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Complaining in a restaurant

Discussion in 'Cookery' started by Tartuffe, Apr 28, 2011.

  1. Tartuffe

    Tartuffe Occasional commenter

    How good are you at complaining if food is not up to standard?
    I ask this as we have just come back from 4 days in Paris. We ate out each evening in the Latin Quarter where we could look at three course set menus for between 11 and 16 euros. Three nights out of four we were delighted at the results.
    Our second night was really poor - one dish was cold - stone cold; a steak frites had chips that were still raw inside and a sauce au poivre which had never seen a peppercorn in its life. Profiteroles were not properly thawed and the crepe one had for desert could have come from Michelin. We should have walked out, but patiently pointed out each problem - but couldn't wait for a whole plat to be recooked. That was another problem - courses being brought out at random times so we never had everyone eating at the same time.
    We ended up having a big argument with the head waiter over the bill, and eventually knocked about a quarter off the price. Luckily both my wife and I are fluent French speeakers so could hold our ground.
    So, how good are you at sticling up for good food and service.
  2. I worked in restaurants for many years and I know how dificult people can find it to complain if anything goes wrong.
    Firstly, please don't take it out on the waiter/ess - it's not their fault (unles they have spilled something on you)
    Don't shout, don't be rude. Ask to see whoever is in charge , quietly point out the problem and ask for it to be rectified. Hopefully that will sort it out. Don't wait until the end of the meal to complain about the starter - it is too late for the restaurant to do anything about it then.
    Be specific - don't just say it's horrible - what exactly is the problem? Tell them. If the restaurant can't put it right to your satisfaction, ask to have the offending item from the bill.
    I have been on the receiving end of hideous customers who were certain they are right, but telling the waitress that the food isn't fit for a dog is unlikely to get you the result you are looking for - unless you want to be banned.
    If the restaurant is uncooperative, stand your ground but do it quietly and politely. You can of course refuse to pay for the dish that wasn't right but don't expect them to reduce the bill overall. I have seen too many customers who have eaten everything on their plates and then refuse to pay because they said it was carp.....and these were not greasy spoon restaurants either.
    Lastly, remember that things can go wrong - chefs and restaurant staff are not robots! ( If you think teaching is a stressful job try working in a kitchen.) A little bit of politeness and a smile will go a long way towards solving problems and ensure that you will be welcomed back.
    No, I have never spat in a customer's soup but it has been tempting at times!
  3. I'm very good, calm and polite but firm.
    As said above, in the first instance not at the end when time to pay comes.
    Thankfully it's not a skill I've required often.
  4. We ate in a local posh place last month. I ordered fish in Bearnaise sauce, Climber had an oily fish in a tomato sauce.
    As we sat there we became aware of an unpleasant smell. It began to become much more overpowering.
    Another couple caught our attention, and asked if we could smell it "It's like an overdose of Fabreeze" she said. It did too! It became horribly, horribly overpowering and we began to get the giggles.
    It got worse..... I suddenly realised what the smell was and why it was so naggingly familiar.... my fish came out to the table and the smell came with it! The hideously overpowering smell was matched in by the jaw dropping tarragon flavour in the sauce!
    This is how I complained:
    I asked the waitress to ask the chef what kind of tarragon they were using! Turned out he was using fresh tarragon especially ordered from an exclusive supplier. He came out to ask why I was complaining and we had a long conversation - another couple joined in as they too were feeling somewhat overcome! I asked why he was using fresh tarragon in such huge amounts - he said it was the preferred way as dried had a much more pronounced flavour!!! I explained that he had that backwards and that dried was used in order to impart a more delicate flavour as the fresh herb can be overpowering... nope! He wasn't having that at all!
    He also said that tarragon was very seasonal and so he was using it whilst it was available. Well, I know it has a picking season as long as your arm, I grow it! But March isn't included.... I told him he had hot house tarragon that must have been forced and that it was very strong and quite bitter... nope! That wasn't right either!
    He went on to say that as it was French tarragon not the more rigorous and strongly flavoured Russian it was always used in abundance... I did explain he had that backwards, Russian tarragon has a more astringent taste but French is stringer, but he wasn't having it!
    The chef absolutely insisted there was nothing wrong with the dish and I explained that not only was the dish inedible but the smell of the tarragon was overpowering the restaurant. A couple on a third table joined in, agreeing that they felt queasy because of the smell. He denied this.... he must have become inured to it in the small kitchen......
    The fish was utterly inedible but the chef just wouldn't hear anything said against his new signature dish (Oh bad Pobble, it was his favourite recipe)! By then we had had enough, so we left, paying only for the starters.
    I read an article in the local newspaper a couple of weeks ago - one of the other people there was the local food writer. He described the scene quite cruelly.... and very very amusingly.
    I shall never ever eat there again and I would guess that the chef hates me... and he knows my name and mobile number as I booked in advance! [​IMG]

    I must remember not to complain in a restaurant that has my contact details!!!

  5. I do when they are out of their depth, not professional and trying to poison the entire restaurant with an overdose of Fabreeze!

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