Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Dirty restaurant secrets - Hygiene tips for diners




All of us like eating out. While some of us eat out regularly, others may do it occasionally. However, before you gorge your favourite masala dosa or chole bhature make sure you are not consuming germs along with it.
Germs are everywhere, whether you eat at a coffee shop, fast food restaurant, an expensive upscale hotel or your favourite family-style diner. They don’t really care where they land, as long as they find a host to thrive on.
You might say it is the responsibility of the restaurants to keep their premises clean and germ-free. However, this is easier said than done. So, here are a few hygiene tips to keep in mind while eating out.

Menu 

You may be aware of the germs in the restaurant kitchens, but did you know that menus too harbourgerms, left by prior customers. Since there is no way you can place an order without looking into the menu, make sure to wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer after you have placed your order.

Washroom 

Yet another germ-infested place. Once you wash your hands, if the hand-drier is not automated, use your wrist to turn it on, dry your hands and then wipe with a paper towel. And make sure to use the paper towel on the door handle while opening the door. Also, the washroom is an indication of how clean or dirty the kitchen is.

Fishy fish 

The restaurant might have a long list of fish dishes on its menu, but you might end up getting a local fish variety if you are not careful, especially during the offseason. So, instead of a King fish fry you might end up eating Cat fish which look and taste similar but is a cheaper variety.

Gloves

Chefs with gloves do not translate to hygienic restaurant, especially those with plastic (disposable) gloves. In fact, plastic gloves are even more dangerous than bare hands. If the cooks touch meat and then move on to preparing some other food item, the risk of spreading contamination doubles, more so if they don’t change the gloves frequently. So, if you catch the cooks wearing plastic gloves, you might want to think twice about visiting this restaurant, especially if they serve non-vegetarian food!

Staff’s personal hygiene

Personal hygiene of the staff at a restaurant is yet another indication of how clean the place is. While the clothes they wear is a definite showcase of their hygiene level, there are several who might walk in after visiting the bathroom or a smoke and start working without washing their hands. Well, this may not come to your notice if the restaurant has a closed kitchen, but do keep an eye on how frequently the servers clean the tables.

Calorie count

And finally if you are the one who counts calories in every dish you eat, then beware! The calorie count on the menu might not be what it states.  A study conducted by the American Medical Association found that the ‘low calorie’ menu mostly contains at least 100 more calories than it claims. So if you are on diet and think your favourite restaurant is the right place to eat, think again. It’s better to stick to your home cooked meal as you want to be sure of your calorie intake.
Having said all this, it does not mean that all restaurants are a cesspool of dirt. Cleanliness actually depends on the standards set by the owner. When compared to fast food chains, family-owned or high-end restaurants are more concerned about cleanliness and hygiene as they have a reputation to maintain. So, when you enter a restaurant, look for the tell-tale signs like foul bathrooms, stained floors, oily glasses and ketchup bottles with crusted nozzles. This is a sure reflection of what the kitchen looks like because good restaurants always pay attention to tiny details.