7 Things You Shouldn’t Touch in Restaurants

Whether we’re going to a get-together with friends or family, or just to escape the routine, we all enjoy varying the menu on some occasions.

Table of Contents


Restaurant Tray

But did you know that you can get sick simply by coming into contact with some things that exist in restaurants or cafes? Bacteria and germs thrive everywhere in environments like these, mainly due to the fact that they almost never give themselves enough time to properly clean utensils every time a customer finishes their meal.

Below we review a number of things you should avoid touching in these types of establishments. And, if this is not possible, keep contact to a minimum and always carry hand hygiene products when eating out.

The tables.

Let’s start with something extremely complicated, and that is that, how could we eat in a restaurant without touching the table? A study conducted by the University of Arizona, in the United States, found that the tables of establishments where people go to eat have a considerable number of E. coli bacteria and other coliform genera. Children, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems are especially susceptible to infections from these microorganisms.

Restaurant Tables

In fact, the problem is not the table itself, but the piece of cloth that the venue employee uses to “clean” the table. Generally, this same flannel is used to sweep food and drink debris from the surface of other tables, but it is rarely washed and usually kept in the bag. Tables that appear to have a “greasy” surface usually present this problem because of these flannels.

And the fact is that these food scraps in flannel are used as food by bacteria, which find in this fabric an ideal place to proliferate throughout the day. Every time a flannel is taken out of a bag and used to clean a table, bacteria are spread on this surface.

Obviously, restaurants that use cloth towels and substitute them between customers or that place sheets of paper on each new person who sits down to eat, have much lower incidences of bacteria proliferation. Still, if you feel it’s necessary, ask them to wipe your table with disposable paper towels and not a flannel.

The menu.

It’s really hard not to touch the menu, otherwise, how would we know what the available options are without taking a look at it? And the fact is that this article suffers from the same problem as tables.

Reading the Restaurant menu

Restaurants don’t usually replace menus often, due to the cost involved, so they are handled by countless people – who may be sick or with dirty hands – and they usually clean them with that same flannel that contaminates the table with germs, bacteria, etc.

A 2013 study found that E. coli bacteria can survive on the plastic surface of a menu for up to 24 hours, while salmonella extends this period to 72 hours. The recommendation in this case is similar: if the menu seems to be covered in grease, it probably contains some bacteria.

So, as soon as you’re done ordering, ask the waiter to remove the menus from the table and take the opportunity to wash your hands before eating.

The ice of the drink.

During the summer it is practically mandatory to consume cold drinks when you go out to eat, but unfortunately restaurants do not usually clean the ice machine as often as they should.

Fresh water with ice

Obviously, this also means that it’s a good place for bacteria to proliferate, which can eventually end up lodged in your body due to the ice in your soda or drink. Therefore, try to order your drink without ice, in case the temperature is good enough for you to consume it that way.

Lemon, lime or orange shoots.

Usually, a restaurant’s kitchen team tries to get as many things ready as possible even before the establishment starts its hours of operation. This means that they spend less time on simple activities, but they disrupt the rhythm of preparing food or beverages.

Cinnamon drink

Therefore, it is normal for these citrus fruits to be cut at the beginning of the preparation, so that no one has to stop what they are doing to cut them while there are dishes or drinks to be served.

However, this prolonged exposure to the environment can end up causing bacteria on the cutting board or even in the air to settle on the peel or flesh of fruits. If it’s inevitable that you’ll ask for lemon or some other fruit, at least make sure that the fruit is cut right then and there, and preferably in front of you.

Spice and condiment containers.

Salt shakers, pepper shakers, and bottles of ketchup or other sauces are usually cleaned only when someone spills something on them or when they are refilled. And even then, these items are rarely washed, and it is very common for them to simply be cleaned with napkins or the recurring and dreaded “flannel” of the waiter.

Cinnamon drink

If you intend to take something from one of these containers, try to cover the jar with a clean napkin instead of coming into direct contact, or apply some hand sanitizer to the parts you need to touch, if you have the substance with you.

The tray.

Since people often spill food off their plates, trays in drive-thru restaurants are cleaned a little more frequently than most of the items we see here. However, it is very common for those trays that are apparently not dirty to return to the pile of clean items, thus economizing the cost of washing them.

Tray with food

Of course, just because an object looks clean doesn’t mean it is, and there’s no way to know if the last person to touch that tray had any health problems or some other condition that could be transmissible through contact with an item that wasn’t properly washed.

Whenever you have to handle a tray, try to wash your hands before eating and avoid touching it until you are done to reduce the chances of contamination.

The buffet.

In a buffet it is impossible to know if the food is being kept at its ideal temperature, in addition to the fact that all the food is exposed for a long time to an environment with a large circulation of people, ideal conditions for the spread of bacteria.

All-you-can-eat buffet

And the same thing happens when someone is served again. Many times, when a person does a replenishment, he scrapes the remains of the previous portion on his plate and mixes them with the new one to avoid waste, although he may contaminate everything with this action.

To eat in an establishment of this type, you should know the time when they usually serve the first batch of food, as the chances of bacteria in a portion that has just been served and that has not been mixed are lower.

And finally, if you are one of those who love to eat on the street and never get sick, you can take these tips as a simple anecdote, because your level of resistance to bacteria must be legendary. This is for people with a lower category immune system. With information from Tumblr/Sarah Chang



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