Not everyone has the pleasure of having a Robert Irvine or Willie Degel roam the hallway of their restaurants to find flaws and fix them with little or no misgivings.
And those two certainly can't warn customers about every restaurant that receives anything but a passing grade. Irvine and Degel are the lead characters and hosts of "Restaurant Impossible" and "Restaurant Stakeout," respectively, on The Food Network.
Their job is to find poor facilities, food and staff and miraculously perform a restaurant miracle within a one hour television show. But there's probably a good chance that neither of them have found the time to visit a restaurant nearby your neighborhood, thus the onus of opting to eat or not to eat is a question that falls directly into your lap.
You're untrained eye can't match that of Irvine and Degel, but spotting a shoddy restaurant doesn't always take years of experience in the business.
Often times, it just takes a little bit of paying attention on your part.
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First and foremost, if you walk in and the restaurant is dirty, get out immediately. Nothing is quite as repulsive as having a hostess walk you to your table, only to find that it still has food remnants still sticking to the top. It's especially disheartening if you choose to sit down anyway when the waitress or busboy hurries over to wipe off the table with a clearly overused and disgusting white bar towel.
That's your cue to stand up and walk out; and don't feel bad about doing so, you weren't the one that flubbed your first impression.
Another swing and a miss in the service sector of restaurants that rank as some of the worst is a waiter or waitress that doesn't pay attention while you're ordering or takes their good, old time getting to your table once you sit down, especially if you can clearly see they're not busy.
The sign of a good restaurant is a server that is knowledgeable when it comes to exactly what is on the menu and how it is prepared. Waiters and waitresses earn especially high marks if they tend to refilling drinks or offer realistic suggestions when you're about to order an appetizer, entree or dessert.
If you've told them your allergic to fish and they recommend salmon, then clearly you're not their first priority.
Another top flight priority within the walls of a good restaurant is making sure food arrives at the table looking good, smelling good and most importantly, on time. A party of four loses a little bit of patience when three of the four dinners arrive in unison, while person number four sits uncomfortably while they're food is "still coming."
And don't bother buying that "the meal you ordered takes longer" routine; that's a sure fire excuse that probably translates into "I forgot to put your order in."
That's when you politely reply, "I guess that means I will forget to come back again."
Somewhere, Robert Irvine and Willie Degel would be proud.
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