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Aug 25, 2011 05:32 AM

When to complain in a restaurant

What types of things have to happen when dining out that you would respectfully complain? To server? To management? To actually send the dish back? Order something completely different?

My husband will endure just about anything. My mother is on the other end and will complain if a carrot is out of alignment (that's an exaggeration, but you know what I mean). I'm in the middle. If I order my steak medium and it comes out well-done, I'll probably mention it (and may or may not send it back depending on how overdone it is). Just wondering what the norm is.

Also, something I don't think is the norm (at least among those I know) is to ask for management to pay a compliment if the chef is particularly deft of hand or the server has been better than average (with tipping reflecting that, as well). Do you do this, as well?

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  1. #3 Chef,if your feelings about the food are such you would compliment a friend,certainly do so with a stranger.Even if you only feel comfortable sending word via your server.

    Table staff,we always thank,tip extra regarding early rapport and good service,often telling the manager how pleased we were.

    #2 the plate..I like my meat of fish somewhere between RARE to medium depending on cut or species.At a new place an early rapport is important to and valued by us.I ask,can my ? be or is this a problem request.I order and expect my steak rare,yet many things are governed a bit by the house and safety regulations.Not everywhere can bring my liver medium,pork at 135*f instead of old standard 165*f.If my order was taken after positive communication,I expect delivery of the same thing.Sides tell another story,at incorrect or uneven temps gracious isn't always easy.Reheats,line cook or is our waiter sloppy,stretched to thin and it sat in the pass too long all need to be made right.Sent back or changed as graciously and delicately the circumstances warrant.How many mistakes in a party of 4 or more does it take?Little things don't always need to become big things.Unlike my Aunt,Chicken Little,The Princess and the Pea orders "realy well done ?" is gently reminded about dryness and tough.Then gets her knickers in a twist because it is.I would add whenever she tastes less done meat at any table,she always prefers it and WON'T ORDER that way.We simply protect staff from her the handful of times we have family outings.

    #1 mostly covered above If the server,wine steward etc is a road block,yes include management.Your,I quote "respecfully complain" should be taken with helpful respect by the front of the house.

    1. The waitress chewing and popping bubble gum and combing her hair while taking our order

      1 Reply
      1. re: beevod

        I might overlook this, so long as the hair, and the gum, do not end up in my dish.


      2. For me, it depends on what it is, and how much it affects my enjoyment of the meal.

        If I order my steak medium rare and it comes out closer to rare, I'll probably eat it anyway. If it comes out well done -- it's going back. I can usually spot switcheroos with fish dishes (menu says grouper, but it's not grouper on my plate) -- depends again - if it's good, and it's *not* flatfish (allergy) -- then I'll mention that it's not grouper, but I'll probably eat it anyway. If I know it's flatfish (sole, flounder, or haddock) then it goes back, because I'll be violently ill in a matter of hours if I eat it.

        It also depends on the price level of the restaurant and the rest of the visit -- I'm less likely to complain if everything else is going well, and/or if it's not expensive.

        Corked wine (or worse, a glass from a bottle that's been open for a couple of days) goes back -- no way am I drinking either of those.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sunshine842

          Amen on the old opened bottle. That KILLS me and is a certain request for a fresh glass. It's right up there with serving slimy browning lettuce -- but so many people WON'T send it back! I do not understand that. People really don't trust themselves when it comes to wine, maybe?

          1. re: Vetter

            It's right up there with serving slimy browning lettuce -- but so many people WON'T send it back!


            We dined with my mother, her husband and another couple at a really busy local place. It is a causal restaurant that has a tremendous turnover each shift.

            They all ordered entree salads (with grilled fish, shrimp, steak) and even with a quick glance, I saw that the lettuce was just gross. Everyone ate around the gross parts and said that the salads "weren't very good"

            It blew my mind that not one of the four thought to bring it to someone's attention.

        2. Certainly I would mention to the manager if a member of staff has been particularly good. It is the sort of thing that is not only generally appreciated but can be financially beneficial when bonuses are being handed out, or promotions being considered. I'm particularly likely to do this when a server is clearly new and inexperienced but is showing exactly the right attitude and making an effort.

          On the sending back - I've only ever sent something back twice in my life. I recall both incidents - one in 1972, the other in 1980.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Harters

            Has your luck been that good, or do you just eat it anyway most of the time? I cannot see paying for food that is not prepared correctly. I very politely tell the server what is wrong, and when she/he suggest they take it back to be corrected, I graciously accept the offer to do so, adding "if it won't take too long". This is to keep others from having to wait for me to finish my meal. If the server is good, it usually speeds things up a bit, and I show my gratitude by leaving a good tip.

            1. re: Harters

              And what were the reasons in 1980 and 1972?


              PS - I seldom send items back, and more often with wines, but there HAVE been times.

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Apologies for not replying sooner. Must have missed it.

                1972 saw corn on the cob served almost cold and with a fork stuck inelegantly in each end of the cob. It was our wedding night, FWIW. (Hotel restaurant at Manchester airport, UK)

                1980 saw a steak significantly undercooked for how I would have then eaten it. (Unremembered place somewhere near Miami)

                1. re: Harters

                  Do not feel bad. I've been in Hawai`i for several weeks, and missed the reply, until tonight.

                  Thanks for the descriptions - I think. They sound dreadful, and sorry that you had to experience them.

                  No one should have to abide by those events. I have your back on this one!


            2. It completely depends on where I am, who I am dining with, my expectations, and how much money is being spent.

              2 Replies
              1. re: haggisdragon

                Ah yes, the ubiquitous non-answer answer. Of course it all depends. That's why I'm asking the question. :) It depends for me, as well, but not for my mother or dh.

                1. re: haggisdragon

                  For me, it often depends on who I am, on that night.

                  Sometimes, all goes back, but on others, only half.