How do I handle seeing gross and unsanitary behavior at a restuarant?
May 27, 2016 10:16 AM   Subscribe

I was getting take out from a restaurant yesterday when one of the workers behind the counter cut themselves. I was shocked when another worker pulled out a first aid kit, placed it on the bag my food was going to be placed in, and helped the other worker put a Band-Aid on their cut DIRECTLY OVER THE FOOD PREP AREA. This is clearly appalling behavior, but I'm not sure what to do about it.

My main goal is to let someone at the restaurant know that this happened without getting anyone there in trouble. The place just opened, so the employees are fairly new at their jobs. While you could argue that common sense would suggest not doing what I saw, we all know the thing about common sense.

Do I call the place and let them know what happened without being specific about the time and date?

Call the place and let them know the time and date so that the appropriate people can be trained on basic sanitation?

Just drop it and not eat there again?

I try to be easy going about things, but this really grossed me out, and I'm concerned that if something isn't done, someone could get sick. Thanks for your advice!
posted by Fister Roboto to Human Relations (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Call and ask to speak to the manager or owner. Explain to them what occurred. You need to be specific so that they can identify who is not following health department rules and regulations! A call to the Health Department might not hurt either.
posted by Hanuman1960 at 10:19 AM on May 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

Your goals are incompatible - notifying the restaurant owner/manager will have consequences for the employees if you identify them (based on how they look/when they were working). That is sort of what you want to happen, right? there is not any real way for you to pre-determine how it will be handled at the restaurant.

Is this a chain/corporate run place or a one-off/mom and pop?

The health department isnt really going to be able to fix this since its not an ongoing condition (as in, unless another employee injures themselves in the same way during the inspection, what is the health department going to see or say to change anything?).

You should call and ask to speak with an owner/manager and mention that this incident happened and that, in a similar situation, you would want to know about it so you could work to fix it in the future with improved/increased training. past that, what actually comes of it, is out of your hands.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 10:22 AM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Call the owner. You can be specific about the incident and what happened without mentioning day or time if you're that concerned about blowback. (As a cook, I think there should be blowback, frankly; health is something you do not fuck around with when serving food).

You can also call the health department. They do not only handle ongoing issues, they can also mandate (for example) food handling training.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:26 AM on May 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

I'd call the management and give as many specifics as you can. This isn't just griping about poor service, where maybe you let it go. People have gotten Hepatitis this way.
posted by randomkeystrike at 10:28 AM on May 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

I would call and talk to the owner/manager about better training, but I would not identify the time and date. Odds are decent that they will be fired, and odds are also decent that, in food service, they are expected to take so little time for themselves and concentrate on getting food out so quickly that that came not entirely out of sanitation stupidity, but also "I've got to deal with this FAST so I don't get caught taking an unauthorized break, and getting fired." That the co-worker was helping get this done quickly instead of the cut person going off and dealing with it alone makes me think this is even more likely to be the case, that they both understood it needed to be sorted quickly, and that was the most critical thing. (There are plenty of foodservice bosses who would agree with that, too...)

Once when I was a wee restaurant worker I paused to blow my nose amidst a sea of dirty tables. Two guys spent the entire time I spent clearing the tables loudly snarking on how gross that was, to have a sick restaurant worker. It was a show up sick or don't pay your rent thing, not a planned 'let's have a runny nose at work because that's enjoyable' day. Minimum wage workers deal with a lot of @#$*. Place the blame on their superiors for not providing proper training, not the people involved.
posted by kmennie at 10:31 AM on May 27, 2016 [12 favorites]

And just FYI, the proper practice is to get away from the food prep area immediately, attend to the wound, and depending on the circumstances, pitch any product in the immediate area that may have been contaminated (that's really circumstance dependent), followed by sanitizing the knife in question and cutting surface.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:32 AM on May 27, 2016 [9 favorites]

If you're calm and not demanding that heads roll, the restaurant isn't going to fire anyone over this (unless the people involved were already on the verge of being fired, in which case, it still wouldn't be your fault). So just call them, explain calmly that while you understand people aren't necessarily going to react brilliantly and rationally in the moment when an injury happens, they should be trained on how to handle these sorts of things away from food prep and how to sanitize the food prep areas afterward.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:34 AM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Call your Department of Health. Casual about an injury? Who knows what's going on in the kitchen!
posted by Carol Anne at 10:47 AM on May 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think first-aid trumps your squikiness. the real questions are:
- did they discard food in the area?
- did they send the prep tools to the dishroom?
- did they bleach surfaces?

on preview, fffm, the local pro, probably has it right.
posted by j_curiouser at 12:17 PM on May 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

In the future, if it were me and I observed something like what you described, I'd also immediately cancel my order.
posted by DingoMutt at 12:34 PM on May 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

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