HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


How often do you send food back?

  • f

I wanted to edit the OP in my "Do you send food back often" thread http://www.chowhound.com/topics/477965 since now I'm curious.

How often (percentage of dishes) do you send food back? This should normalize for the "anticipation factor" (if it's an expensive resto, it better be right).



  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Historically, I think I would place myself between 1 and 5%. It's been years, though. In fact I can't remember any one specific instance. I just remember doing it (always at chains for some reason) a few times.

    1. I have trouble with steaks at most chain places (Outback, Longhorns, Fridays..ect..). They never seem to understand what rare means. Probably because of all the people who THINK they like a rare steak, and then when they actually see a rare steak, they change thier minds. I'd say I send steaks back maybe 10% of the time. Other food, hardly ever.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Ranger05

        and I like my burgers and steaks cremated to death so I have to be very specific when ordering these, and probably send them back about 20% of the time.

        Other than that, rarely do I send food back unless it is not hot enough.

        1. re: Ranger05

          I'm with Ranger on this. I've had some food that wasn't particularly good, but I find it hard to send something back just because the dish itself is simply not good (I just don't return to the place). But steaks that are not properly cooked to order (they are nearly always overcooked) are sent back. Of course, this is also the reason I don't go out for steak very often. I'd rather cook it at home and at least have it at the correct level of doneness. It really boggles my mind that places, ESPECIALLY a place that pretends to be a steak house can't cook a steak to the proper temperature, even if I make a point of explaining that, yes, I really want it medium rare and no more and asking if they know how do to that...

          1. re: Ranger05

            Did you ever try ordering black and blue? At a Ruth's Chris, or Mortons, 99% of the time are on target, but at these places you list, maybe you need to take it down a notch.

            1. re: michele cindy

              For the price one pays at Ruth's Chris steakhouse they damned well better be perfectly cooked!!

          2. I don't know I could assign a percentage to it, but I'd say my frequency is not often, but it happens. I have a food allergy (effects are not life threatening, but certainly unpleasant), and when the server fails to communicate effectively with the kitchen, back it goes. I let the server know I'm not offended or annoyed or anything, but it's gotta go back, and be made fresh, not just have the offending item removed from the plate. I don't let it effect tip (except in the most egregious cases), but I never feel bad about sending something back if eating it will make me sick.

            1. Significantly less than eating meals that are not well done or not very good. Jfood slogs through waaaay more meals that go on the DNR list than sending back.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jfood

                I believe I fall into the same category as jfood on this one. I have rarely if never sent back a dish when dining out. Typically if the food is that poorly prepared I put the place on my "DNR" list as well. One strike and your out in my world.

              2. I can't recall ever sending food back but I won't finish something terrible and will politely point out the issue if they ask if everything was ok. And I certainly won't return. I've become more selective of my restaurants (in part thanks to Chowhounds!) so it's less of an issue these days.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ms. clicquot

                  This perfectly captures my experience and attitude (all the way down to being much more selective b/c of Chowhound!).

                  I did send food back once. One word: cockroach.

                2. A small % maybe 3%. 2 times a year perhaps. The funny thing is we are having a lunch today with one of our vendors. I swear everytime I go out with this guy, my dish is awful. The last time I ordered a dish that was a rice bowl dish, there was murky water surrounding the rice, another time I had a ceasar salad, the dressing was separating into a oil slick mess. Each time the dishes were inedible, so I sent them back. I don't want anyone to have to pay for a meal no one should have to eat.

                  1. I think we sent back food once in the past year--fries at a bar that were cold (burgers were hot). Other than that, nothing. I'm with jfood in that if we didn't like the food in general, DNR list time.

                    1. I've only ever sent one thing back and that was because it was inedible. It was a vegetarian "duck" dish that tasted like the seitan had been soaked in soy sauce and vinegar. Nothing more. It wasn't comped or replaced either. Looking back at it I should have kept it and picked out the veggies.

                      The only other reasons I'd send something back are if it isn't even what I ordered, or the temperature is severely wrong. If I didn't enjoy a dish I'd just chalk it up to ordering badly.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Lixer

                        Soup should be hot, steaming and not luke warm or warm temperature. That bothers the heck out of me when I am cold and expecting a hot bowl of soup to warm me and its practically cold when I get it. This also happens a lot with tea or should I say the water they bring me for tea. It's hardly ever hot. Very rarely though do I ever send it back.

                      2. Put me on the "do not return" list. I can only remember sending food back once - shrimp with the poop vein still left in...urk.

                        1. Only once, when it was in vogue to cook and serve beans al dente... no amount of nuking could fix it.

                          1. i sent back a slice of pie once. It had been served to me frozen.

                            1. Having worked in the f&b industry for 30 years... I am always leary of sending my food back... some cooks get insulted and you just never know how they may reserve it to you@! Yes, unfortunatly some of those stories you hear are true.

                              1. I've never done it personally.
                                I have had friends take my plate and insist on having it replaced, though.

                                1. Very rarely. I can recall 2 times in the past 15 years or so. The first was an order of buffalo wings. The outside was great, but when we bit into them, they were raw. The second was at high end steakhouse. We had an order of Lobster Mac & Cheese. The pasta was undercooked, & it was cold. Both times the dish was replaced and ended up fine. Most of the time if there is a problem, I'll just eat it & not return.

                                  1. These things go back every time: uncooked chicken (still bloody inside), chicken wings with feathers still attached, less than hot food (usually from a steam tray), overdone steak or pork chops, bad unsweetened tea. We always try to be extra nice to the server and tip the server well regardless.

                                    1. I can't really remember the last time I sent anything back - but I am sure I have done it.

                                      The food's got to be pretty piss poor for me to do it though...

                                      1. The only time I"ve had to send a dish back to the kitchen was at Ruby Tuesday's. The buffalo wings appetizer was raw in the center. When I alerted the waitress her response was, "Are they hot in the center?" To which I replied, "I don't care if they are hot, they are completely raw in the center." Then when she was finally convinced to take them back to the kitchen, our main entree arrived. The appetizer made it to our table when we were finished with that plus another round of drinks. This was the first time my husband had eaten there, plus he was returning home after being out to sea for six months. Not a great homecoming night out. The second time he ate at this chain he had a crappily cooked meal also so now he won't go back.

                                        1. More often than you would expect. But less than you would imagine. But then again I'm usually in front of the passthrough making sure that the punters get the best quality. So it is sort of a mixed question for me.

                                          1. Percentagewise, less than 5%. I try not to make a fuss. We went to a chain restaurant a few weeks ago and my 'blackened' fish tasted like a salt lick so I sent it back and asked for one plain instead. The replacement was perfectly edible and brought out to me in less than five minutes. And I sent a bowl of soup back to another kitchen three or four months ago for the same reason. If it's just 'I don't really like this', I usually just grin and bear it, but too much salt makes food inedible.
                                            If my food is served cold, I'll ask them to heat it some more, but I don't really count that as 'sending it back' because I don't expect a fresh plate, just for mine to get a spin in the microwave.

                                            1. Maybe 1 or 2%. I like beef at the exact second the pink goes away. To me, that's medium. To modern cooks, that's well. I don't want charcoal, I want it tender but not pink. But still, only a few times I've needed to send it back.

                                              Also, I'm extremely sensitive to bell peppers. If I ask if a dish contains peppers, am told "no" and then it does, I'll send it back. Again, only a few times over the years.

                                              I seem to recall just not liking something once and when the waiter asked if everything was okay I was honest. He took it back and brought something different. But I didn't actually send it back, he took it upon himself to replace it.

                                              1. I'm twenty-five. I once sent back food because it tasted really, really, really, really, really bad. I send back food once every year or two because it's not what I ordered.

                                                1. Whenever it is:

                                                  1. Not what I ordered
                                                  2. Not prepared as described in the menu or by server and therefore not to my liking or desire
                                                  3. When it is bad (spoiled, burnt, gone off or sour)
                                                  4. When it is cooked to a substantially different doneness than I ordered at a middle level restaurant or above
                                                  I will accept medium rare, if I have ordered medium-steaks continue to cook after they are taken off the grill and it is not the cook's fault if it doesn't reach my table quickly enough, BUT if I order rare and get medium or above it will go back.

                                                  That said, i have never had to send food back at a particular restaurant more than two times. Two failures and I don't give the restaurant a third chance. Spoiled food amy cause me to send it back, pay for my drink/appetizer and put the restaurant on my do not return list.

                                                  My ex-wife only ate beef well done. She was known to send steak back repeatedly to cook longer, she would not tolerate any pink at all when cutting into the meat. She finally learned to ask the server to let the cook know it was ok to butterfly the steak so it could cook through without burning the outside.

                                                  In the average year, I probably return less than 6 food items, when dining out an average of 150 times/year. I'm picky about where I eat and therefore seldom have these problems.

                                                  1. I try to avoid sending food back. But will if there is something seriously wrong like a hair in it or it is frigid. If it's raw chicken I walk.

                                                    Once had a horrible dish that was so bad did not finish. Didn't send it back as I did not want to experience what other disasters the 'chef' could come up with.

                                                    1. Being in the restaurant business for 20 years made me very self conscience for some reason about sending things back, I would just pay for it and leave. One year, about three or four years ago, I made a new year's resolution never to eat cold fries in a restaurant again. Would you believe that I stuck to that? First one ever!!! I send those fries back pronto!

                                                      Now, I have moved on to sparkling wine. I order a glass of prosecco and if it doesn't come out dancing, I ask them to open a new bottle. I was really tired of paying normal price and tipping on sub par visits.

                                                      I do choose my battles, just the other day we went to mexican food counter restaurant, I ordered 2 al pastor tacos and chicken enchiladas, we got chicken ensalada instead. That was too funny so we ate it.

                                                      1. If I'm served something I didn't order, it goes back. Under-cooked chicken, over-cooked steak goes back. Other than that, I'll probably just let it go.

                                                        1. I'm pleasantly surprised by the replies here. I guess 'hounds are a cut above. In practice I see a lot of people sending stuff back just because they don't like it, or they didn't understand what they ordered.

                                                          I will send back a hamburger or steak cooked more than rare. I will send back a salad if I said "no blue cheese" and it arrives with blue cheese that can't be removed by me. I have also sent back bad sushi, but at that point i just get up and leave.