This morning, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail published a fascinating list of insights from hospitality expert Imogen Edwards-Jones regarding the diabolical practices that go on behind closed doors in the restaurant business.
As an industry insider, I was blown away by some of Imogen’s findings. Truly appalling. Even so, much of what she said rang true with my own experiences. Inspired, I decided to amend her list with some of my own dirty restaurant secrets. Let the diner beware!
Read Imogen’s list first.
1. Restaurant food will contain the chef’s sweat, which is soaked up with tea towels and then wrung out onto fish dishes for a special ‘seawater seasoning.’
2. Staff, ingredients and prep time have to be factored into the cost of a dish, with a pizza the quickest way for restaurants to stay solvent so you can keep dining out on delicious pizza, you greedy fuck.
3. Restaurants love side dishes as much as they love a vegetarian option or a bowl of soup as they cost pennies and you find them delicious.
4. Scared to look like cheapskates, customers always order the second cheapest bottle on the wine list, which is given a higher mark-up. So always order bottles priced above £90 to ensure you’re getting good value for money.
5. Sometimes ‘The Specials’ are only ‘special’ because of their long-lasting influence on pop music around the world.
6. Top restaurants keep a little black book of incidents and some of the more exclusive will put a black mark against the names of obnoxious, self-serving food writers.
7. The business lunch is a restaurant’s bread and butter but as everyone wants to be in at 1pm and out by 2.30 the waiter will offer complimentary Sambuca shots to get you drunk faster. DO NOT BE TEMPTED.
8. Restaurants often keep some choice wines out on show and a few less choice ones below eye-level at the bar, so beware that the house wine is usually just dirty mop bucket water.
9. Don’t drink the wine if it is laid on its side under spotlights, as it is a lazy wine just trying to get a tan while the other wines toil away.
10. Since it has become more socially acceptable to order tap water, you may find yourself having to pee frequently throughout the meal. Avoid embarrassment by always carrying an empty Thermos or resealable plastic bag.
11. Men, be forewarned: menus are designed for women. If the restaurant doesn’t offer a Ginsters Steak Slice or Yorkie bar, you may be getting hoodwinked by the whims of the fairer sex.
12. Restaurants know women are easier to sell to and they’ve committed to sit there longer, which explains why you’re always running late for the opera.
13. Nobody ever checks their bill properly, so beware the infamous £20 ‘unobservant nitwit’ surcharge.
14. Seating the clientele is an art form, with skinny white girls in thongs seated near the front, skinny white men in hot pants nearby, and unkempt minorities somewhere near the back. Japanese businessmen, as always, come at the bottom of the pecking order.
15. Nothing matters more than getting a Michelin star. One star puts them on the map, two stars means they don’t even have to serve food anymore, and three stars means customers’ cash is hoovered directly into a swimming pool full of money in which the management play Marco Polo while quaffing Harvey Wallbangers.
16. Restaurants will re-use your half-drunk bottle of wine, serving it to kitchen staff to make them feel slightly more appreciated/less homicidal while working 100-hour weeks for £16k a year.
17. Restaurants hate email bookings as their computer keyboards are too clogged with duck fat and human blood to respond properly.
18. Drugs use is rife amongst workers, mainly caffeine.
19. Theft is common, and some is accepted including taking the odd bottle of wine. But others examples of theft, including stealing money, are not accepted. Whiskey and old lettuce are sort of a grey area.
20. It is still a sexist society, and of the 187,000 chefs currently working in the UK today, only 20 per cent, or some 37,000, are women.