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How to approach restaurants about dissatisfaction

o
observor Aug 4, 2009 08:01 PM

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?

  1. l
    LauraGrace Aug 4, 2009 08:56 PM

    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. danhole Aug 5, 2009 10:01 AM

      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
        o
        observor Sep 4, 2009 08:19 AM

        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
          danhole Sep 4, 2009 01:25 PM

          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
            s
            small h Sep 4, 2009 04:09 PM

            <"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
              danhole Sep 5, 2009 01:07 PM

              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
                s
                small h Sep 5, 2009 05:30 PM

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

      2. Michelly Aug 7, 2009 09:00 PM

        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. h
          Harters Aug 8, 2009 09:37 AM

          "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
            k
            KTinNYC Aug 8, 2009 10:21 AM

            I absolutely agree.

            1. re: Harters
              o
              observor Aug 11, 2009 05:02 AM

              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
                q
                queencru Aug 11, 2009 05:14 AM

                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
                  h
                  Harters Aug 11, 2009 06:29 AM

                  "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
                    k
                    KTinNYC Aug 11, 2009 06:53 AM

                    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
                      pikawicca Aug 12, 2009 02:26 PM

                      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
                        limster Aug 16, 2009 04:28 PM

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

                        1. re: limster
                          pikawicca Aug 17, 2009 03:18 PM

                          What kinds of restaurants?

                          1. re: pikawicca
                            limster Aug 17, 2009 03:51 PM

                            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. Sam Fujisaka Aug 11, 2009 06:39 AM

                    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
                      c
                      cimui Aug 11, 2009 08:46 AM

                      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: Sam Fujisaka
                        o
                        observor Aug 26, 2009 06:46 AM

                        That's interesting

                        1. re: observor
                          thew Aug 26, 2009 08:20 AM

                          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
                            Sam Fujisaka Aug 26, 2009 09:10 AM

                            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
                              o
                              observor Aug 27, 2009 07:58 AM

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

                      2. o
                        observor Aug 11, 2009 07:37 AM

                        I only raise the question because it has happened so many times...you hand over 12 dollars for a hamburger and it is basic, no better than any hamburger you could prepare at home...then I look at the gigantic mass of ground beef you can get in the supermarket for 12 dollars and it makes me mad that they make such a profit and can't even supply a notable hamburger.

                        I had an 8 dollar screwdriver the other day in a ritzy bar and asked what type of vodka they were using...Smirnoff! They probably make at least 6 dollars profit off of that drink. I only ask there be reasonable product for the cost...

                        39 Replies
                        1. re: observor
                          h
                          Harters Aug 11, 2009 07:53 AM

                          I don't know what margins restaurants work to where you are but, in the UK, there's a rough rule of thumb of thirds.

                          Leaving aside tax (which is included in the price displayed), a third goes on food cost, a third on wages and the final third is gross profit for the owner, out of which building rent, crockery, etc is paid, before the the owner can trouser net profit.

                          And, hey, I feel for you. I knew America had become expensive but $12 for a basic burger. Wow. I've just checked prices at our premium chain (Gourmet Burger Kitchen) and a basic burger is £5.95 (approx $9.80). And, as I say, tax is included and no tip expected in GBK even though it's a "sit down", not takeaway.

                          1. re: Harters
                            o
                            observor Aug 11, 2009 08:30 AM

                            That's great no tax and tip, that really adds to the price. I've seen a 15 dollar hamburger, an 18 dollar hamburger before...I would say a supposedly really good hamburger comes in the ten dollar range, but the point is that it is not always as good as it is supposed to be.

                            1. re: Harters
                              b
                              bigfellow Aug 11, 2009 03:55 PM

                              It is the same here. Textbook food cost is 33%. Some dishes are more, some less. But you do try to run it a low as you can WHILE maintaining the quality.

                              1. re: bigfellow
                                h
                                Harters Aug 12, 2009 06:58 AM

                                Interesting to hear the same percentages. Does it not get skewed on wages with serving staff relying on tips much more in north America, than the UK?

                                We had a new story here a few weeks back with Gordon Ramsey "exposed" in the tabloid press for pre-prepping things like fishcakes in a central kitchen and then shipping them to his London gastropubs. It was really nothing dffferent than using a prep. kitchen at the gastropub but was much more efficient in keeping costs down.

                                1. re: Harters
                                  b
                                  bigfellow Aug 12, 2009 07:23 AM

                                  When I worked in the UK and Ireland I was considered a professional. Here, for the most part people think that you cook because you can't find a real job. The whole attitude here styinks. It is hard to make a decent wage.

                                  The servers and bar staff live on their tips. They usually make much more in tips than in wages.

                                  My solution was to start my own place and become a chef/owner.

                                  1. re: bigfellow
                                    h
                                    Harters Aug 12, 2009 10:49 AM

                                    Cheffing is a professional skill. Not all customers recognise that - not even here in Europe. I can cook at home but I couldnt cook, even to bistro-type standard day in, day out - as you have to.

                                    My town (in north west England) has a catering department at the local college where young chefs and serving staff train and gain recognised national qualifications in their fields. It makes them skilled to be earning decent wages. The students even run their own training restaurant - open to the public for lunch and dinner - serving basic but very edible stuff. It's the practical part of the courses.

                            2. re: observor
                              Sam Fujisaka Aug 11, 2009 08:36 AM

                              So, why do you go out for a burger and scewdriver for $20 when you can do way better at home for $5 and 15 minutes?

                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                o
                                observor Aug 11, 2009 08:42 AM

                                I know, that's my point, really...I think many restaurants are kind of scams, but when I do go out I would like to make sure I don't get taken advantage of. It's frustrating that they wouldn't just be reasonable.

                                I was in a nice place yesterday and was interested in the 15 dollar sweetbreads. She said it was a small portion...I decided 15 dollars for a small portion wasn't in my interest.

                                Another place offered *four* basic shrimp and crab fried wontons, with about 50 percent of it just fried dough...12 dollars. It seems ridiculous to me, but perhaps people who have lots of money just don't care they are getting screwed.

                                1. re: observor
                                  q
                                  queencru Aug 11, 2009 08:57 AM

                                  That's pretty common in Europe. I think in the US, we've just become conditioned to expect the huge Cheesecake Factory portions and then feel ripped off when they are a normal size. I've lived in Europe and Japan and in neither place do you get the portions we get here in the US. People don't expect to get another meal they can take home and reheat, so the portions are designed for one sitting.

                                  1. re: queencru
                                    o
                                    observor Aug 11, 2009 09:37 AM

                                    I don't care about small portions if the price reflects it. I had three tapas items in a nice restaurant that came to 21 dollars. I assessed the quality of the food and came to decide that 21 dollars was not unreasonable for the quality of what you received. But all too often I find that is not the norm.

                                    1. re: observor
                                      q
                                      queencru Aug 12, 2009 09:32 AM

                                      Most high end restaurants have much smaller portions that what you'd receive at a low-end chain that is known for huge portions. What you're paying for is the additional skill/creativity that goes into creating the dish. This is the only place I've seen with cheap prices for fairly large quantities of food. In Europe and Japan, you paid the same or more for much smaller portions and won't necessarily be blown away by the quality. We're very lucky here that our prices are so low compared to elsewhere.

                                      I'm sure most people draw the line with certain types of food. I've tried the gourmet burger a few times and was underwhelmed.

                                      1. re: queencru
                                        p
                                        purple bot Aug 12, 2009 09:37 AM

                                        You're right. Also, part of what you're paying for at higher end places v. lower end is the quality of the ingredients. Higher end places rarely buy the bulk, cheap food (think of that 18-wheeler Cysco truck you might see pulling up to your local chain restaurant) that lower end places do, but rather buy from smaller distributors selling much higher quality ingredients. This costs more, obviously.

                                        1. re: purple bot
                                          q
                                          queencru Aug 12, 2009 10:02 AM

                                          I didn't include that in the equation since I don't think that's always the case. If you go to a small, independent restaurant, it's probably not going to be buying from the big bulk distributor regardless of the food costs. Many high end restaurants have also made names for themselves using offal and cuts of meat that tend to be cheaper in the supermarket. The issue there is that those cuts of meat often take much more skill/effort to prepare well than the filet or chicken breast.

                                        2. re: queencru
                                          limster Aug 16, 2009 04:29 PM

                                          Also labour -- many of the high-end places tend to make very labour-intensive dishes that take a lot of manpower to complete.

                                    2. re: observor
                                      b
                                      Blueicus Aug 11, 2009 09:05 AM

                                      Yes, there are places that'll try and rip people off, and yes, margins in food and drink are not all equal... but you have to understand that the various overheads outside of food costs are not insignificant. Just because the $15 plate of sweetbreads has maybe $4.50 worth of ingredients doesn't mean the owners are laughing all the way to the bank. Considering how low the salaries are in the industry yet still suck up around a third of the gross earnings (at a successful place), the meat is but a part of the equation.

                                      1. re: Blueicus
                                        o
                                        observor Aug 11, 2009 09:29 AM

                                        If wages are low but still suck up a third of the earnings, that would say that food costs are more than we have been talking about. I still have a hard time believing overhead is so prohibitive that they need to charge six times or more what the food is worth...besides, there is lots of waste in restaurants. I see linen getting used in places where that's not necessary, paper napkins being wasted...how about asking patrons if they want a fruit garnish with their drinks instead of automatically giving one?

                                        1. re: observor
                                          q
                                          queencru Aug 11, 2009 09:40 AM

                                          People want some level of service when they go to a restaurant. I regularly get asked if I want lemon with my water and that does not bother me, but if you had to sit through "Do you want a napkin under your drink? Lemons with your water? A bread basket? Fruit garnish on your dessert?" I think people would find it tedious. I see it like going on an airplane. If I am going to choose an airline that charges for every little extra- food, drink, advance seat assignment, baggage- it had better cost a whole lot less than the airline that is going to give me all that stuff included. Sometimes the difference in price turns out to be so minimal that it's better just to keep the costs in so customers are happy.

                                          Restaurants may also choose linen napkins because they have a smaller environmental impact than paper. Sure linen may not be necessary at a lower-end restaurant, but perhaps the owner values a more environmentally friendly business.

                                          1. re: observor
                                            b
                                            Blueicus Aug 11, 2009 09:45 AM

                                            A restaurant is more than food and staff costs... and also food costs don't normally include foods that have spoiled, dropped, cooked improperly, etc. An unexpectedly quiet week could spell the end of a lot of produce and meat that was ordered beforehand.

                                            Also, do you honestly think that customers would be receptive to your idea? Charge extra for olives in a martini, or a slice of lemon in the drink, or reusing the same set of cutlery for the entire meal, not getting proper linen, how about charging for a sprinkle of parsley on the plates... or charge extra if they want super attentive service! Have you noticed the sheer amount of posts from people complaining about the lack of those things??? Perhaps it'll work for a cheap and cheerful pho place where you're in and out in half an hour... but most people will not stand for that and will vote by not coming to your place at all.

                                            If you're going to say that making a burger at home costs 2 dollars, let's really calculate the true cost of it. How long did you spend prepping and purchasing those ingredients? How long did you spend washing up after yourself after? Did you mop and sweep the floor after your meal? Did you wrap everything up and label everything? Rotate product? How many pans did you use? Did you use a grill? Did you eat with any utensils? Did you use a napkin? Drinking glasses, bar shakers? What is the rent on your place? Now when you're serving more than one person those costs per cover decrease... but they're still there.

                                            1. re: Blueicus
                                              o
                                              observor Aug 11, 2009 09:53 AM

                                              In my estimation, the costs associated with preparing my owm burger, vs. paying 10 dollars or more in a restaurant are somewhat minimal...and I know what's going into it, and it will be exactly how I want it and how large I want it, and I don't have to wait for some bumbling waiter, and it's quiet...however, cleaning up truly sucks, and, true, it won't be professionally made.

                                              Now, if I was having a truly unique and fantastic burger in an incredibly unique setting, I would be willing to pay 15...even twenty dollars for it. My point is that the product does not often meet the cost.

                                              1. re: observor
                                                b
                                                Blueicus Aug 11, 2009 10:03 AM

                                                Well then I guess you answered your own concerns... don't eat out if you don't feel it's worth it. I don't eat out much primarily for two simple reasons... my wages aren't that high and I work during dinner hours. Continuing to accuse restauranteurs of ripping you off isn't really productive for anybody.

                                                Like anything in life there are good and bad products... good and bad food, good and bad clothes, good and bad cars, good and bad software, etc. If you don't feel it's worth it then simply don't go... with any luck they will go out of business to be replaced by something better. How simple is that?

                                                1. re: observor
                                                  c
                                                  cinnamon girl Aug 13, 2009 03:26 PM

                                                  But with your burger example you say you can do it better yourself ... and then later say "it wouldn't be professionally made." Likely you do make it better yourself even tho' it's not "professionally made." I tend to stay away from places where I can do it better myself. For example, I'm rarely going to order pasta (the ultimate money-maker for the resto) unless it's something I can't or wouldn't often at home. Say, stuffed or layered items w/ freshly and properly pasta. Or it has some item on it I can't get. Maybe you'd be better off going to places that offer you something outside your usual repetoire and it will feel more worth it.

                                                  On the other hand, the fact that something's professl'y made is often the drawing card. I don't have a charcoal grill so that's why I'd want the burger you mention - but that's what I'm paying for to. Sweetbreads take a helluva lot of prep btw, that I'm not willing to do all that work at home and then risk them not getting properly crispy. When's the last time you felt ripped off in Chinatown? I can't get my wok as screeching hot as they can so I'm happy to pay and get something I can't do at home. (Or whatever your Chinatown equivalent is since everyone doesn't live near one.) Weighing in on the big laminated picture menus in Europe - to be avoided at all costs.

                                                  1. re: cinnamon girl
                                                    f
                                                    fourunder Aug 15, 2009 06:36 AM

                                                    When's the last time you felt ripped off in Chinatown?
                                                    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                                                    I sure you're being facetious......but anyone that could be felt ripped off in a Chinatown.....is not capable of being pleased. You can make bad choices in ordering dishes, but I'm talking about prices. Chinese food is traditionally very inexpensive in y opinion....an exception however is, unless you are ordering seafoods and they put imitation fish (Surimi) in your order. Then you would obviously have a gripe.

                                                    1. re: fourunder
                                                      c
                                                      cinnamon girl Aug 15, 2009 12:41 PM

                                                      that was my point fourunder . . . not being facetious at all. As in, how could anyone possibly feel ripped off in Chinatown where you routinely get more than you pay for. I'm suggesting that Observer change the kind of places she dines at . . .

                                                      1. re: fourunder
                                                        limster Aug 16, 2009 04:31 PM

                                                        >>Chinese food is traditionally very inexpensive in y opinion

                                                        It depends on the type of Chinese food, just like the type of French or Italian food. There are certain traditional Chinese (Fujian) dishes that might cost as much as a whole meal at the French Laundry, because of the ingredients involved.

                                                2. re: observor
                                                  b
                                                  bigfellow Aug 11, 2009 03:58 PM

                                                  I've beenin the business for 35 years and overhead can be much higher than people realize. It is more than just the cost of the food. What about rent, utilities,and all the related business expenses.

                                            2. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                              Miss Needle Aug 11, 2009 09:39 AM

                                              I can't speak for observor, but I do it so I get a break from cooking and cleaning. And it is nice to get out of the house (or in my world, I should say a small apartment) and eat in a different ambiance. And food does taste different and fresh (as in new) when somebody else prepares it for you -- probably because I'm generally tasting as I cook.

                                              1. re: Miss Needle
                                                Michelly Aug 11, 2009 01:14 PM

                                                I'm with Miss Needle. Sometimes, it's worth a little extra money not to be the one planning for, prepping, cooking, serving, and cleaning up afterward. As I am the chef/sous chef/prep cook/server/busperson/ dishwasher in my household, I do enjoy sitting down and relaxing every so often (that's also when I order stuff I hate to cook, like big salads).
                                                The trick is to have a list of places that you DO like and who will give you a well-made meal at a price that you think is worth it. And know which dishes to order and not to order. (A nice family-owned Italian place closeby makes a killer linguine with white clam sauce, but their pizza is mediochre and overpriced, so we just don't order pizza there). And some places have dishes that are actually worth the higher price (I had a lamb burger at a Greek place in Manhattan Beach that simply caused me to stop all conversation while I concentrated on the flavor and texture of the dish, as my environment around me became a non-important blur), but you will only know by trying.

                                            3. re: observor
                                              j
                                              jenhen2 Aug 11, 2009 11:33 AM

                                              If you had to make it at home, you should include some portion of the cost of the pan, the stove, the gas, the refrigerator where you store the beef, your time for going to the store and buying it and carrying it home, etc. Point being, restaurants are a business that has to take into account far more costs than someone cooking at home. In return, you get more than you get at home - ambiance, someone to do the dishes, extra ketchup when your bottle runs out. It's an exchange. Of course, if what you get isn't worth the price to you, that's a whole nother story. I'm just saying that the calculation isn't as simple as the cost of beef.

                                              1. re: jenhen2
                                                o
                                                observor Aug 11, 2009 11:50 AM

                                                Of course it isn't just food costs, but the point being is that what they ask for goes beyond what is required. All I know is that the manager of a chicken wing place here just bought a big new house, and a girl who worked in an upscale tequila bar was taking home 400 dollars a day, according to her. So you tell me whether it's a reasonable exchange.

                                                1. re: observor
                                                  p
                                                  purple bot Aug 11, 2009 12:16 PM

                                                  The "girl" who worked at the tequila bar is taking home $400/day in tips, most likely. Nothing to do with the restaurant owner's profitability. And the owner of a chicken wing place? I don't think of chicken wings as being a particularly value-oriented restaurant item. So his place is successful, good for him (or maybe his wife inherited some money, hence the "big new house"). I think it's fair to say that most restaurant owners are not exactly rolling in dough. It they're lucky, they break even and possibly make a small profit. As far as I can tell, there are much easier ways to make money if that's your only goal. And I'm quite sure most people don't go into the restaurant business because they want to screw people. Do you really think that?

                                                  Like everyone else says, if you don't feel a particular restaurant is a good value, don't go. Simple as that.

                                                  1. re: purple bot
                                                    j
                                                    jenhen2 Aug 11, 2009 12:36 PM

                                                    Exactly. Thank you, purple.

                                                    1. re: jenhen2
                                                      p
                                                      purple bot Aug 11, 2009 12:56 PM

                                                      Imagine the nerve of those restaurant owners turning a profit! If they do, they must be gouging you. Funny, that isn't often said about other types of businesses.

                                                      1. re: purple bot
                                                        thew Aug 12, 2009 05:56 AM

                                                        I get this. my family business is real estate - we own and manage a few small buildings in NYC. You would be amazed how many people assume i just take their rent and shove it in my pocket, ready for a trip to the bahamas.

                                                        the mortgage on the buildings alone often take half the rent money. then there are taxes, oil and heating, water bills, repairs, maintanence, fees to the city,state, and fed. registration fees, etcetcetcetc. The laws here in NYC are very tenant based (as they ought to be) but it amazes me the way people think every landlord is donald trump and simon lagree.

                                                        when oil prices shot up 400%, people would accuse us of gouging if we asked for a minimal, legal rent increase, when the lease renewed.

                                                        people do not understand the cost of doing business

                                                        1. re: thew
                                                          b
                                                          bigfellow Aug 12, 2009 07:24 AM

                                                          Restaurants are a business like any other. Reasonable profit is nothing to be ashamed of. We don't go into business, restaurant or any other, to loose money or to be a non profit.

                                                          1. re: thew
                                                            q
                                                            queencru Aug 12, 2009 07:42 AM

                                                            Real estate is an entirely different animal, although I get what you are saying. I know in my area when condo conversions were big, rent prices skyrocketed at a rate totally unrelated to inflation/costs. I think sometimes it's hard to separate the smaller business owners who often just work to make a small profit from the large conglomerates who are more likely to rake it in.

                                                            1. re: queencru
                                                              jfood Aug 12, 2009 10:43 AM

                                                              pardon the interuption but have you taken a look at large conglomerates "raking it in"? Those brackets around year over year revenue and profits represent a reduction not an increase.

                                                              1. re: jfood
                                                                q
                                                                queencru Aug 12, 2009 11:20 AM

                                                                You misread my post. All I was saying was that they are more likely to rake it in, which is true. You don't get to be a big chain without starting small and making enough profit there to expand.

                                                          2. re: purple bot
                                                            o
                                                            observor Aug 12, 2009 09:00 AM

                                                            It's not about turning a profit, it's about handing over nothing for something.

                                                            1. re: observor
                                                              k
                                                              KTinNYC Aug 12, 2009 09:02 AM

                                                              Caveat Emptor. You didn't get nothing, you got what you believed to be unacceptable value for your money.

                                                2. c
                                                  cimui Aug 11, 2009 08:59 AM

                                                  Honestly, I'd just vote with my feet, observor. If you feel like one restaurant's a ripoff, go elsewhere or eat at home, as Sam suggested.

                                                  (I know cost of living varies wildly throughout the U.S. and around the world. Those prices sound pretty standard for an inexpensive restaurant / deli in NYC. But I could see how they might be higher than usual where you live.)

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: cimui
                                                    mnosyne Aug 11, 2009 05:42 PM

                                                    I agree Cimui. Also the OP can always go on Yelp and write a crappy anonymous review!

                                                  2. souschef Aug 11, 2009 08:27 PM

                                                    And now for a positive experience:

                                                    About a year ago my wife and I went to a new restaurant/wine bar for dinner. I was very sick at the time (nothing contagious or that involved hacking). The appetizer was wonderful, but the main (duck) was on the dry side. I mentioned this to the waitress, who told me that just as she was about to bring out my plate I went to the bathroom, so she had to keep the plate under the warmer for 5 minutes, and that's what dried out the duck.

                                                    She said she would send over the manager to see what they could do for me, but I told her that since it was obviously my fault I expected nothing from them. The manager came over anyway. I repeated to him that I took full responsibility and expected nothing from them. He would not hear of it. We finally settled on him giving me some cheese and port.

                                                    Really great to see customer service like that.

                                                    7 Replies
                                                    1. re: souschef
                                                      o
                                                      observor Aug 12, 2009 09:00 AM

                                                      I highly suspect a trip to the bathroom would not dry out a duck.

                                                      1. re: souschef
                                                        jfood Aug 12, 2009 10:49 AM

                                                        Thank you for the positive story, maybe you and jfood should start a thread.

                                                        Many years ago when a new restaurant opened M&M jfood went and were having a horrible time, to the point of them deciding to leave during the entree. The owner came over and jfood explained. The owner asked if she could wait on them personally and what the heck, it could not get any worse. In the end it was one of the best meals jfood has ever eaten.

                                                        At the end of the meal, the owner wanted to fully comp the meal, jfood wanted to pay. You should have seen the looks at surrounding table as the customer is arguing for a higher bill than the owner wanted to give.

                                                        Many years later, many meals later, many recommendations later, many wonderful conversations later, many many many, the jfoods still love this place and the ring constantly expands for satisfied customers as a result of numerous recommendations. A simple act of good customer service by the owner has created a lasting love of this restaurant by jfood and many others.

                                                        1. re: jfood
                                                          o
                                                          observor Aug 12, 2009 11:07 AM

                                                          Maybe jfood could tell everyone how you go from wanting to leave to "having one of the best meals...ever eaten"

                                                          1. re: observor
                                                            souschef Aug 12, 2009 11:36 AM

                                                            Yeah, how could the jfoods go from wanting to leave to having a great meal just by a change of server? Was the food but not the service to the satisfaction of the jfoods?

                                                            1. re: souschef
                                                              jfood Aug 12, 2009 02:01 PM

                                                              Very simple and a beautiful lesson in snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.

                                                              Jfood's appetizer arrived without the salad for mrs jfood. As they waited for mrs jfood's salad, his got cold. Her salad finally arrived and one bite into the cold-hot app and the salad, the entrees arrived. So now jfood has a cold-hot app and a hot entree in front of him and mrs jfood has a salad and an entree in front of her. So that is the events and the scene.

                                                              jfood asks the waiter to take the entrees back, let them work through the apps (he was even willing to continue on his cold-hot) and then tell the kitchen to give them 20 minutes in between courses. Server does a nose plant on the request in the following manner...he takes the entrees away and brings them back within 2 minutes, places them on the table and leaves in a huff after a nasty comment. the jfoods decide no thanks and jfood approaches the owner.

                                                              Now meal redux after owner takes over. All the minimally eaten food is removed. A beuatiful cheese plate is brought over while they rewind clock to time zero. Apps and salad come out together and they were great, entrees twenty minutes after apps plates cleared, and a great dessert.

                                                              It may sound bizarro, but there are great restaurant owners thatunderstand the long term.

                                                              1. re: jfood
                                                                Sam Fujisaka Aug 12, 2009 03:08 PM

                                                                A nice, memorable, and poignant tale.

                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                  jfood Aug 12, 2009 03:42 PM

                                                                  thanks sam...long time.

                                                      2. shaogo Aug 12, 2009 04:55 AM

                                                        To the OP: I made a post yesterday that was out of line. I sincerely apologize. For what it's worth, I let my state of mind at the time get the better of me and threw propriety out the window. I'm glad that my very aggressive post was removed by moderators.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: shaogo
                                                          Lewes17266 Aug 26, 2009 08:29 AM

                                                          you are a nice person to apologize

                                                        2. t
                                                          Takat Aug 12, 2009 04:00 PM

                                                          Talk with the manager if it's something they really could change. Ranting at the waitress (which far too many people I know resort to) never helps anything. Way too often, I have to restrain myself from saying, "Well, the por guy just gives you the food...he can't help it if you don't like it...he didn't make it."

                                                          Takat
                                                          http://katacomb.blogspot.com

                                                          1. o
                                                            observor Aug 14, 2009 07:53 AM

                                                            Now you can't even go to a supermarket without getting taken...a half pound of Mediterranean pasta salad and 1/4 pound of gouda mashed potatoes, with an all-natural beverage: nearly 10 dollars! Screwed.

                                                            17 Replies
                                                            1. re: observor
                                                              k
                                                              KTinNYC Aug 14, 2009 09:13 AM

                                                              I'm assuming you paid for the pasta salad and mashed potatoes by the pound and that the price was posted as it always is with these salad bars or delis so why are you surprised by the bill? Your dismay over prices mystifies me.

                                                              1. re: KTinNYC
                                                                jfood Aug 14, 2009 09:59 AM

                                                                whenever jfood watches people flop potato salad and cole slaw in their salad bar tin he is always amazed. Walk to the deli counter and it's $2.49/lb, serve yourself at the salad bar and it $12.99/lb.

                                                                1. re: jfood
                                                                  souschef Aug 14, 2009 01:12 PM

                                                                  "salad bar tin" ? Where does jfood eat that gives jfood tin plates ? Does jfood live in a war zone where, in a pinch, a tin plate could be used to protect the jfood pate ?

                                                                  1. re: souschef
                                                                    jfood Aug 14, 2009 02:02 PM

                                                                    If you have been to lots of delis in NYC, you approach and grab a tin (OK it is actuall aluminum) to fill with all sorts of stuff, from salad stuff to fake crab. The you place a plastic cover and seal, get it weighed and go back to work where you wish you did not buy such stuff.

                                                                    Since jfood does not eat at buffets or salad bars, he normally watches as others fill their "tin" plates.

                                                                    Hope that helps

                                                                    1. re: jfood
                                                                      bagelman01 Aug 14, 2009 07:01 PM

                                                                      jfood, I'm in the same time warp as you. Reynold's wrap will always be TIN FOIL, and campbell's comes in a TIN CAN.

                                                                      And I was born after the Korean War..............................

                                                                      1. re: jfood
                                                                        souschef Aug 14, 2009 07:40 PM

                                                                        Been there, done that, threw out the food.

                                                                        1. re: souschef
                                                                          jfood Aug 14, 2009 08:45 PM

                                                                          That 1230 WTF moment

                                                                        2. re: jfood
                                                                          j
                                                                          Jacey Sep 4, 2009 10:14 AM

                                                                          Aluminum? I think you mean plastic containers. In NYC I don't think I've seen any aluminum containers at salad bars.

                                                                          1. re: Jacey
                                                                            jfood Sep 4, 2009 12:23 PM

                                                                            no...jfood means aluminum. They are round, and then there is the circle top that one side is paper and the other silver (as in color, not element). You place the top on the aluminum bottom and crimp along the edges.

                                                                            1. re: Jacey
                                                                              s
                                                                              small h Sep 4, 2009 12:33 PM

                                                                              I've never seen them at salad bars, either, only those clear plastic clamshells. What jfood describes is, in my experience, what a diner will use to pack your food to go. I don't think non-food-professionals can be trusted to get the crimping right, maybe.

                                                                              1. re: small h
                                                                                jfood Sep 4, 2009 12:37 PM

                                                                                It has been two years but there is a place in NYC on 49th just west of Park Ave on the north side of the street that has them in the way back salad bar that you use for the Mongolian Flattop.

                                                                                1. re: jfood
                                                                                  s
                                                                                  small h Sep 4, 2009 12:44 PM

                                                                                  You've got a hell of a memory for container culture! But that makes sense, 'cause you'd be carrying out hot food. Now I want Mongolian barbecue.

                                                                                  1. re: small h
                                                                                    jfood Sep 4, 2009 06:43 PM

                                                                                    it is a cross some people bear with memories.

                                                                                    BTW - stay away from the "shrimp" at the cold salad bar, they are surimi, blech

                                                                      2. re: KTinNYC
                                                                        o
                                                                        observor Aug 15, 2009 09:15 AM

                                                                        The price, I knew, but the server put in a little too much (maybe trying to move some?) and the encompassing amounts of the weight are not completely obvious on viewing. Only when the amounts are actually provided does one realize what a godforsaken rip off that is. Seven dollars a pound for pasta? If you think that you can get a prime rib dinner in some places for 10 dollars, or a pizza or...a small thing of pasta and gobs of potatoes and a small drink should not run that much. I guess for people with money, they don't really think about it.

                                                                        1. re: observor
                                                                          k
                                                                          KTinNYC Aug 15, 2009 11:15 AM

                                                                          I still don't understand. Did you go up to the counter and say, "I'd like a quarter pound of pasta salad and mashed potatoes", or did you just say, "I'd like some pasta and mashed potatoes"? If it was the former you should have said something once the food was weighed. If it's the latter then you got what you asked for.

                                                                          Again, prices were posted, you chose to buy the food, so you were not "screwed".

                                                                          1. re: observor
                                                                            q
                                                                            queencru Aug 15, 2009 01:01 PM

                                                                            In most places I've been where you order food by weight, the scale is right in front of you. If you ask for a pound, they put roughly that amount on the scale, ask if that's okay, and then give it to you with a sticker stating the weight/price.

                                                                            1. re: queencru
                                                                              p
                                                                              phantomdoc Aug 15, 2009 01:16 PM

                                                                              I just watched the dvd of The Wrestler. Working at a deli counter. Potato salad, Too much, too little, too much, finally.

                                                                      3. h
                                                                        hsk Aug 14, 2009 08:50 PM

                                                                        "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?"

                                                                        I wouldn't, the restaurant decides what the portion sizes are, if you don't think it's enough, too bad - if you ordered it, and it's what they normally serve, you have to pay. Your right to decide only involves voting with your feet (on future dining occasions). As others have said, the cost of menu items in a restaurant pays for much more than the cost of the food that went into it. If it's not good value overall it likely won't be around too long. If you resent paying $12 for a burger that has $2 worth of ground beef in it you should just eat at home. I suspect once you add in the onion, egg, bread crumbs, seasonings, bun, mayo, bacon, cheddar, pickle, lettuce, tomato, potatoes, and oil you'll be up at $12 unless you already had all that stuff on hand.

                                                                        9 Replies
                                                                        1. re: hsk
                                                                          thew Aug 15, 2009 06:17 AM

                                                                          if you really felt it wasn't a fair deal, i see no reason not to say so. Not to get something comped, just to express your dissatisfaction.

                                                                          1. re: thew
                                                                            h
                                                                            hsk Aug 15, 2009 06:43 PM

                                                                            Really? I only do that at restaurants I like and have been to before. If it's a new place and I think it's not a fair deal I never express my dissatisfaction I just don't go back. It's not my place to tell a business how much they should be serving for what price. I don't know how much their rent, business taxes, insurance, utilities, salaries, loan payments etc. are (and actually I don't really care).

                                                                            Why would you express dissatisfaction if not to get something comped? If it's a place I've been to and it's smaller than normal I'd let them know, and I'd expect to get it fixed while I was still there.

                                                                            1. re: hsk
                                                                              thew Aug 15, 2009 09:05 PM

                                                                              i've almost never sought to get anything comped. ever.

                                                                              i would express my dissatisfaction because if it were my business i'd want to know what the customer thinks.

                                                                              1. re: hsk
                                                                                limster Aug 16, 2009 04:35 PM

                                                                                >>Why would you express dissatisfaction if not to get something comped?

                                                                                Most businesses do want feedback, and there's no reason not to give them the feedback they need to improve. If nothing else, it's just being helpful.

                                                                                1. re: limster
                                                                                  p
                                                                                  phantomdoc Aug 17, 2009 02:28 PM

                                                                                  Well put lim.

                                                                                2. re: hsk
                                                                                  pikawicca Aug 17, 2009 03:22 PM

                                                                                  Well, I guess I'd want to know if this was their usual portion size or an aberration.

                                                                              2. re: hsk
                                                                                h
                                                                                HDinCentralME Aug 15, 2009 08:49 AM

                                                                                "The restaurant decides what the portion sizes are...and if it's what they normally serve..."

                                                                                The only way to know if that portion size is "normal" is to ask. There is nothing wrong with (politely) inquiring "is this the way Restaurant X usually serves this?"

                                                                                Yes you can "vote with your feet" (by not returning) but you can also speak up to get the information you need to make that decision. It may turn out that the kitchen did indeed make an error which the server is happy to rectify.

                                                                                1. re: HDinCentralME
                                                                                  souschef Aug 15, 2009 09:27 AM

                                                                                  My wife and I once both ordered the foie gras app in a restaurant. My serving was much smaller than hers. When the waitress came to clear the dishes and asked how it was, I told her it was great, but wondered why my portion was so small. She responded that she noticed it too, and was not going to charge us for it. It does pay to speak up!

                                                                                  1. re: souschef
                                                                                    b
                                                                                    blair_houghton Sep 6, 2009 10:17 AM

                                                                                    Complaints are rare, usually people just leave a low tip, grumble on the way to their cars, and don't come back.

                                                                                    Complaints that don't get acted on quickly are an even better motivator for a customer to go somewhere else.

                                                                                    I couldn't care less whether I get something for free at a place I'd otherwise like to come back to (for the food other than the thing that was bad), but it makes a big difference that they make the gesture. It indicates they believe it's an anomaly, not policy, to serve someone poorly. The lower the staff level of the person empowered to make the fix, the better.

                                                                                    As I said, complaints are rare, but they are certain to happen over time unless you're a 3-star restaurant staffed by robots with refrigerator-motor reliability ratings. If you see them as an opportunity to improve a relationship rather than a chance to duck responsibility, and relish the opportunity, you'll end up with a steady income from a steady stream of regulars and people who heard the place was great.

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