10 Signs You Should Not Eat at a Restaurant

Eating out is a common occurrence for most people, so it’s important to know how to pick the right spot. There are good places and there are bad, and it’s likely you’ve got a restaurant of choice that you frequent without hesitation. But when you’re looking for a new place to try, or are stepping into a dining establishment you’re not so sure about, there are some definite signs to keep an eye out for. Next time you’re dining out, consider these 10 potentially disturbing signs.

1. The kitchen is about to close

Here are a few signs that indicate you should not eat at a restaurant
Here are a few signs that indicate you should not eat at a restaurant | iStock.com

If you’ve managed to sneak in right before the kitchen is about to close, turn around and find another spot. If you do stay to order, it’s likely that your food had been prepped hours earlier, and that the kitchen crew is also already in clean-up mode. Besides the fact that you probably won’t be having the best entree ever, the restaurant workers might not be the most eager to treat you to an enjoyable meal, seeing as they are ready to go home.

2. The restrooms are dirty

washing his hands
A man washing his hands | iStock.com

This one should be a no-brainer, yet, it’s all too common in dining venues. No one likes a filthy bathroom, and if a restaurant isn’t properly taking care of their facilities, there’s a good chance the kitchen isn’t in pristine shape, either. If they don’t have the common decency to ensure the restrooms maintain a certain level of cleanliness, then what hope is there for the space on which they’re cooking your food? Next time you encounter a dirty sink, lack of hand soap, overflowing trash can or a toilet that just looks gross, do yourself a favor and head straight for the front door.

3. There’s a lack of clear ingredient labeling

nutrition facts
A food label | iStock.com

According to The Hub, a U.K.-based online training provider specializing in food hygiene, if a restaurant is not clearly displaying product labels, it could be a red flag. While it’s typical that food products aren’t necessarily visible, it’s always worth asking about. If you have any sort of allergy, it’s important to ask the server, who should know immediately. Or, nowadays, common food allergens should be listed somewhere on the menu, such as “may contain peanut oil.”

4. The music is blaring  

Waitress Takes Payment For Restaurant Bill
Friends eating at a restaurant | iStock.com

Everyone loves a good soundtrack while eating out, but according to an article published on Dr. Oz‘s website, the louder the music, the more you eat. This theory states that music sets a mood and could affect your eating habits, prompting you to order more and eat faster. However, be careful not to rush through your meal. The restaurant may be playing their music at max volume in hopes of flipping tables more quickly, meaning they’re not planning on having to serve their patrons with the same care and hospitality you’d otherwise expect when dining out.

5. It’s next to a major tourist attraction

Tourists | iStock.com

Sure, it’s likely that any place worth checking out is bound to have top-notch food to accompany a cool destination, but heed caution when choosing your next meal away from home. According to Matt Kiefer, the guy behind Hostelgeeks, it’s wise to steer clear of restaurants that are located right next to a major tourist site. For one thing, it’s pretty obvious that such a place is probably a tourist trap, which means sky-high prices and subpar food quality. If you’re looking for authentic cuisine, it’s best to stray off the beaten path, where you’re more likely to find less dumbed-down versions of the local goods.

6. It serves mystery meat

assortment of meat patties
Know where your meat comes from | iStock.com

No one hopes for mystery meat, especially when they’re spending an evening out. Yet, some restaurants try to pass their meat selection off as top tier when, in reality, it’s anything but. According to Thrillist, if a menu that doesn’t list much information on the cut of beef, such as the marbling of the meat or how the cow was raised, it isn’t a good sign. And if your server can’t even answer these questions for you, how much does anyone at the restaurant really know about the quality of the food?

7. Items on the menu are not in season

Fruit and Vegetables, carrots, peas
Fresh produce | iStock.com

You don’t have to be a self-proclaimed vegan who only eats farm-to-table cuisine to expect a certain level of food freshness. Similar to the case of mystery meat, most people want to know where their food is coming from. And when something’s not in season, yet it appears on the menu? That’s a sure sign you’re not at a good restaurant. Unless you’re at a super high-end place where you know without a doubt fresh fruit is flown in daily from Southern California, chances are the food you’re eating isn’t the freshest, or healthiest.

8. The service is bad

waitress taking an order
Waitress taking an order | iStock.com

Everyone has an off day once in a while, so it’s only natural you’ll encounter a less-than-friendly server from time to time. A place that’ gets bad reviews for horrible service, however, should be avoided at all costs. Management with a total disregard for any standard of service likely doesn’t care much about anything at all. If the entire wait staff is rude and dismissive, do you really think the kitchen staff is at the top of their game? Probably not.

9. It has terrible reviews

Young Woman reading restuarant menu
Woman reading restaurant menu | iStock.com

Remember how we mentioned customer reviews? Well, they really do matter. Thanks to the accessibility and influence of Yelp, TripAdvisor, and every food-critic-turned-blogger out there, you too can now judge a restaurant before even stepping foot inside. Not to mention, you’ll get a pretty good laugh scrolling through some of the reviews. In particular, shout out to Jay R. (No. 7) for admitting cheese sticks were the best part of his meal. It just goes to show you really can’t judge a book by it’s cover, no matter how fancy a restaurant may seem.

10. Dirty glasses and dishware

Water glasses and silverware
Water glasses and silverware | iStock.com

The moment you spot a lipstick stain (that isn’t yours) on your water glass is the moment your attention to detail is heightened. Now, there’s no need to go running out at first sight of this, as these things happen from time to time. However, from then on, you should take note of the cleanliness of all other dishes and utensils. Once is a forgivable mistake, but if unclean dishware is a repeat offense, the cleanliness of the kitchen comes into question.