When you eat out, do you REALLY know what’s on your plate?
One of the reasons why some people choose to just eat at home instead of at a restaurant is the reality that when you prepare your own food at home, you’re 100% sure of what ingredients you put in there and how you prepared it.
On the other hand, when you eat out at a restaurant, all you get is the finished product – the dish you ordered, nicely arranged for you on your plate. You have no idea how it got there, and you have no choice but to just trust that whoever put it there did so with due diligence.
Food safety is an important issue because so many things can go wrong. Aside from food poisoning, you can get all kinds of diseases when you eat something that’s prepared in an unhygienic manner, or with ingredients that are expired or have gone bad. This is why restaurants have to comply with very strict food and safety guidelines.
While we don’t have full, 100% control over the safety of the food that we eat in restaurants, there are ways in which we can ensure them. We can at least minimize our chances of taking in something that’s unsafe. Here are some ways:
Go for credibility.
If you can, limit your visits to restaurants that you know are serious about the quality and safety of their food. Restaurants build their credibility and reputation over time, through consistent quality of food and service. Go for brands that are tried and tested and restaurants that you know have to meet serious quality standards.
This is easy enough to do if you have time to mull over which restaurant to visit. You can also go to food review sites and check out what customers have to say about their experience. Pay close attention to the negative comments in particular, because this is often where you’ll find the problems.
Keep an eye on the kitchen.
Once you enter the restaurant, you can already scope the environment and do a quick check on cleanliness and orderliness. Even without taking a closer look, you already get an initial impression depending on how clean the restaurant is, and this first impression says a lot about how much they value cleanliness. If the restaurant isn’t clean, can you really expect your food to be clean as well?
If you can, keep an eye out for the open kitchen. The kitchen is where your food gets prepared, so it’s really important that it’s clean. Now the kitchen is not always visible, but there are other parts of the restaurants that you can scope – the bar, the washroom, even the entrance.
Pay attention to the servers.
Aside from the physical layout and cleanliness of the restaurant, you also get an impression of how serious they are about food safety by looking at the quality of their servers. Whether or not they’re welcoming and accommodating says a lot about customer service, but you can also take a look at their appearance. Are their fingernails short and clean? Are they neat and do they look clean? Are they groomed properly? What are they wearing?
Far from judging your servers, looking at these indicators will give you an idea about how important cleanliness is for restaurants, starting with the people who serve your food.
Check out the menu and the cutlery.
The tables are easy to clean, but most of the time the menu and the cutlery get overlooked. The menu especially is something that’s easy to forget when cleaning, but it’s important as well. If the menu is sticky and dirty, this is a major turnoff and could be a sign that they don’t take cleanliness as seriously as they need to.
The cutlery is another thing you can look at. If the spoons, forks, and knives are smudged or dirty, this indicates that either the dishwasher is broken, or the restaurant staff isn’t doing what they’re supposed to do. It also says a lot about the restaurant’s cleanliness policy.
If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.
This is not to say that you should become a quality and cleanliness inspector all of a sudden. But you should definitely keep your eyes and ears open, and also pay attention to your surroundings. It’s also good to listen to your instincts, because they must come from somewhere.
Whether something seems off the minute you walk into a restaurant, or something tastes off the minute you take your first bite, if something seems wrong then you shouldn’t just brush it off as you being paranoid. There are red flags that make us feel that something is not right, so it’s always worth taking a second look.