Working in a restaurant is one of the best ways to become really picky about which restaurants you eat at. You learn that the bread might have been touched by 5 people before it gets to your table, that everything is filthy, and probably why your waiter is so stressed out when they get to your table. It’s definitely hard to not coach your fellow diners on what to look for and how to make your servers life a little easier.
One of the best things you learn working at a restaurant is how to tell which ones you probably shouldn’t give your business to. Chefs and restaurant workers on Reddit confessed all of the biggest red flags in restaurants, from having to big of a menu to the behavior of the servers.
As someone who worked in a restaurant with a huge menu that put jarred oysters in fake shells so they could save some cash, I’ve got to say all of these warnings are pretty spot on.
If a restaurant has a HUGE menu…it’s all frozen. –utahjuzz
The first thing they told us in culinary school when you’re learning food safety is: If you enter a seafood restaurant and smell fish, leave. –XxcontaminatexX
In culinary school, every single chef instructor says the same thing: If it’s misspelled on the menu, that’s on purpose. It’s so they don’t have to sell you the real thing. A prime example is ‘krab cakes’. –splinkyyy
When the menus are super dirty and never cleaned, that means everything is super dirty and never cleaned. –SoMuchBsHere
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. –fancyfrenchtoilet
‘Catch of the day’ restaurants better have a lake or an ocean within a 50-mile radius. If they are advertising fresh-caught Alaskan salmon and you aren’t in Alaska, chances are that [thing] is not fresh
If the area is busy but the restaurant is empty, that’s usually a bad sign. –AAiBee
Ask where your oysters come from. If they don’t know, you don’t want them. Same for most seafood. –heroesforsale
We have a sushi place me where the chef gives you free samples of future dishes. This usually means they take pride in their work and want to see peoples reactions before committing it to the menu. –[deleted]
Most often, lemons for water are really gross and dirty. –randyjacksonsarmpits
No matter how well managed a buffet is, it can never be sanitary. It is not reasonably possible to run a sanitary buffet business. –contrabardus
I always look for how the staff interact with each other. If they all seem to enjoy being there, and coordinate well, more often than not it’s because everything is running smoothly and they have a good system, which usually means they know what they’re doing and you can expect good food. –ruizpancho
If employees try to argue with you about food quality in order to dissuade you from sending something under cooked back, just leave. It means they have a cook who can’t take criticism and your chances at getting a sneezer are greatly increased. –A_pencil_artist
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. –FoxZach63
Used to work in a fancy kitchen. Any place that is charging more than $25 for a chicken entree is a goddamn scam. –Zuchm0
If you order a meal that should take a long time to cook and it comes out very quickly, it’s been pre-cooked –marahsnai
Watch the wait staff. If the majority of them seem disgruntled or upset, things probably aren’t great. They probably don’t care about your food if they aren’t being treated fairly. –CrossFox42
Don’t order fish on Sundays. Most places get their fish deliveries on a Monday and on a Thursday. Fish goes off fairly quickly, and on a Sunday it’s really not great. –thefabulousbomb
Stay away from buffets and salad bars. A lot of the time it is the same stuff that just gets refilled over and over. Super gross. –hugsfrombugs
Pastry chef here. As much as people say avoid specials, I can’t speak for everyone but at least in desserts/breakfast pastries, if you see something new its worth trying. Chances are it’s something the chef has been working on for weeks on their own time, there’s a lot of love and effort put into it.
Also, the standby if the menu is a book, it’s probably not great.
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. That’s also a shitty environment, everyone is probably really passive aggressive, and that’s going to show. 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. –robotran
Pro tip: Look up the health inspector reports for your county. –homeboi808
Seeing fruit flies. Fruit flies are an indication of a dirty kitchen. –bucklepuss
When there are pictures of food on the menu that clearly aren’t from the restaurant. –PanicAtTheMetro
Never order the bouillabaisse/cioppino/seafood stew if it’s being run as a special. That means the chef has a lot of old seafood to get rid of and is putting it all in a flavorful broth to hide the taste. –nihongojoe
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. –AllyMarie93
A $4 steak is not a good steak. –InuMiroLover
How does the place actually smell? Does it smell like good food? Then it likely is. But if it smells like perfume or something sterile? That could be a sign that they are trying to hide something unpleasant. –CrossFox42
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.” And then turn her biggest sh*t-eating grin on them –newgrl
If the bathroom is a mess, the kitchen is a mess aswell. –thatguyumayknowyo
If your server’s response to ‘How is the [item]?’ seems disingenuous, that’s a big red flag. They know what goes on in the kitchen, they know the complaints, and they know which items to stress over when they deliver them. –kjimbro
If a pitcher of water touches your glass, it has also touched everyone else’s glass. Also, if you can’t see them pour your water, there’s something wrong. –CausticMoose
Carpet is a red flag. Yeah, it’s quieter and doesn’t get slick, but it is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen in restaurants. Vacuuming only goes so far in a restaurant and I know they never, ever shampooed the one at my place –eyebrowshampoo
If you are seated right away during peak hours, that is a red flag. The common folk aren’t eating there, and for a good reason –ComedyCookingFitness