The 6 Grossest Things About Restaurants

Germs and illnesses are lurking beneath that polished restaurant exterior
Marcona Almonds

Photo Modified: Flickr / Jonathan Pincas / CC BY 4.0

You may be less tempted by those salty bar snacks after this

We’ve all heard the rumors of chefs spitting in customers’ food, of employees ignoring the obligatory restroom signs and not washing their hands, and of rats and roaches running around the basement kitchens. But we’re never quite sure whether to believe them or not, and we really are reluctant to give them any credibility.

If you’ve selected a slightly more upscale establishment, chances are there’s no saliva in your food — unless you’ve really enraged your server or the kitchen — and the food isn’t going to make you so ill that you have to spend the rest of the week in bed. However, restaurants are not a germ-free vacuum: Your favorite restaurant probably has many gross habits, which you’ll almost certainly wish you never knew.

Bar Snacks

Sitting at the bar nibbling on pretzels, roasted nuts, and salty chips with your pre-dinner cocktails is such a romantic way to start the evening. Until you realize how gross those snacks you’re munching on are. Your hand is not the first to dive into that tempting bowl of almonds, and while your hand may be clean, the same can’t be said for everyone else’s. Whether your fellow bar-dwellers sneezed into their hand a few seconds ago, whether they just got off the filthy subway, or whether they failed to wash their hands when they went to the bathroom, there are definitely a revolting amount of germs clinging on to that pretzel you’re lifting to your mouth. Our advice: Resist the snacks and stick to sipping your drink.

Bread and Butter Circulation

Those warm, crunchy bread rolls are always so tempting: Spread with soft butter, they’re exactly what you want to chew on while you peruse the menu. However, next time you’re faced with a bread basket, you may want to control your stomach’s orders to dive in as you probably aren’t the first person who’s been offered those exact same rolls that day. This bread selection could have been doing circuits of the tables for a little while now. It’s likely passed through a lot of hands before reaching you.

Five-Second Rule

The five-second rule is the law which dictates that when you drop food on the floor, if you pick it up within five seconds, it’s still bacteria-free and good to eat. Sadly, scientists have tested this, and, apparently it doesn’t quite ring true. We may happily disregard the scientists and choose to abide by this rule in our own kitchens, but we’re probably less happy to know that restaurants ignore it too. Whether or not you’ve ever stepped foot in a restaurant kitchen, we can promise you that that floor is definitely not acceptable five-second rule material.

Ill Staff

It’s common knowledge that restaurant staff tend to be underpaid and overworked. Therefore, it’s no surprise that they’re reluctant to miss a shift just because they’ve got a cough, a cold, the flu, or a virus. Taking a day off means losing money they just can’t make back, so, to stop that happening, they’ll turn up to work no matter how terrible they’re feeling. Their contagious illnesses will then wiggle its way toward you as the ill chef prepares your food, as the sick bartender mixes your drinks, and as the under-the-weather waiter serves you your dinner.

Sweaty Chefs

Restaurant kitchens are hot. During service, they get really hot. Being a chef is a stressful, stifling, sweaty job. In the middle of a busy dinner shift, as the checks are pouring in, there’s no time to pause and step outside and cool down, to splash cold water on your face, or to wipe the sweat away in the bathroom with a clean hand towel. Instead, their sweat will be dripping off their faces into their work — your dinner.

Tainted Silverware


The mad rush to polish the silverware before you arrive for your 6 p.m. reservation is a flurry of forks, knives, and napkins. Occasionally, there will be a clatter as a handful of shiny silverware drops to the floor. There’s no time to start the process of cleaning the silverware again: They’d just reached the final stage when it was spotless, glittering, and ready to go. Instead, a quick extra wipe with the napkin will have to suffice. Fingers’ crossed that’s enough to kill all those germs that your fork picked up as it rolled across the floor.