How Dirty Are Restaurant Menus?

If you find that after finishing up your workweek you tend to treat yourself to a meal at the hottest new restaurant in town, you are in the company of most Americans. In fact, according to QSR Magazine, 64% of the U.S. forgoes dirtying their kitchen for a meal out on a weekly basis. But while nearly everyone seems to agree that visiting a restaurant is a great way to enjoy a relaxing and delicious evening, most people seem to forget about one major downside of sitting down to dinner at the biggest pasta spot in town.

And, no, we're not talking about the financial hit your budget takes when you choose to eat out on a regular basis — we're talking about how germs thrive in restaurants. Think about it this way, if QSR Magazine reports that more than half of America frequently eats out, that also means more than half of America is using the same plates, tables, and menus at their local pizzeria.

While tables and plates are customarily cleaned up between guests, can you guess what restaurant staple isn't? Food and Wine reports that your menu is likely cleaned less than twice a day. If you find yourself cringing at the thought of how dirty that means the average restaurant menu is, well, we don't have any good news. Because the state of the menu you order off each week is probably worse than you thought.

Restaurant menus are filthy

As noted by Food and Wine, while your average restaurant menu isn't cleaned often, it goes through the hands of many food and germ-infested patrons and can even end up on the floor. And the result of a menu coming into contact with so much dirt and grime without being properly disinfected is about what you'd expect.

In fact, ABC News reports that an average restaurant menu can have up to 185,000 bacteria swimming around on its surface — which beats out the bacteria on a restroom toilet seat 100 times over. And that's not even the worst part. WebMD states that menus at restaurants have been known to have traces of E. coli and S. aureus, otherwise known as staph, lingering on their plastic.

However, while these numbers are alarming and (putting it bluntly) gross, that doesn't mean you have to hang up your regular restaurant run for good. You only need to ensure that you wash your hands after handling a restaurant menu to enjoy a germ and hassle-free meal out. However, this startling revelation may also inspire you to make sure you're not skipping out on any must-clean areas in your own kitchen.