Undercooked food, bad service and horrible reviews are all well-known restaurant red flags, but what are the subtler signs that should have us running for the door?
According to a panel of seasoned restaurant critics who spoke to The New Daily, they include enormous menus, mixed cuisines, plastic tablecloths and beachfront locations to name but a few.
Here’s everything you should look out for when deciding to eat at an establishment, as recommended by the experts:
Besha Rodell, LA Weekly restaurant critic
“Some restaurants just have a whiff of death about them. It’s hard to describe, but you can tell instantly that there’s bad juju in the place and it’s not long for this world.
“Once it’s gotten to that point, the staff has often stopped caring and you are almost certainly not going to have a great meal.
“Waiting forever at the host stand for someone to realise you’re there (in a half-empty restaurant) is never a good sign.
“Conversely, if the host or owner seems too thrilled and surprised that someone has walked in, that can be a bad omen.”
Gemima Cody, The Age restaurant critic
“Enormous menus in mid-size venues make me sweat. How often is someone ordering those sweetbreads out of 20 protein dishes?
“The best you can hope for here is that they keep their numerous ingredients frozen to limit wastage. And that’s depressing.
“Also, water. There are notable exceptions, but it’s always best to assume you’ll be paying through the nose for anything with beach or lakeside views.
“In most cases, you’re over-paying, and getting crap beer and service.”
Janne Apelgren, food writer and author of Around the World in 80 Dinners
“Plastic chairs, tablecloths or flowers. Comic Sans (comic book script) on menus. Too many rules (no changes, no split orders, no breakfast after 11).
“When you’re overseas, menus in several foreign languages, spruikers and music that’s completely out of character.
“Another red flag is if no one makes eye contact with you when you walk in, let alone greets you.
“Fusion cuisine described as fusion cuisine is another one. Or if the restaurant is quite full, but no one has food in front of them.”
Dani Valent, food writer
“Being ignored is a bright red flag. If I walk into a restaurant and more than one staff member glances at me without acknowledging me then I am pretty sure I should leave.
“Any sign of neglect or lack of care. Great restaurants can be worn and even a little shabby but I don’t want to see dirt, dead flies, smeared windows or dead flowers.
“Bizarre menu items: any food that sounds like it’s trying way too hard is a red flag.
“Even worse, as a restaurant critic I feel obliged to eat the weirdest thing on the menu so if there’s lobster with chocolate or venison ice cream I’ll have to eat it.”