The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Food is really amazing. The taste, the salivating feeling you get in your mouth as you look at what you want off the menu and begin to imagine it. You unconsciously lick your lips as you imagine that delicious food you ordered. You cannot wait to eat it. You know you could have stayed at home and made yourself a meal, but sometimes the luxury of going to a restaurant is what living is all about. Whether you are a big spender or a big saver, going to a restaurant once in a while is a good thing because it gives you the experience of learning about food, tasting great food, and experiencing a social setting. But just how exactly is your food being handled when it comes to employee sanitation?
I remember a Family Guy episode when Peter Griffin and his wife were separated and taking a break from each other. Peter Griffin went on a date with Jennifer Love Hewitt and claimed he had to go “fire one out” in the bathroom. When he returned, he asked the waiter, “Hey waiter, that sign in the bathroom? That sign is for employees only, right?” The waiter replied, “Technically, yes.” Peter Griffin then proceeded to touch all the bread on the table with his unwashed hands. If this were a real life situation, would you eat the touched bread loaf of a friend or family member or a date who did not wash their hands?
The other day, I went to a restaurant with a friend of mine who I only see a few times a year. We sat down and our waitress came over and smiled. She asked us what we would like to order. We joked around with her and then we ordered our meal. Typical way a restaurant operates. As we both waited for our food, we had a good discussion about life and we joked around with each other about good times. We both got our meals, we ate to the point where he took his home and I had eaten to the point where I was full. After we finished, it was definitely a great lunch. The waitress had served us well and did a good job.
As we were waiting for the bill, it hit me. I had to use the bathroom and nothing was going to stop me. Emergency. I will not tell you whether it was number one or number two, but I will say that I was in there for several minutes… probably longer. Someone comes in, sits down, and does his business. He is done before me. He flushes. He gets up. He prepares himself for the world once again. And then he leaves the bathroom. He did not walk over to the sink. He did not turn the faucet on. He did not attempt to retrieve any water from the faucet. He did not attempt to use soap and water to wash his hands. He did nothing that was even an attempt at washing his hands. I could not tell whether he was an employee or not, but just walking into the bathroom for even a minute may attract germs and requires a hand wash with soap.
Anyone who handles food should definitely be washing their hands and any company in the food business should technically have sanitizing stations available for workers to clean their hands every twenty minutes or after each meal is prepared. There have been an uprise in reports of E. Coli, which can come from human feces. In other words, chefs, cooks, food preparers, food stockers, food handlers are going to the bathroom, whether to pee or to poop, and not correctly washing their hands. Whether anyone pees on their hands or not, or accidentally wipes and gets their own feces on their hands or not, they should still always wash. There is absolutely no excuse for any employee to forget about washing their hands. It is part of your job to know that you have to wash your hands.
There is a reason humans cannot see germs and bacteria with the naked eye: If we could see germs and bacteria on everything, we would touch nothing, eat nothing, and be too scared to do anything because everything we saw and touched would have microorganisms living on it. Out of sight and out of mind is how germs and bacteria have survived so long, as have humans. Just because we cannot see germs and bacteria, however, does not mean they are not actually there. They are always there, lurking, waiting, and looking to attach to and live on and within the human body.
To both employers and employees: If a customer gets sick at your restaurant, they are most likely never returning ever again and they will inform their friends and family to never go to your restaurant. All those potential customers are gone forever, never to have even have stepped foot into your business. There are also plenty of customers who are advocate web surfers and web reviewers who will ensure that your business deserves the review it gets and those reviews normally end up being permanent and discovered on the first pages of Google and other search engines. Once the damage is done, it is almost impossible to make up for it. Sure, you will still attract new customers who unknowingly do not check restaurant reviews and know nothing about your restaurant, but you are sure going to lose a lot of potential customers based on a single customer review.
A customer is not exempt from washing their hands, either. While a restaurant or any company is not legally able to enforce that you wash your hands, they can make definitive suggestions that you should wash your hands. A customer who returns back to their table, touches the table and continues eating their food without washing their hands is not only exposing themselves to their own bacteria, but the bacteria of many others. The restaurant probably gets hundreds of visitors a day and while most restaurants do clean their bathroom, those handles most likely go unwashed. While no one can ever fully be clean of bacteria and germs, the number of bacterial cells on the skin can be kept to a minimum and reduced rate. The more there are, the more the body will have to fight. As a customer, do yourself and others a favor: Wash your hands.
Touching the toilet paper, the handle of the stall, the handle of the toilet, the faucet, and even the door knob is guaranteed to acquire bacteria on your hands, between your fingers, and even under your fingernails. The spread of germs is worse in public places where there are a lot of humans, especially in restaurants, hospitals, schools, cafeterias, malls, food courts, grocery stores, gyms, and many other places. It should almost be mandatory that everyone carries around with them sanitizer and sanitizing wipes in order to wipe down everything before and after it is touched. Unfortunately, not many people do it and touch more germs than they can imagine everyday. Even this very keyboard I type on has plenty of germs and it is worse for those families who share a computer keyboard.
It would be nice to live in a germ-free world, but we exist because of bacteria and germs. We are made up of more bacteria than we are of human cells. This does not mean we should go jump in a pile of pig feces, cow feces, or human feces because we are immune to diseases. There are many diseases that spawn from bacteria and feces that will make our bodies suffer and fight for their lives. We should all be courteous and do our best to prevent illness and disease from happening and the very first place to start is ourselves: Wash your hands, brush your teeth, ingest mouthwash, use floss, take a shower, use hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes to clean yourself whenever possible. While it is true that the more germs and bacteria we have and are exposed to, the better our bodies are able to fight it off and become immune, but it certainly should not stop us from cleanliness and proper hygiene.
It is the 21st century and we live in an educated country with plenty of information and knowledge available on bacteria and germs, which live prevalently alongside and on humans everyday and even inside of them. While products do exist to kill these bacteria and germs, and our bodies do fight them off when they enter into our bodies, they reproduce so fast and exist everywhere that even just a missed tiny space, like the size of a period on this very page, will allow bacteria to regrow and populate an entire room and move to areas where humans commonly put their hands and mouth. The fact that we have all this information should allow us to do something about it: Clean your environment. Wash your hands. Sanitize. Be courteous of the fact that we all carry germs and bacteria, but do not be courteous enough to want to share it with everyone.
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Matthew Gates is a freelance web designer and currently runs Confessions of the Professions.