Restaurants liberate you from the task of preparing your own food, but it is better to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at home than bad food at a restaurant. Nothing makes you sicker than paying good money for bad food.
If the restaurant does not look clean, the kitchen is probably worse. Skip it. If you cannot smell the food cooking, they are going to serve you leftovers or something that is not fresh. Skip it. If there are no people sitting at the tables, the food is probably bad, the service is terrible, the restaurant is expensive, or there is some reason why the local residents avoid it. You should too.
Other factors in choosing a restaurant:
Sometimes, you can find a good restaurant if you just follow your nose. When I was attending a conference in Santa Cruz, California, some members of our group were walking by a downtown street when we got a whiff of a delicious aroma. It was close to supper time, and we decided to follow the scent to see where it would lead us. After a couple of blocks, we ended up in an alley where an exhaust fan was the source of the smell. We went around the corner to the front of the building, and found a bar that was having a "happy hour" featuring Mexican tacos with chopped grilled meat piled on freshly made corn tortillas complemented by a zesty salsa. It was a delicious and memorable serendipitous experience.
Chain Restaurants and Franchises
The restaurant business is tough. To succeed, the restaurant manager has to buy ingredients at a reasonable price and use them while they are still fresh. Overstocked ingredients spoil and have to be thrown away, thus reducing profit. A large percentage of new restaurants fail due to economic problems or the inability to satisfy the needs of the customers because of bad waiters or inept cooks. A restaurant can also run into trouble when its food cannot be distinguished from what is served by competing restaurants. This usually happens when the entrées contain prepackaged foods purchased from wholesalers such as Costco or Restaurant Depot.
Owners of successful restaurants try to increase profits by using the same model for new restaurants at different locations. Management techniques that were successful at one location usually produce another profitable restaurant at a new location. Chain restaurants take great care in assuring consistency in the quality of the food and the restaurant environment. A person visiting a chain restaurant like McDonald's knows what to expect in the menu and how the food will taste. This consistency is achieved by supplying each restaurant from a common source where the quality can be controlled and by training the managers about sanitation and the day-to-day tasks required to provide a pleasant dining experience. The Chipotle franchise that promoted the use of fresh local produce suffered great financial losses in 2015 when some restaurants in several states were closed because of outbreaks of food-borne diseases caused by E. Coli, Salmonella and Norovirus. After that experience, Chipotle needed to evaluate methods for delivering wholesome food in order to rebuild customer confidence.
The top 10 restaurant chains in the U.S. ranked by sales are: