?
posted by Baeria at 10:26 AM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


to be fair, many actual vegetarians don't offer vegetarian protein options

yes, I'm still mad about that one Thanksgiving
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:32 AM on October 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


13. Save $0.58 when you ask for light ice in your iced coffee.
When you order more ice, you end up with less beverage in your glass.

I'll explain. So let's say you were getting 350mL of coffee+ice and 100mL of that was ice. So you were getting 250mL of coffee and apparently you were fine with that. Now you order half ice, you get 300mL of coffee. Since you only wanted 250mL, you drink your 250 mL and save the extra 50. Every 6th day, you add up all your 50mL and you have a free coffee which would otherwise have cost you .58*5=2.90. So each day you order half ice, you've saved 58 cents, which you cash in every sixth day by drinking your free coffee that you saved up.


That is one way of looking at it and works if you like stale coffee. Another way is price per unit of measure. So if this iced coffee costs $3.00, and you get 250ml with the regular amount of ice, the price per 50ml of coffee is $0.60. However, if you ask for less ice and get 300ml of coffee for $3.00, the price per 50ml drops to $0.50, a $0.10 discount per 50ml. So by volume you have saved $0.10 * (300 / 50) which is $0.10 /* 6 = $0.60.

Of course that savings isn't realized unless you then re-sell the coffee for $3.60 to some unsuspecting sucker.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:32 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


The actual real true best thing on the In-n-Out secret menu is almost the exact opposite of the grilled cheese - it's the Flying Dutchman, made better by asking for it to be mustard grilled with grilled onions.
posted by hanov3r at 10:59 AM on October 17, 2018


The only secret menus I care about are at restaurants that serve americanized food but can and will make authentic food from their region if you gain their trust.

I've started getting reasonable numbers of real szechuan peppers in the one, nominally szechuan dish that I order every time at the local chinese place, after about a year of ramping up from an initially totally bland dish.
posted by joeyh at 11:11 AM on October 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Is totally plain burger a super secret code? Hold the mustard or investigating if there is some other sauce is utterly unreliable and time consuming. Looking forward to reliable robotic fast food where the restaurant AI downloads my prefs as I enter and makes a not all that complicated but delish food unit customized for my personal quirks.
posted by sammyo at 11:18 AM on October 17, 2018


I've never worked fast food, but it can pretty annoying when somebody constructs a meal for themselves out of disparate elements, especially when many items are prepped in conjunction with other parts of that meal and are only a set amount available for predicted volume. Fast food I'm sure is just stocked to gills with all their crap anyway, but still, underpaid folks in a crappy environment make me want to make my ordering as painless as possible for them. Established "Secret" menus seem like a good balance between letting a customer feel like they're doing some special thing but not making random cashiers and fast food kitchens interrupt flow with some weirdness.

That Flying Dutchman looks pretty good, but I've been to In-n-Outs 5 times now, twice in California, and I'm continually amazed at how icky it is compared to it's beloved reception. Spongy fries that taste like they just cut em and dump in fryer. They somehow make grilled onions taste really gross, the cheese isn't any good and quickly gums up when added to fries or burger, and sorry but I'm imagining that bizarre grilled onion flavour they have again and it's making me grimace, what the fuck did they do to them?!

Anyway, Flying Dutchman looks like it'll avoid the In-n-Out problems if I don't order fries. I want to order a secret burger meal assembled from the best bits of different fast food chains. Fries from McDonalds with Spicy Whataburger ketchup. Special sauce from Raisin Canes, toasted bun from Sonic, thicc meat from Carl's Jr, tomato from Wendy's, McDonalds pickles and onions, and additional topping nonsense provided by five guys.

Samyo, in normal restaurants, plan and dry, or kids burger are the go to way to order a plain ground beef sandwich. Can you not ask the same at a fast food place, seems like there especially they'd have lots of folks wanting a meat and bun only burg.
posted by GoblinHoney at 11:27 AM on October 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


My favorite menu hack in college was the Cheap Coffee Shop Lunch.

It was simple. Order a coffee, half a baguette, and a hunk of whatever cheese was available that day. Tear open baguette. Insert cheese. Eat. Usually the whole deal was under $5.

If I wanted to splurge I'd also order a cup of soup.

(PS: The best secret menu item at McDonalds is "leave McDonalds and go somewhere that serves better food")
posted by caution live frogs at 11:32 AM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


A lot of places are wise to the "light ice" thing. Starbucks, for example, pours to the line regardless of how much ice you want.

You can save like $2 by making your own coffee yourself. #lifehack
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:36 AM on October 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


GoblinHoney we Californians are forbidden by law (Prop 116, passed in 2008 with 71% Yes votes) to point out that In-N-Out is hella overrated. But they will substitute real cheese for the yellow Elmer's glue they usually serve if you show proof of residency when you order.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:46 AM on October 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


That's not a knife secret menu; that's a secret menu.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:02 PM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


meanwhile, I can't get the deli on the corner - which has a turkey sandwich and a BLT on the menu - to make me a turkey club.
posted by BekahVee at 12:06 PM on October 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


I've been to In-n-Outs 5 times now, twice in California, and I'm continually amazed at how icky it is compared to it's beloved reception

Flagged as hate speech.
posted by w0mbat at 12:21 PM on October 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


SHE KOULD GET TWO K'S FOR THE SAME AMOUNT OF KASH BY KALLING HERSELF "THE KRAZY KOUPON LADY" WHAT THE HELL IS SHE EVEN THINKING HALF-ASSING HER SCHTIKK LIKE THAT.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:30 PM on October 17, 2018


KOME TO THINK OF IT SHE KOULD BE THE KRAZY KOUPON KWEEN IF SHE HAD ANY KREATIVITY. KOOK.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:40 PM on October 17, 2018


Is totally plain burger a super secret code? Hold the mustard or investigating if there is some other sauce is utterly unreliable and time consuming.
Can't speak for all burger joints, but at Burgerville the correct and reliable incantation is "plain and dry".

Looking forward to reliable robotic fast food where the restaurant AI downloads my prefs as I enter and makes a not all that complicated but delish food unit customized for my personal quirks.
As someone who has their own share of personal food quirks: same.

Why do there seem to be so many fast food places that offer no vegetarian protein options on their menu?
The sooner all ground-beef-burgers get replaced with Impossible Burgers the better, in my opinion as a non-vegetarian who has tried one.
posted by NMcCoy at 1:02 PM on October 17, 2018


In-N-Out cheeseburgers without the burger were a staple of my high school years, but the idea of putting the fries inside never occurred to me. Regrets, I have a few...
posted by betweenthebars at 1:10 PM on October 17, 2018


KRAZY KWEEN OF THE KOUPON-KLIPPIN' KLOWN KREWE
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:15 PM on October 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


The only secret menus I care about are at restaurants that serve americanized food but can and will make authentic food from their region if you gain their trust.

This is my Korean restaurant life. Also because doenjang-jjigae is super fucking common everywhere in Korea, but I can almost never find it in American-facing Korean restaurants, despite having ALL THE INGREDIENTS RIGHT THERE because supposedly Americans don't like it even though it is DELICIOUS, but if you ask you can have it. Like, so delicious that I have damned myself by mentioning its existence and need to go make it now.
posted by corb at 1:35 PM on October 17, 2018


Others show their connivance overtly.
...
Bedell boasted a suite of payment-evading ruses.
...
Below is the author recommending a Budget Big Mac[.]


Apparently ordering something "like a Mac" (which is, as Bedell's later quote makes clear, an actual button on the register in some places and a button on the kiosks at self-order McDonald's) and incurring charges for substitution of sauces is "payment-evading", wherein said person is "taking advantage" of the restaurant by, you know, doing something that at least part of the chain expects to happen on an often-enough basis that they programmed the register to do it automatically.

The actual fuck is this lady talking about?
posted by tubedogg at 2:04 PM on October 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


Look, you have the buns and cheese for the grilled cheese, right?

Yes.

And you can add onions to that, right?


I want you to hold it between your knees.
posted by darksasami at 2:15 PM on October 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


So, my opinion is that it's only a secret menu item if it has a name you can ask for, if you have to say it's this plus this and this, then it's just a food mod.

And the rule for food mods we came up with back when I had a kitchen job is: If what you want requires more than two food mods, just order something else.
posted by ckape at 2:52 PM on October 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


I've ordered food mods, but if it's an actual hassle, I don't do it during rush. (I still order Big Macs without pickles during rush times. I assume that "leave out X ingredient" is simple enough, and if they sometimes mess up, I can cope with prying out the pickles myself.)

On non-rush times, I'm willing to go to Starbucks and say, "I want a mocha-caramel-something-atto and also whipped cream," and I don't care what they call it. But I wouldn't ask them for something like that when there are eight people in line.

...Gonna have to try the maple mocha frappuccino at some point, though.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:15 PM on October 17, 2018


FWIW, Arby's has an "off menu" "Chicken Cordon Bleu" sandwich which is killer.
posted by mikelieman at 3:43 PM on October 17, 2018


A cinema chain here has a self-serve candy bar. You can put in as much or as little ice as you want into your drink. This is when I learned that no ice means room-temperature Coke.

I used to get McDonald's to make me an iceberg by ordering a small frozen Coke in a large cup, and a soft serve in same large cup. They made it a regular menu item, which was of course 100% my doing.

A good part of what drives menu hacking, for me, is that the base food is bad.
posted by Merus at 5:24 PM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


This is when I learned that no ice means room-temperature Coke.

Interesting. I guess it naturally depends on where you are, but I've always found self-service soda machines like that to have cold water running into them, so while adding ice would naturally keep it cooler longer, it doesn't do much if you are drinking it right away. I suppose that makes more sense in the context of a fast food restaurant, as you're likely to be consuming it pretty quickly, versus at a movie theater where you might nurse it over the course of a movie.
posted by tubedogg at 5:33 PM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Burger King, circa 1983
13 year old jeremias is going out to dinner with his dad. I was a relatively picky eater in those days, hated all condiments (pickles, onions, ketchup) so I order a cheeseburger with "nothing on it, just cheese".

Receive a bun with cheese. We laugh and laugh, little did we know we were OG secret menu trailblazers.
posted by jeremias at 6:27 PM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


caution live frogs: "(PS: The best secret menu item at McDonalds is "leave McDonalds and go somewhere that serves better food")"

Someday, Metafilter will have a food thread that doesn't shame people for liking things.

Today was not that day.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:23 PM on October 17, 2018 [15 favorites]


It's not a secret menu item, but whenever it's slow at a Subway I ask them to toast my sub with just the onions, peppers and cheese, then add everything else afterwards. Someone working there suggested it years ago, and it's great!
posted by peppermind at 12:54 AM on October 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


There’s a local burger place (they have 2 restaurants total...that counts as a franchise right?) and if you go to the one by my office and ask for your meal to include “the Utah special” you get a side of mayonnaise and a side of BBQ to make your own fry sauce*

*Yes I know fry sauce is ketchup and mayonnaise, this version is better
posted by Doleful Creature at 6:54 AM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


All more evidence for my hypothesis that there is nothing ketchup can do that bbq sauce cannot do better.
posted by ckape at 9:53 AM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Ketchup and mayonnaise is Russian dressing, not fry sauce.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:36 AM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Still trying to figure out the subtle difference between French dressing and Burger King Onion Ring Sauce, though.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:34 PM on October 18, 2018


FWIW, Arby's has an "off menu" "Chicken Cordon Bleu" sandwich which is killer.

you can get the fabled Arby's Shooter Sandwich if you bring your own plank for the employees to stand on and compress it with
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:37 PM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Man those 23 save money hacks are deeply stupid.

Yes! "Save money on McNuggets by literally paying more money..."

Like, if you were ALREADY going to order 20 McNuggets, sure, buy the larger size and enjoy and lower price-per-nugget (but were you really going to order five 4-piece McNuggets, in that case?). But if I only want 4 nuggets, how the hell is ordering 20 of them saving me money?
posted by asnider at 2:25 PM on October 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


When I do get fast food I'm already worried about getting everything I order and hoping the quality is decent. The last thing I want is to mess with the mind of a stoned teenager. The thrill of the "hack" is the last thing I'm concerned with.
posted by Splunge at 9:47 AM on October 17 [18 favorites +] [!]

Then substitute bored or annoyed for stoned. My point stands.
posted by Splunge at 10:23 AM on October 17 [1 favorite]


Step into a Mickey D's here in Toronto and it's mostly staffed by college kids and recent immigrants.

And guess what, they work their butts off. I don't eat much fast food these days, but a few weeks ago I really wanted a Quarter Pounder, so I treated myself, and the location I went to was UNBELIEVABLY efficient.

"Oh noes, bored teenager might sabotage my order" seems like a Hollywood trope to me, at least nowadays.
posted by tantrumthecat at 5:01 AM on October 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


I've seen it just the opposite - my local Wendy's is staffed with teens whom are either high or just disaffected.

I guess my point is - anecdotes probably don't show much, you'd need some kind of actual survey.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:38 AM on October 19, 2018


Fast food is a world of contrasts! In my own home town, you can find fast food restaurants that are staffed entirely by enthusiastic, not-at-all-stoned-or-disaffected teenagers, while a few streets over there's one that only seems to hire older adults in recovery. I would not say that the quality of food or service correlates strongly with the prevailing demographic of the employees.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:04 AM on October 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


Ask for your meal to include “the Utah special” you get a side of mayonnaise and a side of BBQ to make your own fry sauce

The national sit-down burger chain Red Robin has a sauce called Campfire that is exactly that. I tried recreating it at home while living far from a Red Robin, and used Miracle Whip (because I don't usually buy mayo) and Sweet Baby Ray's Honey BBQ sauce (because my husband, the BBQ sauce fiend who buys it by the gallon jug and puts it on everything from steak to potatoes to rice, insists on that particular flavor).

Then Red Robin started selling their version in stores, in gift packs along with their whiskey BBQ sauce and house seasoning salt. While I am certainly glad to have gotten the seasoning salt, turns out I much prefer my version of Campfire sauce.
posted by tubedogg at 5:51 PM on October 19, 2018


I don't go very often, but when I do our local McD and BK usually seem to be staffed by a couple of hypercompetent, extremely efficient ladies, aged thirtysomething to fiftysomething, backed by a rotating cast of Nice But Rather Confused Persons of Various Ages who are still in training because turnover is so high.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:25 PM on October 19, 2018


I used to frequent a Carl's Jr. or Jack in the Box at 1-2am, maybe every couple of weeks, and they're both always machines even at that hour. Especially the Jack, which has 5+ cars in line 24hrs a day at this location. I have to think corporate is smart enough to reward people who can keep all of that moving.
posted by rhizome at 10:34 PM on October 19, 2018


The national sit-down burger chain Red Robin

For a place that focuses on their burgers, I've NEVER gotten a good, hot one actually served to me.

Cf.: Five Guys.
posted by mikelieman at 11:34 PM on October 19, 2018


I've NEVER gotten a good, hot one actually served to me.

I've never had a problem with the temperature or deliciousness of their food. I did have an incredibly shitty experience at the Plymouth, MN location due to a waiter that deserves to fired and shot. Though that experience ended up getting a comped dinner for my party of four not only that night, but for the next three visits (which were at other locations. Will never, ever go back to Plymouth, even though the manager on duty was very nice and gave us way more in compensation than was reasonable for the situation).
posted by tubedogg at 8:56 PM on October 20, 2018


I ate at the Red Robin in Monroeville, PA on my birthday a couple years ago, and here the Krazy Koupon Klady tells me I coulda gotta free burger.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:59 PM on October 20, 2018


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