20 Red Flags That Scream ‘Run’ When Dining at a Restaurant

Dining out can be a delightful experience, offering a welcome break from home-cooked meals and a chance to indulge in various cuisines. However, choosing your dining spot wisely is essential, as not all establishments maintain the same hygiene, quality, and service standards. Here, we discuss warning signs that your selected restaurant may not be up to par.

It Is Empty

Empty restaurant
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The most obvious sign that a restaurant isn’t fit for dining is an empty or nearly empty establishment. Building a loyal customer base takes time, so if the restaurant you picked looks barren, it can be a red flag.

Ingredients Are Out-Of-Season

fruits and vegetables
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A sure sign of a restaurant that doesn’t take quality seriously is when they serve out-of-season ingredients. Especially for seasonal fruits and vegetables, it should be easy to tell whether or not the produce has been freshly sourced. If you observe that the food isn’t in season, look elsewhere for your meal.

The Staff Are Clueless

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Unfriendly or unknowledgeable staff can also be a red flag and indicate the restaurant isn’t taking its customers seriously. If waiters cannot answer basic questions about menu items, they are likely not well-trained or know nothing about the food they’re serving.

Unattended Tables

Unattended table
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If tables are left uncleaned, it can indicate the staff’s lack of attention to detail. The same goes for condiments and utensils left on tables after customers have gone. If you notice food remains or unappealing table settings around the restaurant, it’s best to avoid such an establishment.

Overly Complex Menus

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An extensive menu with many items can indicate that a kitchen is out of its element. It may also suggest that the restaurant relies on frozen ingredients or pre-packaged food, which can detract from the overall dining experience and fail to create lasting memories.

Poor Taste in Decor

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If the restaurant has an outdated or tacky decor, it can indicate a lack of care and investment in the space. Whether cluttered tables, old furniture, or shabby walls, all these elements can show that the establishment doesn’t take pride in its appearance. It may also suggest that the kitchen isn’t kept clean either.

Noticeable Odors

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If you notice strange odors in the restaurant, it could indicate that the kitchen staff aren’t following proper hygiene protocols. It might also suggest that the kitchen is not well-ventilated or the cooking equipment hasn’t been cleaned recently. In either case, avoiding such odors and proceeding cautiously when dining at a restaurant is best.

The Guacamole Isn’t Freshly Made

Waiter serving guacamole
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It is easy to tell whether the guacamole has been made using ready-made ingredients. If it’s too thick or has no fresh taste, the restaurant may be trying to cut corners and use pre-packaged food. It’s best to avoid such restaurants as they are likely to sacrifice quality for convenience.

You Can’t Smell Food Cooking

Japanese Restaurant
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The smell of fresh food cooking should be the first thing you notice when entering a restaurant. If there is no evidence of any cooking, it could mean that the kitchen staff are using pre-packaged food or frozen ingredients. You should also look for signs of reuse, such as reheated dishes and cold sauces.

The Food Tastes Off

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If your food tastes bad, the kitchen staff will likely not follow proper hygiene protocols or use fresh ingredients. It could also mean the food has been sitting out for too long and has lost its flavor. If your meal doesn’t taste right, avoiding eating there is best.

The Cutlery and Glassware Are Dirty

Restaurant cutlery
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Pay attention to the cutlery and glassware served, as these can indicate a restaurant’s hygiene standards. If they appear dirty, it could mean the kitchen staff aren’t cleaning them properly or using reusable items without washing them between uses.

The Prices Are Too Good to Be True

Restaurant bar code for payment
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It’s always helpful to check the menu prices before making a purchase. If the restaurant offers food that’s too good to be true, it could mean they are cutting corners elsewhere or using subpar ingredients. You should also watch out for restaurants that offer discounts and promotions all year round, as this could indicate underlying issues with their services.

Overly High Prices

Expensive restaurant bill
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Although this is only sometimes the case, overly high prices can indicate that the restaurant is trying to compensate for low-quality ingredients or an unappealing dining experience. If you notice items on the menu are significantly higher than usual, looking elsewhere for a more reasonable price point might be best.

Unprofessional Attire

Restaurant staff
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If the staff dresses in a way that doesn’t fit the restaurant’s tone or style, it can suggest they don’t take their job seriously. Keep an eye out for employees who are dressed inappropriately or without any care, and consider whether this is a sign that your meal may not be worth it.

Unappetizing Plating

Bad plating concept
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Unappetizing plating can be a sign of poor quality food. The visual presentation of food should always look appealing and delicious. If dishes are presented overly simply or haphazardly, the kitchen is not paying attention to detail, and the food may also lack flavor.

Unpleasant Music

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Music in a restaurant can reveal the owner’s attention to customer experience. It may indicate a lack of detail in other areas, like service or food quality, when music doesn’t match the ambiance. Curating the musical atmosphere is crucial for creating a pleasant dining environment.

Unfriendly Pets

Lady holding a dog in a restaurant
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The presence of freely roaming pets in a restaurant can be indicative of inadequate safety and sanitation practices. Additionally, if these pets appear untrained or unfriendly, it may suggest a lack of attentiveness from the staff toward their patrons.

Dirty Floors

Dirty restaurant floor
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If you notice dirty floors in a restaurant, there’s likely a deeper issue with cleanliness. Floors should be cleaned regularly and kept free of dust and debris. If the floors appear unclean, it’s best to leave the restaurant immediately as this could indicate potential health problems.

Sushi Is Made Behind the Scenes

Chef preparing sushi
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The finest sushi restaurants prioritize transparency by crafting their delectable dishes right before the eyes of their patrons, allowing them to witness the meticulous preparation firsthand. By doing so, these establishments provide a visually captivating experience and instill confidence in the quality of their sushi.

No Ice Machine Available

ice machine
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Ice machines are the safest way to access ice for a restaurant. If a restaurant doesn’t have an ice machine and instead relies on other containers to store their ice cubes, it could indicate that they are not adhering to the necessary food safety protocols. It’s advisable to avoid such establishments.

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This article was produced on Health Makes You.

Yvonne Alieme

Yvonne Alieme is a passionate writer dedicated to reviving society's reading culture. She strives to inspire and educate others through her work, and her commitment to promoting literacy and knowledge-sharing makes her a valuable contributor to the community.

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