If you’ve ever been to a restaurant that seems less than clean, you know that uncomfortable feeling of having to decide whether to stay and eat or pick up and leave.

Howard Cannon, CEO of Restaurant Expert Witness — a business that provides professional consulting and testimony in restaurant lawsuits involving personal injury — and author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Restaurant” says there are five clues that give away how clean the kitchen is. Here is his advice on how to spot them.

1. Start with the outdoor space.
From the moment you pull into a restaurant  parking lot, take a close look at the property and note if you see such things as an overflowing garbage bin, crumbling paint or deteriorating signage. “If you notice that it’s filthy or if there’s graffiti all the way to the front door, pay close attention,” Cannon says. “More often than not, if those spaces are filthy, the place where your food is being prepped is filthy, too.”

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2. Skip to the loo.
A gross bathroom is always a clear sign of low kitchen standards. “Pay special attention to the women’s room especially,” Cannon says. “Take note if the garbage cans are full to overflowing, if the sinks are dirty or the restroom smells. If so, you can count on the kitchen being dirty, too.”

3. Be on the alert for unkempt employees.
Whether or not your waiter or waitress is well groomed is a sign of the standards upheld by the chef or owner of the restaurant. “When I say well groomed, I mean that your server should have clean hair, reasonable clothing, clean fingernails and the appropriate amount of makeup, jewelry, piercings and tattoos,” he says. “Next I look at how they’re acting. If I see them touching money and not washing their hands, or if they’re not wearing gloves while they’re handling food, that’s telling me the place isn’t clean.”

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4. Be leery of servers who are under the weather.
According to a recent study conducted by The Food Chain Workers Alliance, 53 percent of food chain workers reported going to work when sick. If your server is sneezing and coughing, politely request that someone else wait on you. If the restaurant can’t accommodate you, consider leaving. It’s not worth  risking getting sick because you’re afraid you might hurt a server’s feelings.

5. Watch how your tabletop is cleaned.
It’s not enough to spray a cleaner on your table if the rag you’re using is dirty, Cannon says. “If you watch a waitress use a wet towel to wipe off the table but it’s the same cloth she used on the next table, that’s not going to  disinfect the surface,” he says. “It’s even worse if she uses the same towel to wipe off the tops of the condiments on the table. She’s basically just spreading germs from surface to surface. If she’s using a dirty towel, chances are good that the back of the house isn’t buttoned up.” Tip: Your menu can also be a germ-fest. If the menus are dirty or your waitress is wiping off a plastic menu with a dirty rag, these are red flags that cleanliness is not a top priority. 

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Lambeth Hochwald is a New York City-based journalist who covers such topics as family, health and parenting. She is a current contributor to Dr. Oz: The Good Life, Everyday With Rachael Ray and Yahoo Parenting.