Urbanspoon, the leading mobile restaurant discovery application, today released a list of ten little-known facts the restaurant industry is keeping from its customers. Whether it’s recycled wine or made-up wait times, Urbanspoon’s peek behind the scenes exposes secrets from restaurant staffers to help patrons make more informed decisions when dining out.
Read on for the complete list of ten things restaurants won’t tell you:
- Those specials don’t come cheap. Your server may wax poetic about the day’s special, but understand that they may be incentivized to do so. Specials are often designed to drive higher check averages, with larger tips and managerial prizes await those who sell them to diners.
- The second cheapest bottle of wine is marked up the most. Restaurants realize that many people won’t order the least expensive wine (no one wants to look like a cheapskate!) so they often go for the second cheapest. That’s exactly why it’s often the most marked-up bottle on the list.
- Hold the lemon. Sliced lemons for water and iced tea are often kept, usually unwashed, in a container by the kitchen’s exit. Waiters and bussers will grab the lemon slices with their bare hands; studies have shown that up to two-thirds of restaurant lemons are contaminated with bacteria.
- Wait times are made up. Ever wonder how your favorite restaurant comes up with that 50-minute wait time? Many restaurants put their least experienced employee at the door, and best guesses are made based on the average customer dining time and restaurant environment. But hostesses everywhere know the real story—wait times are often arbitrary.
- We know more about you than you think. Whether you avoid eye contact and pleasantries or are a chatty Kathy, waiters have insight into your personality before you even order. That overly nice male customer? He’s probably on a first date—or even out with someone who’s not his significant other. And, your waiter also knows that those “allergies” you cite with your order are just as likely to be overly dramatized claims to ensure an offending food stays off your plate.
- Ordering coffee at night? It’s probably decaf. When a customer orders regular coffee and the restaurant is out, chances are high that they’ll get served a cup of decaf. It’s time-consuming to start and wait for a pot of coffee, so staffers pour what’s available. Since many restaurants only brew decaf in the evening, it’s even more likely that you’ll get the switch.
- The less busy we are, the worse your service will be. Employees take advantage of a slow restaurant by getting their side work done early and playing around with coworkers. They’re not on a fast-paced routine like they are on a busy night, so they forget to check in on the tables they do have as often.
- Your half-empty bottle of wine won’t be tossed down the drain. Instead, it will often end up being served by the glass to patrons the following evening or given to the kitchen to make vinegar.
- Homemade doesn’t mean what you think. Sure, that homemade dessert might actually be homemade—just not necessarily in the restaurant you ordered it from. And homemade dressings? Those can be store-bought, with one or two added ingredients to make them seem fresh.
- Upscale restaurants have fancy menu designs for a reason. Menus that list prices in a neat column down the right side allow customers to compare prices and pick cheaper items. Fancy restaurants will put the price immediately next to the dish, in the same cursive font as the description, so it’s harder to distinguish each item’s price. Leaving the dollar sign off of the cost also prevents patrons from focusing on money.