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How to approach restaurants about dissatisfaction

I am getting sick of paying relatively large amounts of money and not getting much in return for it. It seems restaurants are doing whatever they can to not give you much for your cash. I had an 8 dollar steak and cheese the other day with literally about 1/4 cup or so of meat to it, and chips (didn't even come with fries, which would have been a dollar extra). Had a tiny bowl of gumbo...11 dollars.

But I also don't want to appear cheap and/or gluttonous, but it makes me mad when you feel ripped off. It's not even so much getting ripped off as why do people want to screw you over? Why not be somewhat fair about it? In Europe you see pictures of the food you will get, and with most other products in the US you have some idea of what you are getting, but not with food. How would you go about saying you don't think a meal was big enough? Do I even have a right to decide whether it is a fair deal or not?

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  1. Wow, this is a great question. It's definitely happened to me before! Now, I do have sympathy for restaurants just trying to stay afloat during hard times, maybe using the economy to justify cutting corners, but it's tough to know when to say something and when to vote with your feet.

    Maybe some restauranteurs could answer this query for both of us, observor -- no help from me, just sympathy!

    1. I was with my husband at a wing place, and I don't really like wings, so I got a french dip. It was a 6 inch bun with about2 inches of meat on it, and not a stacked 2 inches, just 2 inches of the bun had meat. When the server came back and asked if it was okay I told her it was not. I showed her and asked her to take it back and get some meat on it, which she did and then it was fine. That's how I do it.

      5 Replies
      1. re: danhole

        A while after the fact I told the manager of another branch of the deli that had provided me with such a paltry steak and cheese for 8 dollars about my gripe, and she was incredibly nice. She gave me another sandwich immediately (with clearly more meat, though still pretty skimpy) and even gave me a drink with it. Though even with this revamped offering, I still find 8 dollars to be ridiculous for a "philly" that amounts to a modest amount of pretty bland and tasteless meat with what appears to be a single slice of cheese melted on top and surrounded by way too much bread. No condiments like lettuce, tomato, etc., and an additional charge for fries instead of chips. I don't know why people would throw out their money on such a pathetic offering.

        1. re: observor

          I'm glad you got some kind of satisfaction. I don't know what it is about a french dip or cheesesteak that makes them so skimpy with the meat. In my case even the server thought it was shy on meat. But it was only $7 and came with curly fires and au jus, so that wasn't near as bad as your experience. There is another place we ordered take out from. I got a cheesesteak and it was loaded! Not expensive either. Twice it was great, third time almost no meat at all. It was a bread and cheese sandwich. Next time when I placed the order I specifically asked them to actually put some meat on it, like they used to do. The guy told me they always serve the same amount, but I informed him that I had a very skimpy one last time. He assured me that wouldn't happen again. It may be a matter of new help, or someone just not caring, but it burns me up. They probably have my name on the wall now saying "Dani - major pain. Likes meat."

          1. re: danhole

            <"Dani - major pain. Likes meat.">

            Have you considered this for your tombstone? (Sincere apologies if your sense of humor is less morbid than mine.)

            1. re: small h

              It would be appropriate, small h! I am like a tiger when it comes to my meat. You can mess with other things but don't cheat me on the meat! If I'm paying $2-$3, then I am not so rabid, but beyond that . . .

              1. re: danhole

                Hang tough! I'm not a carnivore (more for you!), but I understand and celebrate your devotion.

      2. If the menu doesn't specify the size of any part of the meal (like saying "1/4 lb of beef"), you can always ask the server. They should also be able to tell you things like if they feel
        the meal is enough for one (feel free to also use your hands to indicate amounts). A small female person might roll her eyes and tell you that there's no way SHE could ever finish the plate, or a large guy might tell you that he could easily eat two of them plus dessert.
        And if they don't know and/or don't seem to want to give you the info you need and/or don't care, then you know not to go back there.
        As a former server, I know that expecting your server to go get the kitchen staff to add more food to your plate without having to pay extra is a rare event usually reserved for really good regulars or friends of the owner; you can't expect this to happen every time you go back there. If you feel that a restaurant is not giving you a serving that is worth the price you're paying, you can tell the server at the end of the meal that while the meal itself was good (if it was), but the amount you got didn't warrant the price you had to pay. And don't go back.
        Most restaurants are not out to screw people. They want people to be happy with them so that they return and return often, hopefully bringing friends and family and celebrating special occasions. Times are tough right now, YOU know that. You notice that boxes and bags of foods at the market are holding smaller amounts while costing the same (if not more) than before, the same thing is happening in the food industry, only the bags hold fifty pounds worth of potatoes or whatever, and they go through a fory bags a day.
        I've been in restaurants, too, where at the end of the meal, I could say that it was simply NOT worth it. So we don't go back. Period. Someplace else gets my money.

        1. "In Europe you see pictures of the food you will get"

          Only in cheap tourist restaurants where they assume that customers will not bother to try to speak or understand the basics of the local language. Avoid such places like the plague.

          9 Replies
            1. re: Harters

              I don't believe that is accurate, and why would you avoid a place because they think tourists won't speak the language? In Japan, definitely, all restaurants have pictorials of their offerings.

              1. re: observor

                In Japan, it's part of the culture. Even there, you'll find plenty of smaller restaurants that don't have pictures on the menu or the wax figures. That's more typical for chains and restaurants in highly trafficked areas, but smaller places or restaurants in smaller towns will probably not have them.

                1. re: observor

                  "I don't believe that is accurate, and why would you avoid a place because they think tourists won't speak the language?"

                  On the first part of your observation, I can only speak from experience of holidaying in various European tourist destinations over many years (mainly in Spain which I usually visit at least twice a year, but also in other Mediterranean countries). I accept that your experience of such destinations may have been different from mine.

                  As to the second part, I didnt suggest that a place be avoided on grounds of language. I did suggest it be avoided on grounds of having photos of food. For reasoning, see paragraph above.

                  I'd suggest that if you walked down the main restaurant streets in , say, Fuengirola, Maspalomas or Alcudia in Spain, Jesolo or Rimini in Italy or Paleokastritsa in Greece, you'll find many places to eat. Some will have photographs of the food; others won't. I'm also absolutely confident which you would mark out as good places to go and try the food and those which you would mark out as tourist shite.

                  However, returning to your original point, I also don't like to be ripped off, either with quality or quantity. I think you can only go on a place's reputation and hope for the best. As to what to do if disatisfied, I think there's a problem. A place that regularly rips off customers is not going to stay in business for long except if they are, say, in a tourist area and not relying on return customers (see points above). All you can do is complain to the manager/owner and take you business elsewhere. Personally, I rarely complain - I will if I think I see a point but, most times, I know the owner is not going to be interested so I don't bother. It won't be there in six months.

                  1. re: observor

                    There are restaurants all over the states that have pictures of the food. McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell to name a few,

                    1. re: observor

                      I've traveled extensively throughout Europe and NEVER encountered photos of food on a menu. In Japan, many restaurants have wax models of their dishes in the front window. (This is not for tourists, BTW, as my first observation of this was in 1958, way before foreign tourism took off in Japan.)

                      1. re: pikawicca

                        There are a number of places here in London (not US fast food chains) that have menus with pictures.

                          1. re: pikawicca

                            Chinese, especially but not limited to dim sum - e.g. Dragon Castle, Noodle Oodle.

                            Thai places e.g. Addies which is one of better central Thai places I've been to in a while.

                            Japanese, such as Eat Tokyo, which is where I go for ramen in London (they're good but not great, but about the best I've encountered so far in London; the search continues...)

                            I think some Korean places do that too, but no off the top of my head examples.

                  2. Un-equal servings in Latin America are even more irritating. Order chicken. Your plate comes with half a back. Your partner's plate comes with a whole breast. Order cuy. Your plate comes with the ass end with no meat. Your partner gets the front end and all the meat. Servers really really don't get it if you comment. Each person got a piece of chicken or a piece of cuy.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Interesting, I always thought I was getting the smaller portion because I'm a girl. Glad to find I'm not getting the short end of the guinea pig because of my gender, at least.

                        1. re: observor

                          i've found the same in india, nepal, etc - where 90& of the time is there is no concept of a cut of meat apparent. You order buffalo, e,g,, everyone gets buffalo (hopefully) but what part and how much is a total lottery

                          1. re: thew

                            In the sub-continent I've always found most (not all) meat to be cooked in small chunks and in curries or sauces or on sticks such that portion equality was less of a problem. But Latin Americans are big carnivores, such that you'd think that servers would "get it".

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              I guess there's pressure to use the whole carcas. I can see how that would be very bothersome.