Restaurant and bar employees are exposing on Quora the shadiest “cost-saving” tactics they’ve witnessed at work. You do not have to be food safety certified to know that we need a health inspector over here right now.
“The owners had two BIG dobermans they kept in the kitchen. If we brought back any plates that had meat or bones, we were to give them to the dogs. How would you like knowing that where your food was being prepared, two dogs were running around, slobbering over someone’s leftovers?”
“Our menu featured several oyster dishes. The oyster dishes would always be served in the shells, but the shells were recycled: put through the washer and reused, and the oysters used were pre-shucked and canned. The restaurant was on the water and instead of having a paved lot, it had seashell gravel (this is a thing in Louisiana). Occasionally, on busy nights, we would run out of the recycled shells, and a cook would have to go out into the parking lot to find a suitable oyster shell from the seashell gravel to wash up and serve from.”
“Years ago, I was working banquets as a part time gig for a hotel to help them get through a busy few weeks. One night, we served a large wedding, and at the end, about 30% of the food was left over. Instead of offering it to staff and throwing the rest of it away, it was saved for later use. I know a lot more about food safety now than I did back then, but even back then I knew that this was wrong. Trays of food that had been sitting out for hours, and not held hot, need to be thrown away.”
“I’ve seen…cocktail bars print one brand on the menu and then pour another one because they ran out of the more expensive one.”
“When I was in college, I took a part time serving job at a restaurant near my parents. The guy who ran it was CHEAP. He would serve food that was past its due date regularly including dairy desserts. If it had visible mold, he would throw it out, but only when it was visibly moldy! This man would make me go through the lettuce for the salad bar by hand and pick out the wilted pieces instead of just using fresh lettuce. Not only cheap, but super unsanitary. He would make me do the same thing with fruit, but if the fruit was moldy, he would just store it in the walk-in freezer to cut the bad parts off and use.”
“When I was in high school, I worked as a ‘busboy’ in a high-end restaurant. If people knew what went on in the kitchen, they would have been appalled. When diners came in, we were to take rolls from a large bin and place them in a toaster, then deliver them to the table. That’s all well and good. But, if any rolls came back uneaten, they were to go back in the bin. Yup. Gross, shady cost-saving tactic for you.”
“One particularly busy night, I happened to see a manager filling up Patrón bottles with a bottom-shelf tequila. He was a close enough friend that I felt comfortable asking WTF. He admitted that most of our high-end liquors were actually just shit booze poured into better brand bottles. I was not only shocked by the deception (and knowing what we charged for Patrón considering!)”
“I was a young cook in a restaurant in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Most restaurants would run a Friday night all-you-can-eat special which was always fried fish, usually beer battered, with coleslaw and fries. An extra dishwasher was scheduled that night to search the returning plates for untouched fish and fries. These would be refried and served again. The owner’s explanation was that the refrying killed all ‘GERMS.’ Needless to say, I rapidly found another job before someone got sick and the kitchen was blamed.”
“There’s a weird thing they do at certain restaurants where you can order pizza by the slice. When someone orders a whole pizza, they’ll take an older pizza (with some slices sold from it) that’s getting close to its hold time, fill the missing slices in with the new pizza, and serve the Frankenstein pizza to the customer. Then, they have a bunch of brand-new slices to sell instead of having to throw out the expired slices.”
“Back in the late ’70s, I had a close friend who worked at a swanky restaurant in Calabasas, CA. One of the jobs she had was to remove the unused ‘garnish’ from plates returning to the kitchen to be used on new plates going out to customers. I was incredulous and had to see for myself, so I stopped by one night. Sure enough, she would take parsley off and put it in a pile to the side, then scrape off the little pile of peas and carrots into a bin. Eventually, someone would come by and grab the parsley, peas, and carrots, and take them to where new dishes were being assembled and the garnish would be used again. Gross!”
“When it got slow, the manager would make us dig through the trash (no gloves) and pull out unused ketchup, mustard, etc. packets, and put them back in the bin on the shelf. I did that once, then quit and never went back!”
“Way back in the late ’70s, my high school girlfriend worked at a movie theater in Studio City, CA. Each night at closing, they would bag any leftover popcorn and put the hot dogs back into the fridge. The next day they would dump the popcorn back into the ‘Fresh Hot Popcorn!’ machine and put the hot dogs back into that greasy display case.”
“It was a ‘fine dining’ spot in Niagara Falls, Canada. We once served either lobster or crab for dinner service, I can’t remember which. When we brought the dirty dishes back to the kitchen, the chef had us save the shells to make stock for soup the next day, shells that had been on everyone’s plates and in their mouths. Eugh.”
“I was a 16-year-old waitress in a deli and my cheap boss would make me re-use the soda cups unless they had obvious lipstick marks on them. I lost all respect for him and soon quit.”
“The shadiest thing I’ve seen is the bartenders taking leftover customers’ drinks off tables and mistakes, pouring them all into a pitcher all day long, then serving a dollar drink in a paper cup they called ‘all nations’ to the drunks that hung around.”
Finally, “A common shady thing I’ve heard and seen is using pork instead of veal at local restaurants (when veal is on the menu as $1 more than chicken something is wrong as it’s 6x more expensive).”
OK, your turn. Use this 100% anonymous Google form to tell us the things at your job that would make a health inspector woozy. Your submissions could be featured in an upcoming Community post.
Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.