How to tell if a restaurant is Shit! (Before you eat there)
When given the choice we will always tell you to eat a home.
However, occasionally you just don't have the time or you need to get out of the house for a night out. So we accept that eating out is still a part of life.
The next question is where to eat? By no means are all restaurants equal or even safe to be eating at. If you have ever watched Gordon Ramsay'sKitchen Nightmares, you will know just how bad the bad can be. Another thing to realise is that not all people have the same values as you when it comes to basic hygiene, healthy produce and consideration for quality. The hard truth is that an alarming amount of restaurants out there are not suitable to be eating at no matter what your food preference is, let alone if you seek healthy food.
In order to help you make wiser decisions on where to eat, follow our six simple clues to consider.
1. Location Location Location
Think about where the restaurant is located, and more importantly what other restaurants are around it. This will give you an indication of the clientele they are trying to appeal to. Apply this with some common sense and you have a reasonable assumption as to what food you might be getting.
Think about this, if you are in a food court at a mall and 99% of restaurants in it are fast food joints that are all full, don't be alarmed if you can't find the world's best salad there.
Commercial locations are often breeding grounds for poor quality restaurants, as they are based on bringing in masses and turning numbers.
In an opposite turn, some of the best restaurants we have ever eaten at are also the hardest to find. They are places that you would not normally stumble upon unless you where deliberately seeking them out. A restaurant in the middle of a busy mall is busy because there are masses of people there and they might not be spoilt for choice, thus most of the customers are not eating there for the food but rather the convenience.
However a restaurant that you have to actively go out searching for using Google maps is somehow always full. This means that people are going out of their way to visit it. This is a good indication as what to expect.
2. Menu-to-size ratio
A very informative clue is to look at the size of a restaurant's menu and compare it to the size of the restaurant.
The concept here is to make an educated decision to decipher whether or not the food is prepared fresh, using fresh ingredients. If you have a restaurant that is only big enough to fit 100 people in, and the menu has over 50 dishes, there is very little chance that they would be able to sustain cooking all of those dishes fresh, and have all of those ingredients fresh. Most of the time the large menus mean more dishes are prepared in advance and re-heated, also most of the ingredients are frozen. And why in the hell should you be paying your hard-earned money to eat re-heated frozen food? You could do that at home!
Our tip is to choose restaurants with small menus. If you only have a small menu to cook, it is a lot easier to make every dish fresh to order and all of your ingredients can be 100% fresh as you have less ingredients involved so you can have a faster turnover of produce.
Good restaurants, like good brands, have a clear and decisive focus. They have a purpose and direction.
A steak house makes steak. A burger shop makes burgers. A smoothie bar makes smoothies. Don't be surprised when you get a horrible steak at a seafood restaurant. You deserve it.
A major red flag for a restaurant is confusion. We have all been there, that place that makes everything from Indian to Italian and in-between. Definitely not the sort of place you should be eating at.
The saying "a jack of all trades, yet a master of none" is extremely relevant in the culinary world. Decide what you want to eat then find the restaurant most appropriate.
A great tip for choosing ethnicity specific restaurants such as Italian, Chinese, and Indian is to look at who else is eating there. The best Chinese restaurants always have Chinese people eating at them, fact! The same applies to every other kind of restaurant. This is one situation where generalisation and stereotyping is a useful tool. Top coffee shops always have hipsters and geeksters enjoying their syphon coffee while typing away on their Mac Book or writing with a quill in there hand-made leather notebook. Healthy restaurants always have people who are sweaty and look like they just came from Cross Fit sessions or Yoga class.
The list goes on.
4. The staff
Staff are the face of a restaurant and are your most direct form of interaction with it. Staff can truly make or break a restaurant. We have all personally encountered an alarming amount of restaurants that have alright food but are sadly completely let down by the people that work there. Staff represent a restaurant in its entirety. Observing the staff will tell you everything you need to know about the restaurant and more importantly, the people who created and run it.
Major red flags to watch out for:
- No managers present or actively engaging with staff and customers.
- Staff are miserable, impolite, not welcoming, and not friendly.
- Staff are unknowledgeable about the menu, dishes and recommendations.
- Staff socialising with one another on the job as opposed to attending to customers.
- Staff lack focus.
- Staff leave you waiting.
- Staff ignore customers.
- Staff don't pay attention.
Good service is so essentially vital. We will even go as far as to never eat at a restaurant again (even if the food is great) if the service is unacceptable.
5. What you see
Don't judge a book by its cover, but the cover could provide some clues as to why you should not be eating at a specific restaurant.
You don't have to be a design expert to learn how to tell a good restaurant from a bad one. A lot of it boils down to good old common sense and human emotions.
The basics (not design related) to look out for are:
- Is the restaurant generally clean?
- Are the tables clean?
- Do the staff look clean and presentable?
A top tip is to look at the state of the bathrooms, the cleanliness of the bathrooms are a reflection of the cleanliness of the kitchen.
Next is the branding. Branding represents all that an institution is, what it wants to be, and what it can be. It is the first, last and most significant communicator. A good restaurant's branding needs to be able to instantly tell you what the restaurant is and why they are special. We are not suggesting that branding is the final word on any restaurant as sadly there are places out there that have good branding but fail on everything else. Looking at the branding is however a very clean clue as to what you might be able to expect. You should be able to decide if you want to eat at a place by simply looking at their logo or website.
Another visual factor is the interior design of the restaurant. We could get into extreme depths on this topic, but the basic question you need to ask is, "does this environment look appealing to me?" and "am I happy to be in here?".
Attention to details, goes a long way in helping you get inside of the owners' mind. The trivial attention to details are the difference between an owner that truly cares about their restaurant and the owner who is simply trying to turn over numbers and has no passion or pride for what they are doing.
Some of the things to look for:
- Paper straws over plastic.
- Nice dinnerware.
- Thoughtful plates.
- Paper take away boxes and bags, not plastic or foam.
- Wooden takeaway dinnerware, not plastic.
This list can go a lot further, but it simply comes down to thoughtfulness in every tiny detail.
6. The reviews
We recommend always reading reviews about a place before you try it. The best ones are Yelp, and TripAdvisor. Reviews are a great way to see what other people are saying about a place. We also urge you to start writing your own reviews to help your fellow humans make better choices about where to eat.
In closing, we have given you some interesting things to think about next time you happen to be choosing a restaurant. We truly hope this guide will help you make better decisions and thus find better places to eat. Our final tip is to always be fussy! Remember you are paying to eat out so don't waste your hard-earned money on poor food at undeserving restaurants. Spend it wisely, eat better and most of all, live better days.
Alternatively you could just cook at home.