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What You See Isn’t What You Get


January 4 , 2020
By Kidist Yidnekachew ( Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at kidyyidnekachew@gmail.com. )


Most of us have favourite cafes and restaurants. Some places are so cosy; they feel like home. Some restaurants have awesome food, and that is the only reason we go there. To some, we go out of sheer convenience, and these places might not have all the amenities one needs, but we frequent them because either they are in our neighbourhood, near our office or for other convenient reasons. There are so many cafes, restaurants, lounges and clubs like these in Addis Abeba.

Every time I go to Bole, I see a new building erected, and it’s always a hotel. I have stopped keeping track of the new lounges that pop up out of nowhere. It is like these buildings grow under a tree overnight. A famous TV host once said, “Instead of building 4 and 5-star hotels, we should build 5-star hospitals. That way Ethiopians wouldn’t have to go all the way to Thailand or Singapore  to get  better medical treatment; it would save them a trip, and their loved ones can be near them at all times.”

I could not emphasise more the need to work relentlessly on our health care system and facilities. Getting back to the everyday booming business of restaurants, here are some of the notes I have taken. In most places, the foods posted on the sticker hanging outside of cafes or the picture of the food on the window looks nothing like the food served.

I did not expect to get identical food as most are Photoshopped and are used for advertising purposes, but come on cafes! You can do better! They say, "Don’t judge a book by its cover," but I do not think the same rule applies to cafes and restaurants though. Everything from the front porch to the inside should scream, "Come in! Dine here!"

Even when they get this right, why do some cafes look so good on the outside but not so much on the inside? I have been to cafes that are nicely decorated and furnished, the food is good, but then one looks at their bathroom and one wonders how something so beautiful can be so messy?

One feels deceived. The bathroom either does not have water or soap or does not have toilet paper, or it just looks dirty. I know some people lack bathroom manners, do not flush after use or throw tissue papers everywhere or even write on the walls. Seriously, who does that?

Regardless, cafes should have clean bathrooms at all times. And it is not only the bathrooms, but sometimes it is also the kitchens that are unclean. I understand having a messy kitchen in our homes. I am not saying it is okay to have dirty kitchens, but when it comes to restaurants, thousands of people eat there. So having unhygienic kitchens and chefs could harm thousands of people.

Whenever I am in a restaurant I pay attention to these things. I have seen chefs touching either money or shaking people’s hands and continue cooking without even washing their hands. I have seen people who serve cake blow their noses right before they hand you the cake or bread. Imagine how they are cooking their food, if they have been this careless and untidy when serving it?

I remember having a juice at this shake place. The outside looked impeccable but the inside where they keep the fruits and waste was a mess. We have many fruit places in Addis, and it makes me wonder if the juice they make is really hygienic. Maybe we Ethiopians are immune to germs. Do not get me wrong, a little bit of dirt is good sometimes, as it strengthens our immune system. We would not be drinking tap water, if we had grown up entirely in a dirt or germ-free environment: then one sip of tap water could send us to the hospital with diarrhea.

Due attention should be given to all parts of a restaurant. It should not only be the front that should be clean but the kitchens, the bathrooms, the people who make the food and pretty much everyone who works there. I have noticed people usually do not mind the bathrooms or kitchens, as long as the food is good and affordable. Yes, having good food for a reasonable price is something every diner wants, but it should not come at the cost of our health.

Concerned café or restaurant owners would make sure the outside matches the inside, and what you see is exactly what you get. Some however only care about making money. They spend fortunes redecorating the front part and neglect where the magic happens (the kitchen) and the other parts. This is like wearing clean clothes and dirty underwear; just because people do not see one's underwear, it does not mean one should wear a dirty pair.

Some restaurants are exemplary in this regard; they keep everything good and clean. On the other side, there are some restaurants that charge extra just for their names and the buildings they have rented. Keep in mind that I am not generalizing, the things I have mentioned are purely based on my observations and experience.

Whoever is in charge of giving licenses to restaurants and cafes should make sure bathrooms and kitchens are kept clean. It’s funny how the responsible organ only regulates the other parts. For instance, a salesperson at a cosmetics shop is required to go through a medical checkup and get screened for skin disease that can be transmitted through contact: the premise behind this being that these people can transmit diseases when they hand out products to customers. But somehow, plenty of cafes with terrible bathrooms and kitchens have gone unnoticed.



PUBLISHED ON Jan 04,2020 [ VOL 20 , NO 1027]



Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at kidyyidnekachew@gmail.com.






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