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Aug 28, 2010 07:19 PM

Restaurant etiquette - to say - or not to say how it was after a bad meal

Not inedible, but each dish was heavy, oily, not pleasant. Nothing outright ruined, but each of us left knowing the food was poorly prepared and we did not enjoy the meal. Not the server's fault, so we tipped per the price. The server actually did not inquire as to how the food was - had he done so, I would have answered honestly, but it seemed gratuitous to volunteer my observation. I won't return, and as a person known as food-obsessive, I'll dis-recommend the place to people who ask me. Should I have said something? Similarly, if a dish has too much this or would be so much better with that - is that an observation ever worth sharing?

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  1. I only ever comment if I think there's a point to it. Most places have no interest in your comment and, certainly, are not going to adapt their cooking based on what you say. The staff are simply asking "how was it", because they think they should ask. Like you, I'd be likely to simply not go back .

    However, you do get the odd occasion where you get a sense of genuinme interest - "It's a new dish on the menu today. How was it?" Then I'll happily comment.

    1. If a dish is not good, I don’t eat much of it. I simply don’t see the point of eating bad food and a few bites is enough to tell when it’s just not worth it. Most servers can’t help but notice when they are bringing back most of the food they brought out. It pretty much screams “That was lousy.”

      If a server asks why I didn’t eat, I am generally honest. “The meat was terribly over cooked,” “The potatoes were greasy,” “That fish tasted like ass.” Whatever. Sometimes, the cost of the bad dish is removed from the bill. Sometimes, the whole meal sucks and we abscond in laughter, an appropriate amount of cash left on the table with the offensive offerings.

      Ultimately, though, actions speak louder than words.

      1. Sounds like you pretty much handled the situation as I would have. i.e., it probably would not have done any good and I would not return. The place in lacking in attention from the kitchen to service.....however, your last sentence with regards to sharing your thoughts.....I would say not.....instead, if you otherwise liked the dish, ask for it to be prepared with the observations you had in mind. A good kitchen will accommodate you if at all possible. Hopefully, the kitchen will pick up on the hint in a round about way.

        1. Go in when it's not busy, maybe between lunch and dinner, and ask to speak to the manager. Go with very specific things and let them know exactly what was wrong- pork chop overcooked, salad over-dressed.

          2 Replies
          1. re: jameshig

            See the manager doesn't want that. He wants to know at the time so he can correct it. If you go afterwards, there's not much he can do.

            I usually am so hungry and so indecisive about how bad it is, that I'm already more than halfway finished before I decide it really is bad. Then do you really complain at that point? The manager is going to look at my plate and say, well it couldn't have been THAT bad, you nearly finished it!

            1. re: GraydonCarter

              I agree that going back later to complain is a bad idea. I used to work as a manager in a movie theater, (not exactly the same thing, but...) and I always felt 1) frustrated that the time had passed and I was unable to do anything about the complaint, and 2) that the person complaining was just trying to get a free movie pass.

          2. I'm in the "Vote with my feet" camp. I don't return. If someone asks about our meal, I will answer honestly. If the manager is interested in your dining experience, he/she will ask. When they don't, I figure they don't want to hear what I have to say -- "don't ask the question if you don't want the answer" has proven to be valid. Life is too short to try to teach someone who isn't interested in learning.