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sending food back

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Went to a neighborhood place last night. Normally they do a great job. I ordered the special - lamb chops with a marsala/mushroom sauce ($26.00). The waitress (maybe owner), asked how I wanted the chops cooked. I said 'pink to red in the middle', to which she replied 'you want medium'. The chops came almost done, just barely pink in the center.

I was completely disappointed. She offered to make them again, but my companions already had their dishes, and I knew remaking the order would take another 15 mins. So I just kept the side of ravioli, and called that dinner. Plus I'm really leary of sending anything back to the kitchen for adjustment or remaking.

Short of it all, the waitress/owner came back to the table later and said 'those chops were great, I had them & in the future, FYI, order medium rare not medium.' I though she was so out of line and rude. I wanted to remind her that SHE was the one who INFORMED me that what I described was medium.

I didn't want to cause a scene, so I didn't say anything, but toyed with the idea of speaking to her out of everyone elses' ear shot.

How would any of you have handled the situation? And what's your threshold for excepting less that expected, or down right disappointing dishes?

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    Seth Chadwick

    In the most recent edition of Phoenix Magazine, the local restaurant reviewer told of a similar incident where she ordered some scallops. When she got them, they were on the verge of being bad and didn't taste good at all. She sent them back to the kitchen.

    The waiter returned with the plate and said to the food critic that the chef said the scallops just arrived this morning so they must be fresh. The waiter then returned the plate back to the guest.

    Perhaps I am just more sensitive to such things, but I have heard more and more of this happening where the server/chef/owner has gone out of their way to make some unnecessary comment to a guest because a dish has been sent back. What is the purpose of that anyway?

    If you send a dish back and it is corrected or an apology is made and the item removed from the bill, I would be apt to strike it up as a bad night for the restaurant and try again some other time. (Every restaurant has a bad night or a faux pas in the kitchen from time to time.)

    But if a comment like that was ever made to me, that restaurant would be on my list of "never agains" and I would certain to let my friends and family know what happened.

    As for your situation, it was probably best not to have words with her, even out of earshot. Simply reflect it in the tip (if it was a server) or simply never return to the restaurant again.

    Link: http://phoenixfeast.blogspot.com

    8 Replies
    1. re: Seth Chadwick

      The customer may not always be right, but he is ALWAYS THE CUSTOMER. This needs to be carved into the consciousness of every waiter, maitre d' and chef. If the customer doesn't like it and doesn't eat it, it's either replaced or off the bill. Period.

      Them's the rules.

      1. re: Will Owen

        "If the customer doesn't like it and doesn't eat it, it's either replaced or off the bill."

        I have to disagree with that statement. If someone orders something and it's served to them as it should be and as it was described, then why is it the restaurants fault that they didn't like it? It might be a nice gesture on the part of the restaurant to replace it or remove it from the bill, but I don't think that they owe it to the customer for a bad choice on the customer's part.

        1. re: valerie

          You're right - I misspoke there. If I get exactly what I'm supposed to get and it's properly prepared, and I find that I don't like it, then it's MY problem. I should have said that if I don't get what I asked for, or what I have a clear right to expect, then it is up to the restaurant to admit the error and either correct it or take the item off my bill.

          However, I prefer to give MY clients the benefit of every doubt, and if I were a restaurateur I probably would accommodate a diner who simply did not like what he'd asked for...once. But if he made a habit of it, I would invite him to patronize an establishment more to his liking.

        2. re: Will Owen

          Thats completely incorrect. If its cooked poorly or the food has been spoiled, then you should by all means send it back and either get a new dish or have it removed from your bill. If you merely don't like the dish, you have no right and the restaurant has no reason to take the dish back and replace it or take it off the bill.

          Same thing with wine. When you taste a wine you ordered, if its corked then you should get a replacement. If you don't like the taste of it, but its otherwise a nonspoiled bottle, tough luck..thems the breaks...

          1. re: Evan

            I agree with you totally.

            1. re: Evan

              >> If you merely don't like the dish, you have no right and the restaurant has no reason to take the dish back and replace it or take it off the bill.<<

              With all due respect if my husband followed this line of thinking he would have gone out of business a long time ago.

              If your customer doesn't like the dish, whether it was a poor choice on the customers fault or not, they are going to leave unhappy. They will tell 20 people the food is crappy at that restaurant.

              Find out how you can fix the situation and fix the situation. It doesn't matter who is at fault. You'll get the same end result: a bad review.

              A happy patron will tell two people, an unhappy one will tell 20 people.

              1. re: BlueHerons

                Dealing with customer complaints goes with the territory if you work in the industry. Especially these days. Everyone is a self-proclaimed culinary expert because they have seen a few episodes of Iron Chef.
                I also own a restaurant. If I acquiesed every time a guest complained about the food, then I would be out of business. Some people think that a particular dish would work better if it had a little more of this and a little less of that. Or it wasn't what they expected. Or it has a scallion garnish and they HATE scallions.
                There are a million different reasons why people don't like their food. Likewise with wine. If the wine is corked, of course I will take it off the bill. But am I supposed to eat the cost because the Dolcetto tasted more like raspberries than blueberries? Are we, as restaurant owners, supposed to give in every time and take items off the bill or give them a gift certificate for seemingly minor gripes? I've never subscribed to that philosophy and I've been in business, quite sucessfully, for 15 years. If it were my restaurant, I would have offered to re-fire the chops. If the guest refused to send it back, I might have sent them some dessert on the house but I would have charged them for the lamb. At the end of the day, this is still a business...not a venue to let people walk all over us.

          2. re: Seth Chadwick

            You're probably right, but one time I was with someone who sent back ribs because they "smelled rancid" according to my companion. He wanted them replaced. I might add he had absolutely no credibility with me because he sent back food all the time, but not at this restaurant oddly enough.

            Anyway, the waiter summoned the manager who approached my friend and politely told him that he (the manager) wasn't able to comply with his request because the ribs all came from the same place, and furthermore they weren't rancid. So there. He then asked my friend if he'd like to accompany him to the kitchen to smell them for himself, which my friend did. Two minutes later my friend came back, quite sheepish, and said he was mistaken. He then happily ate his ribs.

            Bravo to that manager for not capitulating, not to mention giving me a well needed laugh that night.

          3. I would call the owner, let him/her know that you had explained in detail to your waitress the color you wanted the inside of the lamb to look like and you were offended that the waitress told you to order them rare next time.

            The fault lies with the waitress because SHE should have known to order them rare for you because that is what you asked for.

            What happened to you was rude.

            You were treated like you were too stupid to know what you wanted and the big, smart restaurant people had to come out and explain things to the silly little patron.

            Unless they do some serious ass kissing, I'd never step foot inside that restaurant again.

            Very very few things in my book are inexcusable by a restaurant and this is one of them.

            2 Replies
            1. re: BlueHerons

              I'm sorry, but calling the owner because your chops were overcooked is completely ridiculous. Am I the only one who thinks that this is a really over-the-top reaction to a dish that is cooked med. well instead of medium? The owner might be some agro maniac (as many restaurant owners are) who will fire the server over something so trite. Besides, how do you know it wasn't the cook's fault as opposed to the server?
              Very often, the floor staff is blamed for mistakes of the kitchen. Regardless, this should be a non-issue at this point. Either get over the overcooked lamb or never go back there again.

              1. re: Oscar

                >>I'm sorry, but calling the owner because your chops were overcooked is completely ridiculous<<

                If you reread my post you'll find that I did not say to call the owner because the lamb was overcooked but because of the condescending treatment by the waitress.

            2. I keep trying to tell my friends and family this: If your food is no good, SEND IT BACK.

              Even when I was a cook, I never begrudged a customer asking for me to fix my own mistakes. I am terribly sorry your server suggested that pink-red translates to Medium, not medium rare, but if the chops were barely pink when they got to the table, they weren't what you asked for.

              Other than having to wait for your food, there are not really any consequences for you, the diner, in these circumstances- as long as the restaurant is pretty decent (serving lamb seems like a pretty good indicator) the cooks are probably pretty passionate about their work and would be agahst that they overcooked so fine an angredient. At Bennigans (or the like), the microwave jockeys might be tempted to *ahem* doctor your order before it goes back out, but not at a real place.

              Sure, the Kitchen will have to make up for the mistake somehow- but as Will says below, you are the customer.

              Your server was definitely wrong to tell you how good your order tasted, on top of being insensitive and impolite, it's rather unsanitary (sure, cooks do eat their own food, but taking it off of someones plate? blech! Even when I was on the line, rejected orders usually wound up in the trash or covertly nibbled well away from the line and certainly far away from customers.)

              As in so many of the discussions on this board, I suggest writing a letter to the owner and explaining the situation- It sounds like you had to pay full price for a meal you never ate. It also sounds like you like this place and arent trying to bilk them out of their life savings. Maybe just clean up your above post and send it to the owner.

              1. She screwed up (slightly, methinks), offered to replace the dish (I assume more or less pleasantly since you don't say otherwise) but instead you chose to be a martyr, and now you're pissed at her and the restaurant? I don't get it. I don't know why you're leary about returning food - especially when they're being gracious - but it seems to me that's your "issue," not the restaurant's, isn't it?

                As for eating the food, it's unprofessional to have told you about it, but I get the impression this was a fairly casual sort of place and she was maybe a little bit chattier than the ideal server might be? OK, annoying, but hardly the end of the world and in the final analysis, she offered to replace, and you refused. She didn't tell you you were wrong - that the meat was rare and delicious and you didn't know what you were talking about - she probably thought she was being helpful when she told you what "order" would produce food as you wanted it.

                1 Reply
                1. re: MikeG

                  I usually roll with that kind of discrepancy, but if she tried to make you think it was your mistake after she told you how to order, that's stupid and irritating. Do not be telling people they are wrong when they're not, just to cover your own a**.

                  We stopped going to a place with just OK service after a server was reluctant a dish of steamed mussels that one of our party could tell was bad by smell before it reached the table. She screwed up her face like, "You've got to be kidding" and when she was halfway across the dining room she called out to someone in the kitchen, "These people say the mussels are bad." Never went back.

                2. You need to get over yourself. I can"t understand why you couldn't just eat the lambchops. Sure they were a little more done than you anticipated, but you were not going to die if you ate them. The chef tried to make it up to you. I really do not understand this thinking.

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: oldone

                    When you hire somebody to paint your house blue, and instead they paint it brown, how would you respond to someone who told you to get over yourself, and asks you why you cant just live with a brown house?

                    It doesnt matter whether you ar talking about pink-to-red-in-the-middle lamb chops or a blue house, you should get what you ask for.

                    1. re: Fydeaux

                      Really not an appropriate analogy, but not going to get into a contest. I just think you need some perspecitve, and this is just lamb chops a little more done than anticipated. No need for martyrdom. MAybe the waitress was over strident, but she did try to make things better. If you do not want to make a scene, you just eat the lamb chops, and get over yourself.

                      1. re: oldone

                        Possibly not the best anology, but the best I could come up with on the spur of the moment. Regardless, her dish was not prepeared, not simply not the way she expected it, but not the way she requested it, and not the way she was told it would be prepared.

                        And also, the notion of eating something prepared in an unsatisfactory manner simply because 'it wouldnt kill you to eat it' does not sound to me like a good way to enjoy a meal.

                        1. re: Fydeaux

                          The server was also very badly out of her place. There's a huge difference between informing or advising a customer and arguing with her, and that gratuitous, smirking remark at the end would have gotten any employee of mine canned on the spot, even aside from the issue of eating from a customer's plate.

                        2. re: oldone

                          That's twice you've told the OP 'get over yourself' and once you called the OP a martyr.

                          Why?

                          1. re: BlueHerons

                            He called himself a martyr to begin with, I was just repeating. I just think that occasionally we all get something a little more done than anticipated and you do not have to make a fuss and think you are too good to eat something just a little more done. It was not burnt, it was not bad, it was just one shade too well done. Certainly has been an amusing exchange.

                            1. re: oldone

                              "think you are too good to eat somthing just a little more done"

                              What a funny turn of phrase.

                              In a restaurant where you are paying for a particular item, you have a right to expect that item to be prepared as you asked. That's not someone being "snobby", as you are implying, it's someone who likes meat a certain way, is paying for it to be prepared a certain way, and has a right to expect it prepared it that way, and be unhappy if it's not prepared that way.

                              If I didn't care how my meat was done I could eat at cheap fast food places all the time, but a restaurant that serves lamb ought to have staff trained to understand what the customer is asking for, and place the order with the kitchen accordingly, and not make the customer feel crappy if they didn't like it.

                        3. re: Fydeaux

                          I still think the issue goes back to ordering the lamb chops pink to red in the middle rather than initially saying medium rare. As soon as the waitress mentioned "Medium" that would've meant to me something that would be slightly pink. I think the fault lies with both the waitress and the original poster. Going back to your house painting analogy, its like asking for a house to be painted in a light blue color and the painter saying oh you mean "navy", and then when you come back and your house is painted navy getting upset that it isn't light blue.

                          That being said, they offered to replace it but you said no, so I'm not sure why you are upset now.

                          1. re: Evan

                            The way the OP ordered is not uncommon. Different people have different interpretations of rare, medium, etc. but when you describe the color you want the final product to come there is a better chance of getting what you want.

                            1. re: Homer J

                              Agreed- the poster ordered exactly how she should have. Although "medium rare" should be a commonly understood term, in my expereince, some chefs (in lower end places, usually) don't seem to manage to execute it properly. So ordering the meat the way you want it to look when it's served to you makes a lot more sense.

                              1. re: Chris VR

                                Yep, just going to say the same thing. I most often specify the color, and then ask them to confirm the corresponding doneness just for a little better idea. Nothing wrong with having this little discourse go for a few minutes - your return on the investment will be worth it. Especially if it's a $60 Kobe. Although I'll still do it for that $5 burger.

                                Having said all that, some places are just so incompetent to consistently get the requested level of doneness. Just something to consider in all these discussions.

                            2. re: Evan

                              Excellent analogy.

                              I hate to blame the victim here, but I knew what to call the temperature of meat I wanted when I was 10 years old. The poster should have said "no, I don't want medium".

                            3. re: Fydeaux

                              What you are describing, the difference between blue and brown, would be like the difference between very rare and very well done, that was not the case here. I believe the poster that told the OP to get over themselves is correct. It seems to me there are people out there that try to act like the most finiky Connoisseur to impress those around them. I have heard of cases where food is sent back and the cook knows it was not that far off and "accidently" coughs something into the food. The OP could have easily enjoyed the slightly pink chops.

                              1. re: malibumike

                                "The OP could have easily enjoyed the slightly pink chops."

                                How on earth could you know that the OP could have easily ENJOYED the overcooked chops? Sure, he/she could have eaten them. But that has nothing to do with enjoying the meal and that's what the OP paid for.

                                "I have heard of cases where food is sent back and the cook knows it was not that far off and "accidently" coughs something into the food."

                                Maybe all the chefs I've ever worked with are pros, but I never saw one "cough" in the food or even joke about it. Sure, they got MAD when I brought food back into the kitchen but a chef who would pull a stunt like that doesn't deserve the title of chef. There are a lot of people like you who have "heard" of these cases but that doesn't mean it happens often, and not at higher end restaurants. I'm not saying it never happens but I don't think it happens anywhere near as often as people are afraid it will.