If you’ve ever gone to a steakhouse and had a wonderful experience — from your first contact with a host or waiter to your first taste of succulent, perfectly cooked steak — you know just how satisfying it can be. Even if you only eat steak once or twice a year, you want this experience to be special. You want it to be memorable. And if you eat steak regularly, your standards and expectations are probably even higher. The more experienced you are with ordering and eating steak, the less likely you are to overlook problems and inconsistencies – whether they’re related to this service, the food, the atmosphere, or a combination of all of these things.

On the flipside, if you ever come away from a steakhouse experience feeling like there is something to be desired – or if you had an experience that was clearly and overwhelmingly negative – you know how frustrating that can be. Steak is usually not the cheapest meal in town. People often go out for steak to celebrate something, or simply to treat themselves after a long day of hard work. When you go in with high expectations only to find yourself disappointed with various aspects of your steakhouse experience, you’ll probably ask yourself why you even bothered.

1. The servers don’t know the menu very well

If you ask questions about the types of different steaks on offer (or the best sides and beverages to accompany certain steaks), the answers you get shouldn’t be vague or hesitate. Top rated steakhouses train their waitstaff to understand the menu inside and out. If the server is clueless, who’s to say the chef knows how to cook a steak?

2. The menu doesn’t give detailed information on the steaks themselves

Top rated steakhouses are unanimously in the habit of giving detailed information about each cut of beef on the menu. Understanding steaks and in different cuts of beef is what sets good steakhouses apart.

3. The place is empty

Sure, it might be a slow day. But if a steakhouse is commonly empty, there is probably good reason for it.

4. The steak is tough and overcooked

If your state is unsatisfactory in anyway, you should feel comfortable sending it back to the kitchen. But steak that is routinely tough or overcooked is a telltale sign a steakhouse that doesn’t really know what it’s doing.

5. The atmosphere is unpleasant

Ambiance is a definite factor when it comes to creating an all-around great experience. A steakhouse that is stingy or unwelcoming is unlikely to make up for it with unbelievable steaks.

Make your steak dinners count!

The next time you go out for a steak, Try to leave as little up to chance as possible. Search for local steakhouses that earn high ratings and reviews on sites like Google, Yelp and Facebook. Read what other people have written about the cuisine, the atmosphere, and service. Steak houses that are in the habit of cutting corners can often be spotted a mile away – and you can’t avoid throwing away a perfectly good steak dinner experience on an establishment that doesn’t really deserve your patronage anyway.