If you enjoy eating out, you may want to skip reading this as what you’re about to read may turn your stomach. It doesn’t matter what grade they received on their health inspection or what kind of raving reviews a restaurant has had, there are germs an unsanitary practices going on in every restaurant in America. Every single one. What’s even more surprising is that most of these violations occur right in front of you while you’re eating. I will point out a few.
The tables aren’t cleaned properly – It makes me cringe when I see a parent who breaks up bits of food for their baby to eat right off the table. The reason for this is the table tops just aren’t clean enough. There are two main ways a restaurant will clean and “sanitize” a table. The first is by spraying sanitizer onto the table and wiping it down with a “clean” cloth. The truth is these clothes are usually not all that clean. Unless yours is the first table to be wiped wit it, odds are there are still germs on that table. You can watch bussers go from one table to the next with the same cloth. Nobody ever says anything about it. This goes on in your house too, by the way. If you’re using the same sponge to wipe up your counters, all you’re doing is spreading germs around.
The second way for a restaurant to “clean” a table is to wipe it down with a cloth that has been sitting in a warm sanitizer bucket. In a restaurant that does this, there are several buckets placed around the restaurant with cloths in them. The water is supposed to be hot. Usually, they will put hot water in them in the morning with clean cloths. They’re supposed to change this every few hours, but I’ve yet to see one that does this all the time. The water in the bucket doesn’t stay hot and after a few hours the water turns to a grayish brown. Sometimes there’s even food particles floating at the top of the water. Even if they are changing the water, a lot of times the clean cloths don’t make it back to the bucket anyhow before landing on another table.
By the way, this is the same method the kitchen uses to clean their counter space. This is also where your food goes before it lands on your plate.
Who’s touching your food? In some restaurants, the servers are required to prepare your salads and deserts. They do this after wiping down tables, touching plates that have been eaten off of and handling cash. Most of the time, they are reaching their hands right into the lettuce to portion it onto your plate. Even if gloves are required, they are seldom used. Or if a server’s job is to provide you with bread, they are usually grabbing the rolls and putting them onto your plate. I’ve hardly seen anybody washing their hands throughout a shift, kitchen staff included. While most cooks are required to wear gloves, there are a lot who don’t. What’s more, even the ones that do don’t change them often enough often going from touching raw food to prepared food.
The dish pit – The dish pit is the area where the dishes are washed. This is the most disgusting area in a restaurant. The dishwashers go from handling dirty plates to clean plates countless times throughout a shift. They put the dirty plates in the washer, then pull the clean ones out. No hand washing in between. No gloves. Even if they do wear gloves, they do it so they don’t have to actually touch the leftover food on the plates. Also, in a restaurant there is always a trash by the dish area. This is where all the leftover food goes before the plate gets piled up to be washed. The dishwashers are usually responsible for changing this trash several times throughout a shift. They do this, then go back to washing your dishes spreading germs from dirty plates to clean plates.
The silverware – When I go out to eat, I often wonder what has happened to my fork. Typically, a server’s responsibility is to roll silverware. They place a fork and knife inside a rolled napkin. You guessed it. They don’t wash their hands before doing this. But what’s worse is that part of the server’s job is to “polish” the silverware before rolling it. When silverware gets run through the dishwasher, it gets spots on it. This is normal. I’m sure you’ve had spots on your silverware at home as well. But, people will complain about this. So, the servers wipe the spots off making them look all shiny and polished. The process for this is usually soaking them in either warm water or soda water for a few minutes and wiping them off with a clean cloth. By the time they’re done, floating at the top of the container where the silverware was soaking is food particles. You’re actually better off getting silverware with a few water spots on it than you are with a shiny set. I’ve even seen servers pick off pieces of food from a knife or fork with their nails and roll it up for a guest to use. They do this in front of you as well.
The bar – Next time you sit at a bar, watch the bartender work. They go from handling used barware, to clean barware and even put their fingers in the fruit garnishes right in front of you! They’re usually washing their own glasses in a sink. This sink is divided into three parts. Wash, rinse and sanitize. Watch how quickly they do of these steps. Then, look at the water and see how cloudy and murky it is – especially if they’re in the middle of a very busy shift.
You might be asking yourself, “Where’s the Board of Health? Where are the health inspectors?” A restaurant is much more careful when the health inspector is there taking notes. They also typically come during the week when its less busy. Throw a health inspector in any restaurant during a busy shift and watch how quickly there becomes no place to eat. Or, put a health inspector in every restaurant disguised as staff members for a day. Every restaurant in America will be shut down.