Biggest Red Flags For Bad Restaurants
The first thing they told us in culinary school when your learning the basic rules for food safety standards is if you enter a seafood restaurant and smell fish, leave.
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Not a chef… front of the house. When my boss (the owner) used to host and people would complain to her about the hour wait on Saturday night at 7pm and then threaten to leave, she would tell them, “If the restaurant you choose does not have a wait on a Saturday night, you may not want to eat there.”
If there is different cuisines on the same menu. It usually means it’s not gonna be good. I don’t trust that people can do Japanese and Italian in the same kitchen.
If you order a meal that should take a long time to cook and it comes out very quickly. It’s been pre-cooked. This applies mostly to quiet nights. If it’s quiet and it comes out immediately it’s just been sitting there. But if it’s busy than there’s enough turnover that it’s likely alright and chefs are just being prepared.
Stay away from buffet and salad bars. A lot of the time it is the same stuff that just gets refilled over and over. Super gross.
Not a chef, but I just took a chance on a restaurant today and the chefs were sitting, legs up, right next to the front door as I walked in. No one but staff and me there. So, according to how my stomach feels, probably that.
Carpet. Yeah it’s quieter and doesn’t get slick, but it is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen. I saw them pull it up when they remodeled (and put in more carpet). Vacuuming only goes so far in a restaurant and I know they never, ever shampood it.
The biggest thing to keep an eye on though imo is the staff. If there’s pissed off people, get out as fast as you can obviously. If everyone is kinda apathetic and not talking to each other much, get out. If people seem genuinely good with being there even if it’s busy or if there’s playful ragging going on, that’s where you want to be. The better the staff gets along, the better everthing in the place runs.
If a restaurant has a one-page menu that’s usually a pretty good sign, it means their line cooks have become specialists and can usually nail all the dishes listed. Conversely, if a restaurant has a giant, multi-page menu that’s a gigantic red flag. The longer the menu the better the odds that you’re paying to eat a boiled bag frozen meal.
Friend told me a “now hiring” or “help wanted” sign was bad. Didn’t believe her and got a burger/shake from Sandy’s anyway. There were scraps of paper in my burger….
There’s a Chinese restaurant in my town with a sign out front that says: “Clean food. And fresh.” I still can’t help but wonder why they would bring that up unprovoked.
A GOOD sign is when servers hang out and eat at the restaurant post-shift. Generally we are getting a discount but not free food – if we are spending our nightly tips on it, it’s worth it.
If employees try to argue with you about food quality in order to dissuade you from sending something undercooked back, just leave. It means they have a cook who can’t take criticism and your chances at getting a sneezer are greatly increased.
I have a family member who’s worked in multiple different restaurants, and they always advise me never to get drinks with ice because too many places don’t keep their ice machines cleaned because it’s so often overlooked compared to other kitchen equipment.
Pro tip: Look up the health inspector reports for your county.
Pictures of food on the menu that clearly aren’t from the restaurant
This is late but I clean kitchen exhaust systems. If you walk in a restaurant and can smell grease walk out. That means the place isn’t clean. From the exhaust system to cooking equipment. We clean some places where grease drips off the hoods onto cooking surfaces.
When the menus are super dirty and never cleaned, that means everything is super dirty and never cleaned
Ask where your oysters come from. If they don’t know, you don’t want them.
If you walk into a restaurant and hear Gordon Ramsay yelling at the staff you probably want to leave. Unless it’s one of Gordon’s restaurants of course.
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