15 Red Flags You’re About to Eat at a Bad Restaurant

Know the warning signs

There's nothing better than a meal out at a restaurant with friends or loved ones. Delicious food with no cooking or cleaning? It's a win-win! But a night out can be ruined by a subpar meal, especially one that's expensive to boot.

The menu is a mile long

When it comes to menus, less is more. If the restaurant has a menu that's 10 pages long and spans Italian food to Indian to Chinese, that's a big red flag. 

The parking lot isn't clean

If you get out of your car and come face-to-face with open dumpsters, trash and cigarette butts on the ground, you may want to keep driving, says Ken Rice, a consultant with more than 30 years of experience in the restaurant industry. 

The restaurant has too many "themes"

Themes, styles and designs are a great way for restaurants to promote their personality to guests, but too many may be a red flag. "All restaurants have a look and feel. That's what attracts customer.

The staff appears disinterested

If the front-of-house staff looks disinterested and checked out, it is a sign that the management isn't doing a good job running the restaurant.

Their reviews are influencer-heavy

Restaurants, especially upscale ones, have PR teams dedicated to generating good publicity. Whether it be a write-up on Eater or pictures of your favorite influencer dining there, we work around the clock to ensure restaurants are always providing stellar service.

Everyone in the restaurant is a tourist

If you only see other tourists at a restaurant, perhaps because it's the only place near a popular attraction, I would hesitate to eat there.

The restaurant smells

Your nose knows when you've stumbled upon a not-so-stellar establishment, Rice says. Whether the restaurant smells like stale grease, burnt food or there's just an overall stench that burns your nostrils, trust your nose's instinct and walk away.