Restaurant Employees Share 30 Red Flags That Indicate A Bad Dining Experience

Published 2 weeks ago

We all have our own ways of distinguishing the ‘good’ places to eat. Little things like how hygienic the restaurant is, how the service is etc., can indicate whether you will have a pleasant dining experience or a horrible one, possibly ending with an all-nighter on the can. 

Recently, Redditor Objective-Switch-823 asked restaurant workers to share the personal red flags they would look for as customers when choosing a place to eat. Scroll below to read what you need to keep an eye out for according to employees who work in the restaurant business.  

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#1 My girlfriends grandmother used to always use the bathroom at every restaurant before ordering. If the bathroom wasn’t up to standard she was outta there because who knows what kitchen looks like.

Image source: berriesnbball_17, Florencia Viadana/Unsplash (not the actual photo)

#2 When your family/friends who work[ed] there tell you not to eat there. Don’t f*****g eat there. Don’t argue with them because you love the food. Don’t argue with them because their stories sound absurd. Don’t bring up a friend who worked there in the past and never told you anything like they do. Just don’t f*****g eat there.

Image source: DoubleDThrowaway94, kayleigh harrington/Unsplash (not the actual photo)

#3 If the staff grabs clean glasses at the top when handling them

Image source: arseniy1234555, Billy Mabray/Flickr (not the actual photo)

#4 Well if you hear Gordon Ramsey going off his nut in the back room….

Image source: PM_UR_REBUTTAL, Dave Pullig/Flickr (not the actual photo)

#5 That time I was about to throw away meat that was smelling sour. Owner told me to wash it. I said , wash it ? She said yes just wash .I was to shocked . So she took it and washed and boiled it. And put it on the tray. She went away .
. I wrapped it in paper and threw it away later and didn’t served it to anyone. It was something that made gag thinking about it:

Image source: MJohnVan, Usman Yousaf/Unsplash (not the actual photo)

Their bathroom was clean.

Roaches. Was a thing. It was just . Health department came . After that I didn’t ate at those places. It’s just to much for me .

#6 If the easy stuff isn’t taken care of the hard stuff has been sliding for days or worse.

Image source: automoth, piotr szulawski/Unsplash (not the actual photo)

Stale bread? Old condiments? Hot cutlery or glasses? These are signs of a dysfunctional back of house.

If they can’t keep the front of the house clean the kitchen is going to be a nightmare.

#7 A 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

Image source: thick_andy, Brittany Colette/Unsplash (not the actual photo)

#8 If the draft beer tastes funky or off compared to the same beer in a can, the bar isn’t properly maintaining its draft system. That means yeast and bacteria are growing in the lines tainting the beer. Then ask yourself what else they aren’t cleaning. A decent bar should be cleaning its lines, keg couplers, and taps at least every two weeks

Image source: NoUserNamesLeft98, Luca Lago/Unsplash (not the actual photo)

#9 Dirty dining room is a red flag. Same for washrooms.

Image source: anon, dutchgrub/Flickr (not the actual photo)

How fresh is the salad?

Noticing the staff fighting.

Huge red flag would be seeing a manager or owner berate or verbally abuse an employee in public.

It’s tricky, a lot of the red flags are hard to see from the customers side.

#10 My father and brother both worked as gas fitters connecting kitchen appliances and they told me if you saw some of the kitchens they have seen you would probably never eat out again.

Image source: anon, Rohan G/Unsplash (not the actual photo)

It can be hard to tell how bad a kitchen is without seeing it but they said if the restaurant area doesn’t look great then chances are the kitchen will be even worse. They have stories like pulling an oven out to replace it and grease 3 inches thick on the wall with a dead rat and cockroaches behind it. ?.

#11 Adult to teenager employee ratio. I’ve been around the block and if you walk into a restaurant or coffee shop and the entire staff is 16-20 with one adult to supervise it is a bad sign. I know most restaurants have a majority young people working there, that’s not what I’m talking about. If the establishment pays so little that no one with any actual bills to pay can afford to work there it leads to high turn over and an immature staff that generally doesn’t give a s**t. Nothing gets cleaned properly because the babysitter(manager) a) can’t go behind everyone and do their jobs and b) also doesn’t get paid enough to give a s**t.

Image source: agatvetheuil, Alexander Kovacs/Unsplash (not the actual photo)

With coffee shops this can be particularly bad because in my experience health department inspectors have NO CLUE how coffee machinery works or how to check it for cleanliness. It is really easy to make coffee equipment look clean on the outside while it hasn’t actually been washed in months or has nasty crusted milk on the inside. If the owners don’t give enough of a s**t to pay and keep employees that aren’t a revolving door of teenagers, they probably don’t care enough about their equipment and your cup of coffee was probably made with nasty, dirty equipment.

#12 Any bars with incredibly large/deep ice-tubs. If you’re going to have ice in your drink, ask when it was last emptied and cleaned. Deep tubs aren’t normally emptied in a busy bar, they’ll just have more ice dumped on top. Trouble is, if the tub isn’t clean, then bacteria (most notably e-coli) can be present at the bottom. It looks like black or very dark green spots. It’s pretty easy to spot against the white inner lining of the tub.

Image source: JamesLoker, Susan Wilkinson/Unsplash (not the actual photo)

I worked in two large night clubs and it was never cleaned during a normal shut-down at the end of the night because they’re so large. I assume that it would normally be done during a deep clean but that depends on the venue.

I don’t have ice in my drinks for that exact reason.

#13 ALWAYS hiring, or hiring all positions. Similarly, you never seem to see the same face twice when you go in

Image source: ParkityParkPark, Nick Karvounis/Unsplash (not the actual photo)

#14 Sticky bar top. I always have a habit of running a hand under the underside lip as well — any bar worth its salt knows that’s where the run-off collects, and it’s super important to clean

Image source: ButHagridImJustHarry, Bernt Rostad/Flickr (not the actual photo)

#15 Abundant fruit flies

Image source: brndnstrnr, Andrew Malone/Flickr (not the actual photo)

#16 Large hotels or resorts that pay utterly s**t wages and treat staff like c**p.

Image source: wardycatt, Pixabay/Pexels (not the actual photo)

People used to pay tens of thousands for a wedding and not realise anything about what went on behind closed doors. Many staff were on the equivalent of $2/hour, worked 12-14 hours with hardly a single break and few guests ever bothered tipping – so the staff treated their employers and customers with broadly the same contempt.

“Oops, did I drop that on the floor? The five hundred second rule applies!”

“Did it only get stood on the one time? It’s good to go back in.”

“It fell? Pick the fluff out of it and put it back on”.

“Smells funny? Mix it in with some fresh stuff”.

I saw one guy blow his nose into a slice of bread used for the buffet sandwiches.

Dregs of drinks being reused as the foundation of the next drink. Glasses unwashed, wiped over and over again with the same dish towel.

Staff who were obviously ill washing dishes and handling cutlery, crockery etc. Using their sleeve as a handkerchief.

The list is endless.

To be brutally honest – as a 15/16 year old working for nothing and being treated like s**t by snobby customers, I hardly gave a f**k.

So next time you’re at a ‘luxury’ resort, treat the lowly staff more kindly. Because those nice customers were the ones I made sure didn’t get ‘steak a la carpet’.

Your only defence as a customer is your attitude towards the waiter.

#17 Dirty restrooms. I’m not talking about like, a couple paper towels on the floor, and maybe a little bit of water on the counter, I’m talking *dirrrrrrty* bathrooms, a la dirty truckstop gas station- if that’s what they let the public see, you probably don’t want to know what’s going on in the back of house.

Image source: RelativeNewt, Izzy Villa/Pexels (not the actual photo)

#18 Number one evaluation effect for me is smell. If it’s a sour smell or disinfectant smell — red flag

Image source: SandaledUsurpation, Minh Ngọc/Unsplash (not the actual photo)

#19 Dirty glassware all over the place when it’s not busy, bartenders that would rather shoot the sh*t with coworkers than take care of their guests, dirty bar stools. Honestly, my standards aren’t that high

Image source: bjh3458, (not the actual photo)

#20 If you have a dirty plate/cup/utensil and bring it to the servers attention look at how they react. If it’s apologetic and you get a new one right away you know it was a mistake, but if they lag/roll their eyes/give a look of disdain you know they don’t care at all.

Image source: Petite_Tsunami, Melissa Walker Horn/Unsplash (not the actual photo)

#21 If the place is at least clean, I’ll pretty much forgive anything and take my hat off to you that you’re keeping the doors open

Image source: cornygoose88, Maria Orlova/Unsplash (not the actual photo)

#22 Discoloration in certain foods. I some years ago, worked at a banquet center where food was allowed to sit out for hours and then put back in the coolers. This happened with salad dressing and bite-sized desserts that weren’t consumed. The cooks were also ex-Navy guys who smoked while they prepared food. I quit after I was sexually harassed by the owner of the place. Honestly, the only way that s**t hole must have passed health inspection was some major greasing of palms.

Image source: Ermaquillz, Pylyp Sukhenko/Unsplash (not the actual photo)

I’m also willing to wait for food at places like Subway where employees are using gloves, taking their gloves off every time they finish making a sandwich, and washing their hands frequently.

#23 Never worked in the restaurant business but my local Panera was a franchised own location. Not run by Panera. I was never a huge fan but would go in maybe once a month on a Saturday morning for a scone and coffee. After they changed owners I went back in and the floors were so sticky. Gave it one more try about a month later. Same thing. Never went back. Called Panera to complain and they said, nothing we can do. It’s a privately owned Panera. Now if the floors are sticky where the customer walks, what’s the kitchen look like?

Image source: KJM8419, Asad Photo Maldives/Pexels (not the actual photo)

#24 If it’s an open kitchen, look out for the kitchen staff wiping their sweat with their hands, on their phone, coughing, touching their faces, not washing hands. I saw kitchen guys grab raw chicken, wipe it on their aprons and make a salad and toss with the same hand. I stopped eating at that place after that.

Image source: piink_clouds, Francisco Suarez/Unsplash(not the actual photo)

#25 Dick’s Drive In (a burger chain in the Seattle area) uses fresh cut potatoes for their fries. Sometimes, fresh potatoes have fresh maggots. I was trained to just cook the maggots, because you can’t tell the difference between a maggot and a french fry once you fry it and put enough salt on it. Now, to be fair, in the year I worked there I never saw a maggot, but the fact that it’s a part of their training is f*****g gross.

Image source: jnx36, Joe Wolf/Flickr (not the actual photo)

#26 If you notice your feet sticking to the floor, turn around and leave immediately…

Image source: Linux4ever_Leo, Mack Male/Flickr (not the actual photo)

#27 If the menu is too big that can be a red flag. a huge menu means a lot of food types aren’t ordered or kept around a lot. so that chicken patty or crab cake will be like one left in the back of the freezer all chunky and crunchy. they also likely won’t have as much experience cooking it and it will be bad.

Image source: anon, Daniel R. Blume/Flickr (not the actual photo)

#28 If a restaurant is ALWAYS HIRING that’s a red flag. High turnover rate almost always equals bad management and regularly rotating staff means serious sacrifices to quality and cleanliness.

Image source: intashu, Mike Mozart/Flickr (not the actual photo)

#29 If I see a bartender touch the tap spout with a glass someone was just drinking from, I immediately leave. That’s, like, common sense sanitation sh*t

Image source: butfirstlunch, Peter Wu/Unsplash (not the actual photo)

#30 My sister worked in restaurants for about 8 years while she was in college. The horror stories are unforgettable. She even quit two places over their “cleanliness standards” or lack thereof.

* At a nationally-known chain restaurant (like Applebees-tier), they often had problems with homeless people running in and stealing entire trays from the buffet. She said that there were occasions where her manager retrieved the tray from the hobos and simply put it back in the buffet line.
* Another quite famously-known chain restaurant had a notoriously disgusting line cook who would make the cast of “Waiting” look like Mr Clean. His nickname was “Crusty Critter.” Imagine someone who hasn’t showered in a week or two, has greasy hair, smokes like a freight train, chews, and wears the same clothing day after day… We aren’t quite there yet. He apparently used to take bites out of people’s food with a fork he left by the grill, then cover up that he had done so. He had been caught multiple times
* First rule of cooking is avoiding cross contamination, right? She said that at every restaurant she ever worked at, including a 4-star place, she witnessed bizarre cases of cross contamination.

As for red flags, ***she said the biggest red flag is the hygiene of the staff***. If the staff are gross, their standards are also likely gross. She said that waitresses and waiters often had to make their own salads for customers, and they NEVER washed their hands after handling dirty dishes, pens, booklets, menus, etc. They’d just reach right into the salad line with their hands and grab away.


Image source: anon

Shanilou Perera

Shanilou has always loved reading and learning about the world we live in. While she enjoys fictional books and stories just as much, since childhood she was especially fascinated by encyclopaedias and strangely enough, self-help books. As a kid, she spent most of her time consuming as much knowledge as she could get her hands on and could always be found at the library. Now, she still enjoys finding out about all the amazing things that surround us in our day-to-day lives and is blessed to be able to write about them to share with the whole world as a profession.

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red flags, restaurant, restaurant employees, restaurant red flags, restaurant workers
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