RESTAURANTS NEED HYGIENE HELP
If there is one thing I cannot stand to see in a restaurant it is the serving staff handling those filthy rags and cleaning the tables and seats. At many Chicago restaurants I see the bussers wipe the table top, the actual dining surface, with a rag they have taken out of an apron pocket, a dirty apron at that, with hands that most likely have touched a bin full of dirty dishes and then that same rag dozens of times, and then the cleaners will wipe the seats, and then sometimes wipe the tabletop AGAIN before twirling the rag casually like they are showing off or something, and then go off to do something else.
Just don’t let that same busser bring you any lemons or limes or anything else to garnish your drink. And watch out for the basket of bread and crackers- who is bringing it to you? When do you think was the last time they washed their hands?
Order first then wash your hands; you have probably received a menu that is sticky or has some little food pieces or is wet. I order first and then wash my hands. I am also careful to see how the server presents the drinks. It does not make sense that they would handle a glass by the rim, but should handle a stem glass by the stem and a tumbler in the middle. A few seconds’ more of extra care will make the dining experience better.
As for ice- what do they make it in? How often are the ice makers cleaned? And have you ever seen those large buckets in which ice is carried out of the kitchen or waiting staff credenza area on the way to be dumped in a larger bin sometimes near an area where dirty dishes are deposited for the bussers to take back to the kitchen? That ice if it does not have germs on its way into the large bin, or does not get the germs from the scoop, probably get germs from being around the area where the large ice bucket is dumped. If you can do without ice, do without it. Ask for a chilled drink perhaps, that requires no ice.
Cooks and servers should ALWAYS make sure to wash the lemons or limes before presenting them to be squeezed or put into a glass. It is not pleasant to think that a lemon that has come from a field and been handled by others has not been washed before being presented at your table. Wash any utensils that come in contact with fresh fruits, and dry them, making sure no residue remains and that the knife does not contact other surfaces where items such as meats or unwashed fruits or vegetables have been.
If possible do not handle ketchup or mustard containers at the table. Ask the server to put a small amount of the condiments into a bowl or on a plate and remove the sticky containers from the table. The more you handle such containers you contact germs.
And you see what goes on at salad bars… many adults still do not understand the rules of proper hand -washing, so those scoops and tongs that hang out on those little plates before the larger bowls are just brimming with germs and bacteria deposited by people who have not observed proper hygiene. Look closely sometime at those tongs- fingerprints, food residue… well, if you go to a salad bar and make a salad, take it to your table using a napkin to hold your plate (and use one hand to hold the plate and another to serve from the large bowls and hold the tongs) and then wash your hands very well using lots of soap and water and clean towels afterwards!
In the bathroom, WASH YOUR HANDS THOROUGHLY after you use the toilet. Use folded tissue to flush the toilet if it is not automatic, to reduce your touching of any bathroom items. Use another to open the latch on the stall door, and if the door does not push open, use another towel to open the door. NEVER leave a bathroom without washing your hands- you touch surfaces all the time, so a few seconds extra washing will reduce contact with germs.
Some restaurants have bussers that wear gloves and use disposable cloths when they wipe the tables, such as Big Bowl, at their Cedar location. Bussers just need to make sure they wash their hands after wearing gloves and after handling dirty dishes, and especially before boxing up leftovers, if they take over that task from the server/waiter.
Many times I ask for a container so I can box up my leftovers; I prefer to do this myself and feel more comfortable doing so.
Restaurant managers need to educate bussers and servers to better cleaning and hygiene practices. Managers need to see that bussers do not use the same rag on the tabletop and on the seats and then back to the tabletop. Twirling the rags is also not a good idea as this could just flip out food and liquids that the rags caught during the cleaning process. I don’t care for it when a busser walks near my table flipping a rag around, such as I have seen in some restaurants in Chicago’s famous Loop.
For happier customers, take the time to be careful and thorough when maintaining a restaurant. Do not use cloth rags on tables and seats; use disinfectant and bleach disposable towels and wear gloves and wash hands afterwards.
Ensure clean floors and clean doors!
Divi Logan, Chicago, 2014.