How To Spot A Good Restaurant At First Sight

A Foodies Guide To San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

When you’re traveling overseas, you don’t always have the option of jumping on Yelp to find out if the restaurant sitting in front of you is good or not. Sometimes you just have your senses and intuition. You might not even share a language with the people around you, so there’s nobody to ask their opinion.

In these situations, there are certain earmarks of places that are or are not worth your time. You don’t want to waste any precious time or money on lame food or service. So here are some of the best ways to spot a restaurant that’s worth eating at, even if you have never eaten there before and no little to nothing about it. Here are some ways to tell.

The Point of Sale System – There is nothing more irrelevant to food or service than the POS, right? Wrong. POS systems say a lot about the restaurants that contain them. Old style point of sale systems are…old. They’re a technology that was developed long ago, and it’s more expensive than alternative iPad POS that have disrupted the industry in recent years. The POS might not have a direct relation to the quality of the food, but imagine if a restaurateur has not kept up with the times on the POS front, what else might be lacking? If you see one of those old black boxes sitting beside a cash register, this may be a red flag.

Visible Warmers (or the lack thereof) – This applies more to the lunchtime crowd than to a lot of other mealtimes, but it’s an important consideration nonetheless. Food warmers are meant to warm food. This means that food is prepared at some time in the past, then left to sit in its own juices under some warm orange bulb. This isn’t a death knell for an eatery, but it can be a bad sign. Warmers can serve a good function if a place is inundated with business and serves only a bare bones menu. In this setting, warmers keep up with traffic and the food is always fresh and hot. In other places, diner traffic is not sufficient to keep the warmer food fresh, and it always arrives well past its expiration date. If you see warmers, proceed with caution. The overall vibe of the restaurant should tell you everything you need to know.

Menu Size – Huge menus are old school, usually disorganized, and difficult to pull off well. If you see a menu that sports 50 or more items, you’ve got to realize that the kitchen is not going to be able to make each one perfectly. The new way is to limit a menu to a heaping handful of dishes, each of which can be made to a high level of quality.

There are other signs of good and bad restaurants. If you don’t know if the place in front of you is worth your time, use your senses and try to figure it out. If you happen to have a less than satisfying meal, just use it as a lesson for next time: good restaurants show you what they are!

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