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Aug 4, 2011 09:19 AM

When you send something back . . .

What do you expect from a restaurant when you send a dish back? I ask this because of what happened to me last night. Briefly, my husband and I went to a fine dining restaurant, and I ordered a dish that came out totally wrong (walleye piccata came covered in cajun seasoning). I sent it back, nicely, then waited almost 20 minutes for my replacement dish to arrive. No apology, no manager checking if it was OK, no offer of coffee or dessert on the house, not to mention no offer to take it off the bill. And the replacement dish was not well done, either - no seasoning at all, from what I could tell, just broiled fish. I didn't bother to send it back again, we just asked for the check.

So, is this typical? What do YOU expect when you have to send something back? Was I wrong to think that, at the very least, a manager would stop by to see if everything was OK?

Thanks for your input!


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  1. you send it back because it was not to your taste ? was the dish supposed to be "covered in cajun seasonning ?

    IMO if the restaurant took back your plate and bring you a new one, I would not expect any compensation; just tell them after that you were not happy with it (both dishes), leave a default tip and do not go again to the restaurant.


    2 Replies
    1. re: Maximilien

      Obviously something ordered "picatta" should not be covered in cajun seasoning. In this case, I would expect an apology from the waiter and some sort of compensation for the wait for your actual dish to arrive, such as the waiter saying "I'm very sorry for the mix up. Let me ask the chef to expedite your picatta, and can I offer you another glass of wine while you wait?" I would not expect anything off the bill, assuming you ate the revised dish.

      Also, if the waiter came by after the 2nd plate was brought and asked you how everything was (he/she should definitely have done this) I don't think there's any harm in saying "Well, when I ordered the picatta, I was expecting a lemon caper sauce, and this seemed very plain to me." That way you're not complaining or asking for anything, but they know you were dissatisfied and can try to rectify it in some way if they want. Anyway, that's what I would do.

      1. re: jenhen2

        I think is an entirely reasonable expectation, for both the server and the diner.

    2. I was having lunch a month ago and ordered a panini with french fries. The panini had the obligatory grill marks but it was cold in the middle and the cheese was not melted. It took me awhile to get the waitress to come over and she took it away. When it came back--now warm but not hot--the french fries were of course, cold. I would have appreciated a whole new plate with hot fries, a hot sandwich and a serious apology. I was very disappointed.

      1 Reply
      1. re: escondido123

        That's what you should have gotten. Not refreshing the fries was bogus!

      2. This subject is topical to me since I am still angry over my "returned" meal last month. I was in Crystal City, VA on business when the my group decided to eat at Ted's Montana Grill, I would have perferred something different since I can get a good steak at home. But when in Rome.... first let me say that Ted's MG is loud, dark and has a quick turnover. I decided to keep it simple, be safe, so I got the 8oz filet of beef, baked potato and asperagus. I ordered my steak, medium well, figuring it might be a little over done or underdone. (I like my steak medium rare) either way I could live with it. The bake potato came "dressed" with butter, sourcream and chives, all piled on, the steak however, what I could tell in the DARK, was practically RAW,it moved with my knife, and had a horrible blood smell. So while I'm getting the attention of the waiter to send it bak, I "fix" my (nice size) potato with enough salt and pepper, re-distribute the butter and sour cream. Potato was pretty tasty by then. I explained nicely to the waiter that my steak was underdone and could it be cooked a little more, well he takes my entire plate, comes back 15 minutes later, now the rest my party is almost done with their meal, my "tasty" potato has been replaced with a new, smaller version, without butter & SC and my steak has been swaped out and its replacement is exactly as underdone as the original. At this point I am throughly disgusted, turned-off by everything and sat while the waiter finally got the checks correct. I still tipped him well, but too bad you can't get a decent steak at a decent steak house. Still mad about my potato!

        8 Replies
        1. re: kpaumer

          Am I the only one confused about ordering a medium-well steak when you like a medium-rare steak?

          1. re: invinotheresverde

            That had me scratching my head too. It's always tough to send a dish back when eating with a group.

            1. re: invinotheresverde

              color me totally confused by the story above.

              1. re: invinotheresverde

                I'm confused by the doneness issue, but also by what the waiter was supposed to do other than take the full plate (with the potato). It's hard for me to feature stabbing the steak with a fork or something and marching back to the kitchen with it, leaving the doctored potato behind. Plus, as others have mentioned above, it's expected that everything that comes on a plate is meant to be together, so leaving fries or potatoes or whatever is going to probably irritate more people than it pleases.

                Bringing a rare steak when you asked for medium well (even though you wanted medium rare??) is certainly an error, but 15 minutes to correct it is not really unreasonable. You asked for it to be cooked significantly more or a new dish that was cooked for quite some time, it can't happen instantaneously. This is why many people don't really want to send something back-unless you insist everyone at your table wait, they are going to be much further along in the meal when you get a refired dish. It sucks but it's kind of inherent to the request. As far as the steak being underdone again, you are totally in the right if you really ordered medium well and got rare twice, but the rest of the story is a bit confusing.

                1. re: ErnieD

                  I too am confused by the doneness issue, but when there is a problem like that does it really make sense to have the person sit there with nothing while the kitchen makes a new dish? When I had a cold panini with french fries, I wish they had left the fries since when they brought them back with the improved sandwich they were ice cold. Maybe in her case they could have asked her if she would like the potato while she was waiting and they could have come up with some graceful way to make that happen--I mean there are waiters who know how to filet a fish with teaspoons so how tricky could it be to transfer a baked potato?

                  1. re: escondido123

                    Shouldn't be too hard to move a baked potato or some fries to the bread plate, except to think that fast and not feel awkward doing it : )

                2. re: invinotheresverde

                  Invino - if the mods would allow it - we'd be best friends.

                  1. re: hilltowner

                    I tried to add you on least I think it was you. ;)

              2. I have only ever sent a dish back twice - and I can remember both occasions (one in 1980, the other in 1972).

                If it happened again, I would expect the restaurant to deal with my issue with good grace. That might involve remaking the whole dish which could take a while. Or it might just be a minor issue to resolve - like the chicken was still a bit raw. Certainly I wouldnt expect to be compensated for it.

                1. Yup, I'd be annoyed. I wouldn't have eaten the wrong fish and waited for server to ask how it was and then said, this is not piccata, it's plain. Piccata has a lemon butter sauce and capers. If I had to, I would point out that twice I was not served that dish as ordered and you just want the item taken off the bill so you can leave and not come back.

                  In chain restaurants, managers are generally required to deliver a re-order. This is one of those examples where chains usually get it right. When the manager delivers it, they usually will pay more attention to it on the pass to make sure it's right this time, and deliver it with the expectation that it's hopefully right and they often check back themselves to make sure, within a couple of minutes. Even if they're too busy to do this, the server should have checked to see if the refire was acceptable. If you went ahead and ate the plain replacement dish, then oh well.