JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When it comes to dining out, we do it a lot. In 2007, Americans spent half a billion dollars dining out.
While most restaurants comply with health laws and industry standards, we need to pay more attention to the things that are not on the menu.
Here are the top 10 things restaurants won't tell you, compiled from Smart Money and other sources.
Number 10: Big Brother is watching you eat.
More and more restaurants have cameras positioned in the dining room. If you're looking for privacy, you may not be as alone as you think while eating your gumbo.
Number Nine: Eating out on Mondays
The author of 'How to burn down the house' said on Mondays it is not unusual for customers to be served food that is three days old. Why? Fresh food is delivered on Mondays and businesses have to clear out older inventory to make room. To be sure that everything you eat is fresh on a Monday, go to a place that is always busy.
Number Eight: The Reservation Game
A reservation is not a guarantee and overbooking has become a necessary evil in the restaurant industry. A restaurant calculates its average no-show and overbook by that much. If you're on time and not seated in 15 minutes, politely ask the manager how much longer before you decide if you should wait or leave.
Number Seven: A restaurant won't tell you if there's something fishy about the seafood.
For example, the Maryland Crab Cakes on the menu might be imported from Thailand or Vietnam and not Maryland. So look closely at the menus does it read Maryland-Style crab cakes? If you're not sure, ask.
Number Six: Your restaurant won't tell you there are huge markups on soda, coffee, tea and pasta.
As much as a 60 percent mark up. A serving of pasta costs pennies to make, but when served with inexpensive condiments, bits of meat and sauce, that dish could sell for $25 or more. The items with the most profit are usually listed first on the menu, it is called savvy pricing.
Number Five: Is your coffee regular or decaf?
What restaurants won't tell you is that after 8 p.m. or so, in most places it is common practice that all coffee is decaf because no one wants to clean two different coffee pots.
Number Four: Think twice before ordering all that fruit in your drink.
It is an issue of how lemon wedges and celery sticks are handled. The concern is whether they were properly washed before being cut, and how long they have been sitting in an uncovered container? Do yourself a favor and have them delivered on the side.
Number Three: Walking up to a restaurant 15 minutes before closing is a bad idea.
This is a lose-lose situation. It is closing time and the chef may prepare your food quickly only to let it sit under the heat lamps while you finish your salad. They have already started the lengthy closing process.
Number Two: Are the specials really that special?
The consulting firm Hospitality says the special could be something near the end of its shelf life and the restaurant wants to get rid of it.
The number one thing restaurants won't tell you is that eating here could make you sick.
A Duke University Hospital study reveals that 12 percent of all restaurant workers have come to work twice in the past year sick. To protect yourself, be careful in choosing which restaurant to patronize. Ask to see the most recent state inspections, and visit the restroom; the condition will tell you a lot about the restaurant.