"Good Morning America" is teaming up with Reader's Digest on a special series, "13 Things Experts Won't Tell You." This month, Reader's Digest unveils the secrets your waiter won't tell you. Insiders reveal what not to order, what really happens behind the kitchen's swinging doors. From a group that clears a median $8.01 an hour in wages and tips, a few revelations that aren't on any menu.
1. What You're Really Swallowing
In most restaurants, after 8 p.m. or so, all the coffee is decaf because no one wants to clean two different coffeepots. I'll bring out a tray with 12 coffees on it and give some to the customers who ordered regular, others to the ones who ordered decaf. But they're all decaf.
2. What You Don't Want to Know
We put sugar in our kids' meals so kids will like them more. Seriously. We even put extra sugar in the dough for the kids' pizzas.
3. What We Lie About
If you're a vegetarian and you ask if we use vegetable stock, I'm going to say yes, even if we don't. You'll never know the difference.
4. What You Don't Want to Know
At a lot of restaurants, the special is whatever they need to sell before it goes bad. Especially watch out for the soup of the day. If it contains fish or if it's some kind of 'gumbo,' it's probably the stuff they're trying to get rid of.
5. What You Don't Want to Know
Now that I've worked in a restaurant, I never ask for lemon in a drink. Everybody touches them. Nobody washes them. We just peel the stickers off, cut them up, and throw them in your iced tea.
6. What You Don't Want to Know
If you ask me how many calories are in a particular dish, I'm not allowed to tell you even if I know. I'm supposed to say, 'All that information is available online.'
7. What You Don't Want to Know
I've never seen anybody do anything to your food, but I have seen servers mess with your credit card. If a server doesn't like you, he might try to embarrass you in front of your business associate or date by bringing your credit card back and saying, 'Do you have another card? This one didn't go through.'
8. What You're Really Swallowing
Skim milk is almost never skim milk. Very few restaurants outside Starbucks carry whole milk, 2 percent milk, skim milk, and half-and-half; it's just not practical.
9. What You're Really Swallowing
Some places buy salad dressings in one-gallon jars, then add a few ingredients, like a blue cheese crumble or fresh herbs, and call it homemade on the menu.
10. What Drives Us Crazy
The single greatest way to get your waiter to hate you? Ask for hot tea. For some reason, an industry that's managed to streamline everything else hasn't been able to streamline that. You've got to get a pot, boil the water, get the lemons, get the honey, bring a cup and spoon. It's a lot of work for little reward.
11. What We Want You to Know
Even at the best breakfast buffet in the world, 99 times out of 100, the big pan of scrambled eggs is made from a powder.
12. What We Want You to Know
People think that just because your food took a long time, it's the server's fault. Nine times out of ten, it's the kitchen. Or it's the fact that you ordered a well-done burger.
13. What Else We'd Like You to Know
Don't order fish on Sunday or Monday. The fish deliveries are usually twice a week, so Tuesday through Friday are great days. Or ask the restaurant when they get theirs.
For even more things your waiter won't tell you, click here.
A version of this article originally appeared in Reader's Digest - December 2009.
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