We have all seen movies and television shows in which angry restaurant staff do vile, unspeakable things to a customer’s food. Adding spit, human excrement, and even special ingredients like fuzzy alley creatures to the menu — these have all been portrayed in motion pictures and TV series.
The bad news is, the movies aren’t telling lies. The idea for such food foulness must have, at some point, originated in a true story or late-night anecdote that a producer overheard. I mean, half of Los Angeles’s waitstaff are just making ends meet while they hold out for a big break in show business. So it stands to reason that those in the business have already gained a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on in restaurant kitchens.
It is hard to believe that this topic has been the subject of an academic study, but it has! Emily Hunter, an associate professor at Baylor University, Texas, and Lisa Penney, an associate professor at the University of Houston, Texas, published a study on this horrifying topic in Human Performance (2014). The study involved 438 service industry employees and found that six percent had contaminated customer food in one unthinkable, foul way or another.
The 2014 study strikes a chord with me, since I have worked in a few kitchens in my day, and currently know several food service employees across America. I would have to say 96 percent is a much closer estimate than six percent, from what I have heard and witnessed during my short stints as a cook, dishwasher, server and bartender. I have even heard of one confirmed tale of a fast food employee crazily dropping a tab or two of psychedelic drugs into a drive-thru customer’s Mountain Dew.
One infamous incident of food contamination involving soda happened in July of this year. The story itself could be its very own comedic sitcom episode. Ken Yerdon of New York was enjoying a meal at a Chili’s restaurant when he noticed something suspicious floating in his beverage. Unlike most of us, who would stop drinking and try to mentally block out any lingering thoughts of what the foreign substance might be, Mr. Yerdon packaged up the evidence and had a police lab run a DNA analysis. According to Forensic Magazine, his suspicion was spot on. The results came back positive — a disgruntled waiter had spat in his drink. He is now in a legal dispute with Chili’s.
When we go out to enjoy a meal, spit or scrotum hair is the last thing we should have on our minds. However, according to research, media coverage and my own food service anecdotes, genitalia hair and putrid saliva should be top of the list.
From the moment you step through the doors of a restaurant, you enter into a scenario that is determined by the employee-customer relationship. Many employees at restaurants are most certainly not in it for the long haul. They are passing time between semesters, putting in extra hours to pay bills, or maybe they are just trying to figure out life. Some are, in fact, career chefs or even future famous restaurateurs, but these make up a small percentage.
You may feel, like I frequently do, that if your order is wrong, or you have a valid complaint, it is best to keep your trap shut or risk your meal being sprinkled with hair originating from the more southern regions of the human body. Oftentimes your hands are tied and you have to accept poor service, uncooked or overcooked food, and long wait times. A bout of frustration is, in some cases, better than the “what if.”
Fast food “restaurants” always come to mind in any conversation concerning unhappy employees, poor standards and purposely defiled food. You shouldn’t be eating fast food anyway, but if you do, consider these consequences. A Dateline NBC special coined “Dirty Dining?” uncovered disgusting incidents in many of America’s most patronized fast food restaurants. They noted a few of the worst, like blood dripping into soda, or gum in tacos.
However, fast food chains are not the only places where you are exposed to the vile antics of disgruntled service industry employees. Eric Spitznagel, a writer for Men’s Health, shared a sticky and hairy conversation he had with one sommelier at a fine dining steak house in New York. The sommelier pointed out that arrogance and ego are not qualities servers respond well to. The sommelier, after two demanding customers continued to annoy him, brought them an “on-the-house” dessert he had plopped his balls into moments before bringing it to the table.
Balls, scrotum, or male genitalia are one of the most commonly used weapons against customers. Spitznagel surveyed 40 or so of his service industry pals and found that 95 percent of all food contamination was in some way ball-sac related. Angry or annoyed restaurant employees unzip and dip without the customer ever knowing. Hunter and Penney wrote in their 2014 study, “Counterproductive work behavior (CWB) is a major component of job performance and refers to ‘volitional acts [by employees] that harm or intend to harm organizations and their stakeholders (e.g., clients, coworkers, customers, and supervisors).’”
So with spit soda and dangling-ball desserts, what are your alternatives? There really is no great answer. If you complain about service, you could be subject to revolting consequences. One alternative would be to stop eating out or only patronize restaurants where you know the staff. Cooking at home is always the healthiest choice. It may involve extra work, but you are paying it forward when it comes to your health.
Dining in is really the only way to ensure your food is fresh, healthy and free of balls — and whatever other creative misfortune an angry restaurant employee can bestow upon you. To get all the benefits from the food you consume, eating locally grown, organic food at home is the best way to go. You will also have less chance of exposure to E. coli and Salmonella, two big issues in America this year.
A 2002 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture compared “at home” and “away” eating from 1977–78 and 1994–96. The study found that calorie intake increased by 18 to 32 percent when food was not prepared at home. The study states, “‘Away’ food contained less dietary fiber, calcium, and iron on a per-calorie basis. Among adults but not children, food prepared away from home was more sodium and cholesterol dense.”
With terrible table tales sullying the restaurant industry’s reputation, how often do you eat out? And how often will you eat out now?
Stephen Seifert is a writer, professor, adventurer and a health & fitness guru. His flair for travel and outdoor adventure allows him to enjoy culture and traditions different than his own. A healthy diet, routine fitness and constant mental development is the cornerstone to Stephen’s life.