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How many times is it ok for a restaurant to get it wrong?

If you have a restaurant you love, where you really like the food, how often is it ok for them to get your order wrong? 10% of the time? 50%? Where do you draw the line?

I have a local place I like to go but about 40% of the time, my order is not right. Like I get takeout, and something is missing. Or I order something with an addition or slight modification, which they've acknowledged I can make, and it comes in the original state, without the addition or modification. One time I got an upcharge they did not tell me about, when getting the daily special as part of a soup/salad combo, and when I complained about it, all they did was apologize for not mentioning that it would be more, because they "usually do that."

They try to make it right most of the time. I've had dishes remade while other sit and eat, and gift cards more than a couple times now. I don't want to be seen like a chronic complaining customer who is always looking for a handout, because I am not, but you know, how many times on average is this acceptable? Everyone has their off days, right?

This is a lunch place pretty close to where I work, and locally owned, so I frequent it about once a week or so.

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  1. I'm a 3 strikes kind of person but it depends on how much you really like the place and what you're willing to do about it.

    At this point, if it is a small locally owned place and I liked it, I would have a conversation with the manager/owner and just say "hey, this keeps happening - is there something we can do about it because I really like it here" and see what happens.

    Good luck - don't give up on them if you like them. Keeping a restaurant running smoothly is much harder than people think. If they want the place to work the manager/owner will figure out a solution.

    1. Don't frequent it once a week.

      Everyone has their own threshold for dealing with that stuff. I don't mind when people make mistakes, because we all do it. I start to draw the line when the mistakes get repeated, because then they aren't mistakes - they are errors. In my opinion, there are plenty of good, locally owned restaurants that do it right and you can patron their establishments. Although, I would also send said restaurant a letter letting them know why you will no longer giving them business. A smart business person will figure out how to fix the problem.

      1. I actually HAVE had a conversation with the owner about this and suggested maybe there is something in expo to be looked at, someone checking to make sure things are right before they go out. He responded that he was proud of his kitchen staff and thinks they do an excellent job, so what can you do?

        I do like their food a lot, and there aren't as many local places near where I work as I would like, so it tends to be the same folks repeated week after week on the days where I don't bring lunch. Cutting them out of the rotation would be disappointing, but could be necessary if this keeps up.

        4 Replies
        1. re: rockandroller1

          If you've spoken to him and brought up the problems, yet he refuses to acknowledge them..... well, I'd likely find a new lunch spot.

          You sound like a much more patient person than I could ever be, tho.

          1. re: linguafood

            You've been here. The indie places are good but largely bank-breaking, so when you get down to a reasonable price point, there are just only so many GOOD choices, and even fewer if you are not only looking for an independently owned place, but one that SOURCES local for at least some of their food. I mean, I've never had an incorrect order from Jimmy John's, but I feel kind of dirty ordering from them, an out of state owned chain sourcing food from who knows where. So it's a bit of a trade off.

            1. re: rockandroller1

              What about that tomayto-tomuhto joint? Obviously I don't know if that's close to your work (and I also don't know if it's good, as I didn't have a chance to eat there). That's local, tho, no?

              1. re: linguafood

                Locally owned, products not sourced locally. They are in the rotation but only rarely. Much of their food is very, very fatty. Grilled sandwiches, pizzas, salads all have cheese and bacon and stuff. What I really liked about this local place was that it has really healthy food. If I want to blow calories, I'd rather blow them at Lola than a sandwich shop.

        2. Twice. Once, O.K., twice, not good. If he thinks they are doing a good job and didn't listen to your suggestion, the I would definitely cross it off my list for good. And tell folks about it on fbook. yep.

          1 Reply
          1. re: wyogal

            I rarely go back to a restaurant that I don't like but 2X is my limit.

          2. I think you guys are probably right. Once I use this last gift card from them, that will be it.

            2 Replies
            1. re: rockandroller1

              I don't think you necessarily have to cut them out completely, but maybe take a break from them for awhile? Don't go for a couple of months, and then go back in. Perhaps the service will have changed? Perhaps you will have realized that you either really miss it and are willing to put up with their issues, or you will realize that you really don't miss it. Hopefully the manager/owner will notice that one of their regulars has stopped coming in and will comment on how they haven't seen you for awhile. That would be a perfect opportunity to say, I got tired of having my order incorrect 40% of the time and have been frequenting places that get it right. Hopefully at some point (probably not at that exact moment, as based on your previous interaction) they will see how it is losing them business and decide to make more of an effort to get things right. Wait a few more weeks/months, go back again and see if things have changed.

              1. re: pollymerase

                Thanks. I doubt they will notice my absence but will take a break.

            2. You should send them your post.

              1. If I really liked a place and the errors didn't deter me from eating the food, I would find it annoying. But I would probably continue to eat there and just start expecting the errors (aka unexpected surprises).While finding some humor in it. If I stopped seeing the humor in it I would take a break from eating there, but not completely write it off.

                On the other hand. If I didn't really like the food and there were better options around, I wouldn't go back.

                1. SO many factors here, but for me, the overriding factor is the major league piss off factor that I would and have experienced when my order is wrong. Now once, I get it, and if its corrected, no problem. Twice? I'd think that maybe they were busy, and if the first incidence was a while ago, then I'd be OK with it. But third time? I'd be thinking about a new place. Now timeline is important too. 3 orders in a row? I'd be out of there. An order wrong every 5 or 6 months of regular visits? Wouldn't bug me so much. And it would depend how much I wanted my particular order, as in "I REALLY wanted tuna but I got ham and cheese but I like their ham and cheese so I'm not too worried", vs..."I really wanted ham and cheese but I got tuna and I HATE tuna"? That's another matter altogether.
                  I remember ordering takeout from my usual Thai/Cambodian place. Ordered a beef noodle soup. You know, broth, sliced rare beef, rice noodles, bean sprouts...I got home, found out they must have run out of beef so they had a bit of beef and bulked it up as in 80 percent of it with cooked chicken. Now THAT was irritating --- they don't even SERVE chicken soup like that. Clearly they ran out of beef, made a substitution, didn't tell me, sent it home with me knowing I wasn't going to return it. And I didn't drive all the way back. I didn't phone. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, but when it happened a second time, I just voted with my feet and never went back. Partly because of the botched order, but partly because I realized that they'd been slowly upping their prices over the past year plus gradually decreasing their portion sizes. I'd reached my limit. No longer worth going there. I'll now drive 20 minutes out of my way to another place instead of going to my old local place.

                  1. I do not keep a spreadsheet, and though I did pass several semesters of statistics, I do not keep track.

                    However, there DOES come a point, where I realize that things have just gone wrong too many times. I know when it's time to "check out," but do not count.

                    It's sort of like any supplier - they often let you know when it's time to leave.


                    1. Other then the fact that it is close, I really don't understand why you keep going back. You sound like a gultin for punishment .

                      4 Replies
                            1. re: kubasd23

                              Sorry, I totally blame it on the iPad!!!!

                          1. Part of it depends on what the errors are - are your special requests difficult to accomodate? Can you live with ordering the menu item as-is? Some places have a disconnect between the order taker and the kitchen and the order taker may not realize that a "slight modification" requires major work in the kitchen. I was recently with a group for lunch and one person asked for no cheese on the grilled veggie and cheese sandwich, but her food took FOREVER to come out. When we finally asked about it they explained that the sandwiches are pre-made with the cheese, so they had to make one from scratch and didn't have any extra spread for the sandwich made up, so they were making that from scratch, too. If we'd known it would be that much work and an extra 15 mins for her sandwich she would have ordered a salad. We were irritated that no one told us what a PITA it would be for that slight modification, but impressed that the resto actually did it rather than just taking the cheese off a pre-made one. Still, it's always easier, faster and less likely to be wrong if you don't make special requests...

                            Also, since you know your take-out order might not be right, make sure to check it before you leave. That's something that I try to always do anyway.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: akq

                              99% of the errors have nothing to do with a special order. For example, I took 2 people there who had not been there before and raved about a particular dish on the menu to get as a side dish, which they ordered on my expectation. All 3 of our side items were missing a key ingredient. Or I order a combo with soup and salad and get back to my office and find the soup is there, but not the salad, or vice versa. And checking for all items before I leave doesn't always fix it either, like I might order a ham and cheese and soup and then get back and it's just a ham sandwich, no cheese. Do I really have to open and unwrap the food in the restaurant in order to make sure it's done correctly? Only once has the "special order" been an issue, when a dining companion (another person I brought to try out the place) tried to make a menu-welcomed substitution ("switch up your soup!") (for example, ordering chicken noodle instead of tomato soup with the grilled cheese, and then when the combo comes, it's tomato soup). Or you order a grilled cheese and tomato (as listed on the menu) and then when it comes out, there's no tomato, and then the server goes to the kitchen and comes back with the story that "they're out of tomato." Really?

                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                "Do I really have to open and unwrap the food in the restaurant in order to make sure it's done correctly?"

                                Consistency is key to a restaurants success. How do you know if that was the correct version the first time of the second?

                                People return with preconceived expectations and if those aren't met then they will often be disappointed

                                1. re: rockandroller1

                                  Sounds like a place I wouldn't patronize anymore. Like, never.

                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                    It sounds like if you want your take out order correct, you do actually have to check everything (including opening the sandwich). Given the level of problems you've had, I'd probably stop patronizing them unless I was pretty desperate, then I'd check all the items before leaving. What a PITA.

                                2. There are a few factors for me. First, price. The more money I’m spending, the less forgiving I find myself. I’ve gone to some highly recommended fairly expensive places that blew it on the first try and have not returned. It just didn’t seem worth the effort to try it again when I had other options. Maybe they get it right 90% of the time and the next 9 visits would have been great but I’ll never know (or it may be a VERY long time before I’m likely to find out). At the same time, if I have a very nice experience in a pricey place four or five times and then there’s a problem, I’m likely to give them another chance. As the cost of the meal goes down, so do my expectations and I’m willing to give it a second and third try although getting it wrong 40% of the time is getting into the realm of the ridiculous. In the OP’s case, I would try to keep the order simple to lessen the likelihood of mistakes (even though that doesn’t appear to matter with that particular place). The place does seem to be convenient and inexpensive – if the food is still good even with the mistakes, I might make a game of it, betting on whether or not they get it right or maybe an over-under on how many mistakes are made. In one job a long time ago, our only choice was a roach coach that came around where they got it wrong so often that it became a fun game to play. The food was always (barely) edible either way and we had no other options.

                                  1. That you have posted about the place indicates a fair amount of irritation.

                                    I don't have a set number of mistakes before I cross a place off my list. It is variable - how much I love it, if there are other options in the genre, type of mistake, restaurants attitude towards fixing mistake, how inconvenienced I am.

                                    The situation you describe would have me cutting back dramatically because:

                                    a) The owner/manager wasn't open to really listening

                                    b) It has reached the point where your meal is a crapshoot

                                    c) The inconsistancies make bringing a guest embarassing

                                    If there were comprable options I'd cross them off the list, but you indicate that there aren't. I'd brownbag it for a while and try them again once the thought didn't lead to trepidation.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: meatn3

                                      meat, you really hit it on the head. It's not just one of those things, it's all 3 that drove me to post for opinions. I am definitely at minimum taking a break from them at least (and hey, brought my own lunch, much cheaper of course), and it could be a longer term thing. The problem with them ignoring experiences like this or just fixing the problem by giving you a gift card instead of addressing the problem at the root is that it's a larger problem - the next time a colleague asks me about it (I am the "go to" person in the office to ask about local restaurants, like many of our chowhounds I suspect), or suggests going there, I will probably suggest we go somewhere else because my order was wrong so many times it's not worth me spending the $ there. So that affects not only my future visits, but those of my colleagues, and then the people they know, and so on and so on. It's a very popular place and I doubt it will have some massive butterfly effect, but it does seem a shame.

                                      1. re: rockandroller1

                                        The owners response really disturbs me. You can be proud of your team and still be open to critique. Most people will just not come back and at most indicate their displeasure with a lesser tip. When a customer, especially one who is a familiar face, takes the time to address issues a wise shopkeeper listens. Even if s/he thinks you are off base a thank you for caring enough to bring it up is in order.

                                        Depending on the market popularity can be a fleeting thing. Consistancy, customer service and a well made product will keep a loyal fan base long after the crowds have moved on to the next big thing.

                                        It is a shame - on paper it sounds great! If I worked nearby I'd be interested in it too!

                                    2. I'm pretty curious.. What makes you want to go back there? Is the food so good that you can stand constant mistakes? (I hope I don't sound too aggressive, hard to decipher tone over the net)

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: youngnsassy

                                        It is a) good food b) food unlike any other served at a restaurant in this town c) locally owned and d) locally sourced, as much as is possible given whatever is available seasonally. This combination is very hard to find where I live. You can have a, or a and c, or maybe a and b, but usually not all 4 elements. Probably less than 10 restaurants that i can think of where I live that would meet all 4 of these, and only 2 others that are in walking distance to where I work, and 1 is out of my price range for regular lunches. So basically, one other place by me meets all 4 of these criteria.

                                      2. I wanted to report back on my latest experience. I used a gift card they gave me for screwing up my last order, and got a soup and salad combo, takeout. I get this combo a lot and the dressing for the salad always comes in a side container which is nice, as then I can put as much or as little on as I like. The soup was specialty type soup with add ins you can get like chicken or an egg - "soft boiled, 6 minute or raw yolk." I ordered soft boiled, thinking it would cook a little more in the hot soup and make it creamy and nice. The egg came in a small, separate container.

                                        I actually had to google pictures of soft boiled eggs when I got the meal back to my desk because I thought maybe I was imagining how done it would be. It was basically not done at all. It was a completely raw egg, but with the white and everything. The white was a tiny bit milky colored, but it wasn't set at all, it was just like if you'd crack an egg into a bowl, all spread out. I wasn't even aware raw yolk was an option as I would have never ordered that. But this was the whole egg, so I was even more confused. I really cannot do a raw egg in my soup. I ended up microwaving it in the takeout contaner til it was around soft boiled consistency and then mixing it in. And my soup was lukewarm so I had to heat that up too, as it woudln't cook the egg any further by mixing it in. And the salad was pre-dressed, and very light on the dressing so it was a lot like eating undressed greens.

                                        That was my last visit.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: rockandroller1

                                          Bummer, man. I too have given local favorite places multiple chances because it's either usually good or the price & location are just awesome, but sometimes you just have to give up.

                                          1. re: rockandroller1

                                            You've given it your best shot. Sad, but it sounds like you've made the best choice.

                                          2. Personally, I feel that anyone's response to this post depends on MORE than just the quality of the food or the accuracy of the final presentation. Nothing, IMHO, will turn customers away faster than bad service...to NOT feel appreciated for their patronage. Good food can be had in any number of places. Making a customer feel unappreciated will turn them away in droves. A mistake, once corrected, can be forgiven. Multiple times, however, I'd start to look at the server, the kitchen, and a polite aside to the owner/manager may make a difference.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: njmarshall55

                                              This hits the nail on the head. Because it can often feel like a form of aggression. Like HOW DARE YOU CRITICIZE whatever, NOW SHUT UP AND PAY ME. If the service is bad enough, you can walk away feeling like you need a shower, like you've been had.

                                              Sorry to put it so bluntly, but even trite human interactions can manifest the less-than-wholesome aspects of human behavior. When Serge Storms is at the take-out window, then take my word for it, you do NOT want fries with that.

                                            2. If it's gross or bad, hopefully I will read some honest reviews and they get zero tries. If I happen to try it anyway, ONE STRIKE and that is it.

                                              If I like the food but the service is screwy, and ESPECIALLY if they don't care about my opinions, I would just cut down on going there. How annoying that they don't take your input to heart if you are a regular...they must not really care about you or their other guests! Not OK.

                                              1. Ie depends on how often you are willing to tolerate it without it spoiling your meal. For me after 3 or 4 times before there is a talk with the manager and about once or twice more before I never set foot there again.