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what (if anything) does it take for you to return to a bad restaurant?

If I have had a bad meal at a restaurant, and especially more than once (which would only happen if the place was not my choice), would you ever go back?
I don't think that I would - even before the economy was this tight. If I heard several glowing recommendations by people who I know and who have similar tastes, maybe. I'm not sure. What about you? What would it take?

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  1. I had two consecutive bad experiences at a restaurant which I had frequented for years. Never went back. There are too many places fighting for my business for me to give 3rd chances to a place that disappointed me twice.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ferret

      I sometimes give a place a 3rd chance, but its usually after a long period and my memory has softened. Bad after 3, never again by choice.
      A few things might bring me back: for a function of sorts (say someones birthday - this happens occasionally, or a meeting destination chose by someone else), or maybe if it had a good bar and I wasn't there to eat, or maybe if they change management and it shows new promise.

    2. One bad experience I could chalk up to an off night. Two bad experiences and I wouldn't be back unless the place changed ownership, chefs, etc.

      1. I usually don't get absolutely terrible food at restaurants but did get a spoiled tuna fillet on a salad in a very popular restaurant in my city once and the waitress just took it away- didn't offer me anything else- just left. I would never step foot in there again even if I was paid. No second chance with rotten fish!

        1. I would NEVER go back if I got food poisining there, that's an 'unforgivable', otherwise, I usually give places a second chance; everybody has a bad day every once-in-a-while.

          1. There are just too many restaurants where I live vying for my business -- too many new places to try. It's unlikely I would go back unless someone else was paying and really wanted to go, or unless everybody but me seemed to love the place and told me I'd ordered the wrong thing. But not likely I'd return. And after two bad experiences, there would never be a third.

            1. How bad is bad? If the service is rude, but the food is okay, I might go back. If the food is bad, but appears to be uneven, I might actually try it again because it's possible I just ordered something that didn't work. But if everyone at my table dislikes the food, I won't waste my money on a return trip.

              As an example of the latter, we went out a couple of years ago for New Year's Eve (not the best night for dining out.) My husband's prime rib was actually spoiled; my daughter's entire meal was cold, and my fish was so oversalted I couldn't eat it. Yes, they took the rotten meat off the bill, as they should have done, but still, I don't trust the restaurant to make decent food, so I'm not going back there, ever.

              I guess it comes down to a question of possibilities. If I think the restaurant has a hope of making a decent meal, I'll give them another chance, but sometimes, you just know they're incompetent.

              1. if somebody has invited me and chosen that restaurant I would probably be gracious enough to accept even though it was somewhere I had been to and didn't really like. If I am paying my own way say out with friends I have no problem being vociferous enough to say count me out of that place I don't like it.

                1. Obviously the adage "you never get a second chance to make a first impression" is dead on, but on rare occasions I have swallowed my pride and given places a second chance. I usually regret it. I did one time somewhat bash a friends restaurant on CH (I know, it was wrong). I have never been back. My feeling is, if the food is bad, I chalk it up to the chef (they''ve since changed chefs). BUt the portions were miniscule and the prices were high. I know their menu and know where I can have it better so I don't return. Places I have gone back are rare, but usually with the same results. Two chains that friends love have made me return. One was Pizza Uno and the other was Boston Market. I have a cast iron stomach and can eat pretty much anything. I have been to each place exactly two times and both times at each I literally was throwing up five seconds after eating. I'll never go back. As for actual restaurants, I find that if it's really bad once, chances are it will be bad again and it usually is. Most mediocre restaurants stay mediocre and most great stay great.

                  1. 1) If the restaurant is inexpensive: If someone else really wanted to eat there and I couldn't convince them to go elsewhere.
                    2) If the restaurant is expensive: If someone else really wanted to eat there and I couldn't convince them to go elsewhere. And if they are treating.
                    3) By mistake. Friends made reservations at a restaurant that they really liked in a popular tourist neighborhood full of both good and mediocre restaurants. When we showed up for the reservation they realized that they got the good restaurant's name confused with the neighboring mediocre restaurant. Oops.

                    1. As others have said, either duress or a change in ownership. By duress I mean it's work related or relatives love it and it would cause too much turmoil to insist. I still resent every wasted calorie, though :-).

                      1. To answer the question in your subject line, it would take a sincere apology from management for the bad food, service, etc., that I received and an invitation back ensuring the food, service, etc. would be up to snuff the next time. I don't need a freebie or a gift certificate or anything like that. I just want a professional admission of failure, and apology and a promise to do better next time. If it happens a second time, then I m done with that establishment. This goes for retail and professional services as well.

                        1. If the food is bad or even mediocre, nothing will get me back. Eating out is a treat for which we must budget. I also must budget my calories. I hate wasting either on sub-par experiences. My son is getting more adventurous in his eating and he had a really terrible first exposure to Thai food. It was reputedly a very good Thai restaurant and my food was okay if not boffo - so much more than his that he ate most of my dinner. I wrote a letter to the owner detailing the lousiness of my son's meal and they sent an apology and generous gift certififcate. I just didnt' want to go back though, even for a free dinner. I felt they didn't treat this polite and eager chowpup very well, in addition to the poor food.

                          So,here's a related question. If thebad restaurant offers you a free dinner for two, will you return? Let's assume it's the same chef, menu, FOH, etc.

                          1. If "bad meal" equals poorly prepared food, or food of poor quality, never, unless there was a change in the kitchen/ownership. Not for free, not under any circumstances. Time and money are too precious.

                            1. Time. No matter how bad it may go the first time, as a food lover, I just have to give the place a second chance. You just never know if they had a bad night of service and/or the improvements they've made.

                              1. I managed to go over 20 years without setting foot in a Dennys, after several very sub-par meals. Then I had a 24 hour layover in LAX, and woke up at 5 am, absolutely starving and in need of a greasy breakfast (this is my usual response to massive jet-lag), and there was a Dennys in walking distance. So basically, it was actually wanting food from a bad restaurant.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                  There are times, for me at least, when only TRULY terrible food will do. I am ashamed to admit this on Chowhound, where people never seem to eat anything that isn't local or gourmet or organic or all of the above, but when I have had a few too many, only a terrible cheeseburger and fries will do. We're talking McDonald's bad. Not respectably bad. The best cheeseburger I've ever had was after I had sampled too many beers at Denver's Brewfest, at McDonald's. Not that it was, objectively, it was fantastic, but I wanted so badly, the thin patty, the semi-realistic nature of the cheese, the greasiness...at that moment, it was perfect.

                                  1. re: GirlyQ

                                    Hey we;ve all been there. I used to love a greasy diner cheeseburger with a fried egg on it. Now that I'm older, my go to meal is a greek omelette, home fries and corned beef hash...god forbid they give me home made CBH. I want the hash from the can. The one that smells exactly, 100% like Alpo. I love it

                                2. If I hear from someone reliable that
                                  a) the food at the restaurant has gotten waaay better. And...
                                  b) a new chef/crew/management has taken over

                                  I can think of a few places near me that used to serve awful food and are now totally serviceable or even good. And for some, vice versa. This kind of turnaround happens a lot more often at bars that also serve food than it does at traditional restaurants.

                                  1. lifeasbinge,

                                    If I have two bad personal experience of a restaurant, then I think it will be nearly impossible for me to go back. Now, let me be clear, I mean bad-bad. I think even if I start to hear glowing recommendations by people I know, it will still be very difficult for me to go. Afterall, I had my personal experience. Here is an analogy: if I had two horrible dating experience with a woman, would I still go back and date her based on friends recommendations? No, because of my personal experience. Funny analogy, no? :D

                                    Now, is it impossible for me to go back to the restaurant? Not completely and I can imagine some rare occasions. For example, if a close friend is holding his wedding reception there, then I think I will go for the sake of the the wedding couple. I don't think I would personally WANT to go back. I may be put in a situation which I have to go back for other reasons, but not because I WANT to go back to the restaurant.

                                    1. If it's bad, then it's bad. Why would I ever want to return?

                                      The only thing that would take me back is an invitation from a friend or family member who I couldnt persuade to go elsewhere.

                                      1. I would go back if they paid for my meal

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: beevod

                                          Really? You couldn't pay me to go back to a truly horrible restaurant- Id rather stay home and make something myself

                                            1. re: beevod

                                              Everyone has a price and everyone can be bought.

                                              1. re: beevod

                                                Yes as you said earlier...you cost the price of a horrible meal lol

                                          1. The ONLY way I would return to a restaurant after having a bad experience is if the food was exceptional and I just had issues with the service. Service can always be a fluke but food quality and prep needs to be consistent. Also if it's a chain restaurant, I probably wouldn't go back, I always make exceptions for mom and pops.

                                            1. I should reply to my own question. As some of you have said, if I heard a really glowing review from someone whose opinion I respect and whose tastes I know pretty well or if there had been a clearly superior change in management, I would not call a restaurant "bad" if it was clearly just having a difficult night - too busy, too understaffed, or anything else fairly obvious. Also, if it was an expensive place, I most likely wouldn't go back, period. I truly hate paying too much for an indifferent meal.

                                              1. The only way to get me back, would be if a gracious host/hostess had chosen it, and I, as a good guest, would return.

                                                We have done so, and in every case, understood why we would never dine there on our own.

                                                Still, we are so often guests, that we must dine at such places, all too often.


                                                1. I wouldn't (I don't) go back. There are too many good restaurants to go to, so I wouldn't want to take my chances again.

                                                  For me, one of the characteristics of a good restaurant is that it's consistent, consistently good. If the restaurant I'm not going back to is usually good, except for the time we went there, then it's not consistently good.

                                                  1. There's a difference between ordering the wrong dish(taste) .....and a bad restaurant(meal). the former doesn't necessarily make it the latter.

                                                    but to answer your query.....a new chef or menu.

                                                    1. I have a very difficult time making it with any frequency to all of the great restaurants I love.

                                                      Why would I go to a bad one?

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: DoobieWah

                                                        To calibrate your taste bud -- to remind you what bad foods really taste like.