UPDATE: 4 gross 'red flags' to watch for when you go out to eat, according to chefs
By Catey Hill, MarketWatch
As restaurant spending is set to hit a record high this year, we dig into the signs that an eatery may not be up to snuff
Chew on this.
Americans are spending a pile of dough eating out: U.S. restaurant industry sales are expected to hit a record high this year of $863 billion, which is up 3.6% from last year, according to 2019 data from the National Restaurant Association (https://www.nrn.com/sales-trends/us-restaurant-sales-reach-record-863b-2019-nra-says?NL=NRN-02_&Issue=NRN-02__20190409_NRN-02__856&sfvc4enews=42&cl=article_1_2&utm_rid=CPG06000015425570&utm_campaign=29671&utm_medium=email&elq2=6fc7c576f7bb44c3990a201e49924279). And nearly two-thirds of Americans has gone out to a restaurant within the past week, according to Gallup data. (https://news.gallup.com/poll/201710/americans-dining-frequency-little-changed-2008.aspx)
So when MarketWatch found a recent thread on Reddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/br19bh/chefs_what_red_flags_should_people_look_out_for/)asking chefs to share red flags to watch for when dining out -- things that might signal that a restaurant isn't clean, or the food isn't very good or fresh -- we decided it was worth asking chefs ourselves and highlighting some of the better findings on that thread. Here's what we found.
Look at the door handles of the refrigeration units if you can, says Victor Cardamone, owner of restaurant design and consulting firm Mise Design Group (http://www.misedesigns.com) -- something that's become easier to do as many restaurants have open plan designs now. "If they are dirty, or crusted with food particles, that means the staff not only does not do a thorough job of cleaning regularly, but they also do not wash their hands as frequently as they should. Refrigeration door handles are opened and closed hundreds of times through the course of a service period so if the staff are diligent about handwashing, those door handles should be as clean as the hands touching them," he says. Another pro tip -- this one from Reddit: When the menus are super dirty and never cleaned, that can mean other things in the restaurant may be dirty.
Size up the staff -- especially the shoes of whoever is bussing the tables. "If their shoes are all covered in muck, that most likely came from the kitchen dishwashing area. Half of the dishwashing area isn't the cleanest for obvious reasons, but if they are maintaining an orderly area, which helps to prevent cross contamination, then there shouldn't be food hitting the floor for the staff to walk through," says Cardamone.
And that's not the only thing to look for. "If you walk into a restaurant and the host is bored and inattentive, assume your service will be poor," says Yankel Polak, head chef at ButcherBox (http://www.butcherbox.com). Furthermore, there are times when restaurants send a server to greet you at the entrance and then assist you to your table. "It is important to observe to see if they are, if not the best groomed, groomed enough," says Firoz Thanawalla, chef and owner of Chef's Satchel (https://www.chefsatchel.com/) (https://www.chefsatchel.com/). "This is the first pointer to know if the restaurant follows minimum standards of their staff being well groomed and kind to greet the guest and assisting them to the table. If you notice a server who does not greet or is busy on her phone while you're waiting, that might just be a sign of certain standards of the restaurant."
Use the salad as a barometer for restaurant quality. "If the lettuce is wilted or there's too much white base and not enough green leaf, the restaurant's taking shortcuts. Sometimes the salads are pre-made in bowls, wrapped and refrigerated until ordered. If your salad looks like it's been pressed into that bowl and stored, rather than freshly tossed and plated, that's another sign of a shortcut," restaurant and hospitality coach Leslie Kalk tells MarketWatch. "On the other hand, if your salad is crisp, freshly tossed and well-presented, it's a sign that everything on the menu is probably taken very seriously by that establishment."
Ask questions. "Ask where your oysters come from. If they don't know, you don't want them. Works for most seafood." This tip came from the Reddit thread (https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/br19bh/chefs_what_red_flags_should_people_look_out_for/), and other chefs seconded the notion that knowledgeable staff was a sign about restaurant quality -- and not just concerning seafood. One also wrote: "The more the server knows about the ingredients in the food, it shows kind of like a badge of pride for the kitchen in a way. They take pride in what they do and they're taking every step to make sure this is communicated. It's a very very good sign."
-Catey Hill; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 30, 2019 06:30 ET (10:30 GMT)
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