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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.

              1. I say go with your gut. It is a good indication to me that by posting this question in and of itself you aren't the type of person looking to over extend your welcome.

                And by no means should you feel guilty about getting a comp. Look at it this way....you already paid full price for something subpar, so if you get something good out of this comp'd meal don't think of it as free, rather you paid half price for something you should have recieved in the first place.

                Lastly go easy with the idea of throwing a giant tip around. Laying a wad of cash on a server does no justice to the fact the owner picked up your bill. Assuming part of your subpar experience involved poor service remember you paid full price for that last time too.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mikey031

                  I like the two main suggestions of doing a rerun on what you had before or letting the house choose, preferably with a few tastes of what you had before.

                  Tipping for a comp is a bit difficult. You should try to price out what you were brought and tip appropriately for the level of service. It gets a little confusing if you order some and the house, for whatever reason, comps an app or dessert, or drink. The server is still doing his/her job bringing all the dishes even if you don't pay for every one.

                2. I will also say I am generally very against posting negative stuff on the internet about a restaurant unless you've given them several chances and every opportunity to fix what's wrong each time you visit, and even then, maybe keep your mouth shut. I think venting on a public internet forum about problems at the restaurant is just the bad way to go.

                  If I have a bad experience and it's not the right time to bring it up at the restaurant during my visit, I contact them with an email to let them know. More times than not, if I am offered a comp I will politely decline, as I did not go there to begin with so that I could get somethign for free, and it's also not why I am complaining, I just want them to know about what's wrong so they can fix it for other diners. If they really press or the visit were very, very bad, I might accept the offer of a free drink or app upon return, but not comping the whole meal unless something really horrid happened. My goal is to let them know what went wrong and give them a chance to fix it. My goal is not venting to the public and tarnishing their reputation so they go out of business or have to spend money trying to win me back.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: rockandroller1

                    For the most part I agree wholeheartedly. I will post something negative if it's been at least two times in a row, otherwise I will give the place a pass and keep my mouth shut. I've seen quite a few "they've gone downhill" reviews after one less than perfect experience that followed 5 really good experiences. I once restrained from posting about a horrid experience in a place that I frequent every few months - in that instant I wrote the owner and detailed the pathetic service I received. I included how I often ate at his 3 restaurants and thought this one time was an aberration but thought he should know - no response at all. Boy did that piss me off though not to the level of going public. I still try to be nice even when I'm critical and often use a fair share of disclaimers.

                  2. #1 Call the assistant manager before leaving for the restaurant and confirm he is aware that you are coming in for a comped meal. Avoid hassle and embarassment

                    #2 Don't order a multi-course meal. Stick to a main and non-alcoholic beverage. There is no reason to be a pig.

                    I do not agree with those who advocate ordering a repeat of the entire dinner that generated the comp. Chances are not every course or beverage was garbage the previous time.