14 Secrets McDonald’s Employees Want You to Know

The next time you head to the golden arches, there may be some extra things you’ll want to know.
Updated April 11, 2024
Fact checked
golden arches sign at McDonald's dessert bar in Shenzhen

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McDonald’s is a trusty place to stop for a quick, affordable meal or simply to satisfy your craving for some crispy fries.

However, there are some secrets about your local McDonald’s that could give you a better experience — and help you avoid throwing your money away — the next time you visit the Golden Arches.

So before you pull up to the drive-thru at your local McDonald’s, here are some insider tips employees want you to know.

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You can get cheaper versions of your favorites

topshots/Adobe little girl eating sundae

There are crafty ways to shave money off your total.

For example, you can order a sundae with some of your favorite McFlurry toppings. You'll get nearly the same thing and keep more money in your bank account.

Look at McDonald's menu. With a little extra consideration, you can save money while hardly changing your meal.

Ask for fresh food

gargantiopa/Adobe McDonald's worker holding bag of fast food

If you’re concerned about food not being at its peak, you can get your food freshly made instead of worrying about how long it’s been warming.

This is a good option if you’re ordering during slow times when food isn’t being replaced as quickly in the warming area. Just be aware that making this request might mean that it takes a little longer to fill that order.

The ice cream machine really is down

wachiwit/Adobe man holding McDonald's vanilla cone

You may get excited about a shake or McFlurry only to hear the dreaded words that the ice cream machine is down.

Unfortunately, most of the models that are specific to McDonald’s take four hours to clean and sanitize, requiring the machines to be down for long periods.

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There’s no secret menu

Wayhome Studio/Adobe woman makes shush

Some fast-food retailers, like In-N-Out Burger, have a secret menu of unique combinations that you have to look up online or hear about from friends. McDonald’s doesn’t have that.

If you want something different, ask a McDonald’s employee if they can accommodate your request. And remember that it may be easier to fulfill your request during non-busy times.

It’s hard to make non-salt fries

Oleksandr/Adobe french fries McDonald's in a paper box

You may be trying to eat healthier with a non-salt or low-sodium diet, but your request for non-salt fries could cause issues and delays with your order.

It may mean the employees have to fry a fresh batch of potatoes for you and wipe down all the equipment to make sure you get a non-salt version of McDonald’s tasty treats.

Drive-thru gets top priority

rzoze19/Adobe McDonald's service the Drive Thru due to coronavirus

The drive-thru line takes precedence over in-store diners at many McDonald’s restaurants. During busy hours, hopeful diners in the lobby can end up standing around waiting for their orders.

So if you’re trying to decide between the drive-thru and inside the restaurant, remember that you can stay in your car and get a Big Mac before you would inside.

Decide before you get in line

Eric BVD/Adobe order counter inside a McDonalds

It can be frustrating for customers and employees to see a long line while someone at the front is asking questions and still trying to decide what they want.

Instead, be courteous and don’t get in line until you know what you want.

Round eggs are real eggs

ltyuan/Adobe Egg McMuffin

You may wonder how McDonald’s can be so precise with its round eggs on your McMuffins. That can’t be a fresh egg, can it?

But McDonald’s actually uses egg rings on its grill to make your egg round and the perfect size for your McMuffin every morning.

Only cars can go through the drive-thru

Felix Mizioznikov/Adobe Mcdonalds Restaurant drive through

You may think it’s fun to walk through the drive-thru late at night, or perhaps you want a quick bite to eat from the drive-thru after a long bike ride.

However, McDonald’s has a policy that it will only serve cars in the car lane for the drive-thru, so you’ll need to walk inside if you’re hungry.

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You might pay extra for ingredients

Birch Photography/Adobe McDonald's filet-o-fish

You may like extra lettuce on your burger or extra cheese on your Filet-O-Fish, but that could also mean an extra charge on your bill.

If you’re trying to save some money on your next order, check ahead of time to find out which add-ons cost extra.

Happy Meals are a hassle

Elena Medoks/Adobe Happy Meal menu at McDonald's restaurant

A Happy Meal may indeed make your kids happy, but it can frustrate McDonald’s employees.

There are several extra options like fries and apples, different types of drinks compared to the basic soda machine, and, of course, a toy.

Pulling that all together, especially during busy hours, can be more time-consuming than an adult meal.

Ask for a receipt

Seika/Adobe sales receipt along with mcdonald's fast food order

If you ask for a receipt, it could be a sign to McDonald’s workers that you’re a secret shopper or you may be rating your experience at the restaurant.

As a result, they may pay a little more attention to you and get your order out quicker in case they’re working for a good review.

Skip the apple pies

walterericsy/Adobe McDonalds apple pie

Some of the lowest-selling items on the menu are the apple pies, which could mean they’ve been sitting on that restaurant shelf for a while.

If you have your heart set on some appley goodness, it’s a good idea to check the pies for an expiration date. You can also ask for a fresher one.

Order items separately and save

New Africa/Adobe woman with McDonald's burger

It’s OK if you don’t want a full meal deal with a sandwich, fries, and a drink. Perhaps you don’t want all that soda, or maybe you’re just not a fan of fries.

You can order things separately to enjoy what you want and avoid wasting money on things you don’t.

Bottom line

Heorshe/Adobe Golden Arches sign at McDonald's restaurant

If you’re trying to save money, McDonald’s is a good place to get a decent and affordable meal.

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And remember to be nice to McDonald’s employees. They work hard to get you fed when you’re hungry.

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Author Details

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.

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