18 Chefs Shared How to Tell If a Restaurant Is Worth Visiting

When we go out to eat at a restaurant, we always expect excellent service accompanied by amazing food. But many of us have had the misfortune of going into a restaurant that turns into a real nightmare. It’s always good to know tricks for how to recognize a good place or lousy service without having to order or try the food everywhere.

Bright Side wants to invite you to check out some of the best tips people have provided on the internet so you don’t end up in a lousy restaurant.

  • Huge menus. Under 30% capacity on a weekend night. Grumpy, disheveled, aloof, etc, servers or hostesses. Pretty much if they look like they don’t make enough being there to care about being there, they don’t. If you can check off one of these boxes you’re in for a, at best, mediocre meal. © kooKommander / Reddit
  • I’m an ex-chef, but weirdly, the setting. I’ve found that if a restaurant puts effort into the ambiance, it’s normally an extension of their food. Not always, but it has been a pretty solid rule. Also the composure of the wait staff. Do they look knackered? A bad sign. Are they gliding around with composed urgency but not haste? A good sign. © WizardScr**ps / Reddit
  • Stale oil smells from down the street & dirty extractor fans. © iani63 / Reddit
  • 1. Large varied menus with a ton of ingredients. Small tight menus mean they order constantly and the ingredients are fresh.
    2. This sounds bad but, a lot of seniors or a senior menu means the food is probably pretty bland and middle of the road.
    3. Dirty bathrooms, dirty floors = dirty kitchen.
    4. If it’s busy, then there’s a reason. If it’s empty.... there’s a reason © RedWingWay / Reddit
  • Not a chef but I eat out a lot. If you go to a hole-in-the-wall ethnic place and it’s full of people of the appropriate ethnicity, it’s probably gonna be legit. For example, a local taco place nearby is where all the Mexican construction workers go for lunch, the food is the best but it looks like a total hole in the wall. © sox3502us / Reddit
  • I walked into a fast food place once and immediately smelled something awful, even though I couldn’t see it anywhere. I stopped at the door and the person behind the register asked me if I was OK and wanted to order anything. I just said no thank you, turned around, and walked out © feelin_cheesy / Reddit
  • I asked my mom this (she’s worked in restaurants for decades), and this is what she told me. “Look at the wait staff’s name tags. People usually keep the same name tags the entire time they work there. There should be a little bit of wear and tear on them. If everyone has brand new nametags, that means they’re all new and service is going to be slow and bad. It also shows that the restaurant isn’t good at staff retention and should make you question the quality of what you’re eating.” She also said that the best places are the ones you hear about via word of mouth. If your friends go and love it, they will tell you about it. So if you see a place advertised on TV a lot but your friends don’t say, “Oh man, go try X, it’s great” then it’s probably bad. © partofbreakfast / Reddit
  • This might sound random, but if there’s a fish tank, take a look at it. If it’s clean, you can bet the kitchen is too. Why? Because restaurants stay in shape by having thorough, daily cleaning routines. Fish tanks get dirty very quickly if they’re not taken care of, just like kitchens. If the fish tank (which is not vital to the functioning of the restaurant, and also a pain for the employees to clean) is in good shape, it’s a part of that routine, and you can bet that everything else is too. © thed***sag*** / Reddit
  • The bread. It has to be good bread. If they can’t get the bread right, they don’t know anything. No chef in their right mind messes up the bread. © tissuesforreal / Reddit
  • Less about the food and more the whole thing, but if you notice a lot of turnover, it usually means management is awful. And bad managers will run a place into the ground with bad decisions and cutting corners. © bipolar-butterfly / Reddit
  • For average non-fancy dining, no chef’s picks/house specialty section on the menu is a really good sign that you’re about to drown in mediocre. If they’re not proud of something it’s a bad sign. In fancy expensive settings, if all anyone can talk about is the view, then you might as well go to a diner, the food is gonna be bad, exceedingly bad for what you’re going to pay. Seriously, I’ve never worked nor eaten anywhere with a “stunning view” that didn’t serve lukewarm garbage at a highway robbery price. © ClintDisaster / Reddit
  • Large, varying menus. Not a chef but did go to culinary school. A huge menu is a sign that food is either precooked and reheated, or the ingredients are not very fresh. © DaleGribble3 / Reddit
  • If you can hear yelling from the kitchen. If the chef is freaking out when it’s a slow night, it’s a sign they suck at people management. If they’re loud enough to be heard on a busy night, they lost control of their line. © ChefCano / Reddit
  • Cockroaches have a smell if there’s enough of them. I’ve walked into local fast food joints, nicer diners, and even upscale $60+/entree places and immediately walked out or cancelled the reservation. If I could smell the roaches from the lobby, I’d bet millions there are roaches in the food. I wish I could train my friends to smell them too. It’s so disgusting and there’s really no excuse. © iKillBugs4Work_AMA / Reddit
  • If you can smell the seafood then it’s not fresh. Fresh seafood doesn’t have that scent we usually associate with it — it doesn’t get that until it’s old. © TheIndulgery / Reddit
  • Try to spot a manager. If it’s a slower night, there might only be one and they might be in the back. If it’s Thursday-Sunday night, though, most places will have at least 2 managers: one for the front and one for the back. If you can’t spot a manager within one minute on those nights, that’s usually a good tipoff that the quality isn’t going to be up to what it should be. If the managers don’t care about customer service, you can be sure their employees don’t either. © nynokindia / Reddit
  • The place is empty on a Saturday night. © endofthehold / Reddit
  • The rule of thumb I heard about picking a local restaurant when traveling is to go to a restaurant where the locals eat with their children. No one wants to risk having to stay up with a sick kid. © jeffbell / Reddit

How do you tell when a restaurant is not good? For what reason would you return to eat at the same establishment? Do you have favorite restaurants?

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