What the Untrained Eye Looks for In a Restaurant

For any food lover, going to a restaurant for the first time is an exciting journey.  You might have just read a restaurant review, in which case you have an idea of what to anticipate. Or, you may have passed a new restaurant on your way home from work and read, "Grand Opening" banner with delight.  Either way, as you step into a restaurant for the first time, and are seated at your table, you have already formed 75% of your opinion - whether positive or negative - without even having tasted a bite.  

First Impressions Matter

In those critical first few moments, a customer has already asked, and answered, the following questions:

  • Is it clean?
  • Is the decor appealing?
  • Is the staff friendly/welcoming?
  • Does it smell good?
  • Does the menu excite me?
  • Cleanliness

Unless a restaurant comes highly recommended, there is no excuse to even remain in a restaurant that is unclean.  If the front of the house is not clean, you can rest assured that the unexposed kitchen is much worse.  Restaurant owners and managers need to pay attention to small items, like keeping salt and pepper shakers and condiment bottles free of greasy residue, in addition to the obvious floor, wall, and table appearances.

Staff Demeanor

There is nothing worse than entering a restaurant and having a hostess or server with an attitude.  Or worse yet, one who checks their cell phone while they are at work. Every guest should feel welcome and as if they are a pleasure to serve, whether they are a regular or a stranger. Strangers become regulars after positive impressions.  A pleasant restaurant staff can be the difference between a guest that looks forward to returning and one that immediately Yelps a 1-star review from their smart phone.


The smell of homemade bread, chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven, anything with garlic simmering on the stove - these are smells that have made humans go weak in the knees for hundreds of years.  If you enter a restaurant and the first thing you smell is bad fish, overflowing garbage, or burnt food, you are not going to enjoy the meal.  

Menu Appeal

The first four may seem obvious but #5, "Does the menu excite me?” is one most restaurant diners don't think about until they've seen a menu that doesn't.  An unappealing menu, whether dirty, illegible, boring, or outdated, can completely change the attitude and anticipation around your dining experience.  Looks shouldn't matter when it comes to the paper that dining options are printed on - but they do.  

Menus with classy covers feel good in the hands and are almost as exciting to open as a new book.  Menu covers should be easy-to-clean (reference Point 1), because a dirty menu conjures images of the strangers' greasy hands that have gone before, and that's not an appetite enhancer. Quality, easy-to-clean, attractive menu covers are Step 1 of any restaurant's food presentation. And of course, food presentation is where the journey continues...

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