We tend to assume that when we go to a restaurant, everything will be spotless and sanitary. And for the most part, it is; no restaurant wants to make its customers sick.
But some spots are more or less impossible to fully clean, and they’re the dirtiest places in every restaurant.
We’ve asked several leading chefs and food personalities what the first thing they look for is when they walk into a restaurant, and just about all of them tell us cleanliness. If they’re cutting corners in their front-of-house — with a dirty floor and cobwebs in the windows, for example — then they’re most likely cutting even more corners in the kitchen.
And even if the dining room looks clean, the best way to tell for sure if care is given to upkeep is to head to the restroom. Odds are that this is the only restroom in the restaurant, so if there’s no soap in the soap dispenser then the kitchen staff aren’t washing their hands. A good rule of thumb? If places that are accessible to customers are dirty, then places that aren’t — namely, the kitchen — are even dirtier.
It’s good to keep in mind that when you sit down at a table in a restaurant, you’re one of hundreds or thousands of people who’ve eaten a meal in that exact spot. The glassware, plates, and silverware are run through the dishwasher, obviously, but all the other stuff you might come in contact with — the table, chairs, and menus — are rarely thoroughly scrubbed.
So if you want to limit exposure to bacteria and other germs in a restaurant, we recommend that you wash your hands before you eat anything, keep a bottle of hand sanitizer handy, or just try not to think about it too much.
Read on to learn what the dirtiest things in every restaurant are.
While the toilet usually gets cleaned regularly, it’s still obviously not something you really want to be touching with your hands. A study found that there are 295 bacteria on every square inch of the toilet seat, and 3.2 million inside the bowl itself.
An investigation into fast food restaurants in the U.S. found that 70 percent of the ice in the ice machine contained more bacteria than the water in the toilet.
3. Bathroom Floor
Public restroom floors have been found to contain about 2 million bacteria per square inch.
Some icky news: menus are rarely if ever given a thorough cleaning, especially if they’re paper. Recently, Good Morning America sent a team to swab items on the tables of 12 restaurants, and they discovered that menus carried the most germs, averaging 185,000 bacteria.
The average bathroom doorknob gets cleaned daily (or as often as the bathroom is cleaned), but by the time dinner service rolls around it’s usually filthy again. As for the main entrance door handle… don’t ask.
6. Salt and Pepper Shakers, Ketchup Bottles
The items that remain on the tables throughout all of service can get quite a germy buildup over the course of the day. Ever notice that they’re sometimes sticky? Yeah, you don’t want to be touching these very much.
See more of the dirtiest items in restaurants.
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