Weird Things Happen at Fast Food Restaurants. Here Are Our Favorite Stories From 2019.
At Thrillist, we dedicate our time, energy, and diets to cover the latest and greatest in fast food around the clock. And while 2019 was noteworthy just in terms of new menu debuts alone, there's a lot more to fast food culture than fried chicken sandwiches -- or the food at all, for that matter. As part of The Fasties, Thrillist's fast food awards, this year, we looked back at some of the most viral and genuinely strange news stories to come out of fast food restaurants throughout the year.
The country's most iconic chains -- from regional gems like Whataburger to the national treasures we all know and love -- are where the weirdest minor crimes, most heartwarming stories, and laughable tales go down. Here are favorites from the last year of the decade.
An “enraged” Taco Bell customer stormed behind the counter to make a better Mexican Pizza
As the old saying should go, “If you want something done right at a fast food restaurant, do it yourself and risk being arrested.” In March, the employees of a South Carolina Taco Bell were forced to alert the authorities after a dissatisfied drive-thru customer came inside, demanded a meatier Mexican Pizza, and became infuriated upon realizing fast food menu items are pretty much prepared the same way every time. And so this iconic hothead took it upon himself to go behind the counter and make his meat-laden pie for the road. PS: He got outta dodge before the police could arrest him.
Brave consumers called 911 to report taco shortages and incorrect orders
Listen up, amateur millennial psychologists -- if our fears aren’t actually valid, stop saying they are on Twitter. Because now people are calling 911 with what they feel are legitimate societal concerns and getting told by emergency call center operators that nobody is coming to their aid. Just ask the well-meaning woman who reported a shortage of both hard- and soft-shell tacos at a Louisiana Taco Bell in June, and received only a tweet from the local police department. Or the woman whose alert to the authorities that KFC screwed up her order “with attitude” was met with silence.
A Florida man bathed in a Wendy’s kitchen sink
In April, an unprovoked squirrel attacked a Florida man on his own property, proving that species other than victimized alligators are getting a bit sick of men from the Sunshine State. But, because we're news reporters, we couldn’t possibly tire of the Florida Man insanity -- these gents constantly give us stories like a May 2019 incident at Wendy’s in which a Floridian was caught on camera bathing in the restaurant's kitchen sink.
The man, an employee at the restaurant, reportedly dipped into the sink with nothing but shorts and everybody cheered. He was offered napkins to dry himself. Then, according to a statement from the owner to the Northwest Florida Daily News, he was fired. In his defense, it’s probably difficult to tell what is and is not acceptable in Florida.
A Dunkin' robber failed to open the cash register but managed a grand theft of half a dozen donuts
Anyone who’s ever had a cashier job knows the struggle of The Register, and how ridiculous it is to assume you’ll be able to pop the machine open without first getting repeated instruction and demonstration from an inpatient manager. Exhibit A: a now-viral NYC thief failed at the important task of opening a cash register during his East VillageDunkin' robbery in September. Then, in what might have been an effort to leave with dignity, he took about half a dozen donuts for the road.
A man proved the value of math by hacking a McDonald’s kiosk and getting free burgers
An Aussie Hamburglar of sorts worked some "equation lady" meme magic in a video posted in April, wherein he demonstrated how -- with a simple method of subtraction -- you can buy 11 burgers for zero dollars. The trick? Remove the meat patties from the order, which cuts the cost by $1.11 (11 cents more than the burger’s original price). No report on whether or not our man is up for the Nobel Prize, but here’s some bad news: According to a report from The Takeout, the Australian McDonald’s locations fixed the loophole when the video went viral.
Taco Bell sauce packets saved two lives
Have you heard about the snowbound man who, in March of last year, survived for five days on only Taco Bell sauce packets? He'd fallen asleep in his car on a rural road and found himself unable to walk to shelter after significant snowfall, and so was forced to eat Fire Sauce like energy gel.
Well, if that miracle doesn’t make you stand for corporate power, recall the gentleman who, just seconds before a car ran straight into a Taco Bell and into the table he was sitting at, felt compelled to get up from his seat and grab more delicious sauce. He avoided almost certain injury -- and potentially death -- thanks to Fire Sauce.
A Dairy Queen got a Moana-themed cake order very wrong
Mix-ups happen all the time -- like when a 60-something-year-old woman confused wasabi for avocado dip and dove in chip first, or the British couple that accidentally packed a cat in their carry-on. We’re only human, and sometimes, we hear “marijuana” instead of Moana. At least, that was the case in July, when a Georgia-based Dairy Queen employee misunderstood a customer’s request for a Disney-inspired birthday cake as a weed-themed one.
“So my mama called and ordered me a cake telling them how much I loved Moana. (Because really I do) Well needless to say these people thought she said marijuana,” Kensli Davis wrote on Facebook, alongside a photo of the cake with a giant pot leaf. “That ice cream cake was still good though.”
A hangry thief broke into Subway & stole only the ingredients for an $8 sandwich
Hey, when the craving strikes, it strikes. A thief wanted on burglary charges broke into a Washington, DC Subway shop in December, but instead of robbing the store of, say, cash and electronics, the guy opted for something decidedly more... edible. According to The Washington Post, after breaking into the restaurant at around 1:50am, the suspect is seen on footage grabbing a bag of chips, hopping the counter, and proceeding to make himself a foot-long chicken sandwich.
A 100-year-old woman celebrated her milestone birthday the only way one should: at Taco Bell
Every single birthday is worth celebrating, but make it to 100 years and you deserve the bash of the century. And while, sure, that means something different to everyone, I think we can all agree one with a burrito spread and mariachi band can’t disappoint. Longtime Taco Bell super-fan Wanda Walston, who turned the big 1-0-0 in November 2019, invited 50 friends and family members to join her at the Mexican-style fast food chain for a celebratory feast. “I love their tacos because it’s the closest flavor to what I used to make at home,” she told local outlet KOLD News, noting her go-to order is two tacos and a Pepsi.
The most Texas thing in Texas, Whataburger, served a chicken tender in the shape of the state
Last summer, Whataburger was bought out by a Chicago-based investment firm, much to the dismay of the decidedly Texan chain’s devoted following. But despite new funding, Whataburger is as committed to its Lone Star State reputation as ever. Months after the deal, Gilbert Galvan stopped by his local restaurant for an early morning meal, but when his chicken tenders arrived, one had a distinct difference -- it was shaped exactly like the state of Texas. "I did not eat it, I actually triple-bagged it and put it in a mason jar inside my fridge. Who knows, maybe I'll sell it," Galvan told a local news outlet.
A man proposed to his girlfriend over a romantic dinner of KFC
A healthy relationship is built on love, trust, and mutual respect. But nothing promises happily ever after quite like the same food interests. If the fire fades, at least you’ll still have something -- like a shared passion for fried chicken. In November, a South African couple went viral on social media after getting engaged at KFC. “Please help us find this beautiful couple… DM us any leads, there might be a Finger Lickin’ Good surprise in it for you too,” the chain wrote on Twitter. Soon after, the pair was quickly identified as Hector and Nonhlanhla. And the internet rallied behind them to fund their wedding and honeymoon.
This guy found a grenade while fishing and his first thought was to go to Taco Bell
It’s never not a time to eat Taco Bell -- except, of course, if you find a possibly active hand grenade you’ve yet to report to police. But even then, in an actual crisis, some can’t seem to pass up the opportunity to gorge on Nacho Fries. In January 2019, a Florida man happened upon the explosive while magnet fishing, but instead of thinking, ‘Hey, I should alert the police,’ he headed straight for T-Bell. He ultimately dialed 911 -- after ordering -- and the bomb squad was able to remove the grenade “without incident.”