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ADVICE NEEDED: comping etiquette - what to order? [Moved from General Topics]

Hi everyone, long time lurker but first time poster here.

I recently made my first trip to an upscale sushi bar, but had a subpar experience and consequently wrote a mixed review about the experience. Long story short, through correspondence with the restaurant owner, he voluntarily offered me a dinner for 2 on the house. I made no indication as to wanting anything other than acknowledgement of my experience.

Given that we know our meal will be comped in advance, what will be appropriate to order? I would never blatantly take advantage of the opportunity, but I'm confused as to what would be proper. Stay to a certain budget? Request that they serve items of their choice?

For reference, the restaurant owner (with whom i've been in touch with) won't be there, but he said things would be taken care of by the assistant manager.

I'd GREATLY appreciate any advice people have who have either been in this situation or have a feel for what is appropriate; we're returning for dinner tomorrow.

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  1. My inclination would be to order a meal similar in price to your previous visit. Perhaps try something you had before to see if things have improved, but try some new items to get a better idea of the place since they are giving you that opportunity. I hope it is a better meal.

    1. I think I would put the ball right back into the owner's court and ask him to order the meal for you (subject to any constraints such as food allergies, extreme dislikes, etc.) His goal in this endeavor is to show you the restaurant's wonderfulness--and he should be the best person to be able to showcase what his chefs and dining room staff do well. If you're still not satisfied after the meal of his choosing, I'd write him a personal note, rather than slamming the place with another review; that would seem just churlish, given the circumstances.

      3 Replies
        1. re: Mother of four

          Good advice by both Terrie and Travelmad.....

          I would sit at the Sushi Bar and put my meal in the hands of the house. OMAKASE! ! !

          1. re: fourunder

            Omakase - you took the word right out of my mouth!

      1. And please greet the ass't manager and introduce yourself before you eat, jut to make sure he's on board. Ask me how I know....

        3 Replies
        1. re: lemons

          That may have been rhetorical, but I'll bite. How?

          1. re: lemons

            Agreed. Or else you end up paying. That's what happened to us, too.

            1. re: rockandroller1

              Yep, happened to us too. In our case, it was a comp meal in lieu of payment for work my husband did for the owner. The manager had no idea and acted like we were trying to rip them off.

          2. If you're writing about the place, I would decline the comped meal.

            1 Reply
            1. re: beevod

              I'm with beevod. A couple of years back, I wrote a TripAdvisor review which was very critical of a restaurant. Owner offered me a comp. I declined.

            2. I think I'm in the camp of almost all of the above. First, like you, when I take the time to write a restaurant or write about a restaurant, I do so for information purposes only - I'm never looking for a comp. I'm just sharing my experience with other diners good or bad and for the restaurant, I'm usually looking for an acknowledgment, maybe an apology, and a thank you for the feedback. If it were so bad that I professed that I wasn't returning, a comped bad meal is still a bad meal so I don't understand the reasoning for returning for more culinary abuse.
              IF there were a reason to accept the meal (the owner came up with a good explanation why the next time will be different) then I'd agree with Terri H and stay around the same price point.

              I'd also heed what lemons says and make sure the manager is on board prior to being seated.

              Having said all this, I'm mostly of the beevod school and have declined comped items. This is to differentiate me from the, unfortunately growing, number of sleazy diners who have discovered that complaint can get them free food. Believe it or not, there is an entire subculture of people who do this who I wish not to be even wrongly associated with. I might even make a deal with the owner - if the meal is worthy, I'll pay. If not I'll accept your offer for the comp.
              Finally, I'm unsure how tipping works in these situations but I'd be on the very generous side if the meal is comped.