9 secrets fine dining restaurants don't want you to know

There are inalienable truths every customer should be aware of when enjoying a meal out at a restaurant — secrets fine dining establishments would shudder to have you know. In Restaurant Babylon, author Imogen Edwards-Jones reveals the sometimes unsavory realities behind the scenes of restaurants and eateries. By gathering intel that comes anonymously from renowned owners and chefs, she manages to expose some of the restaurant industry's grittier details.

From shocking markups and rampant drug use among employees, to saliva-laden foods and sexist politics, you might be surprised to discover what lurks behind those kitchen doors away from diners' peering eyes. We've gathered the biggest restaurant secrets from the book and other industry experts, so read on — and tell your friends.

Restaurant foods probably contain other people's saliva

As detailed by SFGate, in order to make sure your food measures up, it's inevitable that cooks taste the food they're preparing. This cheffy practice is fine except for the fact that often the same sampling spoon is utilized for the purpose. Yep, traces of other people's saliva are bound to end up in the food you're served. Hey, at least we know it tastes good, right?

The markup is high

Like any other type of business, a restaurant's operating costs are meticulously factored into the menu price of each dish. According to The Wall Street Journal, that markup includes costs associated with staffing, ingredients, preparation time, and any other overhead. As such, you're only handing over more money to the restaurant when you order the cheapest dish on the menu. While that dish still receives the exorbitant markup treatment, it might have cost actually pennies to make. The markup can up to 900 percent — and sometimes it's even higher.

In my poor college days, I would always try to order just a side salad, a small soup, or some other veggie option in an effort to save money when the bill came. While that logic seems sound, it's actually another way restaurant owners count on to make huge profits. Related to the overhead cost markups, side dishes and vegetarian options present a built-in opportunity for eateries to widen their profit margins. As these inexpensive options cost much less for them to prepare than what they charge you, you lose and they win.

Specials are often dishes with ingredients the restaurant wants to get rid of

You're at a fancy restaurant and the waiter or waitress ceremoniously recites the night's specials. You feel grownup and consider shelling out twice as much money for one of these "specials." Before you do, consider the specials game might be one easy way restaurant owners have for getting rid of surplus ingredients that have been sitting around too long. When you think of it that way, you're probably more inclined to order something from the regular old menu.

Restaurants use partial bottles of wine to sell by the glass the next day

Do you ever order wine by the glass because the cost of a full bottle seems cost-prohibitive? I have! I used to wonder why some of those wines tasted stale and slightly unpleasant until I discovered that restaurants often use partial bottles from previous nights of service as their by-the-glass options the next day…and the next until those bottles are finished. According to ABC News, this is common practice. You're better off buying the bottle for the table or skipping the wine altogether.

The second cheapest wine on the list is often the one with the highest markup

If you're eyeing the second cheapest bottle of wine because you're worried about what they wait staff may think if you went for the cheapest one, know that you're probably being ripped off. Since restaurant owners factor in the societal pressures of not wanting to look like a penny-pincher, they've most likely marked up that second most inexpensive bottle accordingly. With all the possible psychological games at play, you're better off just ordering whatever wine you want. Who cares what other people think?

Wine featured on the "reserve list" is a rip-off

In a conversation with The Wall Street Journal, former MasterChef host and successful restaurateur Joe Bastianich says that reserve wine lists are usually total rip-offs! Since there is a wealthy segment of diners who seek out such exclusive restaurant features, owners see it as an opportunity to overcharge and make exorbitant profits on so-called special wines. The consensus? Since there is no shortage of good wines at fair prices, there's no good reason to pay up to four times as much just because some are placed on bogus list.

Restaurants hate it when you book reservations online or by email

While you may prefer the convenience of booking a reservation online or by email, restaurants don't like this form of communication very much. They find that people who book that way are more likely to not show up without advance notice — plus they're worried about your computer savvy ways. Who knows? You might be prone to leave unflattering reviews after dining at their establishments.

The restaurant industry is still pretty sexist

According to The Washington Post, the food biz has five times the rate of sexual harassment compared to any other industry. It goes on to state that 7 percent of American women work in the restaurant industry, but 30 percent of the sexual harassment complaints from women stem from jobs in restaurants. If these stats aren't disturbing enough, consider also that when it comes to higher level chef positions, Edwards-Jones writes that only 20 percent of the ones in the UK are women.

Alcohol use is prevalent among restaurant employees

If you've read 2016's splashy literary sensation Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler, then you've probably suspected substance abuse is pretty prevalent among people working in the restaurant industry. If not, I'm here to tell you that restaurant hours are tough to keep. As a result, many employees resort to alcohol to cope. According to a study published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, "hazardous alcohol consumption patterns" were observed in 80 percent of men and 64 percent of women working in the restaurant industry.

Remember that (and all the rest of these points), the next time you're planning a happy night out at one of your favorite food spots.  

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