Restaurants are places of eating and drinking, talking and meeting. They can be found throughout the world, all sharing the same theme of serving food and drink. But while many know what a restaurant is, not all have worked in one so their knowledge is limited as an outsider. From someone who has been in the restaurant business since the 1990s, I know a thing or two about them as a whole, and believe there are a few things people could benefit from if they only knew.

It’s a melting pot

No matter what the specialty food of the restaurant is, most of the staff will come from all different walks of life.

Rarely will you see one group of employees from such different backgrounds all working together. It’s a beautiful thing.

Drink garnish trays are known petri dishes

Don’t eat your drink garnish. This can’t be stressed enough. No matter how clean the restaurant is, that garnish will have likely touched many hands and though those hands should in theory be 100% clean, do you trust it? Food from the kitchen comes out in a much more controlled environment. Drink garnishes are like the wild west. Servers put their hands in there when no one’s looking, bartenders continually grab from the same container, and they are kept right near all the action, so Lord knows what gets tossed near them.

We talk

It’s not gossip.

It’s warning and preparing. Restaurant staff all talk to one other so if you’re mean to the host, your server will know about it. And if you’re mean to the server, the kitchen will know about it. And if you’re mean to the busser, they’ll straight up ignore you. A good rule of thumb is this: don’t be mean. Period, but especially to people touching your food.

Choose your beer carefully

Beer in a bottle is much more sanitary than beer from a draft. Be wary of this drink in bars/restaurants that look less than sanitary because chances are their tap lines have not been cleaned as often as they should be, and little floating debris (ahem, mold) can make an appearance in your drinks.

Most Head Chefs/Owners work in their kitchen nightly

Head chefs can often be found at the Expo Line in the kitchen. That’s the pass where food from the kitchen is handed to a runner or server to bring to the guests in the main dining room of the restaurant. These days, with chefs' popularity soaring, diners want to see chefs. The best place to do that is at the expo line. If it’s an open kitchen, it will be easy to do. Otherwise, not so easy. You may have to try to walk by to catch a glimpse or ask your server about saying hello to the chef.

Restaurant management is often a thankless position

Restaurant managers are one of the most underpaid positions in the entire food and beverage industry.

When broken down, they make little by the hour. They rarely get to sit for hours on end and have to put out fires, figuratively and literally, on a nightly basis. But they are there to make your dining experience go smoothly, so let them.

Asking for free stuff is a sure-fire way not to get anything

Restaurants will hand out complementary items of their choosing and at their discretion – not because you ask for it. Sometimes reservations run a tad late on reservation tables or they run out of an item. It happens but when did it become commonplace to ask for something free if things don’t go absolutely your way? Do you go to a doctor’s office and get a free x-ray because they were running late?

Do you go to a salon and get a free hair cut because your hairdresser doesn’t have the brand of shampoo you like? Have you ever gone inside a clothing store and asked for something free because they were out of your size? Restaurants should not be any different.

Happy dining!