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Scary Restaurant Facts; Read Before You Eat

Updated on July 20, 2010

Having spent 15 years in the restaurant industry, I had a front row seat to everything that goes on behind the scenes- things most customers don't know about. I've worked in quickie breakfast places to fine dining and I've seen it all. Everything from food safety to leaving feedback about your experience, these are things you should know about.

1. Restaurant tables are always dirty: Maybe you just saw the waiter wipe your table down with a towel, but what you don't know is that towel is never clean. Most food safety standards request towels to be put in a bleach/water mixture every 10 wipes and the same towel should not be used to wipe seats AND tables- think about it. But these standards are never adhered to in any restaurant I've worked at. Those towels are used to wipe several different surfaces throughout the restaurant and the day- most never get bleached/cleaned, not even once the whole day. My advice is to not let youtensils touch the table top eat food that fell onto the table either. Also, don't feed your baby food off the table, instead ask for a paper placemat or bring your own.

2. Soda machines are always contaminated: also your server should never take the same glass you were drinking out of and refill it at the soda machine. Soda machines ARE contaminated, mostly with e-coli. Yeah, nasty! Random studies have tested soda machines for bacteria, etc and all come up with high amounts of various harmful bacteria. They have sugar and dampness, which grow bacteria easilyIf you have a compromised immune system, including children, donorder a soda.

3. Tipping: Find out ahead of time what the tipping standards are. Some restaurants do not pay their staff and staff only works for tips, most pay minimum wage and tips are the majority of a server's income, and others automatically inlcude gratuity- so don't get caught tipping twice. If you pay on a card and don't leave a tip on that card, make sure you do not leave the "tip" line blank on your receipt. I've known servers to write in their own tip and most customers never know. Put an "x" on that line or "tip on table" or a big "0"- just don't leave it blank.

4. Health inspection scores: this is so important! You can find out the health inspection scores of your favorite restaurants by watching local news who have "dirty dining" or similar segments where they discuss local restaurants with poor health scores. Also your local newspaper lists these scores under "food" or "health" section. You can call or go on your local health department's website to find scores to. Here's a directory to your area's scores

5. Customer surveys and feedback: If you had a bad experience, the restaurant needs to know so leave feedback at the restaurant or if it was a really bad experiece call their main office or headquarters. You WILL get a "free" coupon and your feedback will not go unnoticed.

6. Timing is everything & what kind of service you should expect: When you enter a restaurant, someone should greet you within 30 seconds, your server should be at your table within 2 minutes. Appetizers come before salads and shouldn't take more than 10 minutes. After your food has arrived, your server should check back on you soon after your second bite. They should always offer dessert. If you are not happy with your food, the server should replace it, fix it, and/or take the item off your final bill.

7. Deli's are usually dirtier than restaurants: More of the food comes in contact with the public, more of the food is handled and prepared by hand, and food is kept in cold or hot containments, which must be the right temperatures. The way food is handled is a big culprit for getting people sick. A good example is when a food item is recalled- it's usually because they way it was handled in the factory or farm such as peanut and spinach recalls in the most recent past.

8. Sick employees go to work when their sick: most restaurants have no back-up plans if someone is sick so calling is hard to do, hardly ever accepted. Also a lot of employees wilingly go into work sick because tips are their major source of income and you can't make tips while you're at home. Restaurants don't have paid sick leave. If you suspect your server is sick, request another table across the dining room.

9. Handwashing: If I got a nickel tip for every handwashing violation I've witnessed, I'd be as wealthy as Bill Gates. Staff should wash their hands after handling dirty dishes, after eating, after smoking, after touching their face, and after going to the bathroom, but many don't. I went to a very busy restaurant who had a corner reflective mirror and I glanced up at it while I was at my table waiting for food and I saw a waitress play with her foot brace and shoe then go to make salads with her hands all without washing her hands. I informed the manager and walked out. I make it a habit to watch my server and her habits. Another clue is to pay attention to the server's personal hygene.

10. What are the specials? Food on the "specials" menu is near/or on it's due date or leftover food that previously didn't get sold that week. There's nothing special about the specials.


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    • ReuVera profile image

      ReuVera 7 years ago from USA

      Very good hub with great tips. Many things are just common sense, but we never think about it when in a restaurant. Thank you for pointing all this for us.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      Lady_E~ Thanks so much for stopping by. Some of the things people consider the healthiest are the worst foods to eat at a restaurant ,like salad, as you were saying. I just think people should know about this stuff because it is expensive and considered a luxury to eat out, but it's so much worse for us than we know. Your examples of the Restaurants from Hell tv show sound awful!!! I have seen some horrifying things, but I just mentioned the more common ones in my hub.

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 7 years ago from London, UK

      I'm glad you wrote about this. I feel the same way and hardly ever have salad when I eat out, as I don't know under what hygiene conditions they were prepared.

      I started to get a bit fussy after seeing a documentary on TV (Restaurants from hell) on how a piece of chicken that someone didn't finish eating, appeared on a new plate for a new customer. lol. They also showed some people who had to pray washing their hands and feet in the kitchen sink. OMG! It was horrible to watch. (all hidden camera).

      Anyway, you've given excellent Tips which are very important for our well-being. Thanks.

    • izettl profile image

      Lizett 7 years ago from The Great Northwest

      yep! much better to cook at home. Thanks for comment!

    • jim10 profile image

      jim10 7 years ago from ma

      Wow! You make me glad I like to cook. But, thanks for the tips.