Food News

Five Most Common Restaurant Bait-and-Switch Tactics

Every once in a while, officials from the Hotel and Restaurant division of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation office get to sleuthin'. They're looking for "food misrepresentation cases" -- usually restaurants selling you one thing but serving you another.

Inspectors catch the bait and switch about 50 times a year in Broward and Palm Beach counties by comparing the ingredients in the kitchen (and looking at invoices) with what's offered up front. When they find a discrepancy, the restaurant gets a citation. 

We gotta say, some of this stuff probably gets mislabeled for a good reason: Would you want to eat something that came in a box labeled "Fish Stick Brand Dyna-Sea" or "Asia Star Scallop-Flavored Seafood Nuggets"?

We examined the department's reports from the past four years and looked at the number of times each violation has occurred in Broward and Palm Beach counties:

5: Triple Sec in place of Cointreau: Though not specified in the entry, assume a margarita was involved: "Menu states Cointreau is used in recipes. Inspector was shown Triple Sec." (1)

4. The "No MSG" lie: While notices proclaim "We Use No MSG!" a big vat of it is sitting next to the hot line in the kitchen, obviously well-used. (4)
3. Fake grouper: You see grouper on the menu or the specials board, so you get it. Or do you? Inspectors found swai, perch, pollock, basa, and pangasias standing in for grouper -- (a few times, sea bass was the victim). (11)

2. You can tuna piano, but:  Caveat emptor: When you see "white tuna" on the menu, often it's this similar (but oilier and cheaper) fish. Escolar is sometimes called "snake mackerel," which doesn't look great on a menu. It usually turns up as sushi or sashimi in Japanese restaurants. (52)

1. Krabby Konfusion:  Far and away the most popular offense, using fake crab in place of real crabmeat is beyond commonplace. It's the status quo. Inspectors found it in everything from crab rangoon to crab cakes, crab/spinach/artichoke dip, California rolls, seafood delight, fried rice, seafood salad, crab puffs, and seafood soup. Not even the Happy Family was untouched. (160)

If you'd like to peruse the raw data and see who the violators are, check the reports here.

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Jeff Stratton
Contact: Jeff Stratton