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How to eat safe while dining out in Nigeria

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Every restaurant in the world, including Nigeria, has its special recipes and routines. While the people who work at these restaurants know about the decisions of the management and they see what happens inside the kitchens, the people who patronize them are oblivious of their modus operandi.

More often than not, the staff of the restaurant are not as sensitive about sanitary issues as customers would like them to be and some of their most common practices, even in average kitchens, can be shocking. Sometimes, the restaurants see a profit margin by reusing ingredients under a safe limit, or they are just unhygienic in their practices. While these are wide-scale generalizations and may or may not happen at every restaurant, many industry workers and YouTube shows that it is quite rampant.

With food poisoning being a serious health issue, it is crucial to stay safe while dining out. If you are visiting a Nigerian restaurant and are worried about the hygiene practices employed by staff, do not worry as Jovago.com, Africa’s No. 1 online hotel booking portal has rounded up 6 key tips to help you eat safe while eating at a restaurant.

Be extra nice to the waiters

Waiters are the lords of the restaurant, they know all the restaurants secrets and in most cases, control the fate of every meal that makes it out of the kitchen. It is important to be extra nice to the waiters when you seek help from them or while ordering food.

Keep in mind they are not allowed to say which menu items are not all that great and will only go out on a limb to spill the goons to people who are extra nice.

If being nice does not work as well as expected and you do want their real opinion on the menu, always ask “what is your favorite”…their favorite is always the safest bet for you.

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Do not eat spills on the table

Most restaurants use the same napkin to wipe tables without washing them between tables, transferring all that filth and germs from table to table. The same goes for the tray; restaurant workers hardly have time to clean them – and if they have to, its with the same dirty cloth.

If you drop food at your table that is not covered with linens, do not pick it up and eat it, let it go. This way the stain will be large, they’ll have rinse the cloth before using again.

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Pass on specials

If you think that a Nigerian restaurant chef would be gracious enough to buy the freshest and the cheapest ingredients and call it “Special”, think twice. ‘Specials’ are not special at all. Most times, the chef is trying to get rid of the last bit of expensive seafood, meats or ingredients which he could not get rid off the previous day.  So if the word “Special” is on the menu for the day:  Fresh Fish in Banga soup”, stay away! That only means “Days old fish the chef is trying to get rid of by hiding it in soup”.

Avoid Sunday brunches

Sunday mornings are usually manned by the “B” team or who most Nigerians would refer to as “learners” as the “A” team of chefs who are reserved for Friday and Saturday nights are mostly given the Sunday off. Most of the meals you will eat on Sunday brunches at hotels or eateries will most likely be less than standard. Again, most brunch items will be ingredients leftover from the weekend.

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Pack your own leftovers

Have you ever left a restaurant after a meal where you had leftovers and all you could think of is how the waiter could have done a better job with the packing?

Most times you are right! Most waiters can’t be bothered about putting your leftovers properly in the bag as they are either judging you for being too miserly to let your remaining food go, or they just can’t be bothered. Sometimes they mix up the package and even worse, they might not pack it up with clean hands. It is always safer to ask for the package and do it yourself.

Do not eat the fruit on the cocktail

Do not eat the slice of cucumber or pineapple that comes with cocktails! Most toppings that come with drinks are left on the bar without refrigeration for the entire duration of a waiter’s shift, and they are used in the next shift as well.

They are cut in the morning, left out in the open, handled by way too many people and they are never washed. They are the most unsanitary item you can find at a restaurant. Even worse, sometimes, the waiters recycle them and use a topping from an empty used glass to serve a fresh glass to another customer.

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