Do You Know How to Spot a Bad Restaurant Before Dining?

The 11 golden rules of how to spot a bad restaurant are: 

Today is the day! You finally managed to clear your schedule and go out with friends to enjoy a good meal and try out a new restaurant in town. You get there, and then BOOM! You spot a ton of stuff that isn’t exactly OK for a restaurant with 4 stars on TripAdvisor. While some things are easy to overlook because nothing can be perfect, others are not so much.

One of the biggest pleasures in life is dining out; therefore, you don’t want your dinner to be spoiled by a stomach ache later. Now, without further ado, let’s see how to spot a bad restaurant and avoid coming back to it ever again.

how to spot a bad restaurant
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The menu is sticky and dirty

Yikes! One of the first things that indicates a bad restaurant is a dirty menu on the table. Sticky or splotchy menus can indicate that cleaning isn’t done as often as it should. According to a recent Good Morning America study, the average menu contains 185,000 different types of bacteria, making it the filthiest item on restaurant tables.

It would be best if you also took note of the length and number of dishes offered. If a restaurant serves many different food choices, they are all made from scratch, which is a no-no for a place that pretends it’s fancy.

There is no disinfectant on the table

After the pandemic, most of the restaurants kept the habit of having a bottle of disinfectant on the table to be used before eating. So watch out for it, and if it isn’t placed on the table, don’t be shy and ask for it.

If the crew fails to conform to specific rules, a table may be packed with potentially dangerous bacteria, even though it appears clean. Keep an eye out to see whether staff members wash off the table with a damp towel or use a disinfectant spray. There’s a good probability the kitchen isn’t well cleaned if they don’t utilize a spray in the eating rooms.

Additionally, pay attention to the personal hygiene of your waiter as you are being served. It’s crucial to keep your hands clean and your hair pulled back, especially if you’re serving food as well as beverages!

Did the restaurant not provide you with disinfectant? Grab yours! Check out the offer from Amazon and see which one fits you best. I usually have this hand sanitizer spray that’s also alcohol-free. It’s available in packs of 4, and it costs just $13.99. 

The bathroom is super dirty

Besides poor service in a restaurant, you should also watch out for how clean their bathroom is. Neglected restroom areas, such as an empty soap dispenser, used toilet paper, and a damp, soapy floor, are indicators of a poor dining place.

It indicates that the crew is falling behind schedule, which may indicate they are also falling behind on other cleaning responsibilities for the restaurant. I wonder how often and how well they clean the cutlery. Yikes.

You are waiting a lot to be served

If the restaurant is full, this may be acceptable, but what happens when there are only two or three occupied tables and nobody is coming to ask you what you want to order? That’s a huge indicator you’re about to dine in a bad restaurant.

It only goes to show how poorly things are managed, trained, and customer-focused. If your table isn’t served in five minutes after you’re seated, you really need to think twice about staying! It could also indicate that the restaurant is unstaffed, which could result in poor service and low standards.

They have salt and pepper shakers on the table

…Erm, no! This is a huge red flag that indicates you’re in a bad restaurant. These shakers are probably the dirtiest items in a restaurant. Just think about how many individuals touched them before you, and if they’re sitting on the table and they’re clogged up, the staff probably doesn’t check them very often.

Besides their sticky and dirty menus, the salt and pepper shakers are the second dirtiest item in a bad restaurant with poor service.

how to spot a bad restaurant
Photo by Purnomorpl from Shutterstock

Flies inside the restaurant

A fly buzzing in the restaurant might indicate that there is decaying food or a dirty pile of dishes. House flies may hide in filthy sink drains and are drawn to organic materials like rotting fruit and spilled sugary drinks. None of those items belong in a kitchen where food is being cooked, especially in a restaurant!

The place is empty (or full with tourists only)

Follow the locals to where the best cuisine is found. Restaurants packed with tourists should be avoided. I wouldn’t recommend eating at a restaurant if you only see other visitors there, maybe because it’s the only restaurant close to a well-known sight.

Another indicator of a bad restaurant is that during peak hours it is practically empty. While it may be nice not to be disturbed by noise and enjoy your meal in silence, the absence of a crowd can send a subtle message: the only thing that recommends a good restaurant is the customers.

There is a lingering bad smell inside

Poor service, no cleaning in the bathroom, flies around the food, and so on indicate that you chose a terrible place to dine. But if the restaurant has a lingering smell, it’s even worse! Follow your nose’s instinct and leave the restaurant if it smells like burnt food, stale grease, or simply a general stink that pierces your nostrils. Cleanliness-conscious kitchens and restaurants will do their best to get rid of any residual smells from stoves, refrigerators, and other areas where odors may escape.

Orders are mixed up

Due to the high volume of traffic, restaurants might make mistakes, and that’s acceptable. But if anything goes wrong repeatedly, it might indicate that there’s a problem at hand. A red flag that the service may be poor is when you order one appetizer and end up with another, or worse, never receive it at all while your entrée is also mixed up.

Bad plating

If you find a fly, hair, or bone in your dish, it’s clear that the restaurant is bad and has poor service. But another red flag is when the plating is disastrous. Food provided without the proper side dishes or condiments, improperly arranged, or badly cooked—especially when it comes to requested items—will give the impression that the meal is not worth the money. Even if the food is delicious, the guest’s perception of the meal’s value will be negatively impacted.

Even the people who eat there seem dissatisfied

This is something you should observe if you’re in a bad restaurant: unsatisfied customers. Take a look at those who are eating or have just completed eating. You and your group might find themselves in the same pit of disappointment if they appear disappointed with the quality of the food served there.

Have you ever been to a bad restaurant? Tell us when and how bad the experience was.

You may also be interested in 8 Fast-Food Chains With the Worst Reputation

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