There's always time for cleaning in catering and restaurant work. Or rather, there should be. As a front of the house (FOH) Manager, it was routine for me to have servers and bussers clean and polish stuff. It's called side work, and takes place daily. Side work and keeping things tidy helps pass time when business is slow and there are no or few customers. Everything from silverware to glassware and condiment dispensers got the nod. Side work is the prep that keeps a restaurant running smoothly. Pros know this.
It's not like that everywhere, obviously. While I'm game for dives and their at times cheap and hopefully delectable adventures, I'm not interested in facing a filthy table number (the above photo is an example of what it SHOULD look like), grime encrusted ketchup bottle, and worse. Maybe I loathe laziness and filth too much.
I was sitting at a cafe in the Upper Haight yesterday, and noticed most of the table numbers had brown, dark red, and even green blotches of crusty food and sauce on them. The restaurant wasn't busy, and it was mid-day. During slammed service, things can get a little messy, and there may be splotches of freshly spilled stuff. Let's be realistic, shit happens. But these dirty table numbers were the sign of longer term neglect, and some of the crusty stuff looked way old.
While I wish I had taken some pics so you too can cringe and maybe even gag, I didn't want to bring attention to myself. There's also that risk that someone may spit in my food in retaliation, as one of my relatives always fears. Grimy numbers and dirty stuff may be a sign that an owner/manager is either not around, lazy, and/or has low expectations. Employees of course follow by example, and such a low work standard may spill over into other areas of restaurant operations: from food prep and service to improper food storage. There are certainly exceptions but generally the signs of neglect can point to bigger problems that should be red flags to customers. The lazy asses are the ones I've seen leaning over their work, with sweat dripping haphazardly down their faces and presumably into the food. Or they pick their nose, or wipe their face, before continuing working with food. I am not making any example up. Noticing all the grime on a sugar caddy, the clear message was, "Who cares?" Business owner, you should.