The Warning Sign Robert Irvine Never Ignores At Restaurants

When it comes to gross, poorly run, or poorly maintained restaurants, celebrity chef Robert Irvine has seen it all as the host of the show "Restaurant: Impossible." His lifetime of experience around eateries, both good and bad, has helped him develop an easy method for determining whether or not the establishment where he's about to chow down is up to his standards.

Irvine told Business Insider that the warning sign he always heeds when eating at a restaurant is a dirty bathroom. While it's impossible for most ordinary customers to check out the condition of the kitchen, anyone can use the bathroom and make a sound judgment. Irvine argues it's a straightforward way to gauge how seriously the owners and managers take cleanliness.

By this metric, if the staff's standards are lax in customer-facing areas like bathrooms, they're likely similarly sloppy in cleaning the kitchen and following appropriate food safety rules — something no one wants to worry about when dining out.

More restaurant red flags to watch out for

Irvine isn't the only chef who follows this rule. Chef David Chang (of Momofuku fame) also thinks it's the quickest way to judge how clean a restaurant truly is. It's also a common red flag restaurant health inspectors look for. Some others may include unmarked bottles (for cleaning or other purposes), kitchen workers wearing jewelry, and unhappy staff members, the last of which Irvine also cites.

In another Business Insider interview, Irvine also explained the number-one sign a restaurant needs help from the business side: a lack of leadership, particularly in the kitchen. Without a strong leader and clear direction, the carefully coordinated work of meal service can fall apart, leading to general chaos that shows up in the quality of the food.

So, before placing your order the next time you're dining out, excuse yourself to check out the restroom. You could find some obvious signs that you might want to go somewhere else for dinner.