We are a small, independent media company on a mission to share the best of humanity with the world.
If you think the work we do matters, pre-ordering a copy of our first book would make a huge difference in helping us succeed.

food network

Chef Robert Irvine addresses the 2016 USO Gala, Washington, D.C., Oct. 20, 2016.

A restaurant can have a charming exterior and a cozy dining area, but you never really know what’s happening behind the scenes. From the customer’s vantage point, things may look OK, but that alone won’t tell you about the restaurant’s dedication to cleanliness, ingredient quality and culinary best practices.

Many things can go wrong in the kitchen that could turn your nice dinner into a night laying in bed holding your stomach.

Even though culinary standards have been improving in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness each year. Of that number, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.

Celebrity Chef Robert Irvine has a shorthand that helps him determine if a restaurant will provide a healthy, botulism-free meal: He checks the bathrooms. Irvine is an English celebrity chef and talk show host who has appeared on and hosted a variety of Food Network programs, including "Restaurant: Impossible,” “Worst Cooks in America,” and “Chopped: Impossible.”

"Well, the first thing I look for is, are the bathrooms clean?" he told Business Insider, adding, "Because if the bathrooms are clean, the kitchen's clean, everything else is clean."

Irvine believes the bathroom is an excellent indicator of what the standards are like in the establishment. Irvine says that he keeps his home immaculate, starting with the restrooms, "So that's what I look for when I go to a restaurant."

The Food Network star also added that he also looks to see if the staff are happy while on the job.

Irvine isn’t the only restaurant expert checking the bathroom before ordering a meal. Liz Weiss, host of Liz's Healthy Table podcast and blog, does the same. "My biggest red flag when dining out at a restaurant is a dirty bathroom," Weiss told Food Network. "If the bathroom is a mess, it makes me think twice about the cleanliness and overall condition of the kitchen."

To further drive home the point, a food inspector went viral last year on TikTok for a video where they share the four places they won’t eat. “I’ve seen a lot,” TikTok user @toofar_north captioned their video, saying they won’t eat at buffets or places with extensive menus, unhappy employees and dirty bathrooms.

I've seen a lot. 


I've seen a lot. #greenscreen #inspector #healthinspector #tips #restaurant #restauranttips #healthtok #inspectortok #fypp

Why is a large menu a red flag? If a restaurant has a large menu, it could mean that some dishes don’t have a lot of turnover, so they are made with older ingredients that may be unsafe. If there are 100 dishes on the menu, what are the chances that your order hasn’t been cooked in quite some time?

Further, restaurants with large menus may not have the tastiest food because it’s hard to perfect many different types of food. So, it’s probably better to go to a place that does a few things well than 100 things that are just okay. Just makes sure that it has a clean bathroom and that the employees appear to be happy.