‘Busy on a Monday night’: Diners reveal telltale signs of a good restaurant


For some restaurants, clues about their quality are obvious – a Michelin star or three next to the entrance, pricey tasting menus and glowing press reviews, for example.

But what are the signs of quality for more everyday restaurants? Eateries that we’re more likely to walk into off the street for a spontaneous treat?

The pointers might be less obvious, but they’re there, as comments made on an online forum revealed – from being busy on traditionally quiet days of the week to serving quality bread baskets.

These examples and many more were served up in an Ask Reddit forum after user ‘halfblood_god’, asked: ‘What are some green flags in restaurants?’

Diners were quick to reply, with a flurry of common telltale signs that strongly hint that a mouthwatering experience is on the cards.

Diners on Ask Reddit revealed telltale signs that your restaurant meal is going to taste good

Diners on Ask Reddit revealed telltale signs that your restaurant meal is going to taste good

‘Odd-Concentrate-6585’ contributed to the debate with: ‘They could fit more seats and tables in, but have chosen not to.’ 

Staying with the theme of the volume of diners present, ‘Jarek86’ wrote ‘busy on a Monday night’, while ‘pr0ph3t_0f_m3rcy’ agreed: ‘Same, Sundays now as well for me.’

In a similar vein, llcucf80′ said Tuesday night is the one to look out for.’

Their reasoning is sound – after all, it’s harder to pack out a restaurant on days when fewer people are out and about. 

Echoing this sentiment, ‘Biddilybong’ wrote: ‘I never eat at an un-busy restaurant in an unknown town.’

Another commenter counselled to observe where the diners come from.

‘Ok_Whatever_Buddy’ commented: ‘If you walk into a restaurant that serves food from a different country and every single person in there – working and dining – is from that country.

‘In my experience, that means you’re about to have an awesome meal.’

‘DutchHasAPlan_1899’ said their green flag was a ‘small menu, clean, and the menu isn’t sticky’, in a comment that earned 1,800 Reddit upvotes of approval.

Fellow Redditor ‘Behold-Roast-Beef’ said it is the salt and pepper shakers that diners should have their eyes on.

‘Check the salt and pepper shakers,’ they penned. ‘This is the easiest way to tell if management gives a damn in a restaurant.

One Redditor said it is the salt and pepper shakers that diners should have their eyes on

One Redditor said it is the salt and pepper shakers that diners should have their eyes on

‘If the salt and pepper shakers have a dead ant in them, or look congealed, this place is cutting some pretty basic corners.’

While ‘High_Life_Pony chimed: ‘An even greener flag is if they don’t have salt and pepper shakers on every table.’

If it’s a hole in the wall place, it looks like a bomb exploded inside, half the tables are covered in toys/schoolwork from the owners’ kids, sticky note with an A+ Health and Safety rating… no joke, if you see all of these signs then just know that you are about to eat the best food of your life

Focusing more on the preliminary offerings, ‘StudsTurkleton’ advised paying attention to whether the restaurant ‘does the basics well’.

They wrote: ‘If they serve a bread basket, is it good bread or some cr***y store-bought, mass-produced rolls?

‘Is their coffee good? These are easy to get right if you care. If you’re cheap or lousy on these things, then there is a lack of care or corners being cut.’

They added: ‘If they give no attention to the supporting players, I doubt they’re doing anything good with the stars of the show.’

Focusing more on the restaurant environment, other Redditors turned their attention to the toilets and even the smell of the overall establishment. 

‘RealPala’ said, ‘a clean bathroom’, while ‘MCI21’ added, ‘cooks clean the kitchen’.

While ‘Esme-Weatherwaxes’ wrote: ‘A place that smells good when you walk in. The best restaurants I’ve ever been to have all smelt fantastic as soon as you open the door.’

'DutchHasAPlan_1899' said their green flag was a 'small menu, clean, and the menu isn’t sticky' (stock image)

‘DutchHasAPlan_1899’ said their green flag was a ‘small menu, clean, and the menu isn’t sticky’ (stock image)

For others, the ‘green flag’ telltale signs focused on the staff.

A chef writing in the forum said one sign is seeing staff eating the food – ‘especially bits of leftover during service’.

Writing under the name ‘PhabioRants’, they added: ‘Seriously, I’m a career chef. We see and make the same food day in and day out, and if the staff are still excited to eat it, that’s always a great sign.

‘Also, a healthy work-social dynamic. If the staff clearly dislike each other, chances are they’re too preoccupied to give you their best.’

In a third suggestion, ‘Aldous_Hoaxley’ said: ‘The same people are still working there 20-plus years later, that means they treat their employees right.’

‘Reallynotmeforsure’ added: ‘Servers that get excited when talking about the menu, and recommend an item that is not the most expensive.’

Price was not a common theme in the thread. However, ‘Apart-Bathroom7811’ said another good sign was a restaurant that ‘doesn’t offer coupons, Groupons or other deals’.

One Reddit user said that a sign of good quality is if the servers are excited about the food

One Reddit user said that a sign of good quality is if the servers are excited about the food 

TELLTALE SIGNS OF A GOOD RESTAURANT 

They could fit more seats and tables in, but have chosen not to.

Busy on a Monday or Tuesday.

If you walk into a restaurant that serves food from a different country and every single person in there – working and dining – is from that country.

Good bread in the bread basket.

Good coffee.

Clean bathroom.

Smells good when you walk in.

Servers get excited when talking about the menus.

No coupons or deals.

Rude service – Chinese restaurants only.

Dirty tables – greasy spoon cafes only.

Source: Reddit 

In a more controversial trail of posts, some diners suggested green flags that might be red flags for others.

Referring to Chinese restaurants in particular, ‘OrdoMalaise’ said: ‘Absolutely terrible, surly, rude service in a Chinese restaurant.

‘The more they openly despise you, the better the food.’

In a similar post, ‘powerhower’ agreed: ‘When I go on Yelp and find a three-star-rated Chinese restaurant, and all the negative ratings say how rude they were, I’m heading straight there.’

Echoing their sentiments, ‘Honestnt’ suggested the same is true for small, cheap cafes and restaurants in the UK, known as ‘greasy spoons’.

They commented: ‘The duality of the greasy spoon. Has this table been cleaned in the last decade? No idea? Am I about to have an amazing meal at a good price? One hundred per cent.’

Following the same line of thought, ‘theplaidiator’ said: ‘Some of the best wings I’ve had in years came from a 20×30 cinder block building in the worst part of town with two plywood tables inside.’

And ‘JRockThumper said: ‘If it’s a hole in the wall place, it looks like a bomb exploded inside, half the tables are covered in toys/schoolwork from the owners’ kids, sticky note with an A+ Health and Safety rating… no joke, if you see all of these signs then just know that you are about to eat the best food of your life.’

The Ask Reddit question was clearly not a straightforward one to answer, with many differing views posted on the forum.

‘SomeGuy200019’ pointed out: ‘I love how half of the replies are “it looks nice/has etiquette” and the other half are “if it looks like it should have been closed 50 years ago, you’re about to half the best meal of your life”.’  



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