Getting a free night to go eat out at a restaurant can be a challenge. Aside from the expenses, there’s the question of who will take care of the kids, where to go and how to get there. As a result, it’s important to know how to spend your dollars—and what kind of restaurants and dishes to avoid on your special date nights. Like any other industry, there are plenty of inside secrets and other things to know to truly have the best night out possible. So with no further ado, here are 35 restaurant red flags.
1. Don’t eat at seafood places that smell fishy when you walk in.
2. Don’t eat steaks that are priced at $3-4 on special.
3. If a restaurant can’t tell you exactly where their oysters came from, don’t eat them.
4. Try to avoid restaurants that have particularly dirty carpets laid down.
5. In restaurants you’re not familiar with, do your best to avoid the specials.
6. Beware a restaurant with an enormous menu.
7. Before going out to eat, check out the health inspector reports for your local county.
8. Don’t eat there if the food pictures on the menu seem like they’re not pictures of the actual food served there.
9. If the area around the restaurant is busy but the restaurant isn’t, you probably shouldn’t eat there.
11. Do your best to eat at places where the staff seems to get along and have a smooth system going.
12. In most places that aren’t the nicest, try to avoid getting your drinks with ice in them.
13. Although having to wait for a table on a weekend can be irritating, it’s also a good sign.
14. Watch to see if there are any servers hanging out post-shift eating the food themselves.
15. Do your best to avoid buffets and salad bars.
16. If your server recommends an item that isn’t the highest price thing on the menu, get it!
17. As a general rule, skip on the lemons in your water.
18. Beware a restaurant where the waiters don’t want to take your food back to the kitchen.
19. Stay away from restaurants that have two (or more) distinct food styles on the menu if it’s not a fusion restaurant.
20. If a place keeps claiming that they’re under new management, you should probably steer clear.
21. Stay away from places that offer customers coupons for good Yelp reviews.
22. Don’t go into restaurants that seem to have a “street team.”
23. If the place is empty but you’re still waiting to be seated, you may want to cut your losses.
24. If nobody greets you at the door, it’s not going to get much better from there.
25. If it’s really busy and the managers aren’t helping out, you might be in a bad restaurant.
26. If the bathrooms are in bad shape, the rest of the place is likely to be in bad shape as well.
27. If the parking lot is filthy of your cars are facing open dumpsters and what not, walk away.
28. If most of their promotion and positive reviews online are from influencers, be careful.
29. Stay away from places that are populated exclusively with tourists.
30. Avoid eating at fast-casual places where the person handling money is the same person making your food.
As you can see, there’s a lot more that goes into picking a good restaurant to eat at than it may initially seem. Though everyone loves a nice night out on the town, nobody wants to get food poisoning or waste their money on a subpar experience. Fortunately, if you follow these basic guidelines, you should be good to go. Happy eating!