Dear Restaurant Guru…

Dear Restaurant Guru,

Recently my husband and I went to dinner with friends at a local restaurant, two of us ordered the same dish and both of us became violently ill within two hours of dinner. It clearly was food poisoning. What is the “right” thing to do – do you call the restaurant and tell them or not?  If I had been really sick and needed to go to the doctor would the restaurant typically be responsible for helping with costs?

Dear Tummy Troubles,

Restaurants are highly regulated and fall under intense scrutiny with the Department of Health. We are tested on everything from the cleanliness of the kitchen to how we write our menus. When an inspector walks in the door, it feels like the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds.

People in the restaurant industry might be a little unusual and snarky, but we have a code. We understand serving food and drink to the community and we want return business. We feel good when someone leaves in a great mood and take it personally when someone’s experience isn’t up to par with our own expectations. The truth is, no one tampers with your food because it’s not in our nature.

But things can go awry for many reasons. Someone may be sick and should have gone home, but instead they worked that night. How many of your kids go to school and come home with 1,000 germs? We’re human and it’s going to happen.

I highly encourage anyone who feels a restaurant is responsible for food poisoning to inform that restaurant. It’s your obligation to let them know so they can evaluate any issues in the kitchen and prevent it from happening again.

As far as medical costs, you’re going to need actual proof. Perhaps you unknowingly took some of your contaminated food home in a doggie bag? If so, you could have a lab check it for bacteria. All restaurant menus must include the disclaimer about “consuming raw or undercooked meats may increase your risk of foodborne illness…” so you’re entering a contract once you’ve ordered food from that menu.

Help yourself. Be proactive by only going to restaurants with good health scores (90 and above). And here’s a little insider tip, food distributors don’t deliver on Sundays, so I would flag the Half-Off-Sushi-Sunday under ‘Buyer Beware’.

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