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When do you expect to get "comp'ed"?

Recently I saw a few posts with diners complaining about food or service at restaurants. What struck me was the expectation of some people to have their dishes or meal comp'ed. One example was that the diners complaint about the AC being broken in the restaurant on a very hot day, decided to stay there to eat. Eventually it became too unbearable to eat there due to the heat and they took the food and left but expecting that in some way they should be comp'ed (which the restaurant didn't do). The other post was about service issue on timing in sending out dishes. The restaurant comp'ed the whole meal (note: very expensive), but the poster still complaint on how the service of the restaurant was unacceptable. There are many other posts on how people expect the restaurants to comp their dish or meal but I am not going into the details.

For me, I never really think that the restaurants need to comp anything. If I get a bad service, I note it in the receipt and give less tips. If I have a bad dish, I either send it back on my first 2 bites (really, after a few more bites, I feel cheap to send it back as if I am trying to get more food), or I just let it go. I know I won't go back to the restaurant or order that dish again, but I don't expect the restaurant to comp me if I don't finish my plate.

Granted, it is a nice gesture if a restaurant decides to comp you. But I don't feel that someone should expect the restaurant to comp anything when they complaint. What's your view? When should a restaurant comp a diner? When do you expect to be comp'ed, if ever?

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  1. my personal thought is if you get comped you lose your right to continue to go on and on about it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: LaLa

      Correct. That should end the discussion. I have been butchered in many, many restaurants and only once or twice did I ask for a total comp. My test of a comp-worthy meal is that the food and/ or service was so outrageously and inexcusably bad that it ruined your mealtime beyond any hope of repair. My way of communicating that is to calmly suggest that they do the right thing because if they don't, I will refuse to pay anyway.

    2. Generally speaking, I wouldn't expect to be comped for something unless it was clearly the restaurant's fault that something was inedible or unless there was physical damage (the restaurant spills wine on my coat, hits me on the head with a hot plate, etc.). Otherwise, I'm with you: if the service is lousy, take it out of the tip. If they tell you up front that there's some kind of problem and you decide to stay, you're responsible for the decision, not the restaurant.

      I hear waaaaaay too many people whining about how they should have been comped this or that, or bragging about how they bullied the restaurant into comping them something. Sometimes I get the impression they make a fuss out of something trivial just because they're angling for a freebie. Not cool, IMHO.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        Boy, do I agree 100% with you Ruth!
        Perhaps I have a bit cynical view of getting "comped". I live in Las Vegas, work in one of the biggest resorts in town, in hotel reservations. I've heard it ALL, reasons why a person should be comped. Be it for the stay, or for a meal.
        I guess i'm a bit cut and dried on the subject: If meal and experince was horrid, let the manager know your issues. A good one will try and make you happy- usually comping said meal. A bug in food? The manager gets a call over, and discreetly informed of the "visitor". Now, for (in my mind, anyways) a trivial matter of temperature of resto, or music volume..That does NOT deserve any type of comp. You can leave, if it bothers your senses, but sitting thru a meal, eating like a King (all the while, complaning about trival issues you have with resto) THEN you demand to be comped? WRONG WRONG WRONG. I've seen people pull this little stunt, and it's frustrating. People whine like 5-year olds too, to try and get comped. It's quite pathetic, and I sincerly belive these people will be sent to the 7th level of Hell, when the time comes. (LOL, kidding!)

        I know, Vegas is different from the rest of the world, in the areas of getting comped. But, i've seen some really slimy people pull really slimy stunts just to get something "free".

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Hi Ruth,

          I think you are right that there are some people who try to take advantage of the whole "hospitality" idea. I particularly dislike people who, eat the whole plate, then complain about the dish not good, and expect to be comp'ed (and if the restaurant did not, they complain more either on the CH board or elsewhere). I mean, if you eat the dish, you need to pay for it, good or bad.

        2. Agree completely. With every word. I NEVER expect ANYTHING to be comp'ed. I figure if I haven't sent it back after the first bite or two, it's my own fault for not speaking up. And I would be embarrassed to even hint that I expected not to be charged for something.

          I was once offered a meal for two on a future date at Balthazaar when a friend and I were seated near the big, round table that was occupied by a group of young men who got increasingly drunk, increasingly loud, and decreasingly dressed. But the offer was made with no prompting whatsoever on my part.

          And I was once comp'ed any bottle of wine I wanted at Ouest when they were out of the first two bottles I had ordered. I had just laughed it off and certainly wasn't expecting a freebie. I thought it so generous of them, that I ordered a bottle more or less in the same price range of the ones I had ordered previously. After dinner, the manager told us he was bringing us complimentary desserts because he couldn't believe I hadn't ordered the most expensive wine in the house.

          1. If I have a reservation and I end up having to wait for the table, I think I should be comp'ed a cocktail or glass of wine. However, I don't suggest that to the staff, which may be why it rarely happens.

            One of my peeves is the trend of having people wait in the bar regardless of their reservation time so they will order drinks and spend more money. I expect my reservation time to be honored and if there is a mixup or a table simply won't turn, the restaurant should compensate me for my wasted time. I get there on time based on the restaurant's representation that they would have a table for me, so if they don't I should be compensated in some way.

            Having said that, one of my other pet peeves is dining with people who intentionally complain about something at a restaurant (service, food quality, water marks on the stemware) and don't consider their dining experience a success unless they've gotten something comp'ed. I have stopped dining with a couple due to their obvious practice of trying to wring something free out of every restaurant they patronize.

            I suppose if there is something really disgusting in the food that wasn't supposed to be there, it would be good business for the restaurant to comp the diner the meal, or at least the offending dish.

            6 Replies
            1. re: NAspy

              "If I have a reservation and I end up having to wait for the table, I think I should be comp'ed a cocktail or glass of wine. However, I don't suggest that to the staff, which may be why it rarely happens.

              One of my peeves is the trend of having people wait in the bar regardless of their reservation time so they will order drinks and spend more money. I expect my reservation time to be honored and if there is a mixup or a table simply won't turn, the restaurant should compensate me for my wasted time. I get there on time based on the restaurant's representation that they would have a table for me, so if they don't I should be compensated in some way. "

              What are you talking about--15 minutes or an hour, somewhere in between? I'm assuming nobody is holding a gun to your head, demanding that you buy their alcohol.

              Lastly, if you go to a doctor and s/he is late and doesn't honor your appointment time do you think you should be monetarily compensated? Probably not.

              1. re: marcia

                Well, I do think that -- if I have to take time off work and then am kept waiting for my doctor more than half an hour, I start fantasizing about sending her a bill -- but I certainly don't expect it because it's not the norm in that setting.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  My point was the sense of entitlement that some people have about "their time" irritates the snot out of me. Hell, my time is wasted every day by people who I think should be doing their jobs differently. Why aren't there more check out lanes open at Target, for example? After all, I'm at the store so hop to it, people! Is it annoying, yes, but others are being inconvenienced too. And in the end, what difference does it make?

                  Stuff happens. I'm just sick to death of people who think that those who work in the hospitality industry owe it to customers to give out freebies because they have to wait, it's their birthday, anniversary, or whatever. There was a thread here a while back where posters were all over a certain restaurant for actually, gasp, calling a customer in advance to tell him (or her) that they were running late and could they come in 15, or maybe it was 30 minutes, later. Can't have it both ways. Personally, I thought it was responsible for the restaurant to call because gee, maybe they thought ahead and didn't want the customer to waste their time, but people here were up in arms about it. Still don't understand why.

                  And no, I don't work in the industry but I work with the public (not in retail) and entitlement gets really old, really fast. Save the comps for gross errors, like having food/drinks dumped on you, etc.

                  1. re: marcia

                    >>My point was the sense of entitlement that some people have about "their time" irritates the snot out of me. Hell, my time is wasted every day by people who I think should be doing their jobs differently. Why aren't there more check out lanes open at Target, for example? After all, I'm at the store so hop to it, people! Is it annoying, yes, but others are being inconvenienced too. And in the end, what difference does it make? <<

                    Restaurants should at least make an effort to seat people according to their reservation time -- why even bother having reservations if they aren't going to honor them? I don't mind waiting up to 15 or 20 minutes for a reservation, but after that, I get annoyed and a complimentary cocktail will go a long way to making me forgive the delay. I don't think it's a sense of entitlement to expect an establishment to honor a reservation time, and although I would never ask for a "comp," it is certainly an appreciated gesture on the restaurant's behalf to acknowledge that they've inconvenienced you.

                    By the way, I feel this same way about other services/service professionals. I dropped a hairdresser once who would double book appointments and leave me sitting with wet hair while he did another customer. I've stopped shopping at certain markets that chronically understaff their registers and instead patronize grocery stores that have adequate staff so their customers don't have to stand 10 deep waiting in a checkout line. I also prefer to shop at stores like Nordstrom that put extra staff on the floor during the holidays so they have enough people around to giftwrap presents without forcing customers to have to go stand in a separate line for an hour for that basic courtesy.

                    I guess, on a basic level, I appreciate good customer service, and will provide my loyalty to stores/services/restaurants that give it to me, an will happily pay more for it.

                    On the other hand, if I'm provided bad service (like being made to wait more than 20 minutes for a confirmed reservation), I will be annoyed and if that particular establishment wants to keep my business, they'll have to do something to make it up to me.

                    1. re: marcia

                      "There was a thread here a while back where posters were all over a certain restaurant for actually, gasp, calling a customer in advance to tell him (or her) that they were running late and could they come in 15, or maybe it was 30 minutes, later."
                      i wish i had seen that thread. i, for one, would be extremely impressed & appreciative if a restaurant did that for me. then again, i'm completely anal about being on time for everything, so if i think there's a chance i may be even a minute or two late for a reservation, i always call the restaurant to let them know.

                      you're right that restaurant patrons seem to have developed a sense of entitlement in recent years. on the rare occasion that i call to cancel a reservation these days, the host or hostess usually thanks me profusely for having the courtesy to call & let them know, because apparently this is now a rare occurrence.

                      boggles the mind.

                      dine out often enough, and you're bound to have the occasional bad experience. every restaurant has off nights, sh*t happens...but unless you've been treated badly by the restaurant, abused by a staff member, or poisoned by the chef, there's no reason to be an ass when things don't go your way. i'm always horrified when i witness diners beating up on servers or getting off on power trips over minor mishaps or misunderstandings. hey, i'll admit, i'm very particular about my food, and i expect high-quality meals & service when i'm paying for them. so yes, if my food is cooked or prepared improperly, or i find a bug or hair in my food - both of which have happened on more than one occasion - i send it back and ask them to fix the problem or prepare me a new plate if necessary...but i see no need to demand compensation or tear someone a new one just because there was a screw-up somewhere along the line. more often than not, when something has gone wrong during the meal, restaurants surprise me by unexpectedly removing certain items from the bill as a good-faith gesture. i always appreciate it, but never do i feel that i'm entitled to it.

                  2. re: marcia

                    Actually I told my doctor ...look I work on commission...I don't get paid unless I am out working and I expect that you honor my appointment time.I have never had to wait since ...going on 5 years!LOL!

                2. getting compensated (something for free) is never expected.

                  deb and i were in silk's (restaurant in the san francisco mandarin) awhile back. had a pleasant chat with the waiter, ordered some of his suggestions and later said we liked certain dishes and certain wine pairings. over the course of the meal, he brought out the chef and the sommelier. we talked and talked, ate and ate, drank and drank.

                  my bill was maybe a third of what it should have been. it was a fun evening.

                  1. I get antsy waiting for a reservation. If I wait up to or more than half an hour, I would like to have a drink at the bar comped. This goes a long way towards making me go into the dinner experience ona good note. If it doesn't happen (it usually doesn't), I'll still tip normally assuming my dinner service is not terrible.

                    1. Expecting a comp is rude and cheap. Giving a comp is sometimes good business, but not always. For example, if there's a hair or bug or something in my food, I expect to be offered a new meal. If I don't want anything else and have eaten very little of the first dish, a good restaurant will comp it. But if they start comping something for every patron who complains, whether it be the temperature of the room, the taste of the already eaten food, or the wait at the bar, they will soon be out of business.

                      We have friends that own restaurants and often get freebies when we visit. But when the bill comes and it's full price, we certainly don't complain.

                      1. It's probably a good idea to define the term. Jfood views a comp as a dish that is given and eaten at no charge. Notice the words "and eaten."

                        There have been a couple of times when the food that was delivered was unsatisfactory (versus not to jfood's taste) and returned to the kitchen (i.e. a raw or well done steak when ordered med-rare) and the MOD made a big deal about the dish being comped even though it was not eaten; it's not a comp. The latter is similar to buying a medium shirt and having it delivered extra small, it's a RETURn not a COMP (all caps just added to define not to scream).

                        A comp is a shortened form of compensation. If the diner has not eaten because the kitchen just can not get their act together, it is nice to compensate the diner with a dessert to get them through the hunger pangs. If a multi-party is served and one dish is unsatisfactory, should the replacement that is delivered 10 minutes later while everyone else is done with their entree, it should probably be comped, but rarely is.

                        Jfood also agrees that if a reservation is not honored within about 10 minutes then a drink is in order (they luck out because jfood would order a club soda).

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: jfood

                          "A comp is a shortened form of compensation"

                          never thought about it that way, Jfood-- i can't gauge your level of humor, but i find that you're correct of course. as far as any member of restaurant staff is concerned, though--comp is short for "complementary"-- as in "so sorry your table is not ready, ms. soupkitten, how about a complementary round for your party as you wait" or "happy anniversary-- allow me to offer you a complementary dessert/bottle of house champagne." "sorry your starter was not up to standards, Mrs. Jfood, would you prefer a comp or a replacement?"

                          comps are sometimes just hospitable, and sometimes they are the morsel which keeps an irate customer from dining upon your staff's raw flesh (i.e. you've screwed up, diner is mad, do something to fix asap)!!!

                          i *never* expect comps but often find that i do receive them. i think it's 50% good business, 50% good tipping, 50% easygoing nature on the part of the customer, 50% hospitality industry "kickback," 2% restaurant screwing up, trying to appease. (i'm a cook, jim, not a mathematician)

                          1. re: soupkitten


                            probably a combo of both. How about "complementary compensation". Now that's a Comp. :-))

                            "sometimes they are the morsel which keeps an irate customer from dining upon your staff's raw flesh" = That is absolutely PRICELESS

                            1. re: jfood

                              Jfood i do think we are BOTH correct!!! :-)

                            2. re: soupkitten

                              For whatever reason, I've also always thought of "comp" as referring to compensation - to make up for something. As opposed to giving something for free as a nice gesture - free drinks while waiting at the bar for a delayed table or desserts to make up for some other problem.

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                Then what do you call something that is offered "compliments of the house"?

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  Well, sometimes, I think that is just a "standard" that is cloaked as "compliments of the house" - i.e., various amuses bouches, an extra dessert, etc.

                            3. re: jfood

                              I always thought comp was short for complimentary (i.e. free) as opposed to complementary (to complete). I never thought it meant compensation.

                              1. re: hsk

                                jfood had his allergy shots today and is a bit foggy. please give the old dog a break.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  as i said i appreciated Jfood's post-- it made me think about "comp" differently & i found Jfood was quite correct. i appreciate the pov. i think Jfood's instinct is correct-- in many cases the "complementary" is in fact a restaurant's preemptive "compensation" to the customer. the restaurant *does* in many/most cases simply want to please the customer, and in some cases wants to appease the customer's wrath at some minor/major inconvenience, so the restaurant offers a comp(limentary item), free, to the customer.

                                  i do think there is some distinction in that "compensation" implies something that is owed and "complimentary" is a favor or gesture which is graciously offered. i do think that comps should always be seen as special favors or gestures given to valued & special customers by the restaurant, in appreciation for the customers' patience or tolerance or good-will; & not comps as in compensation, a relatively odious, joyless debt owed to the customer for their forbearance or suffering. i realize it may just be semantics-- just that one term leaves a bad taste in my mouth and the other does not.

                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                    I would suggest it could mean either, depending on the circumstances. I once had food comped because service was so slow it made me late for the theater. (They knew in advance we had a timeline. We didn't ask for the comp, they just gave it.) That would fall under the "compensation" category. And once I had food comped because I was dining with a local semi-celebrity. That would definitely fall under the "complimentary" category. So I think both definitions can apply.

                            4. I can't imagine asking for -- let alone demanding -- a comp. In situations where some sort of accommodation seems due, I let the restaurant (if that's what we're talking about) take the lead.

                              If I find the compensation -- comp, a sincere-sounding apology, whatever -- satisfactory, I call it even. If it's more than satisfactory, they win points. Less than satisfactory, I don't come back.

                              Life's too short to make too much of a fuss. On the other hand, if a major mistake (or what I judge to be one) is made, I'd be remiss to allow it to pass unreported. If the waiter wasn't as on-the-spot with water refills as I'd like, I'd probably keep it to myself, or tell the waiter in conjunction with a tip that's less than my usual 20%.

                              1. My personal but not yet posted Wikipedia definition of "comp" is a paltry quantity of food, beverage, or marginal entertainment which is issued reluctantly because a middle manager has calcluated that without it, you will either die or never return to their establishment, with both alternatives being equal in their eyes with vaccous and indifferent concern, and neither having a chance to enhance their next month's profits, so they succumb to your extortion about the roach on the wall or the water-stained wine glass and your personal traumas that resulted from it, and the predictable need for expensive psychiatric care to follow.

                                1. Last time dining out at very high end restaurant my daughter's meal came out with a very large stink bug walking around on her roast chicken.

                                  They took it away and brought her out a new one (which she did not eat because she was scared of bugs being cooked inside of it) But they comped it because we did not eat or, nor did we package it up. That whole night was a fiasco anyway...the bug was just icing on the cake. We just refuse to return there as well.. they could have comped half the dinner and I would feel this way still as it was that much of a disaster and 100% restaurants fault.

                                  1. The most egregious instance of demanding a comp I have experienced was when a table of B&T managed to spill their water glasses all over themselves (no concept of keeping your hands still) and then demanding that the entire meal be comped because of the spill. I refused. They then proceded with their meal and managed to knock a glass of red wine on the guest next to them (there was nearly 2 feet of space between them, she really slapped that glass to send it flying that far). They were silent. No offer to even apologize to the other guest whom we did comp even though the restaurant was at no fault except for seating the first table to begin with.

                                    We give a lot of comps to nice customers and will take dishes off the check if returned uneaten or there was a serious issue (Med rare sent out well done--unfortunately it happens even at the 4 star level). But the whining complaints are not suffered. Its bad for business just as it is bad to give in to a screaming brat in a toy store.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: Le Den

                                      could you please clarify for those of us who might not be in the know what a table of B&T is, and what difference it made that they were whatever it is? (Must have some significance, since you specified it)

                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                        susan...it's a new york thing. B&T stands for "bridge & tunnel." it's a derogatory term that refers to the people who have to cross a bridge or go thru a tunnel [either from jersey or long island] to get to NYC. the implied negative connotation is that B&Ters are low-class, uncouth, or gauche, and socially inferior to manhattanites.

                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                          got it, thanks....though I have to admit, even though I live in San Francisco proper (and don't have to cross any bridges to eat in our fine restaurants), if I knew that restaurant personnel were thinking of east bay people with such stereotypes in my town, I'd be less inclined to believe that their version of what happened was really the true version, and not filtered by their own particular biases and point of view...

                                      2. re: Le Den

                                        cool. up here in CT we can tell the weekend visitors from nyc and their sense on entitlement in most of the restos. :-))

                                        jfood grew up as a t-person (Lincoln and Holland Tunnels) so gotta come to the defense of the old 'hood Le Den.

                                        No hard feelings. just can't take a broad brusher here.

                                        1. re: jfood

                                          None taken. The moniker does have more to do with a misplaced sense of entitlement and lack of understanding of why things don't work the same way in the city as they do out in the burbs.

                                          1. re: Le Den

                                            exactly LD.

                                            People in the hood know what works in the hood, whether inbound or outbound.

                                            1. re: Le Den

                                              are you saying that people in the burbs would ordinarily expect to get comp'd for spilling water on themselves?

                                        2. I NEVER expect to get comp'ed. Maybe a slight reduction in price or a free appetizer/dessert is in order, but I don't expect it. Pleasantly surprised when it happens, though. We were at a chain restaurant, watching a ball game and waiting for our order, when the manager came over and told us there was a mix up, and our order didn't get turned in. He offered us a complimentary appetizer of our choice, which we really didn't want (just not big eaters!) At the end of the evening our bill was ridiculously low, so we called our server order and said that we weren't charged for one of the dinners. He told us that the manager took it off the bill because of the mix up. Nice surprise.

                                          Another time we went to a place where our waitress was so busy gabbing with another table, that she was totally ignoring us. When we got the attention of another waitress, she took over our table, saying that the other table were "regulars" and dear friends of our original waitress. Our new waitress was great, and we were satisfied. At the end of the meal she sent us home with a free dessert to make up for the original waitress. Nice touch.

                                          The only time we have been totally comp'ed for a meal, I wasn't even asking for it. I just called to let the manager know that we were disappointed, in some of the service and food. All I wanted to do was let him know. Most of the meal was good, just a few low spots. He insisted that we come back and he would refund our money spent. I said we didn't expect that, but he insisted. I wasn't mean, or had a nasty tone to my voice, either. I truly want this place to work, and I told him that, but he said he was not happy to hear the review I gave him and we should get a full refund, so we did. And it wasn't a cheap meal either. Totally unexpected.

                                          1. I never expect something to be removed from my bill, unless I actually didn't eat it. If the problem is corrected, I assume I'll pay for what I ordered, and am happy surprised if something is taken off my bill.

                                            The last time this happened, I ordered a steak that was served with ice cold green beans. I asked the waiter if they were meant to be chilled. I wasn't trying to be sarcastic, but since they were actually cold, not just "no longer hot" I figured I'd ask. He apologized, brought back some hot green beans. We were charged for the entree, and given a free dessert. I thought that was a fine way to handle it.

                                            1. Oftentimes, it's not really about the comping but about management showing some empathy and acknowledging whatever transgression occurred. A recent study shows that many patients are less inclined to sue doctors for malpractice when the doctor admits to making an error and apologizes to their patient. I feel this way whenever something goes awry in a restaurant. Comping would be nice, yes, but it annoys me even more when the restaurant staff treats you like *you* did something wrong or treats the event as a nonevent. Maybe, say, finding glass in your food is a nonevent, but you can bet to your customers that it isn't.

                                              Also, the post about Vegas was interesting. Reminded me of the time my husband found a piece of glass in his dessert while dining at the Bellago. He mentioned this to the manager, who just took it away without even saying "Sorry." I don't care that it's Vegas and perhaps it's common for diners to "scam" for free meals there--when something like that happens, you should simply apologize.