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Waiter, waiter! November 26, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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This is interesting, chefs, waters and others involved in food and catering (the Guardian uses the term ‘hospitality professionals’) discuss how to handle a problem with food in a restaurant.

This came up in comments some time ago and I related the experience of getting hands down the worst chowder in the world – it looked like something from Alien was lurking in the reddy brown depths of what was laughably called a soup, and where one of the group I was with, a good friend who happens to teach home economics and related areas had no qualms about demanding our money back, and got it too.

I’m a quiet life kind of a person and I suspect had it just been me et al, well, soup would have been left but no fuss made. Which isn’t great.

In the piece the person recalls how at a local café they were served up a vegetarian dish which was nothing but salt.

Had a similar experience in Barcelona with what could be described as the most aggressively salted salad I’ve ever eaten. I figured that was just the style of that dish. It wasn’t pleasant but eat it I did.

Now put aside the temporary health implications, but the advice was useful from those who produce food…

“If someone is paying for something that they think is inedible, they should feel free to voice their opinion.”

“When I ask her about my salty meal, Martin says I should absolutely have sent the dish back, especially considering I’d had it many times without issue. She adds that in such a situation, if offered a replacement, she would advise asking for a different dish, as any dressings or sauces in my original order would be from a daily batch and the same problem would be likely to recur.”

“hospitality veteran Dave Hinnrichs has done every food service job you can think of, as well as some you probably can’t. He believes valid reasons for complaint include food not being cooked properly, dishes not matching their menu description, and yes, over-seasoning to the point of discomfort. As a punter, he’s comfortable raising issues about food, but always in a “courteous and professional manner”.”

That said one food writer thought it best not to send food back short of finding foreign objects in it.

Comments»

1. Mat - November 26, 2021

I never send food back but I have got up and left without paying (obviously didn’t eat the food). I once had an actual tug of war with a hippy cafe owner in Taranaki (NZ) who had put ketchup all over my plate and I complained, I was like “do not take it back” and he was like “no I’ll take it back and scrape it off”. The plate went flying and smashed on the floor. So I just got up with my partner and we walked out. The cafe owner chased us out the door shouting at me that I was a nutter 😅🤣

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2. alanmyler - November 26, 2021

I’m really struggling to think of times in my life where the food was inedible. I actually can’t think of any occasion where I sent it back, or wanted to. I mean I’ve had food that was bland or whatever, but not inedible. Speaking of soup, probably the worst experience that I can actually remember was the vegetable soup in a place called the Gandon Inn which I think was somewhere in Kildare or Laois maybe, on the old road to Cork in pre-motorway days. Said soup looked like it had been made out of yellow highlighters rather than vegetables, it was almost luminous. We were starving so we did eat it, but we never stopped there again on our journeys to Cork. Like yourself I wouldn’t be one for confrontation in a cafe or restaurant. I’ve seen people act the maggot and send food back, well I won’t say needlessly but certainly on one occasion I had the same dish and it was grand. Some customers just seem to need to exercise their privilege. Not that anyone should be expected to eat crap, but there’s give and take.

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rockroots - November 26, 2021

“Some customers just seem to need to exercise their privilege. ”

Yep, that’s a big part of it. Although I do recall in one particular job (not food-related), the stated customer relations policy was to welcome complaints – the complaint can be resolved and the customer sent home happy, but the dissatisfied customer who just puts up with it won’t come back and will spread a bad word-of-mouth reputation.

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EWI - November 26, 2021

but the dissatisfied customer who just puts up with it won’t come back and will spread a bad word-of-mouth reputation.

This is how it usually goes in my experience, bar a female acquaintance of mine who has always seemed to quite enjoy being rude and demanding to staff (and stealing the cutlery). But, enough about my mother.

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3. Alibaba - November 26, 2021

On the rare occasion I dislike restaurant food, I don’t send it back for fear putting a spoil on the evening in case my disapproval irritates family or friends.

It so happened recently that after an IFI visit I went to a restaurant nearby. I chose not to have a main course as I had eaten earlier. Instead the starter was awful and left mostly uneaten. But the waitress kept inviting me to have a main course and was very quick to keep pouring wine from the bottle (even before our glasses were empty).

I was thinking, but not saying “Thank you for your attention, but please leave us alone for the rest of our stay”. Couldn’t come up with anything more courteous and appropriate to say. What to do eh?

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WorldbyStorm - November 28, 2021

If the person doesn’t get the message after the second time it’s difficult to think of something to say that doesn’t sound rude. Perhap, I don’t know, ‘Thanks a million, grand for now, I’ll wave at you if I need any more…’. Does that sound okay? But from what you’re saying they won’t stop persisting.

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NFB - November 29, 2021

I had a similar experience when away for a weekend earlier in the year, with our table getting, well, pestered every two minutes by staff. They were all teenagers and all trainees, I think they had been told to “float” and were just looking for something to do. The following morning at breakfast we got served by seven different people. It got quite annoying, but we didn’t say anything: I’ve been in that position, and if you can hide the nerves you’re doing well, you don’t need someone telling you to leave them alone, even if its done politely (and I’d have to say to five different people).

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WorldbyStorm - November 29, 2021

Yeah, that’s true, has to be a deliberate tactic

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Alibaba - November 29, 2021

Yep, it can be a hard one to call. Thanks for the thoughts anyway.

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4. Dr Nightdub - November 29, 2021

Had a memorable meal in Bari in the south of Italy a few years back.

Her nibs ordered a pizza, when it arrived the surface was swimming in oil. She went through a mountain of napkins trying to soak it up but the damage had been done, it was inedible. My pasta was fine.

She didn’t send it back but when it came time to leave, we told the owner we weren’t paying for the pizza and explained why. Yer man goes “It’s meant to be like that” or some such nonsense. Up to now, the conversation had been in English. But when she heard that, her nibs, who lived in Genoa for a year, let rip in fluent angry Italian, she absolutely shredded him, went from her normal placid self to ferocious in 10 seconds flat. Yer man turns to me in some fond hope of male solidarity or something but thankfully my tourist-level Italian came up with “Parla a la signora” (You talk to the lady). No charge for the pizza.

Dunno what crushed him more, having strips torn off him by a woman, or having strips torn off him in his own language, but it’s still my all-time favourite worst meal.

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WorldbyStorm - November 29, 2021

That’s a classic! Nicely done too.

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5. 6to5against - November 29, 2021

My rule is to complain politely if a problem can be easily fixed, but to bother otherwise. And if ‘fixed’ means starting a new meal from scratch so that I sit looking at everybody else eating and then when they’re done they have to sit and look at me eat, that doesn’t really work. Better to chalk it up to experience, make the most of it, and move on. But obviously I’m not talking about inedible food there

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6. NFB - November 29, 2021

I’ve sent back undercooked or cold food a few times, as politely as possible. One thing I can’t find myself able to do is to send back overcooked food, especially steak, since I know that:
a: The meat will probably get thrown out
b: I’ll have to wait however long for a new one
c: the meat isn’t actually inedible, and I’m hungry

In terms of horror stories, when abroad once we asked to move table because we noticed a line of ants marching up our table leg. The owners were gobsmacked and apologized profusely. We ate quickly and left quickly. And no, nothing was comped.

The “Funny looking back” story I’ll always tell is the fish my GF ordered for lunch in Dubrovnik. The price was significant on the menu, but she wasn’t complaining when she was served this enormous piece of seafood. Only when the bill came it was three times what we were expecting. It turns out the price on the menu was per KG, only this wasn’t explained to us, and wasn’t clear on the menu, imo (the waiter had poor English, but insisted he had been clear, the menu had no English). We argued about it, but the restaurant wouldn’t budge and we paid. I’ll joke about it now though, it was a 50e or something fish that she had to debone herself (which she insisted was how it was meant to be served)!

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WorldbyStorm - November 29, 2021

And waste is a factor. Yes, if it’s something that isn’t inedible that’s a different matter. Ants. Get a lot of that in Spain but it’s not great.

That’s incredible re the fish story. 50 euros is robbery. But what can you do?

Completely agree re inedible. Was in Paris a few years back, in a pub and had asked for a chicken dish. Started in on it and discovered it wasn’t cooked through, so sat there wondering what to do but eventually just had to send it back. Didn’t really want another dinner so went off and got some food in a shop – crackers and so on. But wasn’t sure if I’d eaten some of the uncooked chicken so that wasn’t a great evening and had to travel by train the next morning. Thankfully all grand but it’s made me very cautious about chicken eating out, probably excessively cautious.

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NFB - November 29, 2021

Chicken is a different matter though, in fairness.

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WorldbyStorm - November 29, 2021

Big time. I’m not a big red meat eater and I’ve been cutting down to next to nothing on it over the last decade. Which means I’d tend to have it when eating out on the odd occasion. But since that experience I’d be inclined to look at chicken a bit differently.

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7. roddy - November 29, 2021

Myself and Mrs Roddy spent a week in Jersey one time.It coincided with the anniversary of the battle of Britain coincidently and there seemed to be a high concentration of elderly British army veteran types in our hotel for some reason.Think of “the Major” in Fawlty towers!.Most of the hotel staff were black (I think Portuguese maybe?)However what I found most unsettling was the absolute contempt that the colonel Blimps showed towards the black waiters,showing them no civility at all.The role of master and servant was being played out in front of me and it was not a nice spectacle to behold.

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WorldbyStorm - November 29, 2021

Sorry to hear that toddy. Were they officers or rank and file do you know? I’m very interesting in aviation and have spent more hours than I care to mention in museums in England and elsewhere looking at aircraft, not least WWII aircraft and I’ve generally found the people there, particularly those who are elderly from that vintage, to be quite pleasant but I guess in certain contexts some would be abysmal in the way you describe.

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8. roddy - November 29, 2021

I would have thought officer types.As an aside the Jersey war tunnels are a must see for any visitors as they tell the whole story of the WW2 German occupation and dont shy away from the levels of collaboration that went on.

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WorldbyStorm - November 29, 2021

Interesting re them being officers. Always been interested in the situation of Jersey under occupation but never been. The issue of collaboration, I see even now efforts to downplay it but it was a reality (as was resistance to them). Also I hear the Nazi rocket launching sites on the French coast are well worth a look.

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