Instagram | neumond_restaurant

Chefs Reveal The Biggest Red Flags To Look Out For At Restaurants

Paddy Clarke 21 Oct 2019

People love eating out. Not only does it mean you don't have to cook, but it's a chance to try new things that you don't have the gall to try cooking for yourself! However, getting a bad meal, or suspecting that the food isn't fresh can put a real downer on your evening!

So, in order to try and gain a little more insight into what to watch out for when eating at a restaurant, one Reddit user posed the question, "Chefs of Reddit, what are some 'red flags' people should look out for when they go out to eat?"

Plenty of chefs took to the comments to offer their expert opinion, and so here are a selection of the most important red flags you should look out for when eating out!

1. Sick Staff


"Sick waitstaff. If restaurant owners encourage their waitstaff to work while sick (or don't help to find a replacement), you can count on getting sick too." - thick_andy

Nothing adds to the ambiance of a restaurant quite like the waiting on staff sniffling and sneezing constantly.

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2. Health Inspections

Instagram | theswagnc

"For my NYC people 'Grade Pending' doesn’t mean that the restaurant is awaiting judgement on their health inspection. It means that they failed and are given a grace period to fix their wrongs." - ImSuperSick

We used to go to a takeaway back in university that wore its 1-star health inspection result like a badge of honor. It wasn't until a video emerged of a rat running on their donna meat like a treadmill emerged that we really stopped going.

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3. The "Specials"

instagram | thecountrypark

"These comments saying, 'don't eat (whatever food) on a (day of week) because it's leftovers...' This is called utilization. Specials are just that. Things that we'd rather sell than throw out. Those of us who actually know what we're doing, carefully cool down and store things so they have as much menu life as possible. Only an idiot would throw away perfectly good, saleable food if it didn't sell on the first night." - kurtn0tk1rk

I'm a sucker for the specials list, makes me feel all fancy. Nice one for ruining this for me!

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4. Coffee Machine

Instagram | faemaqatar

"If the restaurant has a coffee machine visible, take a look at the steamer. If it's covered in white, means they don't clean after frothing the milk. Most likely they don't run steam after heating up the milk, meaning that there is residual milk inside the nozzle of the steamer, which gets burnt and generates bacteria. Don't order coffee in there." - fernanzgz

We were always told to keep the steamer arm as clean as possible in our cafe. Leaving old milk in the arm can really impact the taste of the drink, making it very unpleasant!

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5. Large Menus

Instagram | graphicsmith1996

"Not a chef but my best friend is and he says a large menu. Chances are a lot of things on a menu means that they are frozen. Also, it's difficult to train people to be good at making 40 different things so the quality is going to suffer." - michaelad567

I can barely make one meal (corned beef hash if you must know), let alone 40!

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6. Happy Staff

Instagram | jcniemeyer_com

"Not a chef, but ex-restaurant manager. How happy is the staff? Do they seem like they like their jobs? If the staff are miserable, you're not going to get quality food or service. It's worth seeking out restaurants that treat their staff well. If they're treated well, they'll treat you well." - ohno

Having a waiter who is really miserable does put a downer on an evening, as it's impossible to get past the fact that they are hating every single second of the evening.

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7. Cockroaches

Instagram | vedralan

"If you walk into a restaurant and it smells like old socks, leave, German cockroach pheromones (the most common restaurant roach) smell like old sweaty socks, and there need to be ALOT of them to make the odor noticeable" - SlayinDaWabbits

Although, if I went in somewhere and it smelt like old socks, I'd be out of there regardless if it was because of cockroaches or not!

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8. Vegetable Garnishes

Reddit | Twinkle_Little_Star_

"A friend of mine said that in his restaurant they usually reuse the vegetable garnishes from previous customers if they didn't eat them." - Twinkle_Little_Star_

I never eat vegetable garnishes anyway, I hate to see something which has been so unnecessarily prepared being destroyed.

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9. Cross-Contamination

Instagram | restauracjaepoka

"I wasn't a chef, just a humble stock boy, but I can say this; a good amount of hot food isn't truly kosher/halal, and a lot of seemingly vegan food isn't.

"9 times out of 10, it's a result of ignorance; a skillet that made sausage during the breakfast shift might not have been washed before being used to blacken chicken or saute vegetables for lunch. Simple mistakes that can be attributed to human error and shift changes." - sibuttadopo

If you're looking for specific dietary options, your best bet is to head to a restaurant that caters specifically to that requirement.

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10. Rodents

Instagram | babyratbrothers

"If there's a funky smell that's even slightly (or stronger) urine-like, the restaurant probably has a rodent problem. Best to leave." - renewed_artist

Rats in the kitchen is nothing like Ratatouille! They have decidedly less adorable features and culinary experience in reality.

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11. Dirty Dining Room

Instagram | rainbowsparty

"If the dining room that you can see is dirty, the kitchen you can't see likely is as well." - mkicon

You wouldn't leave your kitchen filthy at home, so why eat somewhere that does?

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12. Staff Blowing Nose On Clothing

Unsplash | Kelly Sikkema

"I once saw a cook eating in the food court outside his 'restaurant.' He picked up the hem of his apron and blew his nose on it. I would say that was a red flag." - warmhandswarmheart

As far as red flags go, that one's pretty blatant. I dread to think what he uses for toilet paper while on shift!

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13. Questionable Fusions

Instagram | restauracjamickiewicza

"Does it sound like it could be 2 or more restaurants? Example, sushi, and pizza at the same place. They cant do either well." - rukasu83

Some of the most questionable food I've ever eaten was from a Late-Night Mexican-Thai Fusion Burrito Bar and Cafe. Just saying it back makes me realize how drunk we must have been to go in there at all.

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14. Plateless Tables

Reddit | blesskitchen

"You might have to be a chef to recognize this, but my red flag is going into a busy restaurant and noticing none of the tables have food, or not many customers are yet eating. This usually means the kitchen is going down in flames." - jeraco73

A kitchen in flames is often the result of whenever I try to cook anything. In particular, omelets for some reason, I always manage to set fire to something when I make an omelet.

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15. Dimly-Lit Restaurants


"If the place has low lightning (unless it's intentional), roughly no customer activity, floors aren't clean, place smells bad, booth seats move, drinks that taste funny (not a drug joke, this is a sign that they don't clean their soda fountains or tea urns) and low-quality customer service are all signs that you should look out for if your going to eat." - That_One_Bread_Crumb

It's just the intended ambiance I swear!

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16. A Cautionary Seafood Tale

Giphy | Working Title

"Ask where your oysters come from. If they don’t know, you don’t want them. Works for most seafood." - MaterialImportance

I love seafood, but no food is more unpleasant than low-quality shellfish. Also, food poisoning isn't fun!

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17. Tears, Tears Everywhere!

Giphy | Masterchef

"If the head chef is crying and not wearing any clothes, it's probably best to move on." - thermonuclearmuskrat

Yeah, this one kind of speaks for itself. If you're unlucky enough to see a sight such as this, just back away slowly.

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18. Open Kitchen

Instagram | mezza9sg

"A green flag is an open kitchen where you can see everything getting cooked. There’s an open kitchen diner where I live and the food is killer" - ScreamingIdiot53

Seeing people actually preparing the food you are eating is a big positive, then you can catch them if they're picking their nose or whatever.

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19. Dry Spots On Your Food

Instagram | neumond_restaurant

"If your meat or pasta, for example, has dry spots as if it was left out to dry for a good time, the kitchen is not properly covering/ storing their prep correctly. The walk-in is most likely not taken care of." - spoonedkittens

I mean, if your food is dry, I think it's a bad sign regardless of the context!

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20. Check The Salt Shakers

Instagram | dannysynergyconsultants

"Salt shaker. If the holes are clogged and the top is dirty, that thing has been refilled 100 times without washing." - faployst

This is not something that you'd probably even think to check, but nobody wants dirty salt!

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