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What would you do? "hair" in food

s
sbs401 Aug 1, 2011 10:47 AM

This weekend a friend was at a well respected Boston restaurant, when the manager stopped by
to check if everything was ok, one diner pointed out what appeared to be a hair pressed into a side dish of watermelon, the plate was then whisked away to the kitchen.

Moments later the manager returned with the same plate and explained that, the item was not a piece of hair, but a small piece of straw from the crate the watermelon was packed in. It appeared that all
the same food was on the plate, with a small indentation of where the hair/straw had been extracted from the watermelon with fingers, tongs or spoon. Nothing was discounted or comped.

What i probably would have done:
Left the watermelon on the side of the plate, posted here whining about it.

What i wish i would do:
Tell the manager that returning this plate is unacceptable, it should be fully replaced and comped

Even if it was "straw" seems to me it doesn't matter, picking it off was clearly unacceptable, at the very least replace the watermelon.

Don't know that i can recommend this place any longer if this is a typical management reaction.

  1. e
    escondido123 Aug 1, 2011 10:57 AM

    New plate, yes. Apology, yes. Comped, I don't think that would be necessary.

    1. jason carey Aug 1, 2011 11:01 AM

      Compared to where the food comes from in our food production system, a hair is a mere minor nusance. Your food is in so many more disgusting and vile situations than next to a hair. Americans have such a weird aversion to minor things, when they pretend that the food itself is filled with toxic chemicals and is way way worse than a hair.

      1. s
        sedimental Aug 1, 2011 11:11 AM

        Well, it depends on what the hair looked like.

        Long and gold, being told it was a piece of straw...sounds reasonable. I would eat it and move on.

        Short, dark and curly, being told it was a piece of straw.....leave the watermelon on the plate and ask to be compensated. ;)

        1. Miss Needle Aug 1, 2011 11:15 AM

          I don't know -- I guess I just don't react that strongly to a single hair (whether it was a hair or straw) being in my food. Just a couple of weeks ago, that happened to me at a very popular and well-regarded NYC restaurant. I just pulled it out and resumed eating.

          A bunch of hairs (especially if it's super coarse -- you know what I mean) would be a completely different story. And, yes, it has happened to me before.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Miss Needle
            l
            Lixer Aug 1, 2011 12:39 PM

            I feel the same way. One hair? Could be mine, my dining partner, my dog's (it gets Everywhere!), anyone's. No biggie! Hair of a certain type or multiple hairs? We've got an issue.

            In your case, you brought it up to the server and they took it back so I agree, a new plate should be brought out, but no comp needed.

          2. thew Aug 1, 2011 12:59 PM

            expecting anything to be comped, ever, is above and beyond.

            8 Replies
            1. re: thew
              r
              Ripple Aug 1, 2011 08:18 PM

              As a server I would say that if one of my guests found hair in their food and I took it back to the kitchen, the plate would be immediately discarded and a new plate prepared, regardless of whether or not the cook or the management deemed it wasn't hair or who it belonged to. I work in a national chain and the standards for that type of issue are pretty high. If the issue was corrected and a new plate was presented to the customer there would be no need for a comp. If the same plate was returned and no apology offered, only excuses, I would leave immediately, refuse to pay and contact the local health department.

              1. re: Ripple
                thew Aug 2, 2011 04:41 AM

                for a piece of straw?

                1. re: thew
                  r
                  Ripple Aug 2, 2011 05:20 AM

                  If it was a piece of hair.

                  1. re: Ripple
                    thew Aug 2, 2011 05:22 AM

                    which it seems not to have been. but my point was about expecting to get things comped

              2. re: thew
                v
                velochic Aug 2, 2011 03:28 PM

                Seriously, Thew? That's ridiculous. We were at a white table cloth restaurant about 6 months ago and dd found a DEAD BEETLE in her Caesar Salad. Had they not comped her salad (and dh's and mine, as well), I would have walked out without paying. I EXPECT to be comped in these types of situations, and TBH, if our total bill had not been $125+, I would have expected the whole meal to be comped.

                1. re: velochic
                  thew Aug 3, 2011 05:02 AM

                  obviously you don't pay for inedible food - but that's not what comped means - comped would mean they bring her a new salad at no cost.

                  that you expect 3 free salads because there was a problem with one - to me that seems ridiculous

                  i never expect it. seriously

                  1. re: thew
                    m
                    mpjmph Aug 3, 2011 10:00 AM

                    Exactly. I expect a replacement if there is something wrong with the dish, but I do not expect to get a free meal out of it.

                  2. re: velochic
                    e
                    escondido123 Aug 3, 2011 08:45 AM

                    I don't think I've every had anything comped. Maybe a glass of wine for having to wait too long or a dessert if service was slow. I know once I was served an eggplant parm and there was a white twisty from a plastic bag sitting right on top. The waiter saw it, took the dish away, and brought me a different one--I could tell because the top was not browned like the other. He apologized and that was it. So I guess I never expect a comp either.

                2. c
                  Clarkafella Aug 1, 2011 08:43 PM

                  The other day, I was eating a salad and a hamburger patty (low carb), and a very small bug crawled out from under my salad. I pointed it out to the server and wished that I hadn't. He whisked it away, had the kitchen prepare me an entirely new salad and hb patty, and comped the whole thing.

                  I felt kind of guilty- I would have flicked the bug away and kept right on eating; I just showed it to him as a curiosity!

                  1. m
                    MRS Aug 2, 2011 05:32 AM

                    That would have "icked" me out, for sure. Most importantly, whatever it was ( straw, hair, etc..) it sounds like the friend handled it nicely and the restaurant should have done the same. Instead of dismissing it, perhaps the manager should have apologized, had a fresh plate made and taken that item off the bill. If there is something on a plate that a diner views as a problem- a hair, a fuzz, a piece of straw, a small pebble-the restaurant should acknowledge it. Just removing and giving it back to me would not have made the dish appetizing to me at all.

                    1. s
                      sbs401 Aug 2, 2011 05:52 AM

                      Thanks for all the responses.
                      Its not that i thought it was an obligation of the manager to comp anything here, but if i was in that position I would want to turn a challenge into a service victory. Rather than having the customer ask questions like these at work (or on chowhound) they would have been more likely to tell of their great experience. A few bucks to comp an entree or desert would have gone a long way as a marketing expense. Fact is I've overlooked hair and bugs before, but this diner was icked out. I just think its better for management to overreact in these scenarios rather than brushing it off (literally in this case). To me doesn't really matter if its hair or straw, it was a foreign object presented to a diner that made them uncomfortable with consuming their meal and that to me is an opportunity for service to excel, and this opportunity was wasted.

                      1. c
                        cstr Aug 2, 2011 06:37 AM

                        New plate, no question, no comp necessary. The item in question was probably not too clean, I would refuse if the same plate came back and then pack-up and politely leave.

                        1. b
                          beevod Aug 2, 2011 07:26 AM

                          A "service victory?"

                          1. b
                            Beach Chick Aug 2, 2011 07:52 AM

                            What I wouldn't like is the Chef and 'others' rummaging my plate and then giving me the same plate back....with the same food...not acceptable imho.

                            I've had hairs found in my food and for me, it's gross...I've found coarse, curly ones and you know where those have been...found long black hairs..I'm a blonde..the worst part is eating the hair and feeling it on the back of your throat and knowing it's not part of your tribe!
                            Plus, it takes forever for that hair to be moved down the esophageal pipe.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Beach Chick
                              thew Aug 2, 2011 08:14 AM

                              so the chef that touched your food while cooking and plating suddenly became gross in the 5 minutes after it left the kitchen?

                              1. re: thew
                                b
                                Beach Chick Aug 2, 2011 08:34 AM

                                Yep..I don't want 'others' rummaging my plate and then giving it back to me..
                                Once it's plated and served to me, that is where I don't want more people digging around my plate, looking for the hair..and then served back to me!

                            2. mtoo Aug 2, 2011 08:57 AM

                              If I am your server, I would apologize, take the plate away, replace it and either comp the dish or bring you out dessert or another cocktail on the house.

                              I think people should get a little something for being inconvenienced. And while they may think that straw is no big deal - the production of taking the plate away and figuring out what the offending piece is is an annoyance. I don't want you to be annoyed when I am serving you.

                              A group of 6 of us went to an expensive restaurant here. My mother and I both ordered steaks medium rare. Both came out well done. I'm not a send back food kind of person, but my mother's steak was tough and inedible. She told the server, who instead of taking the plate away was like "I'll send over the manager." The manager asked my mother to cut through the center of the steak so he could look at the middle. So we are doing some kind of steak autopsy at the table and I tell the manager "someone back there is overcooking your steaks. You should probably figure out who that is because that will be an expensive mistake to keep making." They ended up just taking her plate, not replacing it and took it off the bill. I work at a less expensive restaurant and would never have let it go down like that or asked a customer to prove their case about a steak being overcooked. I think when you are a pricy place you need to make stuff right when something is wrong. Too many other options out there.

                              1. i
                                Isolda Aug 2, 2011 01:30 PM

                                People with food allergies know that if they are served a food with one of their allergens (previously declared when ordering, of course), they are to keep the dish at the table while a new one is being made. This is the only way to guarantee that a fresh one is made and may save a life.

                                I recommend applying this same practice to food with other offending material (bugs, hair, etc.) if you can stomach having it on the table while they make a new version of the dish.

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