LATER -- I noticed starting in 2008 that I started to have served to me various subs, salads, and other foods that tasted like dirt. That distinctive taste comes from cafe owner/manager or their staff, putting food preparation items back into a commercial refrigerator without tightly sealing the contents from the blower found within. This seems to be correlated with the recession where attempts are being made to "save" food items, in order to save money - thus retain margins.
This "dirt food" has been found by me at sub shops, family restaurants, middle to high end eateries and, in one case, a renown very high end establishment.
This is not a constant problem in your establishment, but is an occasional problem in ALL the venues I eat in. I am semiretired and eat out a LOT, so my sample is pretty extensive.
WHAT I DISCOVERED...
I decided to actually run some tests with different fresh vegetables. So I put freshly sliced onions, tomatoes, peaches, and lettuce in MY refrigerator for testing. I ran three tests. Totally uncovered for 2 hours, totally uncovered for 18 hours, partially covered for 48 hours. Partially covered was using saran wrap, with just one edge position not tightly sealed.
After 2 hours, no cover. All items were definitely off-tasting, but not total dirt taste.
After 18 hours. All items, taste wise were unrecognizable and tasted like dirt. Serve this in a dish to your patrons, and they may not complain, but they may never come back. Any of these would over power whatever they were placed in.
After 48 hours, partially covered. Surprise. Same as 18 hours.
WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN.
Besides the obvious recycling of foods for "savings", which is not a bad idea, the owner/manager must rely on the people of the "last shift" to take the time to properly cover these foods. Guess what? They are trying to quickly get the hell out of your establishment and go home. Its human nature.
A MAJOR MULTI-NATIONAL RUNS UP AGAINST HUMAN NATURE.
A few years ago I worked for a major coffee chain that also serves food. Let us just say they make big "BUCKS". They attempted to spike their food business by having an extensive "sampler tray" available for customers. It was a disaster. The entire project depended on 3rd shift people adequately covering the sampler tray overnight. I found my self working the morning shift where we put out the "sampler tray". I was confronted by comments like "are you trying to poison me" and others not so kind. Corporate quickly got feedback on this, and instituted a "carrot and stick" program for people on the third shift to insure that the sampler trays were correctly covered. After 8 weeks, and numerous employee write-ups, they caved and eliminated the whole sampler tray program, at least to the extent that they were saved from day to day. Seems the human desire to flee the work place was just too strong.
AS I said in the beginning, in all establishments that I frequent, this is an occasional problem. In fact I have undertaken "defensive ordering", trying to figure out which dish, sub, etc. will most probably not use uncovered food from the day before. I am , if nothing a loyal customer, and with my prior experience know this is not an institutional problem. BUT, you can fix this by assigning one person with the solemn duty to check that all foods are correctly covered. Leaving it up to all employees, among all their other duties, and their desire to leave for home, only results in you serving occasionally "dirt food" to your customers. They will not complain, they will not write a Blog like this, they simply will not come back, and even worse tell other people about the dirt sandwich they got from you.
It has been pointed out to me that in some cases the employee with their hair on fire to get out of the work place may be the manager or owner. If that is the case --- shame on you!!!
Went to McDonalds and ordered their side salad. This was one of my regular defensive ordering items. Got it home, slathered on dressing - YUK! the dreaded dirt refrigerator taste. One of my last sure fire items hits the dirt, literally.
Picked up a cup of chili from the Corner Bakery - Bethesda. Got Home. It tasted like dirt. Obviously had been left uncovered for several nights in the fridge. Sent a note to corporate about this blog.