13 Bad Restaurant Red Flags To Watch Out For When Dining Out

When you walk into a restaurant for the first time, how do you really know if you’re going to end up with a bad dining experience?

Aside from reading online reviews, you can spot a bad restaurant when you see the place for yourself. Subtle signs, from stinky menus to sick servers, convince you that you’ve made the wrong decision of walking in.

If you’re deciding to dine at a restaurant for the first time, here are 13 red flags that suggest you’re better off dining somewhere else.

  1. The place stinks

Trust your nose – it knows from the very first second you enter the establishment whether you might leave with a satisfied tummy or an upset one. The smell of stale grease, burned food, spoiled milk, and other odors speak for their maintenance and the quality of food they serve.

  1. It’s nearly empty

The first thing to observe when choosing a restaurant is the customers. If you walk into a restaurant at peak meal hours and you’re nearly alone, then consider it a red flag. Chances are, it’s overpriced, food is bad, and the customer service sucks.

  1. The staff seems unengaged

Not being noticed is a bright red flag. If you walk into the restaurant and none of the staff members makes eye contact with you, then you might be in for a regrettable dining experience. The management is clearly not doing a good job running the business.

  1. You’ve got loads to choose from

When a mid-size restaurant has got too much to offer, it’s safe to assume they’re lacking in quality. Chances are, they skimp on ingredients and serve mediocre food. They may also store tons of ingredients frozen to limit wastage.

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Smaller menus often mean higher quality because chefs are concentrating on their star dishes. If this isn’t the case, ask for the bestsellers or chef’s top recommendation among the overwhelming list of dishes.

  1. They’ve got weird fusion cuisines

Restaurants claiming to specialize in cuisines from two or more distinct culinary styles are downright suspicious. It’s natural to be skeptical when they say they specialize in sushi and pizza, as these dishes take killer skills and time to master.

Fusion cuisine can also be a hit or miss. To see if that ramen taco is worth the try, do your research first.

  1. The menu itself is a mess

The first thing you hold the moment you arrive a can wave a vivid red flag – the menu. Don’t expect too much from a restaurant whose menu is torn, worn, and covered with food stains.

  1. The gross signs of neglect never lie

Let’s get this straight – even great restaurants that have been running for decades can look a little worn and shabby. Every foodie has a story about several quaint “hole in the wall” places where the food is great. Don’t just a restaurant by its cover, they say.

But dirty menus, greasy utensils, cracked tableware, smeared windows, unvacuumed floors, dying plants, and torn upholstery? These are unacceptable. If you’re lucky, you may spot numerous flies, rodents, roaches, and their droppings too.

If that’s how the front looks like, just imagine how filthy the kitchen is.

  1. They fail in basic food safety

Yes, you may forgive the shaky tables and seats, but you shouldn’t condone gross food that might send you to the ER.

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The golden rule is hot food should be served piping hot and cold food should be served cold. If the food isn’t the right temperature, it may have been sitting around for quite some time, giving bacteria an opportunity to grow. It’s okay to ask your server to heat or cool your food.

  1. Check the bathroom

Stinky cubicles, soapy and wet floors, empty soap dispensers, overflowing trash bins, broken flush – these aren’t only signs of neglect but reflections of how poorly managed the restaurant is.

Bathrooms are indicators of how clean (or dirty) a place is. Restaurant industry experts suggest that it’s unlikely for a restaurant with a poorly-maintained restroom to have a stellar kitchen or serve a superior food product.

  1. Servers lack proper hygiene

You can also spot poor practices by looking at the servers. If some servers are sick and not wearing hairnets, gloves, and clean uniforms, then personal hygiene isn’t their priority.

  1. They don’t take food allergy seriously

Alert the server or manager about any food allergy you may have. Ask whether the dish you want contains allergens or not.

A good restaurant should care about your dietary needs, and it’s always a bad sign if the server isn’t educated on which dishes contain allergens. They might probably lack the guidelines in place to protect you.

  1. The diners don’t look pleased

Again, look at your fellow diners. There’s something wrong going on if you spot signs of frustration in their faces during and after their meal. You might also see several complaining customers.

  1. When the server asks, “are you sure you want to order that?”
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Watch at least two episodes of Kitchen Nightmare and you’ll understand what I mean. If the server himself isn’t confident about their food, then there’s no way you should either.

Ask the staff what they would recommend. If they don’t know what to say or they haven’t tried anything on the menu, that’s a telltale sign they’re food is bad and you need to dine somewhere else.

Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is a creative writer for West HQ Venues Western Sydney, an iconic one-stop destination for world-class restaurants, entertainment, hotels, gyms, and recreation in the heart of Western Sydney. This free-spirited damsel loves writing about lifestyle, mainly food, entertainment, travel, and health and fitness.

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