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Sending food back

AJC Staff

AJC Staff

Choose Your Own Adventure: Dinner With Friends

By Jon Watson

It’s Friday night, and all week long, you have looked forward to this dinner out with your friends. Drinks and conversation flow, a few well-received shared apps shared. Service is friendly and attentive. You all comment on how this restaurant was an excellent choice.

Right on cue, the entrees arrive and you watch as your friends’ eyes roll back at their first bites, and they gush, “Oh my GOSH, you have to try this!” But you aren’t listening. You are too distracted by the well-done slab of meat on your plate as you attempt to relive the moment you ordered to be certain that, yes, you totally asked for medium rare.

Just then, as you cock your head to the side to get a better look at the cross-section of your first cut you hear, “How is everything folks?”

If you bite your tongue and smile, saying “Good, thanks”, turn to page 17.

If you inform the server of the error and send the food back, turn to page 28.

If you keep your thumb on this page and flip to pages 17 and 28 to see which ending you like better, you are cheating and completely missing the point.

While not the quite as exciting as the Alien Abduction or Haunted House stories we read as kids, this is a real life dilemma that many experience at one time or another. And it is one that many of us wish we could simply dog-ear and skip ahead to see if that replacement dish will arrive with a little something “extra” from the kitchen before you really commit.

The decision as to whether or not to return food that is either incorrect, improperly cooked, or poorly seasoned isn’t an easy one. Fear of retribution drives the decision to grin and bear it for most of us, while the desire to avoid looking like a sender-backer often rides shotgun.

Good business-to-consumer decorum suggests that if something isn’t to our liking, we are well within our rights to politely bring it to the server’s attention, who will then apologetically and swiftly correct the mistake, offer some complimentary amends, and ensure that you leave happy with the overall experience. But life doesn’t always work like that. The patron isn’t always polite, and the business isn’t always accommodating. So what do you do?

Where do you draw the line? How bad does it have to be for you to send something back, and do you still find yourself peeking under the arugula of your replacement just one extra time to make sure nothing was tampered with?

Jon Watson, Popular Eats

Jon Watson, Popular Eats

-By Jon Watson, Food & More blog

98 comments Add your comment

VickiF

August 26th, 2011
6:57 am

I have sent back things that were too salty to eat, things that tasted like bleach ( probably a cooking surface got wiped down with it?) and things that had crunchy dirt in them. ( salad)

VickiF

August 26th, 2011
6:57 am

And my sister once sent back a seafood salad that had a woozy squid moving around miserably in it.

Jennifer

August 26th, 2011
6:59 am

Easy, Send it back.. If I ordered a meal, that was not prepared correctly, I am not going to smile and say everything is fine. I work too hard, to be spending money on food that is not yummy..

deegee

August 26th, 2011
8:20 am

Send it back. I have noticed recently that the quality of food and service has declined in what used to be consistently good restaurants. The prices are going up and the quality is going down. If the kitchen can produce a high quality product the second time then they can produce it the first time. Hold them to a reasonable standard.

shaggy

August 26th, 2011
8:21 am

Nope, ain’t going to happen. I know people that work in the industry, and have heard the stories. Don’t pi$$ off someone that is handling your food.
If it isn’t good, leave, refuse to pay-with the plate untouched, never go back, but NEVER send it back and then eat it after it comes back to you. NEVER!
Also, don’t mess with the drive thru order taker. You risk too much…it ain’t worth it.

Lisa

August 26th, 2011
8:21 am

Send it back, pronto. I don’t think Kitchen’s learn unless that happens. Money’s tight; why pay for poorly prepared food?

Sunny

August 26th, 2011
8:37 am

Send it back an get a remake or another entree, but there have been times that I just left the restaurant and went someplace else. I work to hard for my money to just grin an bear it.

cls@live.com

August 26th, 2011
8:39 am

No brainer. Send it back.

carla roqs

August 26th, 2011
8:43 am

i try to not frequent the type of restaurants that would pay a low enough wage to where someone would feel justified in “harming” my replacement food because they were responsible for not cooking it to order. i also try to be extremely nice when i do send food back (which is fairly often).

Rodney

August 26th, 2011
8:49 am

I just don’t send things back. I may not eat it, or I may eat around what I don’t like, but I don’t send food back to the kitchen.

I agree 100% with all of you who are all about “it’s my money, and I want it right” but, losing a few bucks on a meal that wasn’t satisfactory is better, much better, than complaining (from the tone of some of the previous posts, most people are probably rather rude about it) about the food and then it comes back with a little of the “extra” Jon mentioned above.

Now, rude service is another matter altogether – if it’s an isolated incident, and the server steps up their game, no worries. Everyone has an off moment. But if it’s pervasive through the meal I bypass the server totally and go directly to the manager or whomever might be in charge.

SR

August 26th, 2011
8:52 am

No restaurant pays its people enough …servers only make $2.13 an hour….with that being said I do send food back but i never blame the server..the server is not responsible for the quality of the food….i do tip well…..trust me if you frequent the same restaurants a decent tipper will be treated a little better and it is also assurance that they are not going to let anyone screw with the food…be nice and please don’t be once of those folks who send stuff back often or people will know you

Mr. Ed

August 26th, 2011
8:56 am

If you have been complete horse’s rear end about your meal to any of the staff, I would hesitate to return any meal. However, if you are polite and have a genuine gripe with your food I see no reason to fear retaliation from the kitchen or wait staff.

If you been a rude prima donna…well you get what you deserve.

JJ

August 26th, 2011
8:56 am

This is why I don’t go out to eat very often…..I prefer to cook with friends at home…..much more intimate, and less expensive. And I don’t mind cooking at the end of a long work week. I really enjoy entertaining and cooking.

Cammi317

August 26th, 2011
8:58 am

I try not to send food back unless it is something unexcusably and obviously wrong. Otherwise, I will just not eat it (or I will complain and not pay if it is a restaurant that I NEVER plan to patronage again). Please do not believe that just because you go to a high-end restaurant that employees will not mess with your food…..they will and they do. There are two rules that should never be forgotten…(1) Do not aggravate the person handling your food and (2) Do not aggravate the person handling your money.

Sandy

August 26th, 2011
9:06 am

It depends on the restaurant and whether the server and management actually seem to really care, and also on just how bad the problem with the food is. If it’s something like undercooked chicken, and the service seems attentive, I will politely point it out and see what they offer. If they just slam down the plate and act like they don’t care, I’ll eat the sides and just never come back to that restaurant.

nativenapkin

August 26th, 2011
9:19 am

The idea that cooks spit in your food when you send it back is Urban Legend stuff. If it is a technical flaw (overcook or undercook, over salted, etc) then, please do send it back and give us a chance to make things right before you leave. If it is a case of “I just don’t like this” then the responsibility is yours for not asking enough questions to determine exactly what it is you are ordering before it arrives.

In all cases, if you don’t bring the issue to the attention of those empowered to correct it, you waive your right to go on Yelp or another anonymous forum and trash the restaurant because “they did nothing…”

M. Johnson

August 26th, 2011
9:24 am

I don’t send food back. As others mentioned, I’m frightened by the possibility of “extras” coming back with my new order. But I do note when something was forgotten or left off my order so that they can bring the correct item.

There’s no reason to be rude to people who prepare and deliver your food. While I don’t eat much fast food, I am SUPER nice to the folks at the drive-thru window during every visit.

USMC

August 26th, 2011
9:25 am

It all depends on the degree of mistake made on the food preparation AND the delivery of the complaint by the patron.

If there is an OBVIOUS discrepancy in the food preparation AND you politely (tone of voice/tact) ask to have it sent back and corrected, you are OK to send your food back.

On the other hand, if the discrepancy in so minute and you are just being your normal NARCISSISTIC self by rudely sending your food back for no good reason, WATCH OUT!

Folks, there are no guarantees in life. Sometimes your meal is NOT going to be as good as you had hoped.

Native Atlantan

August 26th, 2011
9:37 am

I tend to agree with nativenapkin….send it back and give the kitchen the opportunity to correct the problem. I, like others, tend to visit my favorite restaurants repeatedly and have no fear that any error will not be handled properly. What annoys me is, as mentioned above, customers just don’t like their choice and make a stink about it.

VoiceOfReason

August 26th, 2011
9:39 am

CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE BOOKS!!!!! I used to love those.

SayItAintSo

August 26th, 2011
9:47 am

I send mine back if its not what I ordered. If the food is cold or if its not cooked properly. I feel that I am paying for a meal of my choice and if I order a steak without pepper and it come with pepper I will not eat it. Its not what I ordered. If I would find something wierd with my food (such as dirt) after its return, then I would immediately call the police. That people is illegal to tant food.

As for fast food, I dont eat it. I have watched over and over as these employees go to the bathroom and do not wash their hands, I have watched as they have put their hands though their hair, rubbed their noses, scratched their butts. No, I do not eat fast food. I wonder what these peoples living conditions are?

Fishbone

August 26th, 2011
9:52 am

Most the time I will not send it back unless I am a regular there.
I will just alert the manager and say, ” I won’t send this back and I might
not eat all of it .” Then it is the managers decision thus he can’t tell the kitchen I sent it back
(or at least I hope).

Carla

August 26th, 2011
9:54 am

This is a timely post. My husband and I tend to frequent local mom and pop owned places when we eat out. Just Wednesday we had been given a gift card for a chain places and decided to give it a try for lunch. This place, being known for their ribs was what we decided to order. Our waitress recommended the queso….which was a very UNAPPEALING water brown substance with just enough whole beans floating in it to be….well…you get the picture. Then we found out the price for that little iron skillet mess. Wow. Our food finally arrived….we could smell the salmon on my husband’s combo plate before it was even set down. And I KNOW what salmon should smell like. I cook it once per week at home. ANYWAY…the dry ribs. The almost jerky…I will say the sauce was good, the broccoli suprisingly well cooked and seasoned and the potatoes were good. We didn’t send it back because honesly, we didn’t hope it would get much better. We brought it home and our dogs enjoyed their $53 lunch. Needless to say, we won’t be back. And I do wonder that the waitress didn’t note that there was only a couple of bites taken out of everything on the table?

Cammi317

August 26th, 2011
9:56 am

When I was a teen, I worked at McDonald’s afterschool. I watched a shift manager drop a chicken pattie on the floor, stomp on it and put it in a drive-thru customer’s sandwich becuase they were being rude. During my college years, I heard students who waited in nice restaurants talking about incidents where they or someone in the kitchen did something or another to a rude customers food. It is not urban legend.

Steve

August 26th, 2011
9:56 am

I’d really love to hear some of the local chefs chime in on this issue.

While I hardly actually send food back, I do think that it is our right as customers to get a dish made correctly since we are paying for it. In the last 5 years, i’ve only sent 1 dish back…it was at an upscale establishment and the dish was so salty it was pretty much uneatable. Even at that time, I thought about the fact that I may be getting my dish back with a little extra… but I feel like if you’re not a total d*ck about the situation, everything should be fine.

rebelliousrose

August 26th, 2011
9:56 am

For god’s sake, people. I’ve worked in high-end restaurants for 25 years. I’ve NEVER seen anyone adulterate food. Have I wanted to spit in people’s coffee cups? Oh, yes, every day- ask Kessler, that joke is how we met. But a professional, at a good restaurant, WANTS to make it right. No one wants you to leave feeling that you were unhappy and not treated well. Send the food back- we can’t fix it if we don’t know about it. And don’t make the waiter beat it out of you- there is a reason they check back, and it’s not to annoy you by interrupting your conversation- it’s to make sure your food is correct and you are not in need of something. If you are one of those “oh, I’ll sit in misery not touching my food until the waiter asks three times” people- just don’t. Please. Send it back. And don’t tell the waiter it’s fine, and then tell the manager at the end of the meal that it was overcooked. You’ve made your waiter look bad, especially if they tried to get you to tell them you were unhappy so they could fix it. You aren’t being rude. If a restaurant messes up, they WANT to know.

Robert C

August 26th, 2011
9:59 am

I have never had a problem sending something back when its wrong or not prepared as requested. Recently, I was out on a Friday in a party or four, one order was messed up and never left the kitchen wrong , but the manager told us. Another meal , the steak was over cooked , and he sent it back. The replacement was perfect. The manager came over and apologized again, and comped the entire table, not just the over cooked meal. We were not expecting that, but service like that keeps up going back.

Carla

August 26th, 2011
10:00 am

Good point. And we debated sending the food back…the waitress came back once after the food was delivered…with the check…and about 25 min later to ask if we needed a to go box. I’ll spend my money where they appreciate it and I KNOW that it’s important to the owners/staff that we have a good experience.

kmb

August 26th, 2011
10:01 am

Send it back!!! My problem has been with undercooked food, particularly meats. Rather than start anew, chefs try to cook what was originally served again. That never works out. Also, restaurants need to inform their customers of their definition of rare, medium rare, medium, and well done.

Reality check

August 26th, 2011
10:03 am

To: nativenapkin

“The idea that cooks spit in your food when you send it back is Urban Legend stuff.”

Uh, no its not an Urban Legend at all .

although ALL may not do it, SOME may or may not “spit” in your food but will will add a “special touch” to your order.

*some servers, cooks, chefs are highly sensitive and a strange lot. they think that they are striving for excellence in serving your food and when its returned, it is an affront to their ego. ergo, you get the “special treatment”

*some servers and cooks feel that when the food is sent back rudely, the only way that they can express their feelings about your rudeness is to lend “something special” to your order. additionally, they may feel that they should not have to take the abuse for the money that they are being paid. In justifying the retaliation of the real or imagined slight, they may feel that most rude returners don’t tip well or not at all. There fore it is ok to “express” themselves.

some servers, cooks and chefs just don’t give a rat’s a** and ANY slight against them is met with treating you “special”.

Just thought I’d throw that out there for you to “nibble” on. Bon Appetit mon amie!

duder

August 26th, 2011
10:13 am

It’s all about how the customer brings the complaint to the server. It’s an uncomfortable conversation because of the associated risk of pi$$ing off the waitstaff, but if you do it in a respectable and manner that conveys your understanding that it’s not the server’s fault, they’re much more likely to not F with your food.

1164mgc

August 26th, 2011
10:19 am

I can’t tell you how many times my husband orders steak AT A STEAK RESTAURANT and gets it cooked improperly. This, after the waitress spends all that time telling him what rare, medium rare, etc. means at that particular restaurant. You order a medium rare steak, it shouldn’t jiggle like jelly when the waitress sits it down. I’m a vegetarian and I know that – you’d think someone who cooks steaks professionally would know better. He’s always polite when he sends it back but come on – I do believe as a non-meat eater I could do better at cooking some of those steaks!

abc

August 26th, 2011
10:20 am

If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. Sadly, most restaurants seem to suck to me these days, bad food, poor service, except for some top-tier places. I’ll send it back, but won’t accept a replacement or remediation, as adulteration of returned dishes is the norm. Sometimes I still have to pay for it, sometimes not.

Sally

August 26th, 2011
10:22 am

I worked in fast food and family restaurants and I knew one woman who would spit in drinks, so I can’t say that it doesn’t happen. However, restaurants want you to come back and they want you to tell your friends that it’s a good place to go. They are in it to make money, so they want you to get what you ordered, plain and simple. Believe me, the cooks are too busy to adulterate the meal – and having to recook one adds to the busy-ness.

Sally

August 26th, 2011
10:31 am

That particular woman was the epitome of the mean-spirited, classless, rumor-mongering, high school drop-out waitress. Of course the customer wouldn’t know it, but behind the scenes … hoo boy. Between that and the male servers who always had to ask our bra size and what sexual positions we liked and miming masturbation, I simply left. She was in tight with them and the conspired to start a rumor about another woman and me. It got really bad when the managers were on vacation and we had no recourse, so by the time the managers got back, it was all over. I feel for the workers who have no choice but to tolerate it.

Blondie

August 26th, 2011
10:41 am

I’ve been through this enough to start promising myself that I’m just going to send it back and say “Look, I’m not a picky eater, but this really isn’t cooked right. I’d like this taken off my bill, please.” Then leave and snag something else. I’ve been to too many restaurants that just don’t care and I’ve heard the horror stories of food that gets sent back. I’ve also dealt with managers that are total a-holes that offer a free appetizer or dessert instead of just comping my entree. I don’t want extra calories from an appetizer or a dessert! I just want my dinner done right the first time around!

If they refuse to take it off, I’ll just pay on credit and then dispute it with my card company (Amex really does a good job of telling places to screw off). Between that and the crap servers I keep getting over the past six months (one told my friends and I to keep our cards separated the way he put them so as to “Not f*** it up” -and another one had the audacity to slap an 18% gratuity on a bill after my boyfriend showed up to see his friends that had already closed out their tabs -as if the waiter was still serving everyone in a party of 6+!), I’m really to the point where I don’t care about eating out anymore.

george

August 26th, 2011
10:44 am

i am more likely to send a dish back at a premium white table cloth establishment where i am paying for exceptional professionalism than a diner type establishment that likely does not have a real chef running the kitchen. i also ,however, tend to stick with comfort food type orders at the less pricely establishments. i don’t expect a bookkeeper to offer competent financial management or taxation advice on a cpa level so why should i expect a low wage line cook to equal john besh.

SexyCool

August 26th, 2011
10:47 am

I am very polite and engaging to waitstaff and servers when I am out to eat. In instances where there are issues with my order, I do not hesitate to politely and reasonably communicate with my service person or the manager on duty.

markie mark

August 26th, 2011
11:01 am

I have sent back food many times, for fair reasons. I dont bitch, I just explain what is wrong. The only time I personally ever saw anyone spit in something (and this is after years in the bar and restaurant business) was when I was bartending at the Punchline (the old Northlake location that has been closed for years). A waitress spit in a customers beer for being rude when she picked it up. I had her fired on the spot. People who wait tables know sometimes it isnt all easy, and are usually not thrown off by the jerks…

Jim R

August 26th, 2011
11:04 am

If you pay to have your car fixed and it still won’t run you politely discuss the issue with your mechanic and nine times out of ten he will fix it and you will go away happy. The same goes for dinner. If there is a problem discuss it with a server and hopefully the message will be passed back in an informative manner to the chef who will fix or re-do. They typically want you happy(i.e. big tip) and want you to come back, I have seen chef’s present themselves at the table after a re-do and ask if it is better this time and is everything alright. May not work at Burgerdoodle but you get what you pay for.

Leelee

August 26th, 2011
11:23 am

What I do tends to vary with the type of restaurant and whether it’s my first visit or not.

If I’ve never been before, and it’s simply not good — as opposed to seriously mis-cooked — I probably will admit on asking that it’s not to my particular liking and see if something else on the menu is offered. Chances are if no one inquires or shows interest, I won’t be back. I’m not looking for cash back, however, and I never blame the server (even if the dish is cold, which may well be the server’s issue but I see nothing to gain by placing blame) because ultimately the server didn’t cook it. If it is seriously overcooked or undercooked to a danger point, not just a near miss, I will send it back. If it’s a near miss, I will eat it although I will mention to a server who inquires about “how it is” in a way that says it was just that, it was a near miss, so please convey that to the kitchen for future reference. The exception might be at a specialty steak house or a fish house, where I do expect the item to be more accurately prepared in terms of rareness or doneness.

For a place I know well and go often, it’s very different. Recently, I had a pizza at Shorty’s that I’ve had a dozen times in the last two years that was cooked bizarrely different — drowned in balsamic vinegar and enough pesto to coat 2 pounds of pasta and the pizza. It was inedible and I knew from past experience, it was not properly made, so after deigning to taste one confirming, disgusting bite, I sent it back after the waitress observed the obvious fact I wasn’t eating. They remade the pizza and it was better, though not what I’d enjoyed before. I’ll go back — because it was well handled — but I may avoid that pie for a while until I see someone else order it.

In all instances, however, I aim for polite and understanding as I’ve been on the kitchen and server ends. If I thought anyone in any place I went would do something disgusting in response, I would never go. Fast food — never!!!! My tip to the server never considers if the food was mishandled in the kitchen, although it does consider the server’s response to polite feedback.

Mike

August 26th, 2011
11:30 am

- I’ll send it back if the error is egregious enough. Otherwise, I’ll chalk it up to experience and make my decision whether to return or not.
- For all of those who claim that they “know” restaurant employees adulterate your food if you “do something they don’t like”. How about some proof or specifics, like restaurant names or persons responsible?
- And for those that claim to be eye witnesses to such adulteration, are you telling me you saw this occurring and let the food go out to the customer? That you did not alert the manager or call the police? Wow.

DW

August 26th, 2011
12:15 pm

I’ve only sent one item back before. I ordered a grilled chicken salad and what they put on top was the most disgusting gristle luke warm “chicken” pieces I have ever seen. I politely declined to have a replacement dish and just ate when I got home. It’s not worth it to have another dish made for you because who knows what they may do to it.

Wino

August 26th, 2011
12:38 pm

It has been my observation that steak temperature is frequently the issue. I am in a business that frequently entertains at steakhouses. I see people complain that their steak is not “mid rare” when it is a perfect pink-red in the center. If you frequently feel that your steak is undercooked, try upping the rare to mid rare, etc.

C from Marietta

August 26th, 2011
1:39 pm

If it is a place I frequent. I send it back with politely. If it’s a place I am just trying. I will not go back.

donkey200

August 26th, 2011
4:15 pm

Absolutely, nicely send it back. Don’t take more than a bite. I’ve worked in the industry too, and I’d much rather have happpy customers as my tips depended on it. The kitchen sometimes needs a slap on the wrist.

Atlantan

August 26th, 2011
4:59 pm

If it isn’t good send it back or don’t pay for it. Restaurant owners don’t put up with poor service from their vendors and nor should their customer.

JimmyZ

August 26th, 2011
5:24 pm

We were actually at Benihana in Alpharetta last night, and watched as the other couple sharing our chef’s performance dealt with a very bad situation. The gentleman spoke with our server, and explained that he and his wife would eat seafood, but wanted neither chicken nor beef, or any meat stock. He was very, very clear, asking several times if they had a soup that had a vegetable base.

They ordered seafood entrée’s and the show began. Before it started, the gentleman explained the same thing to the chef, going to great lengths to make it clear what they did not want to eat. Unfortunately, the chef’s command of English was lacking, because as soon as he began cutting up chicken for the fried rice, they tried to explain that they did not want chicken in theirs. He finishes fixing the rice. mixes the chicken in, and dumps it on the plate.

The couple was not very happy, and they explained to the server what was wrong when she came over. She took the plates, talked with the chef, and said the kitchen would prepare them some chicken free fried rice.

We talked with them, and they explained that they quit eating meat 11 years ago, so it wasn’t like a spur of the moment thing, they were serious about it. My wife and I were about a third of the way through our chicken fried rice when theirs arrived from the kitchen. They began eating, and had eaten several bites then the woman found chicken in theirs. It was fairly dark in the restaurant, and they hadn’t seen it. Apparently the kitchen had either made chicken fried rice, or had sent the same plates back out.

At this point, the gentleman tried to express his displeasure, and they finally seemed to get it. The redid their appetizer plates, and brought fried rice that was truly chicken free.

Toward the end of the meal, the manager, who spoke nearly no English at all, came by, nodding and smiling. When the man tried to explain what had happened, all he got in reply was, “you want more chicken rice to go, we can do that.” Seriously, I don’t think anyone in the building EVER got what they’d done.

So that brings up another point. What do you do when you can’t communicate the problem with anyone in the building, and you’re dropping a c-note on a dinner that has a huge problem?

Baltisraul

August 26th, 2011
6:44 pm

Send it back with grace, please.

Having been a waiter in my earlier years, people do take advantage. They will eat 3/4 of the meal and then say it was not cooked properly. But the best was, a woman sent her meal back because it did not look exactly like the picture on the menu. Mgt refused to give her a free meal. yes she wanted her meal free!!! Another lady, same table, want a 50% discount because her tarter sause came to the table 30 sec after her meal was served. Mgt asked them not to return to the resturant. They made a loud display and threw the place settings at the manager and the waitress before the police were called. Belive they did this for a living!

Deb

August 27th, 2011
7:13 am

The other night I ordered two of my fav’s. shrimp cocktail and a Caesar salad. The shrimp were overcooked, rubbery, and sliced in half, I guess to give the illusion of 6 shrimp rather than the three I actually got. Then came the Caesar salad in which the garlic seemed to have been replaced with sugar. I was missing the salty garlicky goodness,,, tasted like very bad bottled dressing. I had to say something to the waiter, as the shrimp was $18. and the salad $16. I did not ask for it to be replaced, I just said it was the worst Caesar Salad I’d ever had. All of a sudden the manager storms out, and instead of acting concerned about my meal, blurted out “so it’s the worst you’ve ever had?” assured me it made in-house, and I could have had anchovies upon request (they weren’t offered)! I very calmly suggested that perhaps the cook had mistaken sugar for salt, and it wasn’t inedible, it just wasn’t even close to a Caesar. He said he would take it off the bill and stormed off. I don’t know, maybe it was his mother’s recipe or something, and I offended him, but I have never been treated so rudely over a comment… don’t ask me how everything is, if you don’t want to know!
The rest of my party of seven said their food was below par, and the prices for entrees averaged $26!
Also, if you don’t finish your food because you really did’nt likeit

Edward

August 27th, 2011
11:11 am

Sometimes customer stupidity can’t be overcome by even the most thoughtful restaurant. Granted the couple at Benihana should have not had so much trouble conveying their wish, but the couple is equally ignorant for going to Benihana in the first place. I mean. look at the menu: the soup is beef stock based, nearly every entree is meat, the fried rice is clearly indicated on the menu as CHICKEN fried rice and it is an OPTIONAL item as the standard accompaniment is plain steamed rice. So, stupid couple makes the meal uncomfortable for the entire table. I would have asked to be seated at a different table away from stupid couple.

Carla

August 27th, 2011
12:18 pm

@edward. I have to agree with that. Some restaurants are much more able to accomodate special requests. This was NOT that kind of place. They’ve been “meat Free” for 11 years. Wouldn’t they have known better? Maybe they’ve never been to a place like this before?

deegee

August 27th, 2011
12:32 pm

I think that we are operating under the assumption that restaurant cooks are professionals. I don’t doubt that in many of the small, neighborhood high end places you will find a measure of professionalism in the kitchen. The chains are going to be staffed with rebellious high school dropouts with addiction problems. Tread lightly.

Mike

August 27th, 2011
1:02 pm

@deegee – How do you know what anybody’s education level is and how do you know if they have addiction problems? That’s a pretty blanket statement you have made for the industry. Perhaps you should tread lightly with your comments, unless you can back up your statement with proof.

Cheryl

August 27th, 2011
1:26 pm

Depends on who I’m with – I might not send the food back, but I’ll make sure I don’t spend money there again for a long time.

Praveen

August 27th, 2011
1:58 pm

There is a special place in hell for those servers who spit in food or do something vile in retaliation to how he is treated by a customer even if the customer is wrong on a certain day. I think an owner of a restaurnat should have zero tolerance for such stuff not just for the offender but for any employee who witnesses such stuff and does not report the waiter. If you really want to get back at the customer, MAN UP, and do what Judge Rheinhold’s character does in Fast Times and berate the customer to his or her face even if it means you risk losing your job. If you are generally a great waiter, you will not get fired for that. And if you do, some other owner will hire you.

As far as sending back food, it depends on the price point of the place. I am usually honest in my feedback but I am loathe to return food unless I feel really ripped off. I will just say “that’s OK, I dont like to waste food” if the item is OK and the price point is Chilis-Applebee level. Sometimes, I get comped a dessert or soft drink if I insist that it is OK not to replace it. That’s fine. Stuff happens at chains. But no excuse at expensive restaurants.

As far as steaks, I usually order on the rarer side of my preference spectrum as I rarely ever see it less cooked than I like and it is usually more. So even if I am fine with medium, I will always order medium rare.

Baltisraul

August 28th, 2011
9:13 am

Deb….I will bet that mgr is not at this location in a couple mons. Too bad you did not name the resturant. It could have saved the rest of us from a bad experience.

Lisa

August 28th, 2011
9:55 am

If I see that a customer is not finishing their dish, I will ask them if they didn’t care for it and offer to make them something else. And I instruct servers to do the same.
It’s hard to please everyone and while I don’t care for elaborate menu descriptions, it does help customers know what they are getting. If what is delivered doesn’t live up to that description in the customer’s mind, then be gracious and replace it.

Skibop

August 28th, 2011
10:03 am

Eat at home, restaurants are nasty!!

deegee

August 28th, 2011
10:10 am

Mike, I have worked in the front and back of enough restaurants to know that the people working in the kitchen and in many cases the floor of many popular restaurants are people that struggle to conform to society’s norms. Certainly not ALL restaurant workers fit that classification but many of them do.

Allyanaz

August 28th, 2011
10:12 am

If I ordered something *specifically*, i.e., a *rare* steak and it comes back too done, or “no cheese” and it comes with the cheese, I send it back. But I’m a senior citizen and folks will just write off the complaint to “some nasty old lady.” Retaliation? First time is a mistake, second time…I can handle that, too. No restaurant wants all of its customers hearing what I have to say if they get it wrong the second time. Not only am I doing them a favor by being there, I’m paying them.

Anita

August 28th, 2011
10:16 am

If your food is not to your liking or just isn’t right, I thinik it is ok to send it back but be nice about it. You don’t want to offend anyone who is handling your food. There have been times where I have sent my food back and asked to have it taken off of my bill because I fear retaliation from the cook,lol. Always be nice to your wait staff and hopefully your food will be safe.

ATLnative

August 28th, 2011
10:20 am

In high school I worked one month at a Pizza Hut in Lawrenceville. I personally witnessed a lady bring back her pizza that was a Pepperoni lovers because it didn’t have enough Pepperoni. She was rude and had a terrible attitude. She went next door to roger while pizza being made. I then saw a 250lbs sweaty guy reach into his pants and created the grossest pizzza ever. He titled his pizza the “Pube lovers pizza.”. I resigned the next day and haven’t once tried Pizza Hut since. Thus I’m really nice to any handling food and never complain!!

My Two Cents

August 28th, 2011
10:25 am

We were celebrating my mother’s 94 birthday and went to the higher priced Italian chain restaurant. It was a busy day due to graduations and we were seated in the bar area. The bartender had enough trying to keep up with making drinks much less trying to assist the other diners in the bar area. The manager did not send anyone over to help him. We had been there for 15 minutes and had been served our water. My D-I-L requested lemon at the time it was served but had not received it. I realized we were in for a miserable experience if something was not done immediately. I went to the podium and no one was there. After a few minutes the greeter came back and I asked her to send the manager to our table. He was there in a flash. I explained the situation (mother’s birthday) and how we had looked forward to our celebration but apparently things were not going to be as pleasant as we thought. I did not blame the bartender but stated he obviously was overworked and could not keep up with all of his assignments by himself. I requested another server who would have the time to wait on us properly.The manager apologized profusely and immediately had other staff members to our table with water refills and bread with seasonings. He thanked me for alerting him so he could turn the train wreck around. He came back several times during our meal and asked if we needed anything. When the check was delivered he also was there and apologized again for the our experience. He comp’d us our wine and desserts. If you sense you are going to have a negative experience let the manager know immediately and see how he handles the situation. We had a great time once all the issues had been resolved and we plan on going back there today for a family celebration.

Melaine

August 28th, 2011
10:40 am

My first “paycheck” job was McDonald’s. The customer service, food quality and cleanliness rules were drummed into us from the first day but that was over 4 decades ago and things have definitely changed. I waited tables to put myself through college, everything from BBQ and pancake houses to restaurants I had to pay to work there. If you think that the “something extra” when your plate comes back is an urban legend, think again. I never request food be redone, I do ask that the food be returned and removed from the bill. Rarely do I send anything away and even more rarely do I get a visit from the management because I do not make an issue about it. Being a great tipper, I’ve noticed a few disturbing incidents when using a debit card to pay for my meal. Several times over the last year when reconciling my statement, I have found that restaurant charges have been padded by a few dollars. Keep your receipts. The restaurants were happy to correct the transaction and I do not eat there anymore or I use cash.

Vandstra

August 28th, 2011
10:56 am

I send it back but don’t ask for them to bring it back. I will go hungry at that point and politely enjoy a drink while my companions eat.

If they screw something up to the point I feel the need to send it back I don’t give them a second chance. I also expect my portion of the meal to be compensated.

Lisa C.

August 28th, 2011
10:58 am

Shaggy is exactly correct.

common sense ain't common

August 28th, 2011
11:00 am

Send the food back at a high-end restaurant where cooks actually pride themselves on their food & love their jobs. Otherwise, maybe complain to the manager, but DON’T ASK FOR MORE FOOD. I have worked in restaurants where people will mess with your food. IT’S NOT AN URBAN LEGEND!! The cooks may not put bodily fluids in it, but they do all kinds of things in retaliation (ex. mix your drinks, don’t fill your cup up all the way or mess your order up in a drive-thru, etc.) Customers often forget that restaurant workers are humans too who don’t deserve disrespect. They serve you food, but they’re not your servants. LESSON: BE POLITE ( or take your lazy azz to the kitchen & learn how to cook)

Tina

August 28th, 2011
11:22 am

Never a good idea to upset the food handler or your beutician!! Ever!

Charlie Tighe

August 28th, 2011
11:26 am

The LAST thing a restaurant wants is an unsatisfied customer. It is really hard to get people to come in the door, and repeat business is essential its survival. Explain the problem, send it back, and ask for something else, preferably that is fairly quick (not a pork chop)… Any decent restaurant would prefer you send it back than walk out complaining – advertising is expensive, and it is way too hard to fight word of mouth. A satisfied customer is the best salesman…

D. Rowan

August 28th, 2011
11:33 am

I’ll always send back food the violates my dietary restrictions. For example, I do not eat ham or bacon, if I order a bake potato with just butter and it arrives loaded, I’m sending it back. I’m always polite because my intention is not to get anyone in trouble but, I want the meal that I ordered…..the way I ordered it. If that’s a problem then I certainly will not return to that establishment!!!

Simple...

August 28th, 2011
11:41 am

Treat someone like a butthole, get treated like a butthole.

A kitchen can prepare food to perfection 10 out of 10 times and still there will be a couple out there that won’t be satisfied. Taste is subjective. More times than not, it’s not the kitchen’s fault. It’s just a matter of taste.

The bottom line is that if you want something done the way you want it, you have to do it yourself.

Rafe Hollister

August 28th, 2011
11:42 am

I never send back food. I’ve listened to too many restaurant staff tell stories about what they do to food in retaliation. Arrogant and snooty people really get it.

Katz

August 28th, 2011
11:46 am

I send stuff back if it’s not right. Over cooked, under cooked, not fresh, too salty, cold, … If the wait staff is not on my side(argues or defends) I speak to the manager. If the manager argues or defends, I speak to the owner. If the owner argues or defends, I make a web site and I post to all review sites. Adams Garden of Eatin was the all time WORST. Now out of business… owner was a fool.

On the flip side…I often tip 25 to 35% for great food/service.

Here’s one for you. I ordered a Reuben sandwich in a restaurant. It came with BACON! PORK on a Reuben? I politely suggested that they had brought the wrong sandwich. “No, that’s the way we make them, take it or leave it.”

Next time you get something that doesn’t taste right and they argue. Ask them to try it in front of you. It always puts things in perspective.

Monte

August 28th, 2011
11:47 am

Some years ago I dated a man who had a unique way of ordering a steak( it bordered on the rude, but he always got what he ordered). He would tell the waitress,” I want a ribeye. I want it well done. If its red, it’s not dead and I don’t eat it.”

journalist jimmy smith

August 28th, 2011
12:28 pm

hartebeest is hard to cook. once jimmy smith ordered hartebeest and it came to the table before its time. jimmy smith sent it back to the kitchen for more time on the grill. when it came back it was crispy and charred with little wisps of smoke coming out. the next time jimmy smith sent it back it was prepared as a delicious gumbo. there are ways to handle disappointment and still remain a classy journalist.

Hillbilly D

August 28th, 2011
12:32 pm

I’ve never had a meal so bad that I had to send it back. Just seems like making a mountain out of a molehill, to me. If I don’t like it, I just won’t go back. End of problem.

Praveen

August 28th, 2011
12:53 pm

LIke I said, if I am a manager or owner and see a staffer spit in the food or do something worse, I will beat the crap out of the guy when he is alone before firing his ass. Such people exhibit a total lack of character. If the customer is a jerk, be man enough make the customer know their tone is not acceptable. There are ways of being condescending to the customer without getting into trouble with your manager. But breaking the food safety trust is something that should not be tolerated.

Chuck s

August 28th, 2011
12:53 pm

I worked in the food service industry for almost 30 years. While I NEVER tainted any ones food we all made a joke about how nice it would be. There were other ways like slower service and short shots on the cocktail. If it was a real problem I always wanted to know as i take pride in presenting my guests with the best quality I could

Valerie Breslow

August 28th, 2011
12:54 pm

If it’s inedible I send it back. I always order beef medium-well and specify “No Red”. If it’s pink or brown no problem but if it’s red it’s going back.

Praveen

August 28th, 2011
1:00 pm

For some reason, I feel ChikFilA is one place where the employees wont dare spit in the food. In a way, aren’t cheap places like Waffle House safer to eat at without fear of retaliation by the employees? Everything is done in front of you. Maybe the storage of food may not be the cleanest.

Restaurant Insider

August 28th, 2011
1:05 pm

Some items must be sent back in order to remedy the situation – for instance, a steak ordered well done, comes out pink…send it back and allow the cooks to cook it up some. But when an item is returned for something that you can do yourself (for instance a garnish that you asked to be left off) here’s an idea, just kindly removed it yourself and mention to the server…would you rather pick off those tomatoes or do you want someone else’s hands on your food…I’ve been in the business for over 20 years and almost all cooks have a genuine interest in preparing the food correctly the first time…if they have to remake something they definitely don’t want to make it a 3rd time…meaning you can have confidence in sending it back…kitchens are fast paced, action packed environments, there is very little time for hurt feelings or retribution….they just want the plate prepared and OUT of the kitchen… Katz sounds like a servers nightmare….and Melanie, things have changed, particularly the advent of Debit cards…Banking institutions run what they call “authorizations” when your card is swiped….Visa/MC have to assume a tip so extra is added to the “authorization”….a few days later when the “actual” charge appears it replaces the “pending transaction”….this has occurred for years but now that everyone has “on-line” banking and text alerts folks are finally seeing what goes on…No one is being over-charged you just aren’t giving the system time to work. Don’t like it, use a credit card or cash instead of your debit card.

Big Jim

August 28th, 2011
1:05 pm

I have a rule that I always stick with, based on a very bad experience.

If the food is not up to par, then I will send it back. ONCE. If the replacement is also unacceptable, then I just ask for the charge to be removed from the bill, and make it a point to speak with the manager. I made the mistake once of sending something back a second time, and the replacement was obviously tampered with. I’d rather go hungry than have that experience again.

marc

August 28th, 2011
1:14 pm

A great restaurant would want to know their food was not pleasing or off. Yes, It is abused by many patrons, but a legit complaint should be concern for a restaurant and not be taken lightly. The customer is doing the restaurant a favor by sending stuff back. It gives them an opportunity to get it right and stop the chance of negative word of mouth. The way a restaurants handles this problem will determine success or failure. I have never gone back to a restaurant that confronted me about sending food back. Simply put, problems like this is where a restaurant can shine. It’s how you handle problems that will create a loyal customer base.

Marc

August 28th, 2011
1:14 pm

On the other side some people should not go out to eat. The other night someone complained about the food being too spicy and there should have been a warning on the menu. Nothing that I’ve eaten there even comes close to being spicy. I politely mentioned that one person spiciness was bland to another. They emphatically stated that they didn’t think so. I had the dish remade and did something I never do and tried their old food. There was a little bit on the tongue but that was it. Same goes for the temperature in the place

stan

August 28th, 2011
1:14 pm

So maybe I am a different kind of “sender-backer” My biggest pet peeve is when I order a beer/or wife a glass of wine….or even an appetizer…..and because the restaurant is busy, they try to bring out the appetizer or beer/wine WITH the entree.

I send it back every time…..a restaurant owner should want you to get your libation as soon as possible since you are more likely to order an additional one…..as for an appetizer coming out with an entree, that is just poor form

KA

August 28th, 2011
1:19 pm

If the order is wrong, I send it back. If the order is correct but the food is unacceptable, then I pay for the meal, and tell the manager that I will not be returning and I will warn everyone I know to stay away..

USMC

August 28th, 2011
1:20 pm

What did you really expect from Benihana?

They cook on an open grill where different kinds of meats, beef, chicken and fish, are mixed anyway, so did you really expect a Vegan or Vegetarian meal at BENIHANA???

It is a (FAUX) JAPANESE restaurant, so you MIGHT find a bit of a language barrier, don’t you think?

nora

August 28th, 2011
1:43 pm

@carla roqs:

If you send food back “fairly often”, as you say, then don’t be fooled for a minute that you are a welcome guest in any restaurant that you frequent. Just saying – from the experience of years in food service – that “nice” doesn’t cut it for the perpetually finicky diner. And don’t EVEN fool yourself about how the restaurants you frequent pay their kitchen staff so well that they are happy to recook your food over and over again. Dream on, honey. There is NO amount of money that will make a frazzled cook happy to recook the food of a frequent complainer like you, no matter how “nice” you think you are about it. It puts the kitchen in the weeds to recook your food, backing up their other orders. Sure, if they cooked it incorrectly, it is their responsiblity to fix it (although you can’t ask for a smile with that, sorry). On the other hand someone who admittedly sends back food frequently is just a PITA because there is no way that you food is cooked completely wrong that often (as opposed to everyone else’s food…..you get it?)

Anyway, you can continue in your little dream world about how highly paid kitchen staff eagerly await your arrival in their restaurant so they can recook whatever it is you are going to send back that night. LOLOLOLOL!!!!!!

ttruth

August 28th, 2011
2:48 pm

To think that restaurant employees get away with contaminating food because a customer complained about the food is horribly disgusting. A good restaurant owner should have camera monitoring the preparation. Personally, I prefer to eat and drink at home. You can find thousands of yummy recipes on line. Friends who like to get together should consider entertaining and cooking at home.
Years ago, I was walking past a beautiful, cozy little restaurant that opens late in the afternoon I always wanted to stop but usually to busy to return.
While walking past the restaurant one day I was sickened at what I was witnessing. The server was standing at the counter daydreaming and picking her nose. When my eyes and twisted frown met hers, she continued picking.
With the knowledge that many people in the food service industry do not care about hygiene and cleanliness I decided my health and the health of my family and friends are more important than dinning out.

stan

August 28th, 2011
4:01 pm

So maybe I am a different kind of “sender-backer” My biggest pet peeve is when I order a beer/or wife a glass of wine….or even an appetizer…..and because the restaurant is busy, they try to bring out the appetizer or beer/wine WITH the entree.

I send it back every time…..a restaurant owner should want you to get your libation as soon as possible since you are more likely to order an additional one…..as for an appetizer coming out with an entree, that is just poor form

carla roqs

August 29th, 2011
7:46 am

SR, i agree with you, i tend to, kinda HAVE to tip well.

carla roqs

August 29th, 2011
7:52 am

nora, as i am fortunate enough to dine at many different restaurants rather than having to dine at the same ones all of the time– your comment is ludicrous. you do not know me, i do not wish to know you and you havent a clue as to why i send food back. i have never worked in the restaurant industry, i am aware of their pay and i am a great tipper so that if i do return to a restaurant (and i do to the good ones) i get excellent service. also, at some places, i will send the food back and not have it replaced because if they cannot get a simple order correct- why try again. i would think you are in the industry and one of those people who enjoy messing up someone’s food because you did not do your job well.

nora

August 29th, 2011
1:28 pm

@ carla roqs: Well you don’t know me either and it is ludicrous that you would accuse someone you don’t even know of messing up someone’s food because I “didn’t do my job well”. I’m not sure how you projected the fact that I have years of experience in the restaurant industry into an assumption that I would “mess up someone’s food”. As for not doing my job well – the restaurants I have run would speak for themselves in that area (numbers don’t lie!) So you, my friend, don’t have a clue what you are talking about.

But one thing I do know is this: someone who sends their food back “frequently”, as you already said you do, is a hard to please customer. All the tips in the world don’t make the kitchen glad to see your plate coming back yet again (even with tip share, that little “extra” you tip the waitstaff only trickles down to the kitchen staff. Believe me, they’d much rather NOT have to recook your food!) If you send back food more frequently than other people do then you are finicky (either that, or you eat in horrendous restaurants that can never get it right.) And you can fool yourself all day long about how the staff doesn’t mind finicky diners but trust me on this – they detest you!

Just saying!

Praveen

August 29th, 2011
5:09 pm

Carlaroq, can you give examples of the times when you send back food since you say you send them back frequently. I think the kind of restaurant will be helpful too. The more expensive an entree is, the more demanding one any reasonable person can get. If the server actually gets parts of your order wrong, then you have a right to send it back as you tip them well. But if it is over the food not tasting quite right, then it is based on how expensive those entrees are and how bad those entrees really taste since it is the ownership that takes a hit.

Louise

August 29th, 2011
11:05 pm

Nora – which restaurants do you run? Because I want to make sure not to go there.

carla roqs

August 30th, 2011
8:06 am

praveen, if i order a steak rare and it is not cooked properly, i may request another or i may just send it back and not have it replaced. if there is something that looks interesting on the menu, but i am not sure about it- the waiter will generally tell me if i do not like it, they will gladly let me switch it out. if i order asparagus and i receive a few very thin and overcooked branches(?) smile, and i have eaten there before and know they have better, ive asked for a replacement. i am a little difficult, but not impossible. i like certain restaurants and i truly get great service most of the time. if i do not like the service, i simply do not return. i work for my money and it is important to me as to the service i receive be it in a retail/grocery store, or a restaurant. several times a manager has come out to see how to please me, be it before i order, to determine i like the cut of the steak or after ive sent something back- and they always agree with me and either waive the bill or offer free food. anytime a bill is waived and the wait staff was really cool, i will leave a 30 percent tip. if i am not happy, i leave 15. at most places i leave 20 percent. i am a true ga peach and i can cook. i like good food. i know how much waiters make, so i always take care of the good ones. not sure why nora hit me, but as it was a monday morning after the hurricane, (im temporarily transplanted) she totally added to a bad mood and i hit her back. honestly though, her opinion does not matter, and her attitude are indicative of places i would either not like to frequent or not do a second visit to. the point of jon’s blog was to ask where we draw the line. i think i’d prob just draw the line at dealing with people in the service industry who are like nora. i am tired. it is tuesday and a new day. everyone have a happy one!

carla roqs

August 30th, 2011
8:08 am

her attitude ‘is’ indicative, originally i wrote her opinion and her attitude are indicative and i changed the sentence.