That’s Restaurant Biz, Baby!

Photo by Wanho Frank Lee at Wolfgang Puck's Merios

VALLEY asked students on campus to tell us about their restaurant experiences that have stuck with them and make them question just how sanitary restaurants really are. All stories are anonymous, but we’ll warn you that we had to sift through quite a few repeats, meaning that nothing you find here is all that far-fetched.

Sticky Fingers

“During high school, I worked as a busser at this really popular diner in my town that literally everyone and their mothers would go to. The most stressful thing about my job was definitely my boss, because she would expect me to bus tables in one trip without any sort of bucket, meaning that I would have to get really creative in the ways I carried things. She expected me to bring food over in one trip, too, if I was ever food-running. Whenever we would get really busy, she would ask me to run over her table’s drinks, but they all had to be carried at once without a tray. Everything was always so fast-paced that I would always reach too far into the cup with my fingers (that had been in people’s leftover food all day from bussing) and they would get in people’s waters and sodas, and then I would drop them off with a smile. Sorry!” (anonymous, Junior)

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Say Cheese

“When I worked at this sports bar, there was a large bucket of cheese that was kept in the back that would be used as the bar cheese to be served to customers. But while working, a lot of us would get hungry, so we’d steal fries and directly dip them in the bucket instead of just putting some cheese aside. I would never double dip, but I was definitely in the minority when it came to that. If you keep an open bucket of cheese in the back, you’re kind of asking for it.” (anonymous, Freshman)

Photo posted by @meganelaine014 on Pinterest
“I had to do what I had to do”

“Over the summer I was working at a high-end restaurant in the town over from mine. When we were in a rush and I felt lazy, sometimes I would pick up fallen silverware and place it back on the table. After people were finished with their meals I would sometimes take the food to the back and just eat it. My coworkers told me to stop and that I should feel bad, but I didn’t. This was when my restaurant would not provide meals for us during our shifts so I had to do what I had to do.” (anonymous, Freshman)

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Hot Take

“Over the summer I worked at a sports bar type of restaurant in my hometown. Even though it would reach 100 degrees in July, my boss insisted on keeping the AC off every night to save money. It was almost unbearable. All of the servers would be sweating and the customers would complain that they couldn’t bare the heat… We were told to tell them it was broken and getting fixed soon.” (anonymous, Junior)

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Table for Number Two

“My senior year of high school, I got a job at a local bar/restaurant as a hostess. We had to shut down for COVID-19 for a while, but I was able to go back to work in May 2020. When we reopened, we could only have outdoor dining, so we transformed the side parking lot of the restaurant into an outdoor dining area filled with picnic tables. That summer, a really old guy used to come in every morning after we opened. Every day that he would come in, I would grab a menu and take him to the first picnic table outside. He would order a glass of Chardonnay at 11 a.m. during the middle of summer. One time he got up to use the back bathroom inside and people who used the bathrooms and the employees inside were complaining that it smelled really bad. My manager went in to find poop ‘everywhere’ (I did not see it, but I smelled it.) Later, the guy left for the day and after he got up off his wooden picnic bench, there was poop smeared all over it. I’m not sure what happened, maybe he couldn’t get up fast enough to use the bathroom or he just didn’t know, but it was disgusting. Luckily it was not crowded so there were hardly any customers around to see it, but it was really gross.” (anonymous, Junior)

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“In high school, I worked at a pizza shop. One day there was a bug on one of the slices so I pulled it from the window and had it sitting on the counter. My boss saw it sitting there and asked what it was. When I told him there was a bug on the pizza he said ‘Eh, nobody has to know,’ and put it back up for someone to buy.” (anonymous, Junior)

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Order Up

“I used to work at this steakhouse almost everyday after school as a food runner. The type of people that worked there were unlike anything I’ve ever seen—just like so out of pocket 100% of the time. Pretty crazy stuff happened all the time that I’m not going to get into, but in terms of my contributions to the horrible work environment, I would always always always just grab some food off of plates with my bare hands right before I would run it over. Sometimes If I would take too much and there was a ‘gap’ in the food, I would have to, again, use my bare hands and rearrange.”  (anonymous, Junior)

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Something’s Fishy

“My old manager would change our menu at least once every two months, so every time I came back from school, I would have to relearn it. Because we were a ‘nicer’ restaurant, he would purposely use fancy words on the menu, usually in a different language the way high-end restaurants do. I was asking him about something on the menu and we got into this whole discussion about how a lot of times restaurants don’t even serve what they say they’re serving. Apparently, our salmon was never salmon. It was steelhead trout, which looks and tastes just like salmon but is cheaper. According to him, that a really popular swap that restaurants like to pull, so keep that in mind the next time you’re thinking of ordering the salmon.” (anonymous, Senior) 

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This Stinks

“Once at work we couldn’t find the source of this foul odor… till we looked at the drain underneath a table that’s bolted to the wall. It was like a quarter inch of very expired dairy and other debris built up over probably four years… sincerely terrifying.” (anonymous, Junior)

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