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As a server, I’ve seen things that would make your blood curdle. And, I’m here to tell you there are several myths you probably have about eating out that it’s high time you reconsider. Here are 9 things you’d probably rather not hear, but would do well to pay attention to the next time you’re out grabbing a bite to eat.

Myth #9: The table you’re sitting at was wiped down with some sort of sanitizing agent.

Truth: The table you’re sitting at was wiped down with the cleansing power of water.

This probably isn’t going to do anything, but it looks nice.

That’s right. Its pure, it’s clear…it has to be clean right? Despite the fact that water is good for the body, it has not been proven to actually clean and sterilize anything without the benefit of a chemical or two to help it along. Yet, many restaurants use this all-powerful liquid as a stand-in detergent on the rags that wiped the very table you’re at. You may think there’s a bucket in back with some sort of bleach solution the rag was previously residing in but you’d be very mistaken. What this means for you is that while you may not eat food that has fallen on the table, you should probably consider the number of times you’ve left your hands on the table and then proceed to shove your filthy fingers into your waiting mouth? Now think of every other person who sat at that table before you. Go on, shake a few hands.

Myth #8: Utensils, plates and community bread boards are clean!

Truth: Leftover or cooked on food is often left on utensils and plates.

Utensils, plates and bread boards ARE clean, with the exception of the bits of food stuck to them after being washed. Those bits of food have been safely removed however with the well trained and practiced fingernails of whoever provided you with such items. Those fingers and hands then wiped the smudges off those items which leads us to…

Myth #7: Everyone washes their hands all the time.

Truth: No one washes their hands, EVER.

Yeah, that’s probably not gonna happen.

You go to the bathroom and do your business and proceed immediately to the sink to wash your hands. You also assume that everyone else does the same thing. What you DON’T consider is that your server has 4 other tables worth of people and in terms of time, that extra 30 seconds of handwashing is 30 seconds less that they’ll have trying to grease you for a larger tip. You may be surprised how it is that with a full staff, the one sink in back is rarely backed up with a line of foul-handed servers waiting to clean and sanitize their tools of the trade. Knowing this however would make you hardly surprised to find out that the soap dispenser is often empty, not from overuse but from no one caring to refill it because, quite frankly, why bother?

Myth #6: The back of the house is clean and sterile.

Truth: The back of the house is clean and sterile AFTER the restaurant closes.

If you come at the very opening of a restaurant, this one is actually true as everything is hosed down the night before. But if you make the mistake of coming during the rush hours of dinner or God forbid after the rush, you’d be lucky to find a place in back that HASN’T been contaminated in one way or another and then left uncleaned but ready for use. Hey, if the staff can’t be bothered to wash their own hands, why on earth do you think they would wash objects larger than their hands?

Myth #5: Cold kills all bacteria.

Truth: Extreme cold kills all bacteria.

If we’re speaking in terms of absolute zero then I guess this one might apply. But rare is the dining facility that has the capability to bring their foods to such a temperature. Even rarer is finding a refrigerator or freezer door closed to the open air. But this one is a minor offense compared to it’s neighbor…

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