From Access Atlanta, this nice guide about how to deal with sending food back, and a glimpse into the scam that waiters all over have experienced at one point or another – the slimebag who deliberately eats most of the meal only to send it back in order to get free food.
Normally, I only quote the first paragraph and then send you to the site, but in this case, I’m going to quote some of the middle of the article because it best embodies the spirit of the piece:
5. You just don’t like the food. The sauce is a little salty. The chicken lacks flavor. There’s a spice in there you don’t appreciate. Should you return any dishes for these reasons?
No, but if the waiter asks how you like the food, be honest.
I recently ate at the restaurant John Dory Oyster Bar in New York. I started with two small plates and ended with a soup called “lobster panade” for my entree.
The waiter had warned me the soup was thin and didn’t have any lobster meat, and the dish proved him a man of his word.
It was a russet broth made from the deeply roasted shells, with a caramelized — almost burnt — flavor lurking inside. I didn’t find it appealing.
When the waiter came to ask how it was, I responded, “Fine.” I wasn’t going to lie and praise it, but I wasn’t going to make a fuss and complain. Fine was an honest response.
“Just fine?” he asked, astutely picking up the clues. “We can always get you something else.”
I insisted I was copacetic. Then he said something really smart. “Just flag me down if you change your mind.”
After five minutes of pushing the soup around, I called the waiter over and ordered chorizo-stuffed squid. I loved this dish. “Are you going to finish the soup?” he asked. When I said “no,” he quietly cleared it away.
The bill came, and the waiter told me he didn’t charge me for the soup. “You didn’t like it, so you shouldn’t have to pay for it,” he insisted.
This, people, is the definition of good service.
That said, I was ready to pay for the soup.
All you can expect a restaurant to do is replace a dish you return. Do not expect them to take it off the bill, or offer free dessert or drinks. If that happens, then appreciate the hospitality and reward the restaurant with your continued business.
This passage is great not only because it shows the spirit of cooperation that should exist between the diner and the waiter, but it also points out the importance of reading the guest and acting appropriately when it seems that the guest is struggling with a dish.
Sometimes, it’s the inflection of the voice when the guest says “Fine”. They can say it with a big smile and a twinkle in their eye, but this is rare. Usually, when a guest says “Fine”, there’s a downward lilt to the word. The eyes don’t quite meet yours and the wise waiter will take the cue and dig deeper.
There can also be an awkward moment when the guest has expressed some measure of dissatisfaction, but doesn’t want something for free or cause a scene. I have actually had a guest or two take offense when the item is taken off of the bill. The best way to forestall this is to withhold that you are taking the item off of the bill until the actual presentation of the bill, unless you sense that you need to immediately let them know that they aren’t going to pay for the meal. I’m referring to someone who is clearly uncomfortable with sending something back. Sometimes you can make them defensive for the rest of the meal if you go back and forth with them about taking the item off of the bill – “I’ve taken this off of the bill”. “Please don’t. I’m not looking for a freebie”. “But it’s our policy to do it”. “I don’t want you to do that”….and so on. This can go on so long that you’ve now made a dicey situation worse by doing the right thing.
Instead, as you present the bill, you thank them for being honest, saying something like, “Most people don’t bother to tell us when we fall short of our standards. Thank you for being honest. I’ve taken the dish off of the bill because we don’t want you to pay for something that you didn’t like and didn’t even finish”. Most of the time, they’ve mellowed out in the time it took to get to the bill and they won’t protest too strongly. When they say, “I don’t want something for free”, I’ve said something like, “I know that, but this is a thank you for helping us identify a problem that needs to be addressed”. Usually, at this stage, they’ll thank you, being glad that you didn’t put them on the spot before the meal was over.
When do you let them know immediately that you are taking a dish off of the menu and when do you wait? There’s no one answer; you’ll have to rely on your instincts. Go with the flow and try to factor in the diner’s mood throughout the dinner.
To read the rest of this great article, go here:
If you are a diner, this is a must read.
From The Food Network
BTW, there are some hilarious actual food products pictured there. Everyone is advised to check it out!