THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE SEE MY DISCLOSURES. FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Making decisions about visiting a restaurant is more complicated than it used to be, considering the factors of food quality, ambiance and safety.
If you’re not careful with your choice, you may end up in an establishment that has been cited for multiple health code violations.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of 15 warnings that will help ensure your next dining experience won’t end in disaster!
Join us as we share our insider tips for determining which restaurants are worth making time for, and which are best avoided altogether.
1. Lack Of Customers
A bustling restaurant during peak hours is indicative of its popularity and customer satisfaction.
When you step into an empty establishment, it might serve as a cautionary sign that there could be underlying issues with the quality of food, the level of service, or potentially both.
It is essential for restaurant owners and staff to ensure a vibrant and inviting atmosphere to attract and retain patrons.
2. Suspiciously Low Prices
Restaurants that advertise low prices could be cutting corners to stay competitive, so it’s always best to check out customer reviews before sitting down.
With these tips in mind, you can enjoy your dining experience without fear of what might be in your food. Bon Appetit!
3. Poor Lighting
Some people who dine out believe that low lighting can be a cause for concern.
As one person responded, “When they keep the lights so low that you literally can’t see the menu. I’ve been in three places like this, and the food is always bad. The place is dark for a reason.”
Another agreed, stating, “Anthony Bourdain, in Kitchen Confidential, said that if you go into a really dark restaurant, there’s a reason for it. That reason is lack of cleanliness. From many years of experience, I believe him.”
Yet another person shared a concerning experience surrounding poor lighting, “This is how my parents wound up with food poisoning. Their chicken was undercooked and they didn’t realize it until they ate most of it because the lights were so low. They were violently ill for three days.”
4. Hidden Expenses or Rising Prices
Many people are looking for cheap places to eat out. However, that’s not always easy to find.
One person stated their disapproval of “Hidden fees or changing prices regularly. I’ll go once, but if that happens, I won’t return.”
Another person talked about encountering this while dining out, “I went to a restaurant the other day and saw a ‘service fee’ that came out to like $9 so I assumed it meant the tip was included, until the waitress actually ran off crying and the manager came to ask me what she had done wrong for me to not tip her. It was overall very awkward and was my first time seeing a ‘service fee’”.
One person expanded upon this further, tackling issues like how much to tip and other surcharges, “I have major beef with this trend – especially since I’ve noticed that in my city (which has very high sales tax and now service charges) places have stopped itemizing all of the charges AND are switching to systems like Toast.
I truly think it’s because the restaurants are trying to pull a fast one on clientele – who for the most part feel rushed and will tap the “20% tip” button regardless. But there is a big difference between 20% on $300 and 20% on $300 + 10% sales tax + 3%-5% service fee + undisclosed gratuity charges.
I think I’d also feel differently if the folks who work at the restaurant actually got paid a living wage and benefitted from these charges. But it’s come to my attention that many of the employees at fine dining restaurants are ‘staging’ aka working for free.”
5. Uncomfortable Seating Arrangements
When you go to a restaurant, not only do you expect good food, but also a good experience, especially when it comes to seating. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
One person noted, “Tables packed closely together to the point where you might as well just be sitting with the strangers next to you.”
Understandably, this resonated with quite a few others as well, with another person stating, “I ate at a restaurant where it was like school cafeteria seating. Multiple parties sat at the same table. Haven’t been back.”
Another agreed, “They always try to make this sound like some kind of perk too, lol. “Family-style seating!” Meanwhile, everyone just tries to keep as much distance as possible.”
6. Bad Salsa And Chips
This is a pet peeve of many people eating at Mexican restaurants. If the chips and salsa are bad, the meal is not going to get any better.
As one person said, “I just don’t know how you mess up salsa. Like if you can’t combine tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and lime juice with some peppers you should be out of business.”
7. Sticky Tables
We have all had the experience of sitting down for a meal and realizing the table is sticky. We give the restaurant the benefit of the doubt and ask for it to be wiped down.
But after it dries, it is just as sticky as before.
This is a major turn off for many people, but it doesn’t mean the place is dirty. It could mean the varnish has come off the table due to wear and age and the restaurant has not replaced it.
8. No Prices On The Menu
People like to know how much the steak or the burger costs. When restaurants don’t list prices on the menu, it is a major turn off.
Many people question this idea, as they don’t have unlimited funds to spend, and do not like the surprise total that comes when the bill arrives.
9. Sick Employees
The biggest issue people have when dining out is with sick employees. You don’t want someone coughing or sneezing all over your food. And you most likely don’t want to see an open wound on your servers hand.
“Employees are clearly under the weather/sick but are handling food for some reason? Lord help us.”
Another person agreed, “Most restaurant jobs don’t cover sick pay and will potentially fire you for calling out sick. This means if you get sick, you don’t get hours or tips and your bills don’t get paid. The worst part is that it’s almost guaranteed that most of the staff will get sick if any one person does, especially during cold/flu season so then you have no one to cover anyone’s shifts. Definitely a huge problem with the industry overall, not just the ‘bad’ places doing this. I was really hoping changing this would’ve came as a result of the pandemic, but it’s right back to where it was pre-covid.”
Someone else jumped in with, “Yes indeed. Once when eating at a restaurant, they had someone from the back bring my food out (late) who wasn’t our server. Not sure why. When I made eye contact with the person, I knew as soon as I saw their face they were ill. I had a bad gut feeling at that moment, but I went ahead with my meal and…. Hours later, I had a bad feeling in my gut for REAL. I was extremely ill for several days. I very rarely eat from restaurants now. Not worth it!!”
10. Room Temperature
No one likes a room that is too hot or too cold, but sometimes you walk into a restaurant and experience this.
Many question if the owner is trying to save money by not keeping the place at the right temperature.
As one person said, “When it’s extremely cold to the point of shivering while dining.” is a major deal breaker.
11. Unattentive Staff
There is nothing worse when eating out and dealing with a server who ghosts you. It should come as no surprise that this issue irritates many people.
“If they just ignore you for 10 minutes. Even if you are (too) busy at least acknowledge you’ve seen me and will get to me.”
Another person shared their experience featuring this type of problem, “Huddle House is the only diner I’ve never left a tip at. I went there once on an empty Sunday morning because it was my only option. Two waitresses, one other person eating. They failed to refill my drink or even look in my direction to the point where I went past the little swing doors and did it myself. My food came out and sat on the heater for a few minutes while the waitresses chatted. I grabbed it myself while making eye contact with the waitress. She never came by to ask if I needed anything so I went back and got hot sauce myself.”
They weren’t alone.
Someone else had a similar experience, stating, “I had a waitress forget my drink and just bring my meal, then never return. I finished my food and was going to pack up the rest to take home, but I only saw her once and wasn’t able to flag her down. I ended up walking out with the plate. I even stood by the hostess stand to pay, but after a minute I straight up went home carrying a plate lmfao. ETA: this was Dennys sometime in October.”
12. Loud Music
When going out to eat, most people are looking for a relaxing time, including talking. But this becomes difficult when the music is so loud you can’t hear the person sitting across from you.
One person agreed and said one thing that is worse. “Even worse? Strolling musicians who come to your table unsolicited, and start playing and singing while you’re trying to have a conversation over a nice meal.”
13. Digital Menus
More and more restaurants went to digital menus where you scan a QR code to see that food options are available.
While they thought this was a clever move, it annoyed 99.9% of diners.
Not only is scanning a QR a security threat, but the digital menu is small and hard to read.
Luckily most restaurants have returned to the traditional menu, but some holdouts still remain.
If you spot a single fly inside the restaurant, that should be enough for you to turn around and look elsewhere immediately.
Flies are attracted to unclean establishments, which is never what you want in a place of dining!
Not to mention the potential health risks that come along with a fly-infested establishment.
15. Bad Smells
A foul smell that lingers around the restaurant is an obvious sign of a poorly maintained kitchen and food area.
It could be anything from expired ingredients to overfilled bins; in any case, it’s not what you want to breathe in during your meal!
Avoid restaurants with strong odors, as they are likely to have bad hygiene practices.
Get Free Food With No Money
If you are short on cash, not eating doesn’t have to be a reality.
There are options out there that allow you to get free food, even if you don’t have any cash. Here is what you need to do.
Save Money On Groceries
It’s no secret that grocery shopping is a significant expense every month. While most of us know a few ways to reduce this bill, there are many other simple things we can do.
Learn the easy tricks to spend less on groceries and pocket some savings.
47 Ways To Get Free Gift Cards
Nowadays, people are looking for every means possible to make extra cash. One unique idea is to get free gift cards. Gift cards are a great way to help pay for the things you need without spending any money.
You can earn free gift cards for completing simple tasks in many ways. This includes getting paid for simple online tasks like playing games, completing surveys, and shopping.
Here is a complete guide on how to get free gift cards so you can spend less money on the things you buy.
How To Get Free Money
The idea of free money sounds like it can’t be true. But it actually is.
There are many ways you can get free money, from playing games, to watching videos, and more.
Here are the best ways you can get free money without having to work for it.
Binge Worthy Movies And Documentaries About Money
Do you enjoy movies and documentaries? If so, here are the best ones that are related to money.
All of them will keep your attention from start to finish, and who knows, you might actually learn something too!
This thread inspired this article.
I have over 15 years experience in the financial services industry and 20 years investing in the stock market. I have both my undergrad and graduate degrees in Finance, and am FINRA Series 65 licensed and have a Certificate in Financial Planning.
Visit my About Me page to learn more about me and why I am your trusted personal finance expert.