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Sep 11, 2010 05:32 AM

Is it ok to complain to the manager that the food portions are too small for the money?

Last night I ate out and ordered the salmon. It was really delicious but I thought the size of the piece of salmon was too small given the price of the item. There was no picture of it in the menu so I didn't know before ordering how small the piece of salmon would be.

Is it considered gauche and uncouth to say to the manager that for the money paid the serving size should be bigger?

On the one hand, if people don't complain the restaurant will never know, but on the other hand I don't want to come across like Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies.

Any thoughts?

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  1. what's "too small"? what was the price of the dish? were there accompaniments? were you in a fine dining place or a low-priced chain? if i am in a place i've never been, i often ask the server how big the portions are, because they are almost always to much for me.

    according to the usda, a "portion" of protein is 3-4 oz., about the size of a deck of cards. i have never seen a place that serves a portion of ANYTHING that small.

    for many years, i worked for an internationally-famous, and much awarded, chef. his food was inventive and unlike menus in the rest of our city. people swooned over how delicious and beautiful everything was, yet complained that the portions were too small. when we served salmon it was a 6 oz. portion, and likely enough butter in the rest of the dish to choke a horse. but the way he plated the food, with the veg and starch UNDER the fish, on a large white plate, it "looked" smaller than what were people were used to, so their brain told them it was small.

    personally, i think most americans feel deprived unless their meal is more than they can possibly finish and that drives me mad with the wastefulness of it.

    as for complaining to the manager, it's a free country, but you're better off speaking with your feet. if you didn't feel the place was a good value, don't return.

    11 Replies
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      +1. I think you would sound like Jethro. They're not going to alter the price, or bring you another slab of salmon. Given that's the case, why bother telling them? If you think you're not getting your money's worth, don't go back.

      1. re: Indirect Heat

        If you like the restaurant and the food what could be wrong with a helpful comment about the lack of value you perceive? Not everything has to be done for a reward. I agree that one comment won't change their portion size, but why is it just plain naive to think that a business might respond to a number of similar comments? One way to be sure they won't is for no one to comment.

        1. re: Midlife

          People probably comment all the time. It shows a different value system, not a problem with the restaurant-- the restaurant wants you to pay for the quality of the food, not the quantity while many Americans want to pay for quantity and quality is an afterthought. If the food was not a good value because it was poor quality, complain, but if you complain because you wanted more food they're just going to shrug you off as completely unappreciative of food quality, even if most of their customers argue that.

          1. re: Basiorana

            To me, that's a great explanation. Without going into details we had a fantastic three course prix fixe dinner for Thanksgiving. We wouldn't have changed a single thing about it including the quantity. The portions were what some would call small; I thought they were appropriate. Each course was something I'd never had before and was filled with flavor. I savored every morsel. Had any course been doubled in size, I'd have eaten it but I think it would have detracted from the overall meal. IMO, CHs (when they're in CH-mode) are nothing about quantity and everything about quality.

              1. re: Basiorana

                So when a restaurant serves me an unusually tiny portion (not on a tasting menu) and the food is good, I should just order more................ regardless of my value perception? ............. because they just won't understand? I don't disagree with your conclusion, but it certainly reflects poorly on the restaurant if they totally disregard the feedback they get from guests. I suppose the arbiter in this will be the bottom line of the restaurant's operating statement.

                1. re: Midlife

                  One more thought. I appears, from this topic, that perceptions of valid portion size vary among people. That makes sense. While this is mostly subjective, what I'm referring to is a portion (not on a tasting menu) that is so small that even my wife, who is 5'3" and has never weighed more than 120, thinks it's not enough. At that point the food has to be REALLY, REALLY exceptional for me not to consider coming to a value conclusion.

                  It seems that many restaurants have reduced portion size to be able to lower prices in this economy. I have no problem with that but reserve the right to come to my own conclusion about the value I perceive. As a business owner, I have always appreciated honest, well-intentioned, and logical feed back from customers. I find it disappointing when management seems to be above receiving it.

                  1. re: Midlife


                    I agree with you. I encounter many, who feel that any restaurant dining experiences should yield leftovers for a family of 8 for a month. I happen to not be of that mindset.

                    Recently did a 9-course tasting menu, and actually gigged them for having the portions for the "mains" too large.

                    Same for many restaurant reviews, when the portions were just flat over the top.

                    I want to enjoy my meal, and not have to hand back copious quantities of food. As I am most often traveling, having 8 servings leftover, is not something, that I am looking for.


          2. re: hotoynoodle

            Usually my experience has been the same as yours; that even the "small" portions tend to be larger than the suggested serving size of 3-4oz (especially keeping in mind that protein shrinks when it cooks). However, I have been served what loos like 2 oz of protein on a rare occasion- and in the case I'm thinking of at Tabla Bread Bar in NYC, I was livid! It cost over $25 for what amounted to less than 4 bites of food. Yes, it was delicious but seriously? If it had been listed under appetizers or small plates I'd have been more forgiving, but it was supposed to have been an entree (fish curry). Also, it came with absolutely no accompaniament; no veggies or starch (and starch is cheap!) However, as I said this has been the rare anomaly. Yet, I don't see why you recommend not speaking to the manager. I feel the same way about politics. If you aren't happy, speak up! What's the worst that can happen?

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              [Quote] personally, i think most americans feel deprived unless their meal is more than they can possibly finish and that drives me mad with the wastefulness of it. [/Quote]

              While I understand your point, is that worse than spending good money and leaving a restaurant hungry? There has to be a balance.

              1. re: PotatoHouse

                I am sure that there are such restaurants out there, but in the last 30 years, I have not seen them. I have never left a restaurant hungry, but I guess that it depends on the restaurant.


            2. Portion sizes aren't going to be uniform from one place to another. If you're eating in a higher end place that serves better meat/fish, the prices will probably be higher for smaller portions. I think the best bet is to ask about portion sizes if you're not sure.

              There are few occasions where I think it is okay to complain about size. If you ordered a piece of meat with a set size that came out obviously smaller than specified, if you ordered something and see others getting the same dish with a much larger portion, or if you've ordered the dish before and the portion size has shrunk without any change in price or notification of the change.

              1. It is entirely appropriate for you to express your views to the manager. However, don't be surprised if the manager doesnt agree with you.

                The fact that you mention that there was no picture suggests it was the sort of place where you might have expected a picture. I presume, therefore, that it was not a fine dining establishment. The part of the world I'm in doesnt generally ever have photos on the menus (occasionally one of the more bottom-end Chinese places might do) so I'm unsure what portion size you might reasonable expect in such a place wherever you are.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Harters

                  i'm unsure where one eats that there are pix on a menu other than a children's menu at a chain and unless there is another object to reflect scale, what would be the point? a zoom lens can make a a silver dollar look like a frisbee.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    Chain restaurants like Dennys, Applebees, etc. frequently have pix. Beyond that, I've never seen it. Photos (and lamination) are probably a clue as to what one should or should not expect. IMO, of course.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      One rule of thumb I've made clear to my SO is when we're traveling in Italy (or other countries/touristy cities), if the restaurant's menu has photos of the food on it, we don't eat there.

                2. Express your opinion of value for money for portion size yes,
                  Complain, no.
                  If you did not ask about portion size in advance, you have no right to complain, UNLESS the same dish was observed being served to others and your portion was substantially smaller.

                  My wife has been regularly annoyed at a local restaurant where she takes our 13 year old. The grilled chicken breast for the sandwich is always less than 1/2 the size of the breaded chicken breast sandwich. She has voiced her opinion to the manager (who she knows and knows her by name) and was told the actual meat is the same weight before breading and frying. BS
                  I was with them for lunch earlier in the week, My daughter ordered fried, my wife ordered grilled. I scraped the breading off my daughter's chicken and compared. The debreaded chicken was 2 1/2 times the size of the grilled breast.
                  My wife called the manager over, who exclaimed shock and surprise. He took the chicken away to weigh them. Turns out the grilled chicken was 3 oz, the de-breaded 7.5 ounces. He further investigated and found the prep cooks have been splitting the grilled in two for quick cooking, but neglecting to tell the grill people that a grilled chicken snadwich gets 2 pieces.
                  Here, when management had made assurances as to portion size, complaining is appropriate.
                  So, expressing an opinion made sense.

                  1. Why worry about what other people think? If you think the portion's too small, then it is too small.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: beevod

                      If you think it, it is a fact. How does that work?

                      1. re: nummanumma

                        because what a proper portion is is subjective

                        1. re: thew

                          thew, sometimes this site is about food and sometimes it's about semantics. I fully understand the subjectivity of a person's conclusion that something is true IN THEIR OPINION, but the Oxford dictionary says: "fact: a thing that is indisputably the case". I'm not sure who gets to resolve the dispute or to prevail in it, but there is certainly a dispute in this situation.IMHO "fact" is not really the right word.

                          In my wife's family a whole lot of huge arguments were avoided when everyone finally included the words "in my opinion" before making a judgmental statement. It saved us from a lot of door-slamming.

                          1. re: Midlife

                            agreed. you if you look at my post you will find words like "seems to me" or the ilk in many of my posts.

                            but what youre saying is exactly what i said that you responded to, only with more words

                            1. re: Midlife

                              On the other hand, isn't 99% of what we said is "in my opinion"? When I make a statement like "a carbon steel wok is better than a aluminum wok" or "key lime pies are best when made with real key limes"... clearly they are my opinion. Aren't we just stating the obvious by including "in my opinion"?

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                sadly - it isn't obvious to many people.

                                1. re: thew

                                  And, unfortunately, it isn't automatically the case with everyone either.