I spent some years working in the food industry as a chef before I transitioned into the writing world. I have seen and tasted miracles and I’ve witnessed full-grown adults throwing temper tantrums with knives in their hands. So without further ado, allow me to guide you through 13 restaurant secrets finally disclosed. I hope the “restaurant mafia” will forgive me for this one.
Ever bitten into a fry and thought to yourself how much that fry tasted like the Atlantic Ocean? Perhaps! Well, that could be because one of the cooks doesn’t care enough to use a separate fryer for the seafood and a separate fryer for the non-seafood items. If calamari, in particular, is on the menu, then there’s a chance your fries took a hot oil bath with, you guessed it, calamari.
The first side of the story is that one of the cooks is so slow that the server waits endlessly for their customer’s food. In this case, said server takes the blame and their tip ends up being low, and the cook doesn’t have to deal with any repercussion. The only thing that happens is the server may yell at the cook and the cook may yell back all the while you enjoy your chicken and dumplings.
The other side of the story is that the server habitually takes too many smoke breaks and your food “dies” in the window, as they say in restaurants. That means the sauce in your pasta dried up beneath the heat lamps because it sat there for so long under the sun. So, take a look at your alfredo sauce – is it crusty, maybe dehydrated? This may signify a lazy server.
The title says it all. Fresh bacon is one of the most obvious flavors out there. If you have even the slightest inkling that your bacon isn’t fresh (tastes like the refrigerator, plastic-y texture) then you are probably right. There’s a strong chance that the bacon was prepared a day or two ago, stored in a metal container with a napkin at the bottom to collect grease, and warmed up on the griddle two days later when you ordered it. Demand fresh and tell them I sent you!
If you live in or are visiting a city where foreign nationals often visit (think Orlando or Miami) you should double-check the tip line of your check. Why? Because in many foreign countries, tipping is not a customary practice, and these ideals end up crossing over to these same folks’ vacations. Many times, in these restaurants, the total price of your meal will already include the tip. Be wary of a line that says “additional tip”. By recognizing this, you can easily spare yourself from overpaying a 40% total tip.
That’s right. It’s your money and you chose to visit that particular establishment to spend it. If the meal is sub-par then you have all the right to send it back and request a remake or something else, so long as you do not eat the whole burger and leave the pickles behind before saying anything. Most servers will understand, so don’t fret. Just don’t be rude and unempathetic when you tell the server you hated it with a passion. Be hateful of the food in a nice way. Smile as you say it. If that makes any sense.
Though plenty of cooks/chefs are level-headed, some are another breed of bonkers. So, when you sent back that meal you didn’t like, maybe the steak was undercooked, there’s a chance you offended someone in the kitchen. Not always, but it is common. The person who cooked your meal probably just cussed out the server who returned it and then threw a hot pan across the kitchen with no regard for human life and/or potential injuries. Not even a joke. Good news: you get a new meal. You’ll be fine and the cook will get over it.
Some restaurant bathrooms look like a swampy cesspool of Mardi Gras aftermath and some look like Martha Stewart’s powder room. But one thing is for certain; a nasty bathroom typically has a close relationship with the kitchen. If you are dining at a restaurant and you spy a bacteria-laden bathroom, you should immediately mention this to the manager and consider leaving the establishment as soon as possible. Think about it – what kind of managerial oversight is there if the bathroom has toilet tissue hanging from the hand dryers and old vomit on the toilet seats? Not a place you want to take your first date, that’s a guarantee.
One of the biggest secrets is the wait time in order to secure a table. Most of the time, save holidays, this is a lie. If they say one hour, it’s likely 30 minutes. 90 minutes? Probably an hour max. Legions and legions of people have missed out on dining at a place they wanted to eat at because the hostess’s goal is to overestimate the time frame so that you the customer are not upset. Just wait it out, have a drink, talk to your partner, and realize that 80% of the time, the stated wait time isn’t factual.
Indecisiveness doesn’t do much for you and if you ask a server or bartender for their favorite meal as a recommendation, you might not get a decent answer. And why is that? Well, you don’t know if the server is new, in which case, they may have only tried one thing from the menu. If that’s the case, they’ll lie to your face just to shut you up.
“Oh yeah, the prime rib is amazing. Barack Obama orders it.”
“Our pasta is the best and it is imported from an Italian grandmother in Italy.”
The bottom line, what you like isn’t necessarily what Damien the new server likes. What if he hates garlic and you love garlic? Do you really want his opinion?
If you have a favorite restaurant, request to use the same bartender or server as you always have before. By doing this you build rapport, and when you build rapport and familiarity, you open the door to being able to get special requests granted for you and your party which the average person may not have access to. There is no set-in-stone rule for this but showing your face and being polite to the same server/bartender repeatably has its benefits for you.
I once went to a bar and bought one drink and my total out the door with tip included was $9.90. However, after looking at my bank statement the next day, noticed that someone dishonest at the restaurant found a way to add an extra “9” to my tab, charging me $99.90 for a single beer. I figured that some employee was trying to find a quick way to make an extra few bucks on my expense. Therefore, pay attention to your receipt and bank account. By no means does this suggest it is a common occurrence, but it should be something to be aware of.
Chefs do not contaminate your food. Period. Unlike the rumors of fast-food restaurant employees messing with problematic customer’s food, it is far more unlikely for this to happen at a restaurant that employs chefs or skilled cooks. Why is that? Because the culture of chef-ism leads its dedicated students of the culinary arts to treat each plate sacred. A chef knows they are creating a meal for you that you will trustfully take into your body, which is an honor. They want this to be an experience for you worthy of the pride they hold in calling themselves “a chef”.
With these 13 restaurant secrets finally disclosed, you can feel more armed and prepared for dining out. Furthermore, you’ll be in-the-know and when it comes to understanding great service and, of course, your rights as a patron.
Follow Dan on Instagram for more: https://www.instagram.com/danfecht/
What's Your Reaction?
Cultural and Poetry Editor