18 Tips From Chefs That Will Help You Spot a Bad Restaurant From a Mile Away

We all have a favorite restaurant that we like to go to, either because of the good service of the people who serve us or because of the seasoning of the food they serve. However, there are some details that, as customers, we may not notice at first glance, but that some chefs have shared as warning signs to take into consideration to know if the place where we go to eat is good or not.

At Bright Side, we’ve put together some of the most eye-catching tips for what to look out for when sitting at a restaurant table.

  • When I was a food service manager at a large company I asked the health inspector where she ate. She said fast food because their cleanliness rules were more stringent than regular restaurants. © beadsis / Reddit
  • Specials are often things the chef got a great deal on or needs to get rid of. Anything taking center stage on the menu (like a signature item with stars around it or arrows pointing at it) is a high-profit item they want you to buy. © TrapMousser / Reddit
  • Crab products out of season are always canned crab and it’s not good at all. © Strapped-fo-cash / Reddit
  • Pictures on menus, lots of usage of terms like “homemade” and “fresh”, the food should always be homemade and fresh, the fact that they need to try to say it a lot shows some overcompensating. © SoftZombie5710 / Reddit
  • Large menus with varying sides, for example, if they have the same sides (noodles, summer veggies, etc.) for different dishes, that means that they are homemade and high quality (also means that they’re fresh). The quality of the meat and fish is a perfect representation of the overall quality of a restaurant. Also a little rule of thumb for meat and fish: if they put a lot of sauce and seasoning on a piece of meat, they’re trying to hide something (obvious exception for sauce-based dishes or stews). Seasonality!!!! A good restaurant is ALWAYS seasonal and keeps changing its menu to stay up to date. Low-quality restaurants are one-trick ponies and not seasonal. And lastly, convenience. If you can tell that the sauces aren’t homemade, the desserts are store-bought and the vegetables are bland and overcooked, then it’s likely frozen and convenience food. It’s super easy to do all that stuff yourself, but low-quality places never do for some reason. © larryoaa / Reddit
  • Employees using cellphones in plain sight of the customers. This usually means that the managers/owners do not care about the appearance of the restaurant. And don’t care about how the restaurant is run. Dirty bathrooms. The bathroom is a reflection of how clean the back areas are. If there are years of gross on walls, don’t eat there. You can bet their fridge is freaking gross. © Texas_Technician / Reddit
  • Crabby staff and a silent kitchen. If you can’t hear the cooks they’re most likely brainless or the menu is. © WHHHAAARRRGRARBL / Reddit
  • Always ask for your drink without ice. Ice machines are some of the most disgusting things in a kitchen that produce food, and even a well-maintained one is prone to molding very quickly. Better safe than sorry. © nynokindia / Reddit
  • A super slick and professionally done menu in a clearly small family-run setting, especially if the restaurant name isn’t on it. I now recognize that as a sign of what I can best describe as a pre-packaged restaurant. It’s like there’s a company that has nationality restaurant packages and they sell people the menus and pre-packaged foods that are just heated up on-site. Being out of an item that uses the same ingredients with different preparation as something they do have. A sure sign of heat-and-serve packaged foods. © Tangent_ / Reddit
  • I always look up. I used to be food safety for the Grocery chain. Check the condition of the ceiling, is there dust, chipping paint, exposed ducts, can you see any fans? What are their location and condition? Do the same in the bathroom. I guess that doesn’t say anything about how good their food is, but speaks to the “extras” that you will be consuming. © srhf65 / Reddit
  • If you go to a BBQ joint and you can’t see the smoker or smell the smoke, you aren’t getting real BBQ. © archangelmlg / Reddit
  • Things are strewn about haphazardly. If your table has the ketchup bottle to the left of the napkin holder, the mustard bottle to the right, a drink menu in front of the napkins, and rolled silverware, and you look around, and every table matches yours? Someone at this restaurant cares enough to take the time for this, and they’ll likely care enough to make time to do things right. © Jazeraine-S / Reddit
  • Meals coming out in 10 minutes or less. For a sandwich that’s fine, but for a full meal, 100% it’s been in a microwave. © blahblahscience1 / Reddit
  • A very talented chef, a friend of mine, tells me that if he’s at a restaurant with an open kitchen, he looks at the towels on the chef’s hips. If they’re filthy, he doesn’t eat there. Making good food is hard, making good food and keeping a clean station/towels, is harder. © Giglomesh / Reddit
  • Before you even enter the restaurant, if it is a “normal” workday and you do not see at least a few vehicles, there may be something wrong with the place. © imageryguy / Reddit
  • The decorations. If they don’t take the time to regularly clean, or update their furniture to the type of restaurant for its standards then why would they bother serving you with high-quality food? © Emicron / Reddit
  • If it’s empty on a Saturday night. © endofthehold / Reddit

Tell us in the comments what makes you leave a restaurant or, on the contrary, makes you want to recommend it to others.

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