HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


How many chances do you give a restaurant ?

If I would receive bad service but excellent food, I might give the restaurant another try,
figuring it was a bad night.

I recently had an oversalted meat at a popular place with great vibes, I thought I was the only one at my table with a problem so I let it go; it turned out my husband's fish was drowning in oil and he did not say anything either. At the time we received our main meal, the place was packed and our waiter never resurfaced, someone else brought our bill, so we picked at our meal and said nothing, paid and left, we'll never return there.

We have more good restaurants that we can wish for in Montreal, so I rarely give second chances; one strike and you're out.

If you complain and get resolution to your problem, either in a corrected meal or in $ compensation, do you return or do you not?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I can deal with bad service just tip accordingly but, bad food, unless you can see that the chef has no talent, only one more chance.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cstr

      I suggest twice for a restaurant. And for a single woman, to give three chances to a man she dates!

    2. One.

      Going out to eat is such a treat for us on our budget that a bad experience is more than poor food or service, it is sad and disappointing and almost a personal affront. I read the Boston/New England boards for good experiences so a bad one doesn't happen often.

      1 Reply
      1. re: three of us

        This would be my exact response.

        We just had a terrible meal at a pretty pricey place Saturday night, and I absolutely will not give it a second chance when there are so many other places to try.

      2. One bad experience with either food or service is usually enough to keep me away, at least until I hear a recommendation from someone whose opinion I trust. With so many good restaurants to choose from, why risk another disappointing experience?

        1. It depends on the experience. Being on the periphery of the restaurant biz, I can appreciate that things can and will go wrong. The kitchen is a dance and a couple of missteps can create a cascade of bad in hurry... the "in the weeds" morass that even great chefs talk about.

          Generally, if it's a problem with the server, I'll take care of that via the tip and a word with the manager. The manager's response will help determine if I'll go back.

          If it's a problem with the kitchen, it depends on how it was resolved. There are way too many variables to give specifics, so it's just a judgment call. But the problem would have to be fairly egregious if the food was otherwise good for me to eliminate a return visit. There aren't a plethora of great restos in Pittsburgh, and crossing any off the list because of one dish eliminates the opportunity to try other dishes that may be exemplary.

          Btw, my point of reference for "egregious" is a waiter in Bologna who broke a wine glass at our table, spilled red wine all over my wife, picked up the broken glass, cut himself, bled on her salad, tried to wipe it off the plate, took the plate away, put a towel around the wound, came back with a new salad with the cut finger that's now bleeding through the towel touching the plate. The manager eventually let us leave without paying. But not before an argument about how appalling that situation was.

          They got crossed off the list.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Panini Guy

            Oh my. Thanks for the laugh, but I'd bet it wasn't so funny while it was happening!

          2. Probably about 1/2 of the restaruants in America put out fine meals and are consistant. How can you expect anything to good to come out of an organization where the owners/management call the menu items "product"? I will give a place a second chance maybe in a year.

              1. One, unless I like it because it is bad.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  LOL! I'm just seeing this response. It begs the question, what kind of bad food do you like so much you'd go back for more, Sam?

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    Everything has to be such crap that it is funny and worth going back just for the sake of doing so.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Then your masochism would revel in Panda Express! I call it "House of Chinese Soggy"! '-)

                2. bad service: leave an equally bad tip, say something to the manager, and one more chance in a month or more.....
                  bad food that works in theory but is lacking execution: another chance......
                  bad food that is simply conceptually bad: crossed off the list.
                  dirty restaurant, skeevy clients or help: usually dont sit down, but if i dont realize it in time, no more chances......

                  1. There are so many factors to this:

                    1. proximity to where I live / work

                    If it's in my nabe, I'm much, much more likely to go back. Esp. for work lunches, where time is limited, I'm a captive audience. There's only one non-dreadful udon/soba place nearby that takes reservations, so I might end up there multiple times even though in truth, I don't like it all that well.

                    2. just how bad the food is

                    Is it just mediocre or really, really terrible? Mediocre, I might return for other reasons (convenience, etc..). If it's truly dreadful, I don't go back. Also, sometimes, it does take time to figure out what the specialties are. There's a Vietnamese restaurant I know of with terrible food for the most part, but amazing rice crepes for some unexplained reason.

                    3. HOW service is bad / type of meal expected

                    Is it mean/grouchy? Are there problems with timing? Or are there mistakes in orders? If it's a business lunch type place, slowness earns many demerits, where it may not at a personal dinner. If it's mean and grouchy / pushy / overly speedy at a place I go for a romantic dinner, that earns more demerits than it would at a business lunch spot.

                    4. price

                    Expense is inversely proportional to how likely I am to go back. It feels a lot worse to have spent lots of $$ on a bad meal.

                    5. reputation / popularity

                    If a Chowhound whose opinion I agree with often likes it, I'm more likely to wonder if I'm missing something.

                    1. Unless I've heard favprable comments about a place, one chance only.

                      1. Let me add #6: How bad I want a restaurant to secceed. If one has the type of food I really want to eat, and I think they have a chance of getting it right, I might eat there three or four times over the course of six months to see what happens. But, that's it.
                        I, too, would try more than twice if it was convenient. Regardless of decor, ambiance or service, if the food is not above average I will not go back.
                        Oops! I forgot about Leon's.... but that's where I met my sweetie (so that's #7: reasons of sentimentality).

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Scargod

                          great additions. i agree. there's a completely crappy chinese restaurant in the college town where i met my sweetie. we still go there every reunion just for old times sake. the service and food are almost delightfully awful at this point. and if the owners of a family restaurant are great people, i'll eat almost anything they put in front of me.

                        2. Jfood normally gives a couple of chances. Rare that one time will a restaurant make the DNR list.

                          Coincidentally last night M/M jfood went to a favorite fish haunt, mid-$30's entrees in a casual setting. There was nothing that would bring jfood back to this place. Food was just OK, service was horrible and the pace was quicker than McD's. Both jfood's said, we're done on the way home.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: jfood

                            Why don't you share what place this was?

                          2. If it's a place we found on our own, one. If it's a place lots of people have talked about being great, epsecially chow-type folks, two. But there are places that are so well-loved locally and even after 2 visits we're just like "huh?" We just don't go back and don't refer others to it.

                            1. typically one shot, too many good restaurants around the Chicago area to waste return trips to bad places.

                              I did give a place a second shot recently though. It was a highly recommended restaurant in the Chicago area - Chucks Southern Comforts Cafe in Burbank. I went once & didnt like it, and was told I chose all the wrong items(ribs - there menu said they were smoked, & and the best around, the were neither), and I needed to go back. I did a few days later and tried some recommended items(chili - not bad(not earth shattering), and a steak with an etouffee sauce, steak - probably the worst steak I have ever had, overcooked, and full of fat, the etouffee sauce was average). I have learned to trust my first instinct from now on, no matter how highly recommended a place comes,, and how trusted the source is, and limit the damage at one visit to a place I do not care for instead of wasting time, money, and a meal on a return trip.

                              1. I will generally give a place a second chance if it's a service issue, or if the food is just OK, but it seemed like a issue of being very busy or just a bad night. If things don't improve on my second visit, then it's off the list. There was a very well regarded restaurant in Boston a few years back called Biba, run by celebrity chef Lydia Shire. Expensive place, $25-30 entrees in the late 80's. We went with another couple. One half hour to get someone to take our order, one hour wait for apps. Two hour wait for entrees half of which arrived cold. The next table was seated after us and were finished with apps/entrees and desserts before our entrees came out. Complaints to waitstaff and manager were answered with shoulder shrugs, and the offer of free desserts, which I told the manager we would not be ordering, since we didn't have another hour to waste. No other offers. Not only would I not return, but have boycotted all Lydia Shire restaurants since. That is probably overkill, but I was so incensed by it, that I couldn't bring myself to give her any more of my money.

                                1. Usually 3 strikes, unless we just really had a horrible time all the way around. It's also happened that we fall in love with a place the first time or two but then it all goes downhill. Sadness.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: Boccone Dolce

                                    I ate at a restaurant about two weeks ago and loved it. Ate at it yesterday and, though I enjoyed eating much of it, I got sick! Now what do I do?
                                    How does that saying go? "Once bitten, twice shy"?

                                    1. re: Scargod

                                      Got sick from the food you mean? Yeech. I know there are incubation periods from ingestion to onset of symptoms depending on what made you sick (aka from when you ate it to the time you feel like you want to die) and most people think they have food poisoning when it's not, but the one time I did have it, let me tell you- it was from shrimp. And I KNEW in about 30 minutes. I knew it was the shrimp- I just KNEW.
                                      What you do depends on how much you like to live on the edge!
                                      I hope you feel better soon.

                                      1. re: Boccone Dolce

                                        Perhaps here in NAF (and perhaps site-wide), it is OK to say you got sick at a restaurant, but you can't name names. CH says in their guidelines that it is unacceptable to do that. I was having diarrhea about two to two and a half hours after I started eating. I know there are other circumstances and symptoms that may make you think you have had food poisoning but I assure you that I have a cast-iron gut and I only had coffee that morning. I went through, what I would call, a classic case of mild food poisoning. It took me about 20 hours to feel no ill-effects from it. Thank God I ate less than half of my fish,,, though it could have been the soup.
                                        I have notified the health authorities.

                                        1. re: Scargod

                                          I'm not doubting you one bit darlin. People could argue until they are blue and throw scientific evidence at me about how long it takes, what the different things mean, that it's never what you JUST ate- but in my case, I knew the shrimp was bad very quickly after I ate it. I won't bore you with details, but know that I believe you and I am sorry you ate something that made you sick.
                                          I love shrimp and eat it all the time with no issues- it was bad shrimp that night that made me sick. It was from a fast-wok type place in a casino in NV. Never went back.

                                        2. re: Boccone Dolce

                                          E-coli takes 3-4 days to manifest symptoms.

                                    2. If it's a place I've enjoyed in the past for good food and service, I will give them a 2nd chance and hope that it was just an off night. But if it's bad on the first visit (either food or service), there's no point in returning. We live in the NYC area and there are just too many great and consistent places to waste my money on a loser.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. One if I just wandered in on my own.

                                        Two if I have a recommendation from someone I trust (or Chowhound of course:)). Everyone can have a bad night, so if others have had a good experience, they get the second chance

                                        1. One. I won't waste my time trying to like something that's bad.

                                          1. I would go back a couple times and if the problems persisted, I would obviously stop going after awhile. I would space out these instances though.

                                            1. One chance unless I see some glimmer of something special in some regard.

                                              Some part of the meal had to be good (by which I mean the food). If the food was good, service issues can vary widely and we'll still come back. If the food was bad across the board, we're not coming back regardless of the service. If, however, the food is anything less than excellent and there are repeated service issues we can't deal with, they'll get no more than three visits.

                                              Lastly, if smoking is allowed in the restaurant, it doesn't matter how good the food is, we won't eat in.

                                              1. Working in a restaurant has taught me that mistakes do happen. After all, it's human beings placing the order, human beings cooking the food, and human beings serving it. Something is bound to go wrong from time to time.

                                                For me, one mistake isn't going to be a deal-breaker, particularly when it's something on the kitchen end. It's the things that are within the control of the server and management that, if not addressed properly, are going to result in me crossing a place off my list. Living in Chicago, I'm not exactly short on options when I go out, and I can't justify going to a place where I'm likely to be disappointed when there are so many great choices.

                                                1. I guess I am in agreement with most here. If it's a recommended retaurant by someone whose opinion I trust, Chowhound included, I'll give it another chance unless it's dirty or horrid service. If I just happen to stop there on my own, they only get one chance to impress me. As has been said numerous times, there are far too many places to eat to put up with bad food, service or unhealthy or unappetizing conditions. If it's not "yummy", I don't waste my time, money or meal opportunities.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: PDeveaux

                                                    No more than two. I often want to go back because I spotted something on the menu, or my fellow diner had something that looked better than what I ordered. But beyond that, there are just more places than I have time to try.

                                                    I also will cut a little slack if a place where I'm a regular has an off night. I will definitely speak up and tell the waiter/host about, because they genuinely want to know.

                                                  2. If it's a type of food I genuinely like, I'm prone to give a restaurant a second chance. If the second time around is also bad, they're off the list forever!

                                                    1. We just recently had an interesting experience related to this question. We noticed that several new Indian restaurants had opened along the same road (although some are miles apart) and thought we'd give one of our previous standbys that had fallen off another try. Before these new places opened, they'd been turning out overcooked meats, breads that suffered from a heavy hand, and sort of blah curries. The fried appetizers were sometimes lukewarm. Basically, the place was suffering innattention to details. We always liked the manager of this place and the good service, so we were disappointed the food wasn't up to par and had stopped going. This visit, however, we were pleasantly surprised. We noticed the kitchen had started using an amchoor based chaat to finish on appetizers and one of our curries, adding a lovely sour flavor to highlight others. The breads were much better, more freshly made. The tandoor meats were succulent and juicy.

                                                      I guess my point is that given a little competition, some places will rebound, so perhaps it's good to give restaurants a second chance under some circumstances.

                                                      1. I don't have any hard and fast rule, but generally, I will give the restaurant three chances. i figure that restaurants are hard to run, generally. It's a tough business. Quite likely more than one chef is doing the cooking, so you may have gotten the restaurant's one bad chef. I want these guys to succeed, so I am not going to cross them off my list unless I am pretty sure that what I experienced was more than just an off night. Three consistently bad meals is the limit, though.

                                                        Rude service is something else, however. I became a "foodie" in my late teens. In my late teens and early twenties, I experienced rude behavior by three or four waiters at French restaurants in Chicago. I think it was because I was young. I never experienced this rudeness when I was older. I had done nothing to deserve this treatment. I never went back. Poorly cooked food I can forgive (for a while). Rude behavior I cannot.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: gfr1111

                                                          I'm a young female, and I feel like it definitely affects the type of service I get. If I dress particularly well, I usually get decent service, but if I'm not dressed in anything special, I can almost guarantee I'm going to get inattentive service.

                                                          I go to school in downtown Chicago, and I have substantial lunch breaks that don't leave enough time for me to hop the train home and back, but definitely leave time for me to go sit down and try restaurants in the area. Servers probably cringe when they see me sit down. For one, I'm young and look inexperienced = I probably won't tip well. Secondly, I'm a woman = I probably won't tip well. Finally, I'm alone = small check.

                                                          I always tip over 20% with a $5 minimum. I know how frustrating it can be to fawn over a single individual and only recieve a dollar or two for the trouble. But I feel like a lot of servers let their preconceptions about me dictate the type of service they give. At that point, it just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you treat me like I don't matter as much as your other guests because I'm young or because my check isn't as high as the table next to me, you're right, I AM going to tip badly. I can put up with alot, but rudeness and apathy are completely inexcusable.

                                                          1. re: gfr1111

                                                            I do have a couple of restaurants where I call ahead and ask who is cooking. Wrong answer and I go someplace else!

                                                          2. I live in NYC where there are thousands of restaurants to visit and on a limited budget, so I can't eat out more than a few times a week. Given that, if I don't really enjoy the food, I probably won't give a restaurant more than one shot when left to my own devices. That is, I'd cross it off my list and move on to other restaurants I've been wanting to try or the few restaurants that are in my regular rotation. That said, if someone else suggested we go to the mediocre/bad restaurant again, I wouldn't refuse.

                                                            1. Unless the food is terrible, I’ll visit a restaurant at least twice before giving up on them. Ambiance can make up for an occasional off meal, but bad service and loud music are restaurant killers for me. Living in a small rural city, my choices are limited, so I may, with fingers crossed, venture back after a year or so (if it’s still there!).

                                                              One local Italian restaurant had wonderful food, fresh, flavorful and authentic, but the service was abysmal. I ate there three times in total, bad service all. The last time I ate there, we only saw out waitress twice the entire night, once to place the order and once to bring the food. We complained and were rewarded with a gift certificate to come back! I threw it in the garbage on the way out. Other locals had the same complaint and word of mouth eventually killed the place.

                                                              1. Usually one strike if it's a) really, really terrible, all/both meals that were served. Two strikes if part or some of the meal/one person's meal was good/ok, and two strikes if it's a local favorite that most people seem to like (everyone has an off night). I don't think I've ever given a place 3 visits unless I've had to go there because someone else wanted to, after 2 previous unpleasant visits.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                  I agree rockandroller1, unfortunately that last time I was the only dissenting member of the party, and oh how I wanted to say "I told you so!"

                                                                2. It really depends on how expensive a place is (or otherwise out of the ordinary for me to go to, if price isn't the reason). If it's an average place, I'll usually give a place 2-3 tries to not F up. If it's something that's really out of my way to get to, really expensive, etc - usually it is once and you're out.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: jgg13

                                                                    If the food is bad, or the service really sucks, that's it. Eating out is too expensive a proposition for us to waste the money on revisiting places that are less than impressive.