There are pages and pages of food and cooking myths here on Culinary Lore. Not surprisingly, the restaurant industry is the subject of its own die-hard myths. Some of these are perpetuated by Food TV and celebrity chefs, especially those looking to stand out in the publishing world. Others are promoted by restaurant employees. Here are beliefs about restaurant dining that I’ve covered on this site.
Restaurants Have the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone for Any Reason
So many restaurant owners believe this. They even put up signs asserting their right to refuse service for any reason. Since a restaurant is private property, this assertion seems plausible, leading most people to believe that a restaurant owner can just flat-out refuse service to them on a whim. It is not true. In fact, restaurants cannot refuse service to anyone for any reason. They can only refuse service for specific reasons laid out by regulations. While there do exist many gray areas, those signs are nothing more than a way to let customers know that a curmudgeon owns the joint.
It is Illegal for Restaurants to Not Accept Cash
United States currency is legal tender for all debts! Therefore, they have to take my cash. These ‘cashless’ restaurants must be breaking the law. Turns out they do not have to take your cash. It is perfectly legal for restaurants and other businesses to refuse to accept cash as payment. The operative word is debt. A restaurant bill is not a debt. This could differ at the state level but so far I’ve only found this to be true for one state.
Waiters Don’t Get Paid Minimum Wage, They Only Make $2.13 an Hour
The federal tip wage is $2.13 an hour. States can increase this wage and some states do. However, the notion that waiters must depend solely on this small wage plus whatever they can make in tips is a myth. Every employee in the United States must be paid at least minimum wage! This includes waiters. Simply put, if a waiter’s take home pay, when tip wage and tips are added together, do not equal to the minimum hourly wage, employers must make up the difference. And, yes, when I say waiter I am referring females and males.
90% of Restaurants Fail in Their First Year
For some reason, this statistic fascinates both those in the restaurant industry and those who cover it in the media. Most restaurants fail in their first year in business. In fact, up 90% won’t survive their first year! It just sounds so dramatic. But, like many such exacting statistics, it is false. Far fewer actually fail and, with each year that passes, their chances of failure drops. Incredibly, it only take a rudimentary glance at the math to show how ridiculous this statistic is. If there were such a high rate of restaurant failure every single year, the total number of restaurants would drop each year, eventually leading to the complete demise of the industry!
The Bulk of Restaurant Employees are Illegal Immigrants
This notion is a bit newer and may not be as well-known as the others. But due to the popularity of its chief originator, cereal stereotyper Anthony Bordoin, it is taken as gospel by most anyone who hears it. He claimed, basically, that illegal immigrants make up the bulk of the restaurant industry and that, if all illegal immigrants were deported, the restaurant industry would completely fail. Bourdain spoke of “11 million illegal immigrants” being deported and thus crippling the industry. In reality, all imigrants make up a fraction of the total restaurant workforce and there is not credible evidence of millions of illegal immigrants in the restaurant industry.
Locally Sourced Ingredients are Always Higher Quality
Although there may be many reasons to seek out locally grown ingredients, both at the consumer and restaurant level, the idea that vegetables grown locally, or cattle raised locally is automatically higher quality is nothing more than a fantasy that results in your paying much more for the same basic food. Just because you’re a locavore, don’t expect your restaurant meal to taste better.
Only Executive Chefs are Actually Chefs
Since the French word chef means chief then only the person in charge of the kitchen, the executive chef, deserves the title. Everyone else, despite whether the attended culinary school, skill level, or previous experience is not truly a chef. They are cooks. Only the head-honcho is a chef! This seems to be a favorite of cooking competitions invovling professional chefs. In no other industry that I know of is so much energy spend debating on who deserves the title associated with that industry. However, if we are truly basing this on French traditions, then it’s simply false. There may well be more than one chef in a restaurant kitchen.
Here are a couple lesser-known myths about dining in restaurants that, although they may be true of some restaurants, are almost certainly not true of all restaurants.
- Most Restaurants Re-Use Complimentary Bread, So Never Eat It
- Restaurants are Using Bigger Glasses to Fool You Into Ordering More Wine