According to the most recent available figures, there are some 660,755 quick-service and full-service eating establishments around the country.
People patronize these places for a variety of reasons, of course. It might be a matter of convenience and/or price. On the other hand, some restaurants draw customers because they’re “hot” or trendy, or, naturally enough, because they have earned a reputation for good food, whether they’re a hamburger stand or a shrine of gastronomy (like one of the best restaurants in America.)
Food is hardly the only aspect of the restaurant experience. Ambiance and service count, and for many patrons, an attractive cocktail and/or wine and beer program is a plus. And of course there’s simply the opportunity restaurants afford for pleasant social interaction, out in public, both with friends and family and with the (theoretically) amiable strangers around us.
Still, it does all come back to food. In general, we tend to assume that anything on the menu at any good restaurant, however simple or fancy the place might be, is worth ordering. That’s not necessarily true, however.
Sometimes a lack of certain facilities can be a warning sign (if you order barbecue in a place without a smoker, you’re not getting the real thing). Other times it just doesn’t make economic sense to pay inflated prices at a restaurant for something you can have just as easily at home for a lot less.
A more serious issue is the fact that certain items at restaurants — anything from beverage ice to bean sprouts — can be health hazards because of possible bacterial contamination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues detailed guidelines for safe practices by food service workers, though it’s hard to believe that these are always scrupulously followed.
The recommendations given here aren’t necessarily hard and fast. There are always exceptions, and some of the cases cited might no longer be applicable as the very nature of the restaurant business continues to evolve. What does that mean? These are 21 ways restaurants are going to change.
For now, though, these are good general hints for a satisfying (and not needlessly pricey) restaurant experience.