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"Is everything OK?"

When a waiter, manager, restaurant owner, etc., asks you this while dining, do you say "Fine!", "Very Good!", etc., even if the food isn't so hot? And do you think the person asking wants/expects a truthful answer?

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  1. As a restaurant owner, I can assure you that the manager and restaurant owner want the truth. The server couldn’t care less. By the way, went to Boston and ate at Craigie on Main (James Beard winner best chef northeast 2011) and my wife had such a disappointing meal that when the manager came over, we told him the truth. He comped her meal and gave us a gift certificate to come back.

    4 Replies
    1. re: shanefink

      Wow, surprised about Craigie! What was disappointing, food, service, both?

      1. re: shanefink

        "went to Boston and ate at Craigie on Main (James Beard winner best chef northeast 2011) and my wife had such a disappointing meal that when the manager came over, we told him the truth. He comped her meal and gave us a gift certificate to come back."

        That manager did exactly in my opinion what he should have done. Maybe a few are trying to get something for nothing but bet those who state the disappointing truth about their meal and are made more comfortable by a gracious offer like this manager displayed will return and try again.
        Very good business sense.
        Next time it may still not meet your expectations but at least it won't cost you either, and who knows it may be incredible.

        As for my husband and myself:if asked, we say it's fine which is our way of saying nothing special but fills the gap in our stomach. Ate at the Stratosphere in Vegas for our Anniversary 2 years ago and all know the sky high price of dinner there if you've been. The steak was good in that you could cut it with your fork but the duck will never be welcomed back in my pond ever. Our waitress was a hundred and twelve with a speech problem sorry to say, but when she approached to ask how our meal was I told her I didn't at all like the duck mostly due to the overall price my beloved was about to pay. Manager came over and replaced it with shrimp which was palatable at least but yes, the truth at that price, had to be told. And we won't return for a specialty dinner there again.
        Nothing comp'd and no dessert for our 35, lack luster/not classy.

        1. re: shanefink

          The server couldn't care less??? What kind of jerks do you have working for you?

          My livlihood depended upon the satisfaction of my customers--"how is everything?" was the most important thing I could possibly ask them. If there was a problem I made damn sure it was straightened out immediately--what kind of slouches are restaurants hiring these days?

          Never mind, I just answered my own question--slouches.....

          1. re: KSlink

            There's no reason to beat up on today's servers.

            I think it has a lot more to do with whether the person asking has any real ability to rectify the complaint you're making. Plenty of good, hard-working servers probably would rather not hear complaints that they can't do anything about - that's human nature.

            A lot of times it comes down to the nature of my gripe. If my steak is over/undercooked or my (ostensibly hot) soup is cold, then I'd expect a good server to want to hear about it and fix things so his or her customers leave happy. But say my complaint is of a different nature - maybe the dessert is cloyingly sweet, or the herb garnish is poorly chosen for the flavors of the dish, or the chairs while admittedly stylish are uncomfortable - not all servers will be able to do anything useful with that information anyway. I'm sure there are restaurants where that kind of feedback is valued, but there are a lot more places where servers check in with you for no other reason than to make sure that the service end of the dinner is going well.

            If a manager, cook, or owner asked me how everything was and seemed to really want to know what I thought of my dinner, I'd tell em in full - they have a lot more ability to respond to those kinds of criticisms. Servers, usually not. OTOH, I've been in situations where a server told me that I was trying a dish that's brand new on the menu and seemed to genuinely want feedback on what I thought of it, and in those cases I've told em if I had nit-picky complaints. Even there, I get the impression the server is asking because they were specifically told to find out how the dish was received.

            If you came up to me at my job and told me, for example, that you thought my employer was charging too much, there wouldn't be a thing I could do about it (aside from maybe directing you to someone who takes that kind of complaint). I'd rather get on with my job and focus my energies on things I have some control over. Granted a lot of servers don't work for as big a company as I do, but I think a lot of them are in the same position with respect to nit-picky complaints.

        2. My experience is that they don't really care what you have to say unless the chef actually comes out and talks to you. That person truly wants to know how you feel about their dishes, the rest are just giving you lip service. (Otherwise, they might actually make note of what you have to say in some way rather than just saying "uh, huh" as they clear away the plates. And the fact that no one comes out after you say something to the server tells you the rest don't really care to know.)

          2 Replies
          1. re: escondido123

            If no one comes out after I tell the server, all that may mean is that the server didn't bother to tell anyone.

            1. re: Leonardo

              And if the kitchen/owner never hears anything from their servers about how the meal was, I have to assume they don't care to know or they would think it strange that there were never any complaints.

          2. I'd put it along the same lines as the cashier who gives the obligatory "did you find everything ok?" and the acquaintance who asks "how are you?". It's more of a formality, unless there's a serious problem.

            1. If it's just bland or dry food I usually just nod my head and don't come back, but I'm trying to be more honest. A few months ago I tried out a brand new restaurant (they were putting up the sign as I came in--I might have been the first customer) and may have broken their hearts by saying I didn't like the chicken. But they had dried peppers cut up and mixed throughout the dish, which made it inedibly chewy, and I felt it necessary to say something.

              1. I'm surprised everyone seems to think this is some empty gesture; most restaurants I know of require this of the waitress within a certain time frame after the food is brought to the table. If something's wrong the sooner it's corrected the less aggravation and bad feelings on the diner's part.

                1. I think its usually asked because its expected that it'll be asked.

                  In my experience, restaurants that don't ask are usually at the higher end and have sufficient confidence in their service. And, of course, in their customers' ability to speak up without first beign asked.

                  That said, I am a European living in Europe and the "check back" isnt generally part of our restaurant culture.

                  If I have had a problem, I will have always raised it with a member of staff. As such, whenever there is a "check back", my response is "Fine".

                  1. I grew up in the business and we very much cared and were honest in asking the question. We wanted to have your experience be the best we could do.
                    As an adult , working in various positions, in the industry, it was rare that I found a place that didn't care, but asked anyway. Sometimes you do get servers who hate their job or are burn tout, tired and ask, but never report it. That's sort of a Darwin in action. They will soon be looking for another job.
                    Currently, a friend of mine has a 2 year old restaurant, and I do help out one day a week, usually FOH. I do check back, and we correct any issues that we are told about.

                    Sure some folks try to scam you to get comps or extras, but they tend to stick in the mind of the FOH and repeat performances, doesn't always end the way they want.

                    1. I am apt to tell the restaurant employee what I really think of the food/service, my wife OTOH, will immediately answer fine.
                      Why? She wants the employees to leave us alone and let us enjoy our private time. This is far more important than complaining about some small issue.
                      The casual dining chains has rules requiring checkbacks within 2 minutes of food being served. Unfortunately, this is quite annoying, as often the food is not yet tasted, we might be having our drink or a conversation only 120 seconds after the plate hits the table.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: bagelman01

                        Similar to being asked, usually in Italian places (and as soon as the plate has been put down) if I want ground black pepper. How do I know until I've tasted?

                        1. re: Harters

                          or if you want them to grate cheese directly onto your food?

                          Taste, then season!

                          1. re: bagelman01

                            Nah, we differ on that one. I always want cheese - heap it on, please.

                            1. re: Harters

                              I like grated cheese, BUT I want to control the quantity, and taste it before heaping it on my food. Too often that end piece that's in the server's grater is not fresh or a variety I like, and may not go with the food.
                              Recently, a server started grating cheese right onto my ravioli without waiting for me to say yes to the offer (I had food in my mouth at the moment). It happens that it was lobster ravioli and I don't like cheese on fish or seafood. So, I told the server, now go order a new entree for me, this is trash.

                      2. It depends. If there are problems, then I whisper of all those problems. Some servers care, but many do not. They only care about their tip, or something beyond my personal comprehension.

                        OTOH, I have had some servers, who DO care, and have been proactive, in making sure that all was good.

                        Recently, at a San Francisco bistro, the question came up. I pointed out that one of the veal pieces in a Veal Piccata was inedible. The other, fairly good. The server listened, and returned with an offer - the full cheese course, at no charge. As I am much more of a cheese course person, and seldom do conventional desserts, I opted for only two cheeses, based on the wines in front of me. That was nice.


                        1. My comments are not about whether my meat was cooked to the proper temp or something else particular to my plate of food. There's a place I go for a wonderful duck confit salad served with "seasonal" fruit. Well after six months of that "seasonal" fruit being two strawberries fanned on the plate, I said "Why not have really seasonal fruits?" After having the dish two more times when fruits like figs, peaches were available but they were still serving the same tasteless strawberries I decided the chef had no interest in making a dish that was truly seasonal so I stopped commenting.

                          3 Replies
                            1. re: escondido123

                              Kinda like "It's 5 o'clock somewhere.", "It's seasonal somewhere." with availability worldwide! hehe

                              1. re: randyjl

                                Said restaurant is only 4 blocks from the weekly Farmers' Market which always shows you what is seasonal. So sad to see it not being used for small items though I understand restaurants may need to buy others wholesale.

                            2. Years ago at the restaurants I ate at it seemed that the servers invariable asked "Is everything okay?" when my mouth was full so the only thing I could do is nod and chew.

                              But now I care more. If I am paying more for a meal than what I can make it at home it better be okay or I will ask for something to be fixed if it's not right.
                              Now it seems servers are more attentive to giving me an honest opportunity to respond.

                              Come to think of it I haven't been out for a meal more than half a dozen times since they banned smoking in restaurants.

                              1. In the end, isn't the question whether the restaurant does anything about your concerns, either long or short term? If you didn't think a dish was done well, what do they do about it? And if you continue to see the same problems in a dish, what to you do about it?

                                1. To be honest, I am not super honest. If something is very good, then obviously I will say it is great. If it is horrible, then I will also let it be known. However, many of times, it is just in the "gray area", ya know? The foods are ok, but not so good. I usually just say that it is fine or it is good. I mean what am I suppose to say at that point?

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    I guess one could say, "just ok","you have it, just ok", "merely ok", etc. I have nicely told them that the food will not bring me back. Most of the time, they could care less if I return or not. Could that be the difference between a server and a waiter, waitress?

                                    1. re: randyjl

                                      <Could that be the difference between a server and a waiter, waitress?>

                                      Wow, that is thought provoking. :) I don't have an answer for this, but it is interesting.

                                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      Thanks for all the replies! I posted this because, for some reason after being asked 1,155 times how everything it was, the last time struck me: this is rote! They don't wait for an answer, they probably don't seek an honest answer, but it isn't really a problem in the final analysis. My biggest question was whether you guys "opened the barn door" and truly expressed dissatisfaction with a component of your meal. I just suffer in silence if it's fair to bad, only speaking up truthfully if it's beyond the pale. I usually let my not coming back, or coming back rarely, speak for itself. Enjoyed the thread!

                                      1. re: sanglier

                                        I think a lot of us are like you :) Thanks for making this post in the first place. It gets us thinking which is always good.

                                        1. re: sanglier

                                          "this is rote! They don't wait for an answer, they probably don't seek an honest answer, "

                                          For years my late grandfather answered the question 'how are you?' SICK IN BED. The questioner invariably just went on with their conversation ignoring the answer.

                                          Perfunctory question, ignored answers

                                      2. There's a small, local, diner type place where my husband and I have breakfast frequently. It's always good...not fancy, but good food and good service.

                                        Last Saturday we went there for breakfast and the two servers and the guy in the kitchen were all unfamiliar. We should have left then, but did not. It appeared that the "A" staff was on vacation. There were four tables with patrons and no one was getting food, customers were getting the coffee pot and serving themselves and other tables and it was a white hot mess.

                                        After about 30 minutes, our meal comes out. Dh's grits are swimming in water with no seasoning and undercooked. My chipped beef is a gloppy,salty mess that clearly had been left on too high of heat for too long. All of the biscuits are burned. My home fries are cold. We had to go to the register to get our check.

                                        When the server asked how everything was....we grunted an okay. However, we did not tip to our usual standards.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                          As a former server, I just have to ask--why didn't you send it back?? I wouldn't accept a meal like that and wouldn't expect my customers to, either.

                                          Perhaps you can mention to the manager what a God awful mess the place was that day, they need to know things like that.....

                                          1. re: KSlink

                                            After that amount of time, we cut our losses. Sending it back would not have improved the situation (the people in the adjacent booth had sent back pancakes because they did not have the blueberries as ordered and though they were there before we were still had not received their food when we left).

                                            The server was clearly not a regular waitress (she had to get the prices from the menu when ringing us up). It's a small, local place and I have little doubt the owner has heard what a white hot mess it was that day.

                                            1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                              You're probably right, sure hope you have better luck on your next visit!

                                              1. re: KSlink

                                                My husband eats there probably 4-6x month and has never experienced anything like it. My guess is there was a family emergency or they were on vacation or something. They probably would have been better off just closing. We're giving them a pass and will be back.

                                        2. I always reply that everything is wonderful because I figure if the server has had a long day it might give her a little lift.

                                          1. Honestly, I usually just bust out a perfunctory "Fine" when asked, unless the food is special. It basically means, "You're doing your job, the kitchen is doing their's, and it's not worth complaining about or getting too excited." Even if it kinda sucks, I generally don't say much. If I really don't like something, I just don't eat it. If the server notices and asks, I explain that it tasted "like something my Grandmother made after she lost her sense of smell" or specify the problem. Much like Bagelman's wife, I mostly just want to have some peace, "enjoy our private time" and conversation, be out of the kitchen, not have to do dishes, etc.

                                            If something is particularly special, I do point it out - with some specificity (e.g. "I think the addition of the cilantro to the watermelon on this snapper was a great idea!" or "Wow! they nailed 'rare' right on the money") On more than one occasion this has led to the chef coming out to discuss the plate and what s/he did. That's always fun - I get to unfurl my total food geek banner and it seems like the staff always remembers it when I return ("Um, the Manager opened this really cool bottle of Petite Syrah earlier. It's not on the menu, but it'd go awesome with your lamb . . . .") In fact, I even have become friends with the most talented chef in our area due to such a comment.

                                            1. I just experienced this last night.
                                              My main came with a salad, and the waitress gave me the somewhat complicated explanation of their 3 specialty dressings, or the Caesar. I chose one and then said "on the side, please."
                                              She responded with "OH, yes, the salad comes first" as she walked away. Naturally, when the salad came it was coat-ed-dd in the dressing, which was actually quite good, if "soup and salad" in one bowl.
                                              I attributed that to a communication error on my part and just nodded to her "all okay?" query.
                                              Nearing the close, it was clear that I was not going to finish more than half the main, and she asked quite nicely if I had not liked the dish or if I wanted to take it; I did want to take it.
                                              Then we went into desserts-- I told her what I wanted- something light. She suggested their fleet of small decadent chocolate bites. I explained that I'd prefer a sorbet or fruit, even a larger portion, but something light, not gooey and hot. She seemed to understand but claimed they only had the several chocolate things and all were warm.
                                              Only when perusing CH today did I realize-- Nearly any of their "Summer Specialty Frozen Drinks," virgin, would have perfectly fit my desire.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                This reminds me of what a novice waitress once brought to the table when dressing was requested on the side--dressing on the salad, but only along the edges!

                                                1. re: KSlink

                                                  Wow. I got a REAL lol from that!!!!!!

                                                2. Usually reply excellent, delicious, or very good because the food usually is.
                                                  The one time I said good but the branzino was overdone to my taste I got such a snotty reply. "Oh really, that's how ALL our other customers like it", followed by egregiously nasty service) we have not gone and will not go back (it was our first dinner in Rutherford, at the fancy Greek place on Park Ave). Their loss, close to our place and we love Greek food).

                                                  1. I will definitely say something in major cases- for example, when an ingredient that should have been omitted wasn't.

                                                    Once, a chef came out to say hello at a place where I'd regularly dine, and asked how the molasses-glazed lamb chops were. To my taste, the flavor of the molasses was overwhelming, and I tried to say something tactfully....but could see the chef was taking the feedback to heart. In truth, I am sensitive to the flavor of molasses, so I knew I was taking a risk in ordering the dish. It still felt like I was "hurting her feelings" by saying it face-to-face, but perhaps it was related to the fact that I rarely had anything but positive things to say up until that point.

                                                    Just last week, I was eating out with a friend, and the server asked towards the end of the meal if everything was OK (in particular, the cooking of a duck dish, which was requested as medium instead of medium-rare). We did eat our fair share of the dish, but to me, it showed less finesse in cooking of duck breast than what I consider ideal (the dish had flabby skin, which we trimmed away at the table, and was well-done on the exterior with non-gradual gradation to a rare core.) I simply explained that we enjoyed the flavors, but would have liked more even cooking of the duck and crisper skin. My dining partner, who was bantering with the server through the meal, said I was being fussy. :) However, the server came back with the bill and included a voucher for a complimentary appetizer . That was nice , albeit unnecessary. All the food that we eat won't necessarily meet expectations or our highest standards.

                                                    1. A co-worker was out at one of Susur Lee's restaurants and when the server asked about the course she was eating, she said she didn't really like it (it was raw seafood, I believe. Her explanation to me - "I'm Vietnamese; I'll eat anything, but I didn't like that"). Server left and next thing the co-worker sees is Susur coming out (she admitted to being a little irrationally scared at that point...maybe he was going to be angry or something). Susur talked to her about why she didn't like the dish and sent out something else specially made for her.

                                                      1. Generally speaking, at most restaurants, they are not asking if you like the food. They are trying to determine if you have everything you need and if everything was prepared properly. Like is your steak the right temp, food hot enough, do you need ketchup or hot sauce or another drink. They're not there to assess your opinion of the cuisine, especially early on into the meal. That's also why they come so quickly at chain places - because it's to determine if everything is prepared properly or if you need anything else to enjoy your meal, it's not to see if you've taken several bites and love, hate, or are indifferent about the food. I mean, you can communicate that if you want to, and if you hate it, you shouldn't eat it, but the check-back is done to make sure you don't need something else right away before you can relax and enjoy your food.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. If it is a good restaurant, they do want to know, they want you to come back.