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Do you say so if it wasn't good

I went to a "family" restaurant with friends last night. As I had a late lunch and we shared some appetizers, I decided to have a second appetizer rather than a main course. The place had recently updated their menu, and had crab cakes. I knew it was an iffy proposition, but it sounded good. I asked the waiter about them, he said he had never tried them, but people seemed to like them.

There was some crab, or at least crab flavoring in there someplace, but it was pretty much fried filler. I was not really upset, and I had half way expected it. I ate one of the cakes, and left the other sitting on my plate.

Yes, I know... our waiter should have stopped by the table at some point to make sure everything was OK, he should have noticed all by himself that I had not eaten it. To be fair, the place serves over large portions and it it not uncommon for people to leave food on their plate. I was not expecting anything to happen, they were not badly cooked, they didn't taste horrible... they just weren't very good.

Should I have spoken up, let them know that at least one diner was not impressed?

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  1. I usually will not say anything unless I feel like I am in danger of being poisoned. I just won't go back to the place again.

    1. If that was your business, what would you want? There is an art to constructive criticism, but I do think most people want to succeed. I always appreciate constructive feedback when I can tell it comes from a caring heart.

      1 Reply
      1. re: scuzzo

        i totally agree. i try to always say something if i really don't care for something and think others would agree b/c it's important for the kitchen to know what's working and what's not. i also add that i do not want the item taken off the bill (unless there was something actually wrong with the itme) - b/c i like to try new things and know they may not be winners.

        at a family restaurant with large portions - my guess would be that the kitchen knows why the crab cakes are filled with filler and i doubt it would make much of a difference to say something. but - what's the downside. at least they know it's not working.

        on that note, however, i've stopped eating crab cakes entirely as i find that all restaurants are increasingly using more filler than crab and i just don't care for that. i guess i'm just voting with my order rather than saying something.

      2. Given your description of a "family" place, my guess is you already figured (in your heart) that a comment would have been futile or wouldn't have produced much of a result.

        I'm not defending crummy food but there's an unspoken assumption (in my book anyway) that any meal at a family run, casual or inexpensive place is a risk. I run on the assumption there's really a limited number of well-executed items and if you order outside of that, expect badness.

        I might have said something like, "is this right, is this a crab cake because I don't see much crab?" (in a nice and seemingly naive way) Then hope they do something yet expect nothing.

        1. Sorry KM, but in a "family" restaurant you really got to stay on the double-yellow line. There is probably a QSR-method of preparing everything on the menu. The MOD will hopefully be pleasant if approached on a "bad tasting" dish, but he probably has zero influence on how it is prepared other than filling out a form for corporate.

          6 Replies
          1. re: jfood

            On this I have to disagree with jfood. If it's a "family restaurant", that would lead me to believe it's *not* run by a corporation, i.e. Olive Garden. And as such, they would want to know if someone was unhappy with something, as they're a single restaurant trying to survive on what they put out there for the public, vs. a corporation like Cheesecake Factory or Olive Garden who gets what they get from other corporate conglomerates and don't care as much about the customers who come in, because enough OTHER people will continue to eat the pre-prepared, microwaved foods they put on the plates to serve the masses of families who show up to eat there.

            To the OP, if it's an OG, or Cheesecake Factory that are both touted as being a family restaurant, or a chain of something similar where they get their food from a large corporate Sysco-like conglomerate, I wouldn't bother reporting the lack of crab in the crab cakes, as they get what they get and there is no changing what they get unless no one orders the drecky food.

            If it truly is a family restaurant, where they're a single restaurant, run by a local family, trying to survive against all the corporate dreck that's out there, it can't hurt to mention what you thought of the crab cakes.

            JMO based on the OP's original post.

            1. re: LindaWhit

              LW maybe it's an east coast west coast thing.

              Family restaurant = big box QSR sit down, i.e. Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden
              Mom & Pop = a local resto where you get love from the chef in the kitchen because his Poppa started the place and his mom makes the gravy.

              An OG or CF is what jfood referred to, if this were a Mom & Pop, they would love to hear feedback from the custos.

              So jfood thinks you and he are in agreement, but had some definitional differences.

              1. re: jfood

                "So jfood thinks you and he are in agreement, but had some definitional differences."

                Yup, I think so as well. I was interpreting the OP's "family restaurant" as what you call a "Mom & Pop".

                So Kaimuki Man - can you explain what you meant by "family restaurant"?

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  closer to jfood's definition. In this particular case it is somewhere in between. It is part of a chain, but each restaurant has a fair amount of lattitude as to what is on the menu. I do think (especially based on our waiter's not unpleasant but rather lacidasical manner) that my comments would have gone nowhere.

                  I appreciate the feedback from each of you.

              2. re: LindaWhit

                I believe that you might be misinterpreting the OP's use of the term "family restaurant." To me, this means a place you can take the entire family, as opposed to a "family-run" restaurant which means "non-chain."

                1. re: pikawicca

                  Yes, KaimukiMan already explained what he meant in the post just above yours.

            2. If the chef or owner had come over to check on you, I might have found a diplomatic way to let them know that you were underwhelmed with your meal. IMHO, though, giving construction criticism to wait staff would be an exercise in futility. Better just to file that info away and not plan on dining there again.

              1. the problem is one man's meat is another man's poison. When I had a restaurant the odd customer would complain about something that 99 out of 100 people loved and came back time and again. All you can do is say thank you and I will let the chef know and do nothing about it. And I am not talking about something that really had something wrong with it which did happen from time to time but the run of the mill menu items that we sold in huge numbers.

                1. If it's bad (cooked wrong, taste off), I'll always say.

                  In your case though, it would depend - Big, cheap crab cakes that don't taste like they're choc full of crab would be par for the course, IMHO. Expensive, little crab cakes - yes, I'd expect them to taste like they're made of crab and if they didn't I'd complain.

                  So - I'm assuming your "family" restaurant was an inexpensive chain, which is why you thought crab cakes were "an iffy proposition". In a situation like that, the food costing is calculated to the nth and you get what you pay for. So I wouldn't have spoken up, either. If I want good crab cakes I order them where I figure based on what they charge it will be 90% crab.

                  1. Why wouldn't you want to tell the waiter so that they could have that information for the next customer?

                    1. Sorry, but based on your description of the place I would assume that meatloaf and mashed potatoes would be okay, but crab cakes? Probably not. Surely your not going to get lump cakes w/ little filler. So, I would say that you "assumed the risk" in ordering crab cakes. Country fried steak, roast chicken or a cheeseburger would've maybe have been better choices. It's like going into a seafood place and ordering the sirloin... expect to be disappointed.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: lynnlato

                        for the most part, i agree.. but they do a surprisingly good job on calamari, fish and chips, and when they have it the fresh fish special. I took a chance, knowing the results would probably be what they were - I have no problem with the outcome. I was just wondering if anyone thought saying something to the waiter would have any effect. I'm guessing my comments would have stopped at his ears, so in this case any comments would have been a waste of time.

                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          You didn't name the restaurant, but in my limited experience with that type of place, the servers are usually pretty good. If you had said something, eg, they were okay but there wasn't much crab, then the waiter would have been better informed. I would think that he wouldn't want an unhappy customer. If no one ever says anything, then when you ask, you get "I dunno, everyone seems to like them."