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Aug 30, 2013 07:57 PM

Should you answer honestly?

Last weekend the hubby and I went to a popular high end Yountville restaurant for brunch. The hubby ordered a lobster roll, the most expensive item on the menu. To his great disappointment it had absolutely NO flavor. The waiter, a very nice young man stopped by the table to ask us how we were enjoying the meal. I was shocked to hear my husband say that it was very good. Had he suddenly lost his mind? I think he was just too shy to tell the waiter what he really thought. When faced with this situation, how do you answer?

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  1. Not from the area but I think for major issues one should answer honestly yet diplomatically.

    If something it too sweet, too salty, too spicy, too bland then a simple "It was fine but too XYZ for me".

    If something is not cooked correctly than that should be pointed out right away.

    If something tastes off, is inedible, etc than that warrants talking to a manager.

    That said if you eat the whole thing then keep your mouth shut. It can't be all bad if you wiped the plate clean.

    2 Replies
    1. re: foodieX2

      A good answer that I totally agree with, but let me add my 2 cents. I think that if you are going to complain about anything, it has to be done in a constructive manner with specifics so that there could possibly be improvements in response to the criticism. If I'm asked if I'm enjoying my meal, I'll pretend that I am unless I have something specific to complain about more than just saying that the food is merely so-so. Telling a server that you are vaguely unhappy without providing the exact details needed for possible remedies will just spread bad sentiments without doing any good. I've had my share of mediocre restaurant meals where I've pretended to be perfectly happy simply because I didn't feel I had the time and energy to provide possibly unwelcome advice about how they could do things better.

      1. re: foodieX2

        Perfect answer, foodiex2. And in the OP's case, her husband should have used your first response.

        I'll also add my 2 cents and say bland or "no flavor" is highly subjective. Does the OP's husband smoke? If so, that fact alone would mask any subtle flavors. Does he regularly enjoy spicy foods? That too could be a factor. I'm not saying these specific things are true on his part, just throwing out a couple of examples. Also, I'd be curious to know if the OP tasted the lobster roll and what she thought.

      2. Depends.

        In most cases, I take the view that this is a perfunctory question that the restaurant feels it needs to ask and has no real intent to take on board any comments

        On the other side of the coin, I find that most "good" places I go to do not feel the need to do the check back. To my mind, they are right. They may well ask how was the dish, when they are clearing the plate. I tend to think there is some genuine interest here and I can usually get a sense of this from how the server asks the question. In such circumstances, I'll be honest. In other circumstances, my standard response is to say things were "fine".

        2 Replies
        1. re: Harters

          That could be.

          I take it to actually elicit feedback, and I will give that.

          I have had a few instances, where the chef wanted to defend their choices. That is fine, but I also want to defend my comments.


          1. re: Harters

            Yes, but that is a difference between where you live, Harters and the US. The check back, is to give people the chance to say something if they need to, in fact there are complaints that not checking implies not caring.

          2. Don't rave about it if you didn't like it... if you don't want to go into details just say it was 'okay'. There's absolutely no point in telling the waiter how wonderful it was when you found it mediocre. That just encourages them...

            1. I would have sent the lobster roll back because it had no taste and ordered something else (quickly). It is probably not the restaurants fault it lacked flavor but they should know about the problem.

              I rarely send anything back. I usually just eat it and say "fine" when it really wasn't that great. But not at a high end restaurant where I order the priciest item on the menu.

              2 Replies
              1. re: sedimental

                If it's not the restuarant's fault, as you state, why should they know about it? What is the "problem?" I the "no taste" lies totally within the customer's palate, that's the customer's "problem" and no need to tell the restaurant.

                1. re: ttoommyy

                  Many times lobster that is frozen has no taste (especially in CA). Not their fault, meaning not a prep issue. I wouldn't automatically assume it was " just me". My taster works pretty well unless I have a cold or something. I don't think a high end Yountville restaurant would want a customer not satisfied with the food but not saying anything and possibly not returning or telling others " the lobster rolls arent very good". YMMV.

              2. And then you have an astute staff. In Asheville, N.C. at a local mid to high end chain. She Who No Longer Must Be Obeyed ordered a Caeser salad as an entrée. And out comes a large bowl of mixed greens and croutons with the dressing in plastic containers.

                So She poked and prodded, ate a little, and then sat there in low dudgeon. Waitress came up and asked her what was wrong. What She was hoping for was a tableside mixing at the most, or pure romaine lettuce and fresh dressing at the least for that price. Waitress got the manager, he took the salad off the tab, gave her a chicken breast that did not come out of a bag, She was content.

                Please note that this was done without a complaint or query about the meal. We were obviously tourists and it was during the Sunday church crush, so it was not like they were sitting around bored. If I could remember the name of the place, I would be shouting it out. The tip was grotesque.

                And yes, if I am disappointed in what is offered, I either clean my plate if edible and worth the money,(my generation), or inform my waiter if not. Before I consume the whole thing.