Chefs reveal the red flags they look for at restaurants

Chefs reveal the red flags they look for at restaurants including carpeted floors and a long menu – but having to wait for a table is a good sign

  • Reddit thread asked chefs and servers to reveal their red flags when eating out
  • Experts said to look out for restaurants with carpet as its hard to clean properly
  • Others said long menus are worry as that means could be paying for frozen food
  • Front of house staff said if there isn’t a wait, it’s probably not worth eating there

Chefs and servers have revealed the red flags that diners should look out for when they choose a restaurant to eat in.

Dozens of food experts from across the US replied to a lively Reddit thread, which was published this week and asked for top dining tips from culinary aficionados.

Sharing their eye-opening insight, experts revealed how customers should check the decor and length of the menu before deciding to ask for a table.

A chef for a Mexican restaurant even said customers should check how the ‘staff interact with each other’, as if they seem to enjoy being there chances are the there’s a good system in place and ‘you can expect good food’.  

Chefs and servers have revealed the red flags they look out and given their tips for diners when choosing somewhere to eat (file picture)

Elsewhere another expert explained how a ‘multi-page menu’ is a red flag as the longer the list, the higher the chance of the ingredients are frozen.

A front of house worker also revealed customers should embrace the wait for a table, as if it’s not packed on a Saturday night then you ‘probably don’t want to eat there.’

More than 14,000 comments were left on the thread which asked: ‘Chefs, what red flags should people look out for when they go out to eat?’

Look out for the decor, especially if there’s carpet

A cleaner said restaurant carpets ‘are often disgusting’ and they pull out ‘black slime because of grease and grit’ (file picture)

Several people said carpet was a red flag as it can be difficult to clean properly at restaurants 

Several people responded to the post and warned diners about the risk of carpets being dirty at restaurants.

One person said: ‘Carpet. Yeah it’s quieter and doesn’t get slick, but it is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen. 

‘I saw them pull it up when they remodeled (and put in more carpet). Vacuuming only goes so far in a restaurant and I know they never, ever shampood it.’

In response to this post another person revealed: ‘I clean carpet for a living, and yes restaurants are often disgusting. 

‘The stuff we pull out is usually black slime because of grease and grit.’

Ask where your food came from 

Food experts said diners should ask where oysters come from before ordering (file picture)

Others said to ask where your food comes from and if the servers don’t know, be worried

This person said they had to know the menu in great detail so they could answer any questions

One person advised: ‘Ask where your oysters come from. If they don’t know, you don’t want them. Works for most seafood.’

And a server added: ‘Absolutely. Works for a lot of things as well. If you’re eating in a place that serves meat as its speciality (such as an upscale steak house) the same can be applied to their meat. 

‘I worked as a server in a place where we were all briefed every night in absolute detail. 

‘We had to know where the meat and fish on the menu was from, for the meat who the farmer was and how many days it was dry aged, what the particular breed of cow or pig or lamb it was.’ 

Long menus can be a red flag as the food might be frozen 

An expert said small menus could mean the cooks are specialists in these meals (file picture)

Long menus were also a red flag for the food experts as that could mean frozen ingredients

A one-page menu could be a good sign, as the cooks should be able to ‘nail all the dishes’

The husband of a chef said: ‘A long menu is a red flag. If they have 40 different entrees, it means that they are preparing a bunch of frozen ingredients or they have the exact same entree rebranded as a different dish based on the sauce.

‘Short menus tend to mean fresher ingredients.’

And someone else wrote: ‘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. The longer the menu the better the odds that you’re paying to eat a boiled bag frozen meal.’ 

Question if the menu pictures are really of the food being served

A designer told diners to question whether the pictures on the menu were actually real

A designer said: ‘I designed a menu for a restaurant and left spaces for the pictures. 

‘They said they wouldn’t send any and told me to take pictures from Google. I have never eaten there.’

Avoid ice in your drink  

Another person said never to get ice in a drink as the machine might not be regularly cleaned

Someone commented: ‘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.’

Look out for the staff  

If the servers seem to enjoy their job, chances are the food will be good (file picture)

This chef for a Mexican restaurant told customers to watch the staff as if they’re happy that tends to mean things are running smoothly and the food has a better chance of being good

A chef said: ‘Cook for a small Mexican restaurant here. 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. 

‘That’s how it always is for the smaller, family run restaurants I frequent anyway, which I believe always have the best food.’ 

Embrace the wait for food and a table  

Someone else revealed how their boss would tell diners the wait for a table was not a bad thing

Meals that come too quick were also a red flag as that might mean the food was pre-cooked

A woman said: ‘Not a chef… front of the house. 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 grin on them – “Can I add you to the list?”‘

While another person said: ‘If you order a meal that should take a long time to cook and it comes out very quickly. It’s been pre-cooked.

‘Edit: This applies mostly to quiet nights. If it’s quiet and it comes out immediately it’s just been sitting there. But if it’s busy than there’s enough turnover that it’s likely alright and chefs are just being prepared.’

Things to look for in a restaurant 

One page menus

Happy staff

A waiting list 

Things to avoid in a restaurant

Carpeted floors

Long menus

 No knowledge of food origins

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