2/14/2012 12:33:00 PM

10 Telltale Signs of a Bad Restaurant

Image via Flickr/avlxyz
What are the "red flags" of a bad restaurant? We asked you for your opinion last week in our open call post and got some very enlightening feedback. While many cited cleanliness and attitude of the staff as top indicators, there were some other more humorous suggestions as well. Based on your feedback, read on to scope out our list of the top 10 signs of a bad restaurant. What did we miss? Let us know in the comments.

99 comments :

  1. How about when the waiter comes to your table wearing an apron covered in old food?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
    2. What about when the chef can be heard cursing at the staff while cooking in the kitchen!

      Delete
    3. I like knowing the server's name, either by introduction or by (atttactive) name tag.

      Delete
    4. So, I read this article and the one about "best signs". Both are great. I'd like to add that folding the napkin when the diner leaves, is fine. Although, not sure how I feel about someone serving my food or folding my napkin, after folding napkins for others. We all know how hard a napkin "works". Also, re-using bread and bread-baskets (w/o cleaning them) is a "bad sign" for me. Staff who scratch their face, arms, or other, or pick things up off the floor w/o washing their hands is a "no, no", and last but not least is the big, uncovered, never-ending yawn.

      Delete
  2. How about when they use the same rag there cleaning the table with to wipe the s/ p shakers.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Or...when you quietly and politely tell your young waitress the glass of Pinot she brought you is corked and she takes the glass, drinks a sip, and proclaims, that's the way it's SUPPOSED to taste

    ReplyDelete
  4. Kelly you should have known that a "rocks" charge is for extra booze, not the actual ice. It is typically 1/3 more for an additional 1/10 surcharge. 2 ounces of alcohol versus an ounce and a half. Why shouldn't someone pay only lightly more money for considerably more alcohol?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I go out to dinner frequently and I have never seen a bill with a "rocks" charge. A person wanting additional alcohol would NOT use the term "rocks"; people I have dined with usually request an additional "shot". On the rocks is simply over ice and one should not be charged for it.

      Delete
    2. Correct. Rocks is ice...the pour of alcohol is the same; unless you order a double. I like the bucket glass with lots of ice for the meltdown. I too have never seen nor heard of a "rocks" charge...and I'm a Bartender.

      Delete
    3. I'm a bartender and we charge a "float". I've also seen charges as "floater", but that does not sound good.

      Delete
    4. Some POS systems print a rocks drink like that - it's NOT an extra cost for the same drink - it's ADDITIONAL alcohol. The author should know this! Shame on her for slanting it this way!!

      Delete
    5. neat is one price and = 1 1/2 ounce
      now if you fill a rocks glass with ice and then put 1 1/2 ounces of liquid in it the drink looks like it was short, that is why restaurants have two different prices for two different drinks, if you order it neat it is only going to have 1 and 1/2 ounces in it. if you order it on the rocks it will have 2 ounces in it so the drink does not look like it is half full with a bunch of ice in it, but with the two ounces comes a bigger price. you are not paying for the ice you are paying for the extra alcohol to cover the ice.

      Delete
    6. honestly the people who write theses articles should have at least had to work in the business at some point so they know what the hell they are talking about

      Delete
    7. and you can't have the same alcohol with two separate prices "built in" because then you would have two yahoos at the same table order the same whiskey one orders neat the other on the rocks and then one complains when his is more expensive then the other person's for no reason. showing where the extra charge comes from on the receipt relieves the issue of bartenders and servers having to explain such things after the check is dropped.

      Delete
    8. This is the reason that everyone in the world should have to serve tables/tend bar at least ONE year out of his/her life..among many other reasons....

      Delete
    9. If a restaurant charges for rocks, it is because the customer is getting more alcohol, period. It is not a charge for ice. I know because I have been a server off and on throughout my working life.

      Delete
    10. How about making regular prices account for a drink with ice, and giving a discount for "neat"? Would that be tacky?

      Delete
    11. How about the bartenders and servers commenting here remember that your customers are NOT in the restaurant business and don't give a hoot about neats or rocks or ounces. We want a drink and we want to pay a single price for that drink. Skip the extra charges on the bill and price it right. Its all about perception and service and if the customer doesn't think they are getting that, they won't be coming back.

      Delete
  5. how about all the above people are simply a bunch of asses

    ReplyDelete
  6. sounds as if they all dine alone frequently...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Replies
    1. I DETEST when a waiter or waitress asks if I'll be "requiring any change". If they do ask me that, I look them straight in the eye and say, "Yes, I'd like my change please".

      Delete
  8. How about you just check the ZZZZZZZZZ survey, local foodery feedback or just ask Mummy how much you can hit the AMX card for,,,I mean ,are you serious ??
    In Philly avoid any place that allows,jeans , sneakers(even an NBA, 76's, slobs )and give it a try!
    Avoid Olde City after mid-night, the murder rate is astronomical,and late nite taxi service is non existent,OHh and avoid 15th and Chestnut , the Mike Nutter, Pol. Comish Ramsey flash mobs rule the zone, thanks !!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Uhh, how about just avoid Philly.

      Delete
    2. Every restaurant save the Fountain pretty much allows jeans now. You see people in Le Bec-Fin with jeans...not that I condone it.

      Also, Old City and 15th st. are hardly the restaurant hotbeds. When was the last time you actually went out in Philly, 1999?

      And Philly is largely considered one of the best restaurant cities in the country now. You can certainly avoid it and eat well, but why not check it out?

      Delete
  9. Dirty menus, crumbs on the seats, dried ketchup on a jutebox or salt & pepper shakers, waiters/waitresses calling patrons "You guys", a grumpy hostess who acts like you're bothering her, dirty bathrooms, old menus, dried food on utensils~Is that enough? :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. If the server gives her name, that's the sign of a bad restaurant??
    Am I missing something here? That's a great sign.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. I don't understand why the server giving their name is so reviled. I find it helpful when I need to ask for something for some reason. Not just "could you get whoever has this table".

      Delete
    2. When a server gives her/his name I don't think it is a sign of a bad restaurant. But, it is not a good sign. I don't need the name--it is of no help. It may be an attempt to be friendly or folksy--don't need that either. Need prompt, attentive, routine, capable, thoughtful, and skillful service for which I will routinely leave a 20-25% tip. But I don't want to be friends, share personal experiences or values, or be forced to request routine (non-special) service. It's about the food, the place, the people I'm with, and, for me, the wine. If I want an opinion I will ask for it. Generally, the service I get is just fine. Thanks to all those who do a good job every day. You are the pros!

      Delete
    3. /\ /\ You kinda sound like a jerk. /\ /\

      Delete
    4. giving a name isn't a sign of trying to be your friend or forcing an opinion, its just a courtesy most restaurants force the server to do, in case you have a bad, or good experience and you later want to relay that info to management. instead of just hearing about the experience in said rave or rant it is much more constructive for management to know which of their employees was involved in the experience.

      Delete
    5. I don't need the server's name to be polite to them--- if I need something, I just put up a forefinger, or call "waiter" or "waitress" softly. I have enough useless lumber in my head without adding the names of waitpersons. I'm not being a snob--- my mother was a waitress for 40 years.

      Delete
    6. A server doesn't need your name, but as a server, I'd much rather have a table call me by my name instead of 'excuse me' or whatever. Also, its much easier to get my attention by calling me by my name. I'm not looking for friends, I just think its a minor bit of procedure to establish

      Delete
    7. Here's the deal..I am a manager of a 10-million- dollar-a -year restaurant--I have 40 servers on my staff--(and I am a kick-ass server, btw:) I meet 2000 guests a week as a manager, and I TRY to remember their names! When I dine out, if I rememember the server's name, it means I have made a connection with him/her--that's a big deal. I encourage my staff to not only introduce themselves--I CHALLENGE them to see if the guest tells me at the end of the night that they had a GREAT experience with "John"...if the guest remembers the server's name, I know my staff is doing their job :)

      Delete
    8. To some of these replies: seriously, you are whining because a professional had the courtesy to self-identify? Newsflash: good servers are food sales professionals, looking to build repeat business with the right clientele - and bad servers would be happy to treat you like crap and maintain their anonymity. Don't like having to hear the name of someone with whom your going to be reliant upon for the next two hours? Stay home and cook.

      Delete
    9. Guess what, my name is Jason, I'm sure the people you are with at dinner can't wait for the meal to be over, and are hoping your ignorance is helped by you covering the check. I bet for YOU, the wine is important, regardless if you can tell if it's corked or not. You sound like a classic douche.

      Delete
    10. While the server introducing himself or herself can be a bit annoying, here's how it helps. If the server was outstanding in terms of service, you may very well want that server again on the next visit.

      With the server introducing himself, you can ask the host/hostess to be seated at a table in the server's station.

      Delete
  11. a restaurant like we went to in babylon ny..empty everytime we stopped in..roach motels on the floor!!! and a horrible rocksandy duo giving us headaches!!..yes the location was lousy...but so were the smelly bathrooms and the headache awful duo that was annoying and chased the few folks in this lagoon...out the door!!!

    ReplyDelete
  12. when the menu is longer then santa's naughty list

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I beg to differ... Cheesecake Factory has over 200 Menu items and is GOOOoooOOOd... Especially the Fried Macaroni and Cheese. Although, I guess I don't know how many people are on Santa's Naughty List.

      Delete
    2. So you've tried everything on their menu? I've been to Cheesecake Factory 3-4 times and pretty much everything I ate was bland and mediocre. Maybe I should have only ordered the cheesy deep-fried items...real hard to screw those up! Still, it's not real food.

      Delete
    3. The Cheesecake Factory is one of the exceptions to this rule. Other than the big menu, it has many other signs for a "good" restaurant.

      I say "good" because it is great after a long shopping day. But not exactly for wedding 10th anniversary.

      BTW, where is "the list of signs for a good restaurant"? (not that I looked for it)

      Delete
    4. The Cheesecake factory builds nice places i will give them that.But as for food, is bland and mediocre at its best. ( unless you ate Mcdonalds all your life and you developed no taste buds )

      Delete
    5. Cheesecake factory seems to drench everything in either corn syrup or oil. Really gross.
      http://advanet.com

      Delete
    6. Can you compare Cheesecake Factory to Charlie Trotter's in Chicago?

      No.

      But, it probably is better than many casual dining chains. And as for the cheesecake, only 2 cheesecakes are better, Junior's and Eli's.

      Delete
  13. I was once charged separately on the bill for ginger in what was supposed to be no less than Zuma or Nobu. This was (well, at least used to be) one of those "nice view", "very good food", "very good bill" restaurants of my hometown...

    ReplyDelete
  14. Waiters and servers who have colds or the sniffuls. One time I had a waiter in a very prominent restaurant with a green nasty coming from his nose and wiped it with his hand and stayed to take our order. We walked out pretty fast!

    ReplyDelete
  15. when I enter the door of a restaurant if it has a wet carpet smell, which many surprisingly do, we leave.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is it... when the concrete outside or carpet inside the door is dirty, you sure as hell know that they aren't cleaning what you can't see (like the kitchen!).

      Delete
  16. You walk in and you have to flag someone down to get seated.

    ReplyDelete
  17. When the check is plopped down on the table while you are still eating and the server waits until you pull out your money and/or says "I am going off duty now". Dirty floors, dirty windows and dirty table legs and napkin dispensers.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Ok, then every TGIF's, is bad since they have pics of the food, as does Chili's. No wonder they're not very successful! And I've been to many a restuarant where the server introduced themselves and the place was exquisite. This article has major flaws.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are correct. T.G.I.Friday's and Chili's are awful. They're successful because they have broad menus that appeal to the lower-middle class. I don't know of a single person who would answer either of those restaurants as their "favorite restaurant." I'm not a high brow restaurant snob, and yeah I can appreciate kicking back at Chili's with some friends watching a ballgame. But, if given the option, I would never choose one these mass chains where most of their food is prepared in a microwave or a deep-fryer.

      Delete
    2. Don't eat at an Olive Garden, unless your idea of Italian is Chef Boyardee.

      Delete
    3. I wouldn't say that Chilli's and Friday's appeal to the lower-middle class. I consider myself as upper middle class, as are most of my friends. We eat at those chains with some regularity.

      By the same token, we all have children and need places that have kids' menus and can keep the meal moving along.

      I generally wouldn't take a kid to a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant.

      As for the Olive Garden. Is it good food, in that it tastes good? Yes. Is it good Italian food, in that the dishes are based on what someone's grandmother from Italy would make in her kitchen? No.

      Delete
  19. Under "hostile clearing attempts," when the server says,
    "Are you still working on that?"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, that really gets on my nerves when they say that!

      Delete
    2. If I have put my fork down and am engaged in a conversation, and there are a few bites left on my plate, asking if I'm finished is a legtimate question.

      Delete
    3. I know that some people think that if a server leaves and empty plate of one eater it is annoying. My feeling is that people eat at different rates. When the plates of the quicker eaters are cleared before all the eaters have finished it can put pressure on the those still eating. I eat quickly (bad?) but i'll wait to have my plate cleared.

      Delete
  20. this article is terribly obvious...no new info here...yawn...

    ReplyDelete
  21. Speaking of empty restaurants - We went to Rain Forest Cafe for a family birthday recently. At the desk we were told that there was a two hour wait for dinner. There was a long line. We told them that we had purchased their frequent-diner club card. We were seated immediately. When we looked around we could see that at least half the tab;es were empty despite the large crowd waiting outside. Now that is really bad management.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. just because there are tables available it doesn't mean there are waiters to take those tables, and yes it is the managers fault for being understaffed, however they staff according to sales trends and what has happened in previous weeks, freak waves of people do happen on occasion and there is't really anything to do about it.

      Delete
  22. Our 'favorite' is the server that replaces silverware with their thumbs on the business end of the utensil. Gross.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Or when they clear the glasses by sticking their fingers IN the glasses!!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Plastic Flowers, followed by Dead Flowers

    ReplyDelete
  25. You cannot have a conversation because of the din. Your stomach turns into knots because of the racket. Who can enjoy a meal in a boiler factory?

    ReplyDelete
  26. Forget staff asking you if you're done...I would have gladly welcomed that instead of them removing my plate when my fork was still in my hand and I was chewing on my food! SMH

    ReplyDelete
  27. Usually restaurants that get carried away with the descriptions of their food are cheesey places: things are either "scrump-diddly-umptiously done to a turn" or they list every single ingredient that ever came near the dish (e.g., a petite breast of wild-caught purtslogle, carefully aged and rubbed with morgenfoogen, braised in a broth of quibbie, duckturd and pine nubs, and served with hokpetter and fresh wiglaf over fine white borgalid." And let us not forget the fake French or Olde English: you can order Le Griese Soupe, or Ye Olde Dishragg...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Any recitation of more than 2 appetizers, 2 entree specials and two desserts belongs on a separate menu or an insert. We realize that you are an out of work actor, but we don't need to know you've memorized a script! Inevitably, my eyes glaze over, and you'll have to repeat the whole script again. Even then, I'll forget half of what you've described.

      Delete
  28. Two things:

    Filling the salt and pepper shakers up to the absolute top - they're SHAKERS. If the salt or pepper don't have room to SHAKE, they do not work. Never fill a shaker more than 3/4 full.

    Leave my empty plate there until I am ready for the next course or until I am ready to leave the table. I find nothing more intrusive than someone trying to bus the table while I am still seated. If I want my plate removed, I'll ask.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're alone on this one.

      Delete
    2. Maybe ok at a cheesy place like the Olive Garden, but when I'm paying $50.00 and up per person, and this happens, I'm not shy about correcting the waitstaff! You serve all the appetizers at the same time, likewise, the entrees, etc... and DO NOT bus the table until everyone has finished the course! If I want fast food, I'll drive thru Burger King. It interrupts the conversation, and it appears as if they can't wait to turn the table over. Don't worry, if we go over the alloted 1 1/2 hours, you'll see it reflected in at least a 30% tip!

      Delete
    3. I hate the shakers most places have for crushed red pepper - they make no sense. The holes in the tops are too small for any of the pepper to come out, and you have to take the top off to get any (and hopefully not too much).

      Delete
    4. Agreed. Worse still is when the server commits the sin of removing some peoples' plates before the whole table is done with the course.

      Delete
  29. The use of the word "gourmet" in any context is a nearly perfect predictor of a disappointing dining experience.

    ReplyDelete
  30. The waitperson asking "Are you still working on that?" is most annoying.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, yes, actually, I am. The meat is as tough as the heel of your calloused foot, so I'll be a while yet..... I can't stand when they ask that queston!

      Delete
  31. trend in my neighborhood in Queens NYC, electronic scroll signs outside restaurants, blacked out windows so you can't see inside, instead there's a huge "open" sign posted, no menu outside but other advertising plastered on the windows. doesn't necessarily mean the food is bad but it's not my idea of going out for a meal.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I just spent a week on vacation and therefore dining out daily. I was irritated by the number of waitstaff who just came up to the table and interrupted the middle of our conversation - in some cases, the waiter made a point of interrupting at mid-sentence and mid-story at least 5 times during the course of the meal. Poor training on behalf of management - they should train the staff to hover and wait for a break in the conversation.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Intrusive management is a BIG PROBLEM in upscale restaurants. I was yesterday served a course inedibly presented, yet told by an anxious manager to let it sit tableside for a few minutes, after which I had to argue to get it taken away as still inedible, with the manager arguingthat the central chain insists the branch restaurant must include it on the menu. One major restaurant in downtown New York City,on the other hand is likely to bring tea in an inappropriate pot to get cold some fifteen minutes before the magnificent scone arrives, though there are four or five good-looking servers at the beck and call of each table to accomplish this.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Being harassed by the busboys.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Me and my fiance' had dinner in one of the most expencive restaurant in Dublin to celebrate our anniversary.
    The place was nice and romantic, unfortunately my cutlery was dirty, don't really know what it was but I polite asked to change it.The waiter looked me like I was asking for something crazy! After dinner were just having a glass of red and talking when the same waiter came over to our table: "You're Bill Sir" rudely handing the bill to my fiance' side. We didn't ask for the bill but we left anyway. Not going back, So Rude!

    ReplyDelete
  36. How about when you ask the waiter for clean cups and he tell you to wash your cup at the central cleaning pot provided by the restaurant. You see 8 other customers rinsing their cups in the same pot.

    ReplyDelete
  37. The fact that a restaurant is empty at a busy hour could mean that we are still in a bad economy. There are restaurants near me that used to be bustling at 5:30. Since the market collapse in 2008, the restaurants don't become bustling until 6:30, although that time is starting to get a bit earlier.

    Or, a new restaurant opened nearby, and everyone is trying it.

    ReplyDelete
  38. When I walk into a restaurant and if it doesn't smell like yummy food, that's a big red flag that the food isn't good. Especially if the place smells like disinfectant. That's the worst. I'll just walk out.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Kelly,

    The concept of your article was awesome and the content was totally relevant. I am astonished at all the guff you are getting, especially re: $1 surcharge for "rocks". I agree that if you're going out to an establishment that is anywhere near reputable, the charge for a shot of spirits (which already represents a 400% to 600% markup anyway) should include ice, whether or not your preference is "neat" or "rocks". If I ever saw this charge on a check in NYC, it would be the last time they would see me (a good-tipper and otherwise ideal) as a customer. Keep it going, Kelly!

    ReplyDelete
  40. I was sitting at a noodle bar and the server immediately told me to change seats so they have room to seat a bunch of people together. A few minutes, I was enjoying my noodle and the server comes by and wanted me to change seats again because apparently now I'm in the way of another group. I had enough and basically just finish my noodle and drink while standing up and left as soon as I can.

    ReplyDelete
  41. sometimes there are things that don't make sense to the dining public but they make complete sense to those trying to make a living in a business with a less than 5% profit margin. Anything dirty in a restaurant is a red flag. "Hello, my name is Eric and I will be your server" is annoying to most people. It's best to wait until asked for your name and I often do ask. The majority of people want to dine out at 7pm on Fri and Sat. if restaurants allowed everyone to come at 7pm they would not be able to turn their tables and they would overload their kitchen and waitstaff and the food quality and service will suffer. Too many people think they own the table for hours and hours and that makes it difficult to make a living for the owner. If you ask for a substitution in a really good local restaurant you are not being respectful of the chef and the time they take to create a balanced dish. If you don't care about the creativity you should dine at the place that lists the meats and the sides and let's you build your own plate. If a substitution is denied don't take it personal. There are good reasons for denying subs. "Can I have Fries instead of Mashed?" No, I'm so sorry. We make our fries fresh daily from real potatoes. We offer them with our freshly ground burger and as an appetizer. If you would like fries feel free to order them in addition to your delicious entree. We would rather not run out of our freshly cut potatoes and disappoint our customers that order the burger or the appetizer. blah blah blah........let's ask restaurant owners to list the annoying, costly and bad habits of the dining public.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like the people who sit there stewing through both bad drinks and bad food, then pay their bills and come looking for a "manager" after the fact. My thoughts: "So you don't want to come back? Fine. There's the door. I couldn't care less." lol. I guess I'm not cut out for the P/T restaurant biz.

      Delete
  42. Blah Blah Blah you're all big bunch of whinge bags. Eat my booty, eat my booty.

    ReplyDelete
  43. A rocks pour is generally an ounce to 1.5 more than a standard highball pour (essentially a double. This is also a way for restaurants to get around certain blue laws on serving alcohol.) Come on Zagat- you've been in the game for long enough. The rocks pour is nothing new. If you have no qualms about dishing out an extra 2 to 4 dollars for a martini (especially if you're still stuck on the 'bone dry' bull****, measure the size of your glass. See if the bar free pours or jiggers and look at the amount of alcohol going into the glass.
    Or screw yourself and your readers- let's abolish the rocks pour. Go back to having 1.5 to 2 ounces of scotch on the rocks. I know management would love the savings in liquor cost.

    ReplyDelete