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11 Signs You’re About to Dine in A Bad Restaurant

Nothing beats a good meal out at a restaurant with your friends and loved ones. Tasty food with no cooking or cleaning? Honestly, it’s a win-win situation! However, a night out can be easily ruined by a subpar meal, especially when it comes to one that’s simply too expensive to boot.

However, if you want to have the smoothest experience, before dining out, you should learn the things waiters wish they could tell you. Some of them refer to a couple of telltale signs that you’re about to dine in a BAD restaurant.

If you want to know beforehand if the food and service will be good, you’ve come to the right place. Even if there’s no magic guarantee that you will have an amazing night, there are some warning signs that might tell you beforehand if the place is good or not.

bad food restaurant
Photo by Nicoleta Ionescu from Shutterstock

The menu is too long.

When it comes to the restaurant’s main “book,”  less is more. So pay attention, because if you go to a restaurant with a 10-page menu that spans everything from Italian food to Indian and Chinese food, run. Run for the hills. With so many dishes and so many different types of cuisine, it’s definitely a sign that a restaurant hasn’t managed to master any of them. It might also be a red flag for food freshness and safety.

If there are 100 dishes, when do you think it was the last time somebody ordered the same meal you did? If you decide on a dish that doesn’t have a lot of turnover, it might be because it’s made with old ingredients that have been sitting in the back since the day they opened the restaurant.

The parking lot isn’t clean

If you get out of the car and come face-to-face with open dumpsters, trash, and even cigarette butts on the ground, you might as well just keep on driving. Dirty windows will tell you everything you need to know because that right there is the best sign that the restaurant doesn’t care about cleanliness, and it might affect the quality of the food you’re being served.

The restaurant has too many “themes.”

Themes, styles, and designs are wonderful for restaurants that promote their personality and motto, but just like with humans, too many personalities might be a red flag. All restaurants have a specific look and feel, and that’s what attracts customers.

If you end up somewhere that has way too many themes, like a cool dive bar inside but a nautical-themed beach bar out back, this could sometimes be a clear indication that the service and management aren’t in sync behind the scenes.

The staff appears disinterested.

Everyone can have a bad day, but if everyone on the staff looks at you as if you’ve thrown them out of their own house, then you might be in for a regrettable experience. If the front-of-house staff looks at you totally disinterested, it’s a clear sign that the management isn’t doing a proper job running the restaurant. If the front of the house looks completely unengaged, the back of the house is too.

The reviews are influencer-heavy.

When restaurants try to boost their online profiles, they could hire a PR team to reach out to local bloggers and journalists, as well as people who constantly post reviews. The more positive, the better, obviously.

Some of them might offer free or even discounted meals and turned-up customer service, hoping they will get a good review, but this doesn’t show the true experience of the restaurant, unfortunately.

Particularly the upscale ones have proper PR teams dedicated to generating good publicity. Whether it’s about a write-up on Eater or pictures of your favorite influencer dining there, everyone works around the clock to make sure the restaurants are always providing great service.

However, what matters is how they treat everyone. If you spot influencers singing their praises on Instagram but their Yelp reviews are quite questionable, then this is a good indicator of bad service.

bad restaurant
Photo by Rommel Canlas from Shutterstock

Everyone in the restaurant is a tourist.

If you want to get good food, you need to go where the locals go. Tourist-filled restaurants are a walking red flag. If you only see people who are just as unfamiliar with the city as you are, maybe it’s because the only thing good about the place is its location. I would definitely hesitate to dine there. Restaurants filled with locals are the ones with good food, and that’s where you should go, too.

The restaurant smells.

Your nose knows very well if you’ve stumbled upon a not-too-stellar establishment. Because here’s the thing: if the place smells like stale grease or burnt food or there’s an overall stench that simply burns your nostrils, then you should trust your nose’s instinct and simply walk away.

Kitchens and restaurants that prioritize cleanliness would never work or tolerate lingering smells, whether they come from coolers, cooktops, or any other place where odors can emanate.

The bathroom is dirty.

This is truly the hardest one. If you’re on the fence about a place, just take a look at their bathroom. It’s one of the best indicators of how clean the remainder of the place is. If the bathroom is neglected, the soap dispenser is empty, or the toilet paper is on its final square, and the floor is all soapy and wet, those are all signs of a bad restaurant.

Moreover, it shows that the staff has a hard time keeping up with the tasks, and that could also mean they’re not keeping up with other tasks. If, by any chance, you’re dealing with a dirty bathroom, here’s a hand disinfectant that will save you.

The kitchen is chaotic.

Restaurant bathrooms are often close to the entry of the kitchen, so while you’re back checking out if the stalls are clean, you might as well peek at their cooking area. If it seems completely messy and out of control, then it might be time to head out the front door.

Reality TV shows aside, kitchens can be quite busy, but this doesn’t mean that they also need to be chaotic. Organization and cleanliness are truly important not only for health inspections but also for making the whole place run smoothly.

The errors never cease.

Restaurants are quite busy places, and mistakes might occur every now and then. But if things always go wrong, then this is a sign that this isn’t the best place to try out a tasty meal. Servers are only humans, it’s true, but an error or two doesn’t compare to an overall bad experience.

However, if you order one appetizer and get something else, or if you simply don’t get anything at all and your entrees get all mixed up, then this is a red flag.

The building is in a state of despair.

Cute restaurants with character and charm might be one thing, but let’s be real: decrepit buildings really point towards a terrible place. I know we all have a story about a place that had a “hole in the wall,” but the food was fantastic.

However, this is the exception, not the rule. You can tell a lot by looking at the general state of disrepair of the restaurant itself. Whether we’re talking about stained ceiling tiles, unswept or unvacuumed floors, or even dead and dying plants, this is a sign to run for the hills.

If you found this article useful, we also recommend checking out: 6 Incredible Challenging Destinations for American Travelers

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