Restaurants Do to Save Money

When most people go out to eat, they expect an establishment to prepare their food in a manner that’s representative of the restaurant’s reputation and price point. If you pay $20 or $30 for a meal, you probably expect it to be prepared carefully and with quality ingredients, whereas if you pay three bucks for a meal, you may expect a few shortcuts here and there. But, at the end of the day, even if restaurants microwave nacho cheese sauce or prepare a few ingredients in advance, the meal should still be delicious (and safe) — no matter how much it costs.

But if you have any experience working in the restaurant business, you know that restaurants — as profit-generating businesses — place a great deal of effort into reducing their costs. And, some of these cost reduction tactics are not exactly, well, appetizing to say the least.

There’s no ceremony, and no reception, but some restaurants do marry ketchup bottles on a regular basis. How? Well, they take all of the old, used bottles off of the tables and they combine and refill them. Some even combine the last little bits of the bottles into a bin or some sort of funnel mechanism. Then, they pour all of this ketchup into empty bottles to make bottles that look as good as new, but they’re really not.

A lot of people wonder if marrying ketchup is against health codes. The answer to that question is, “it depends.” According to California’s health code, “Condiments shall be protected from contamination by being kept in dispensers that are designed to provide protection, protected food displays provided with the proper utensils, original containers designed for dispensing, or individual packages or portions.” But, codes vary across locations, and different restaurants have different methods of marrying ketchup — some more sanitary than others.

How can you tell if the ketchup bottle on your table has been married? Well, if you see a glass bottle, that’s a potential red flag. Several years back, Heinz began asking restaurants to stop the practice of marrying. Many restaurants agreed, and now, you’ll see a lot of red plastic (non-refillable) bottles in restaurants. Some establishments still marry the condiment, though. So, if you see a full, glass ketchup bottle that looks used, the pop seal doesn’t break when you open a full bottle, or there are air bubbles inside of the bottle, you may be using married ketchup.