8 Seemingly Polite Habits That Fast-Food Employees Secretly Hate

Fast food insiders reveal the surprising habits that drive them crazy.

Fast food restaurant
Updated June 6, 2024
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Fast food offers a quick and easy meal on the road or running from one activity to another. It’s also relatively cheap, which can help you keep more money in your wallet.

But even if you try to be polite when ordering a fast-food meal, you could be doing it all wrong.

There are some seemingly polite customer behaviors that fast-food employees secretly hate. Avoid these habits the next time you order from a fast-food restaurant.

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Making an especially large order at the drive-thru

gumpapa/Adobe fast food cashier in drive thru service wearing hygiene face mask

Perhaps you want to do a favor for your co-workers by picking up lunch for everyone at a local fast-food joint. That is a nice gesture. But don’t turn the situation into a big negative by placing the order at the drive-thru.

Springing a huge drive-thru order on the restaurant staff isn’t doing those workers a favor. Consider placing large orders online before you arrive so the staff will be ready.

If you can’t order before you get there, you should at least get your food inside instead of at the drive-thru.

Forgetting to make condiment requests

Тарас Нагирняк/Adobe Enjoying fast food

It’s easy to forget to request your ketchup and mustard when ordering. We’re all human, after all.

But try not to make a habit of doing so. Returning to the counter to request these items slows things down for everyone. Do your best to make condiment requests when ordering.

Letting people go in front of you while you decide

BlueSkyImages/Adobe restaurant worker serving two fast food meals with smile

When a long line forms behind you at the fast-food counter, you probably think it’s polite to let others move in front of you if you haven’t decided what to order.

However, it’s better not to get in line in the first place until you have your order clearly in mind. Remember, it’s courteous to avoid doing anything that causes confusion or slows things down.

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Sitting in the drive-thru lane while checking your order

rzoze19/Adobe mcdonald's drive thru

Sometimes, orders can go wrong. So, it makes sense to double-check and make sure you got what you wanted.

But don’t perform your due diligence while sitting in the drive-thru lane. Before digging through the bag, move out of the line, pull up, and park somewhere that isn’t holding up the rest of the cars behind you.

If something does turn out to be missing, walk into the restaurant and ask for a replacement.

Using workers’ first names

nicoletaionescu/Adobe stressed fast food worker

Workers have name tags for various reasons, but many would prefer it if customers didn’t call them by their names.

There are other ways to be polite without being too familiar.

Asking servers personal questions

AntonioDiaz/Adobe stressed fast food worker

It’s fine to ask a fast-food worker questions about menu items. However, the worker might feel uncomfortable if you start asking personal questions about their day or how work is going.

Instead, keep transactions professional. Limit yourself to asking about food orders.

Throwing your trash into a full bin

mehaniq41/Adobe used food wrappings

Throwing away trash is a nice way to prevent workers from having to clean up after you. But don’t try to cram that trash into a full bin.

Instead, find another emptier trash can. That will make life easier for workers than creating a mess that someone will have to clean up later.

Paying with lots of change

nimon_t/Adobe cashier searching for change in cash

Paying with dollar bills and some extra loose change might seem like a polite thing to do. After all, when you pay with plastic, the restaurant has to pay a credit card processing fee.

However, paying in cash can create a hassle for the person ringing you up. Rather than making the cashier sort through all that change, using a credit card can be a more courteous option.

Bottom line

EdNurg/Adobe Using a touchscreen to order

Fast-food restaurants can be a great place to order food, especially if you are trying to get ahead financially and don’t want to spend too much on a meal.

However, the habits on this list can make the staff at a fast-food restaurant unhappy. So, avoid these behaviors and keep interactions brief and to the point.

The busy staffers who take your order are sure to appreciate it.

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Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.