10 Red Flags That You Are Eating in a Bad Restaurant

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Have you ever wondered how to spot a bad restaurant? Look out for these 10 red flags that indicate you might be in for a disappointing meal. From poor hygiene to subpar service, we'll help you navigate the warning signs so you can make informed dining choices. AUTHOR: Sam Mire.

Fine Dining

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What about when you're dining at a restaurant for the first time, though? When you're flying blind, you have to make a judgment about whether you could be in for a bad dining experience. So if you see any of these red flags of a bad restaurant, check inside the bun before taking a bite of that burger.

1. A Monolithic Customer Base

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Are there only teenagers in the restaurant? It's probably not a restaurant concerned with attracting a high-earning, discerning clientele.

Is there an abundance of oxygen tanks and walkers by the front desk? They're there for the bargain, not the top-shelf cuisine. Hopefully, you look around and see a nice mix. Otherwise, you're seeing red flags.

2. An Unidentifiable Odor

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It's not fajita meat. It's not a scented candle. It's...what is that? That's the smell that says, "It's time to leave."

3. A Dirty Bathroom

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Unless you're at a restaurant known for its hole-in-the-wall "charm," a dirty bathroom usually indicates larger problems. As they say, a restauranteur who cleans their bathroom cleans their hands before preparing your chicken.

4. A Novel-esque Menu

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It's never a good sign when a menu resembles a copy of War & Peace. Instead of emulating the greats like Ramsay and Lagasse, this chef (or owner) went with Tolstoy. You cannot possibly stock enough fresh ingredients or maintain standards when a menu reads like a novel.

There are some exceptions, including The Cheesecake Factory (depending on your feelings towards The Cheesecake Factory). In most cases, though, an extensive menu conjures phrases like "frozen," "confused," "cheap," and "possible food poisoning."

5. Dirty Tables

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If you sit down at a dirty table, the waiter comes (and notices the mess), and you have to request that they clean the crumbs off the table, you're in for a disappointing dining experience. When a clean table is too much to ask for, so is good food.

6. A Popcorn Smell

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One diner who knows way too much says that if you smell popcorn but don't see a popcorn machine, you're in a roach-infested restaurant.

7. Confused Cuisine

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A restaurant with a menu that includes Hawaiian pizza, lamb gyro, and chicken enchiladas? Unless the joint has a Michelin star on its resume, that menu throws up more red flags than a parade in Tiananmen Square.

8. Poor Service in an Empty Restaurant

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Some restaurants go so long between customers that, when a customer finally does arrive, the waiters can hardly remember what to do. Or, the staff has become so infected with apathy and substandard culture that basic decency falls by the wayside.

If that's how the front of the house operates, you don't even want to see what goes on in the kitchen.

9. "Sorry, We're Out of That"

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The restaurant isn't out of the mozzarella sticks, the Snapper, and the Cobb salad because those dishes are more popular than the prom queen. The restaurant is either hanging on by a thread, ruled by broken systems, or suffering other deep-rooted problems that will manifest in your food.

10. The Food's Not Good

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There are often no obvious red flags that a restaurant is bad. When the salad arrives and you taste that week-old lettuce, though, you'll immediately know. You've made a horrible mistake.

This thread inspired this post.

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