Good Money on Bad Food


Have you ever had a bad meal at a restaurant? Did you tough it out and eat it, or did you send it back?

We’ve been lucky in that most of our meals have been pretty good, though I have sent a few things back over the years. I have no qualms sending food back if it’s cold or off-tasting. My thinking is that we spent good money on this meal. Dining out is not cheap so why settle for mediocre?

I’m always very apologetic when I ask the waiter to bring me a new meal/drink/appetizer. It’s not his fault. Things move very fast in a professional kitchen. Sometimes orders get lost or instructions are unclear. I don’t blame anyone really. I just want my food to be worth the money.

It pays to speak up too. Sometimes to make up for the lapse in quality/service, I’ve been given free dessert, a bigger serving, or even a discount.

Once, and of all times it happened on my birthday dinner, the waiter was very new and he didn’t key in the order correctly on the computer. We waited for nearly an hour. Finally, the manager stepped in to see why we still didn’t have food and she discovered what the kid had done–or in this case, hadn’t done.

She got the order in and comped us for the entire thing. It was an expensive meal too since Greg never skimps on birthday dinners. 🙂

We left the young man a generous tip. You could see how upset he was when his manager explained what had happened. I’m willing to bet he never made that mistake again. Plus the restaurant didn’t lose our business by comping the meal.

Mistakes happen. If they keep happening at the same place, then it’s your own fault if you keep going back. But if it’s a fluke, just send the food back with no malice in your voice. A good restaurant will always treat you right if you ask politely.

Did you ever have a bad meal? Any snafus like the one I had? How did you handle it?

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  1. We don’t eat out anymore. (Our local paper publishes the health dept report for all the local restaurants. :shudder:) The last time we ate out, the meal was horrible, but I didn’t complain because I was mad enough to shout, the place was packed and it would’ve brought too much attention to our table, and my daughter was visiting, so it would’ve harshed the nice time we were having. Otherwise, I’m not shy about saying something. I used to eat out a lot because of my job, and I’ve sent food back. It has to be actually bad, though, for me to get witchy. Once at a popular chain restaurant, the steak they brought me smelled rotten. They comped the meal for me and my client. Another time at a different chain restaurant, I was halfway through my meal when I picked up another bite and noticed a sticker floating in the sauce underneath the chicken. They comped that meal, too. Same client was with me. Ugh.

  2. When our children were very young we went as a family to a local restaurant because I’d heard the chef was an ex pupil. We waited for over an hour for the meal only to find from an apologetic waiter that the chef was drunk. What stuck in my mind was the exemplary behaviour of our children and the fact that an ex pupil couldn’t carry his liquor.

  3. At an Olive Garden where we used to live, when the waitress was bringing back a 2nd glass of wine for us, she accidentally misplaced it on the table and it spilled all over hubby’s white dress shirt. First time in her 20 years of waitressing that had happened to her. She was mortified. She got the mess cleaned up, it had gone into hubby’s food, so she ordered him another meal, the manager came over, comped the meal. We too left a generous tip, accidents happen.

    I have not had an opportunity to return a meal; usually things come out pretty good. We took family out one time for breakfast and the special was steak and eggs. One lady in the party ordered it and got confused when they asked how she wanted her steak done. She ordered it medium rare when she should have said medium done. We sent that back, only because she wouldn’t have enjoyed eating it. They were polite too since it was our fault in ordering it wrong.


  4. We’ve been trying to eat at home more to economize, but when we do go out we have a few favorite spots where we know the food and service are always good. Occasionally there’s an ordering snafu but we generally take it in stride. I will send back a meal if it’s totally not what I ordered, or ice cold, or burnt, and while I’m polite about it I don’t feel the least bit guilty.

    I once had a server who lost control of a tray for another table and dropped a soda and an entire plate of stir-fry in my lap just as we were finishing our meal. My outfit was wrecked but I wasn’t hurt, and the poor girl was so upset I just told her not to worry about it. After I got cleaned up and came back from the ladies room the manager simply ripped up our check and gave us vouchers for another free meal. That I thought was very classy because we didn’t complain.

    I think my funniest experience not having to pay for a meal was at a Bennigan’s many years ago. We were about to order dessert when something started beeping and the servers went around asking everyone to collect their things and go outside into the parking lot. Only when they’d cleared the restaurant did we see the flames on the roof. The kitchen had caught on fire, but the fire alarm wasn’t working. All we heard was the smoke alarm. The manager comped everyone just before the fire engines arrived. 🙂

    • Lynn: Holy moley! A fire at the restaurant! At least everyone was calm.

      re: wearing dinner
      That is not fun. I hope the stir fry wasn’t too hot. Clothes can be washed but burns are no fun. I’m glad the manager stepped in to make things right.

      We don’t eat out as much as we used to. Even when we did eat out often we hardly ever witnessed any drama, though I once had to step outside when a smoke alarm went off at the hotel where I was staying.

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