Avoid These 14 Mistakes When Ordering At McDonald's

McDonald's is the largest fast food chain in the world, as of early 2023. The chain has over 38,000 locations which are spread across approximately 100 countries. About 13,000 of those locations are found in the United States. It is hard to drive nearly anywhere in the country without seeing at least one, if not several, of these restaurants. The chain is also known for its reasonably-priced menu items. These include the Big Mac, Chicken McNuggets, and French fries. 

Part of the appeal of ordering from McDonald's is that you can get your food quickly, allowing you to get on with your day. However, some big mistakes can be made when ordering from this fast food chain. These mistakes can end up costing you time or create a less-than-satisfactory dining experience. Read on to discover if you've been making some of the most common McDonald's ordering mistakes — and learn how to avoid making them in the future.

1. Not downloading the app

If you have not downloaded the McDonald's app yet, you've been missing out. There are a lot of perks that come with downloading the phone application and setting up an account. At the time of writing, McDonald's is offering a promotion where first-time users can take $4 off their first in-app order. That could pay for a good portion of a small meal ordered from the restaurant.

You'll find several more opportunities to save when you use the app. Every delivery order you place will earn you points. You can use these points to get free menu items. This could include hash browns, fries, Chicken McNuggets, iced coffee, or a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. In addition to the free items that you can add to an order once you've accumulated points, there are also special app-only deals for users. The deals can vary. But they may include buy-one-get-one-free offers, discounts on select items, and more.

2. Arriving at the wrong time

You don't want to go to McDonald's at the wrong time. To avoid disaster, it's important to check the hours of the location you plan to visit. While some McDonald's are open 24 hours a day, others are not. If you're planning an extra late McDonald's run — such as after a night out or during a break from studying — you should confirm that the location you wish to patronize is actually open.

Beyond trying to visit a McDonald's when it's closed, there are other times of the day that you may want to avoid. If you've ever gone to McDonald's during the lunch or dinner rush, you know how crazy the restaurant can get. You can expect a long drive-thru line or limited seating indoors, at the very least. If possible, try to plan your McDonald's trip so that you're able to avoid these long wait times. We would recommend arriving at the business between 9:30 and 11 a.m., from 3 to 5 p.m., or after 7 p.m. to skip the crowds. 

3. Getting there too late for breakfast

This common mistake relates to breakfast. More specifically, missing the opportunity to order breakfast. You may remember that McDonald's announced it would be serving all-day breakfast a few years ago. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, the restaurant had to make changes to this policy. With fewer staff members working and fewer customers dining in, they cut McDonald's all-day breakfast from the menu. As of now, all-day breakfast has still not returned to most McDonald's locations.

This means that if you're craving some hash browns, an Egg McMuffin, or a sausage and egg biscuit — you'll have to make sure you get to the restaurant before they stop offering breakfast. Breakfast hours can vary based on location, so you should always check with your local McDonald's to confirm when they switch to lunch. In most cases, breakfast will be over by 10:30 or 11:00 a.m. If you get to McDonald's after that time, you'll likely have to wait until the next day to get the breakfast items you've been craving.

4. Not customizing your breakfast sandwich

While this mistake is somewhat minor, we don't want you to miss out. You should be customizing your breakfast sandwich to make sure it is made to your liking. If you didn't know that this was even an option, prepare to be enlightened. As you may already know, the eggs of different McDonald's breakfast sandwiches are prepared differently. Some sandwiches, such as the Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit, are made with a folded egg. Others, namely the Egg McMuffin, are made with a round egg patty.

While McDonald's folded eggs or round patties appear on different sandwiches — if you like one more than the other — you can request it on any sandwich you want. That means that you could order a Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit with a round egg patty. This could be the way to go, since the round egg patty traditionally used on an Egg McMuffin is fresher than the folded egg sheet. Try experimenting and swapping the egg style to see which breakfast sandwich version you like the best.

5. Deciding what you want at the last minute

We've likely all been in this situation: you're next up to order at McDonald's and the person in front of you is taking forever. This customer appears to be deciding what they want at the last minute. In other situations, the conflicted patron places an order, only to immediately change it to something else. You don't want to be that person when you're ordering at McDonald's. For one, it's slightly annoying to customers waiting behind you. Also, this isn't the best way to respect the time of the McDonald's employee taking your order.

Whether you're ordering at the counter or getting in the drive-thru line, you should figure out what you want before you get to the front of the line. If you're inside the restaurant, this may mean stepping aside to let someone go ahead of you. If you're hitting up the drive-thru, don't get in line until you know what you want. You don't want a line of cars behind you slamming on their horns because you're taking too long.

6. Forgetting to double-check your order

Mistakes with orders will happen from time to time; the workers at McDonald's are only human. What you don't want to do is assume your order is correct and take it all the way home — or to wherever you plan on eating — only to discover that part of your order is incorrect. One of your items could be missing. In an especially bad situation, you may have received someone else's order. To avoid this major frustration, take a few minutes to double-check your items before leaving the restaurant. This way, if anything is wrong, you can get it fixed while you're still at McDonald's.

If you ordered in the drive-thru, pull away from the window before checking that everything is correct. If you check it while still sitting in front of the drive-thru window, you're likely to frustrate the other customers waiting behind you, along with the workers inside the restaurant.

7. Waiting too long to ask for extra sauce

While some fast food restaurants are pretty liberal with the amount of dipping sauce they'll provide to customers, this is not true for McDonald's. In most cases, you're only allowed two sauces with each order. Employees are instructed not to give out additional condiments for free. If you wait to ask for extra sauce when you're picking up your order — either at the counter or drive-thru window — you're going to hold things up. The workers at McDonald's will have to interrupt what they're doing to ring up a separate sauce order. It'll delay your schedule, too, since you'll have to pay again.

If you want additional sauces, you should ask for them when you place your order. This way, the cashier can add them to your total, and you can pay for everything all at once. When your order is ready, all of your sauces should be in the bag, and you can be on your way.

8. Forgetting to try seasonal menu items

We all have our go-to items at McDonald's. However, even if you don't typically stray from your standard order, there are a few times during the year when you should. McDonald's offers several seasonal items that are only available for a limited time each year. If you miss out on these items when they're offered, you'll have to wait an entire year to try them.

Two of the most popular seasonal items are the Shamrock Shake and Oreo Shamrock McFlurry. These items are typically released in February, a few weeks before St. Patrick's Day. If you've never tried a Shamrock Shake or McFlurry, you're missing out. These drinks have the delicious flavors of vanilla and mint. This refreshing combination is sure to delight your taste buds. The Shamrock Shake was released in 1970 and has gained quite a following since then. The Oreo Shamrock McFlurry is a more recent addition to the menu; it was first released in 2020.

Another seasonal item you'll want to add to your order is McDonald's Holiday Pie. If you enjoy McDonald's Apple Pie, you'll find the Holiday Pie to be absolutely scrumptious. It has a crispy outer shell filled with vanilla custard. The exterior of the pie is coated in a sugar glaze, dotted with colorful rainbow sprinkles.

9. Missing out on free French fries

Most people agree that McDonald's has the best fast food French fries. But did you know that you can get free McDonald's French fries on Fridays? It's true. This is another perk of downloading the McDonald's app. Every Friday — through at least Dec. 31, 2023 — you will be eligible to receive a free medium order of French fries with any purchase of at least $1. This special promotion will be available within your app. 

When you order through the McDonald's app, you can choose where to pick up your free fries. This offer can be redeemed in the drive-thru line, at the counter, or through curbside delivery. The hardest thing about this special may be deciding what to get with your free French fries. For a delicious, sweet and savory combination, you could order a milkshake and dip your free fries in it. With so many options on the McDonald's menu, it's a good thing that you can experiment with a different option every Friday.

10. Skipping the receipt survey

If you like free food, then you've been making a mistake by throwing away your McDonald's receipt. This scrap of paper is your ticket to a free menu item. If you look closely at the top of the receipt, you'll see a note about a free item along with directions to complete a survey. 

McDonald's survey offers can vary. But they may include a hamburger, Egg McMuffin, or Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Sometimes, the McDonald's survey offer will be a buy-one-get-one-free deal. This means if you buy one of the indicated items, you'll get a second for free.

To take advantage of this deal, visit the survey website and enter the required information. This information includes your survey code, the store number for the location you visited, the time and date of your order, and your order total. All of this information will be printed on the receipt, so you won't have to look anything up. If you complete the survey within a week of your visit, you'll receive a validation code. This code will allow you to claim the free item indicated on your receipt the next time you visit McDonald's.

11. Forgetting money-saving Big Mac hacks

If you've been paying full price for a Big Mac all these years, you've been making another common McDonald's ordering mistake. Depending on where you live, a Big Mac probably costs about $4 or $5, at the time of writing. We know this is already pretty affordable for a main course dish. But what if you could get basically the same thing for less money? 

We know how to do this. Instead of ordering a Big Mac, ask for a McDouble. Next, ask to replace ketchup and mustard with Big Mac Sauce. Then, ask to add lettuce. You won't be charged extra for the lettuce or the Big Mac Sauce, allowing you to enjoy your favorite Big Mac sandwich for the same price as a McDouble. This item usually costs around $2 or $3, at the time of writing. For those looking to save a few dollars, this hack is worth the time it takes to request this burger customization. 

12. Not ordering off the secret menu

That cheaper Big Mac we just mentioned above is actually one of the items on McDonald's secret menu. Several restaurants have a secret menu, not just McDonald's. These items use existing menu ingredients or dishes to create new orders. 

The McDouble is far from the only item of this kind. There are several others that you're going to want to try. For example, did you know that you can order a McDonald's secret menu grilled cheese? To do so, simply order a cheeseburger without the meat. A similar item is the Big McChicken. This colossal sandwich offers a hamburger patty between two McChicken patties.

If you're feeling extra hungry, you might also want to try the Land, Sea, and Air Burger. This McDonald's secret menu item combines a chicken patty, a fish filet, and a hamburger patty. Go at the right time, and you can order the Mc10:35. This selection pairs an Egg McMuffin with a McDouble. As its name suggests, it is only available in the short window when breakfast is wrapping up and lunch is just starting. A few other secret menu options include the Chicken McGriddle, the Neapolitan Shake, and the McCrepe.

13. Ordering the wrong amount of Chicken McNuggets

Chicken McNuggets are one of the most popular McDonald's items. But as delicious as they are, you might be making a mistake when you order them. Don't worry, ordering the McNuggets isn't a mistake. Rather, your mistake may be ordering the wrong quantity of chicken nuggets.

Because of how Chicken McNuggets are priced, you'll get a much better deal if you order a 20-piece set. At the time of writing, the average cost of a 20-piece McNuggets order is $7.25. This works out to 36 cents per McNugget. A 10-piece McNuggets order costs $5.05 on average, meaning each McNugget costs 50 cents. Four-piece and six-piece orders are even more expensive per unit. If you don't get a 20-piece McNugget, you'll be paying more for each piece of chicken. That can really add up. If you don't want to eat all 20 McNuggets, consider sharing them with a friend or saving some for later.

14. Getting a McFlurry instead of a sundae

Do you like ordering a McFlurry as a special treat every now and then? We do, as the combination of vanilla ice cream and chocolate candy is delicious. You can enjoy this same flavor combination for less money. The next time you're in the mood for a McFlurry, order a sundae with your favorite McFlurry topping.

Because the same ice cream is used for making sundaes and McFlurries at McDonald's, you'll still be able to enjoy your favorite treat. You can even keep the hot fudge on the sundae to make it even more special. But because a sundae at McDonald's costs less than a McFlurry, you'll also be saving money. 

At the time of writing, the average cost of a McFlurry is close to $3, whereas the average cost of a sundae is around $2. Even when you account for the additional 30 cents or so that you might need to pay for candy toppings, it's easy to see how you'll still end up saving a little bit of money.

Static Media owns and operates The Daily Meal and Mashed.