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Toward a Discerning Diners' Civil Code


Elissa
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A twenty dollar piece of sea bass arrives at your table with an air that says, 'I have not been swimming in quite some time.' Maybe it's a thirty-eight dollar strip overdone beyond repair.

Is your policy is to eat the former land or sea denizen regardless: likely it won't kill you, you don't want to appear rude, and otherwise it will go to waste? Perhaps you dispatch your plate posthaste with the waiter's return trip. Maybe you taste it, then shoot a glare as next your server rushes past.

Do you then expect something in exchange, no extra charge, on the double? Ask for lemon or bernaise? I'm curious about how demanding diners practice civility and about chefs' attitudes and reactions towards the same.

Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons: That is all there is to distinguish us from the other Animals.

-Beaumarchais

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You get a nasty piece of 20 dollar seabass? Politely but firmly ask your waiter to take it back to the kitchen and make the chef eat it. You then should ask--with teeth showing--what is edible on the menu. You are not obliged under any circumstances to eat funky food when you dine out. Hey, if the chef won't eat it then there's a big problem there. So often it happens in the throes of service that quality is a bottom-barrell concern. Look at it from a cook's perspective...

The dining room is packed...you're the poissonier...

"Ordering in 5 seabass, two lobster apps. Fire, 4 seabass, 3 bouillabaisse (1 no rouille and sub shrimp for the loup de mer on another). Fire 8 tuna (1 no fennel dust, 3 md. rare, 1 well, 4 medium. The guy is dancing like a puppet, burning his digits, swiveling on his aching toes, taking the pounding abuses of the sous chef. It's hot as piss-fire back there, the vent-a-hood unit is down, and Leroy--your otherwise rock worthy CIA extern has been loaned out to the dish hole, leaving you with the task of replenishing your mise en place---which is three flights down into the bowels of hell. There's one piece of seabass left, that you've been chunking to the back of you're 1/3rd pan insert because the fresh lawn clippiing smell has given way to the first sexual encounter reek. But if you cook it up you'll be saving yourself from the trip. Is that one customer worth the trip down those stairs on those bum toes? The answer to that question should be an unequivocal "goddamned right!" But in reality cooks, in general, are more concerned with getting through the rush than your regurgitations. That's where a good chef comes into play. If the chef is off posing for Food Arts with a behemoth blender covering his nads you're in dire trouble.

Of course this is a gross over-statement but you can see where I'm going.

Ask for your money back, never return, write a letter, give them a little taste of what they gave you. All you can do is stand up and be counted.

Edited by Chef/Writer Spencer (log)
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Whenever practical I send it back. I am particularly a tyrant when it comes to overdone meat. I have been burned so often that, even at the Palm and similar, I verge on the obnoxious when ordering a steak, stressing to the server that the most important thing in my life at this particular point in time is to have my steak arrive a perfect medium rare. When it doesn't, I send it back, again and again and again, again.

Alas the problem is dining with others. If I return a dish to the kitchen, do I sit there a'twiddling away while my fellow diners consume their entrees and then expect them to do the same for me? There's the rub and, assuming the dish appears to still be wholesome, I suspect I most often keep my entree though I'll still probably ask to speak with the manager. In this case I will not ask for a credit off the check, or a comp, or whatever, but I expect to not be charged for the entree and will not return if that is not the case.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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assuming the dish appears to still be wholesome, I suspect I most often keep my entree though I'll still probably ask to speak with the manager.  In this case I will not ask for a credit off the check, or a comp, or whatever, but I expect to not be charged for the entree and will not return if that is not the case.

You ate it, you bought it, no? If for whatever reason you choose not to return the dish, you must expect to be charged for it. Although if you're not entirely satisfied you should voice your displeasure to the manager, who must then try to make amends by either offering a round of digestifs or dessert or cheese or whatever. Am I wrong?

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assuming the dish appears to still be wholesome, I suspect I most often keep my entree though I'll still probably ask to speak with the manager.  In this case I will not ask for a credit off the check, or a comp, or whatever, but I expect to not be charged for the entree and will not return if that is not the case.

You ate it, you bought it, no? If for whatever reason you choose not to return the dish, you must expect to be charged for it. Although if you're not entirely satisfied you should voice your displeasure to the manager, who must then try to make amends by either offering a round of digestifs or dessert or cheese or whatever. Am I wrong?

Yeah Rasputine, if you don't express yourself vocally the restaurant isn't going to budge. Be tactful and aware that it's not your waiters fault neccesarily but make sure you let the manager know of your dissastisfation or there's a lost opportunity for you to actually enjoy the proper presentation.

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assuming the dish appears to still be wholesome, I suspect I most often keep my entree though I'll still probably ask to speak with the manager.  In this case I will not ask for a credit off the check, or a comp, or whatever, but I expect to not be charged for the entree and will not return if that is not the case.

You ate it, you bought it, no? If for whatever reason you choose not to return the dish, you must expect to be charged for it. Although if you're not entirely satisfied you should voice your displeasure to the manager, who must then try to make amends by either offering a round of digestifs or dessert or cheese or whatever. Am I wrong?

I don't request or demand anything in this sort of situation. I simply ask for the manager, inform him/her of the problem and let the manager decide what if anything the restaurant will do to remedy or compensate me for it. How they handle the issue determines whether I will return.

Usually the first offer is to recook or replace the offending entree. That is sometimes fine but as I said before forces me to watch everyone else at the table eat their entree and vice versa. Depends on how quickly they can replace my entree.

Assuming I opt to pass on the replacement and explain my reason, more often than not the manager doesn't charge for the entree. That is what should happen. They screwed up.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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assuming the dish appears to still be wholesome, I suspect I most often keep my entree though I'll still probably ask to speak with the manager.  In this case I will not ask for a credit off the check, or a comp, or whatever, but I expect to not be charged for the entree and will not return if that is not the case.

You ate it, you bought it, no? If for whatever reason you choose not to return the dish, you must expect to be charged for it. Although if you're not entirely satisfied you should voice your displeasure to the manager, who must then try to make amends by either offering a round of digestifs or dessert or cheese or whatever. Am I wrong?

I agree. If you eat a dish, expect to pay for it. There is no reason the restaurant shouldn't charge you.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I have different levels of action, depending on the degree of problem, the price point, and several other things.

If I'm in a moderate-to-high-end place and anything tastes significantly off, I send it back. If I'm in a lower-end place, I may tolerate slightly old fish or shrimp while making a mental note about it, and will send it back only if it's really bad, though if I'm asked "is everything OK," I will definitely pipe up. But I will complain about things sometimes when I don't expect any money back. I ordered delivery of some roast chicken noodle soup from a local Chinese place (Mee on 1st Av. and 13th St. in Manhattan) and found that the spinach in it was rotten and inedible that time, so I called to complain and haven't patronized the restaurant since.

My brother tends to let restaurants know why he won't be coming back, for whatever good that does. Example: Years ago, he and I went to Mingala, a local Burmese place that had been solidly good up till then. We sent back our food and it came back still tasting like bad Chinese food instead of what we were accustomed to, so he asked whether there was a new chef. Yes, there was. So, knowing that we wouldn't get good food that evening, we ate what we had but he informed the man running the front of the house why we wouldn't be coming back.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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assuming the dish appears to still be wholesome, I suspect I most often keep my entree though I'll still probably ask to speak with the manager.  In this case I will not ask for a credit off the check, or a comp, or whatever, but I expect to not be charged for the entree and will not return if that is not the case.

You ate it, you bought it, no? If for whatever reason you choose not to return the dish, you must expect to be charged for it. Although if you're not entirely satisfied you should voice your displeasure to the manager, who must then try to make amends by either offering a round of digestifs or dessert or cheese or whatever. Am I wrong?

I agree. If you eat a dish, expect to pay for it. There is no reason the restaurant shouldn't charge you.

Being tactful (I'll be the guy throwing the stones at my own glass house in this one) but vocal will get you where you want to go. The last thing a restaurateur wants is a domino effect that eventually leads to his/her demise. That's the way we think...Talk around the hostess stand at the end of a particularly stressful night often revolves around the odds that the disgruntled will return. I've been to many a line up where the GM says "One upset customer tells five more, the next thing you know you're having emergency liquidation sales out on the back dock." Customer input is very useful and speaking as a chef, I want to know when my guys fuck things up.

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assuming the dish appears to still be wholesome, I suspect I most often keep my entree though I'll still probably ask to speak with the manager.  In this case I will not ask for a credit off the check, or a comp, or whatever, but I expect to not be charged for the entree and will not return if that is not the case.

You ate it, you bought it, no? If for whatever reason you choose not to return the dish, you must expect to be charged for it. Although if you're not entirely satisfied you should voice your displeasure to the manager, who must then try to make amends by either offering a round of digestifs or dessert or cheese or whatever. Am I wrong?

I agree. If you eat a dish, expect to pay for it. There is no reason the restaurant shouldn't charge you.

I still disagree. In such a case the dinner is forced to eat the unsatisfactory dish lest the others at the table have to wait while he consumes the restaurant's second attempt. The restaurant still screwed up, the diner is just being nice about it. But he is eating something that is not properly prepared.

From the restaurant management's point of view, assuming the restaurant screwed up, and understanding the diner's reluctance to throw off the timing of the meal, I'd gladly comp that entree without being requested - ethically because we screwed up and served a dish not up to our standards and pragmatically because I want that customer to return or at the very least say not say bad things about us to his friends.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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I still disagree.  In such a case the dinner is forced to eat the unsatisfactory dish lest the others at the table have to wait while he consumes the restaurant's second attempt.  The restaurant still screwed up, the diner is just being nice about it.  But he is eating something that is not properly prepared.

From the restaurant management's point of view, assuming the restaurant screwed up, and understanding the diner's reluctance to throw off the timing of the meal, I'd gladly comp that entree without being requested - ethically because we screwed up and served a dish not up to our standards and pragmatically because I want that customer to return or at the very least say not say bad things about us to his friends.

You are saying what you'd do: Do you own a restaurant yourself, or are you just imagining what you'd do if you did? For the record, I have never been involved in any restaurant except as a patron, but my position is as follows: The restaurant can choose to promote goodwill by either comping the dish or comping dessert or something, but as I see it, since you chose for whatever reason to eat the dish, it does not have to. You eat it, you buy it.

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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You are saying what you'd do: Do you own a restaurant yourself, or are you just imagining what you'd do if you did? For the record, I have never been involved in any restaurant except as a patron, but my position is as follows: The restaurant can choose to promote goodwill by either comping the dish or comping dessert or something, but as I see it, since you chose for whatever reason to eat the dish, it does not have to. You eat it, you buy it.

Yes I did own a restaurant, and I worked the floor as host for both lunch and dinner. What I said I would do in the hypothetical above is what I did do as a restaurateur. To me it is a no-brainer. Possibly piss off and lose a customer or, for the cost of the entree, score points and possibly salvage a customer by going above and beyond.

Never said what a restaurant has to do. Just what I believe it should do and how I would react if it didn't. Twice above I said I would never ask for anything. I would leave it up to the restaurant management to offer.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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I must agree its down to the restaurant to make a bad situation good again.When you screw up, be honest about it.

This happened tonight....

Table of 4 starters away...3 scallops ( 2 no bacon) 1 mackerel...i have just picked up the scallops, when i see phill plating the mackerel....overcooked to buggery :angry:

So i ask phill," why are you sending shit out to our customers? ", while i reach into the fish fridge and get 2 more fillets under the grill quick smart.

This is a quick dish to cook, but there is still a minute or 2 before its ready.I served the rest of the table, and told the guy having the mackerel what just went on.He 's fine and dandy about it, and actually feels he's getting better service.When the mackerel arrives its spot on, moist , shiny and lovely.Everyone is happy, apart from phill.He learns that its better to have a small delay and send it out once, than to send out shit and fuck up a whole service.Honesty wins everytime.

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assuming the dish appears to still be wholesome, I suspect I most often keep my entree though I'll still probably ask to speak with the manager.  In this case I will not ask for a credit off the check, or a comp, or whatever, but I expect to not be charged for the entree and will not return if that is not the case.

You ate it, you bought it, no? If for whatever reason you choose not to return the dish, you must expect to be charged for it. Although if you're not entirely satisfied you should voice your displeasure to the manager, who must then try to make amends by either offering a round of digestifs or dessert or cheese or whatever. Am I wrong?

I don't request or demand anything in this sort of situation. I simply ask for the manager, inform him/her of the problem and let the manager decide what if anything the restaurant will do to remedy or compensate me for it. How they handle the issue determines whether I will return.

Usually the first offer is to recook or replace the offending entree. That is sometimes fine but as I said before forces me to watch everyone else at the table eat their entree and vice versa. Depends on how quickly they can replace my entree.

Assuming I opt to pass on the replacement and explain my reason, more often than not the manager doesn't charge for the entree. That is what should happen. They screwed up.

Holly,

The floor manager?

Sending a piece of fish back to the kitchen as soon as you realize something's wrong with it sends a clear message to the kitchen that 'Hey, we messed up.' The manager back there, whoever it may be, sous, expediter, etc. will take care of the problem.

It's their mistake. They should take care of it. Assuming you run the restaurant smoothly, the floor manager, only responsible for the EMPOWERMENT of his or her own staff, shouldn't even have to hear about it. What the even bigger thing is, though, is that the Exec Chef or whoever is expediting shouldn't let something go out like that.

SO, up to the waitstaff on their own to fix it between the kitchen and themselves, and up to the kitchen to ensure that it doesn't happen again. Otherwise, you're on the road to major issue.

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What should one do if the quality of the food is perfectly fine, but there is some other problem - for instance if the food is not hot enough, etc.?

-Eric

If the food is perfectly fine, eat it. If it's too cold, tell 'em to warm it up, but be forewarned that it's either going under a sally or in some cases, straight into the microwave.

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T. Brooks:

What is a "sally," in the sense you're using the word?

Salemander (?sp) A broiler, usually at eye level, and capable of high temperatures.

Edit: Tommy's faster with the keyboard and a much better speller. But my kitchen has one :raz:

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Holly,

The floor manager?

Sending a piece of fish back to the kitchen as soon as you realize something's wrong with it sends a clear message to the kitchen that 'Hey, we messed up.' The manager back there, whoever it may be, sous, expediter, etc. will take care of the problem.

It's their mistake. They should take care of it. Assuming you run the restaurant smoothly, the floor manager, only responsible for the EMPOWERMENT of his or her own staff, shouldn't even have to hear about it. What the even bigger thing is, though, is that the Exec Chef or whoever is expediting shouldn't let something go out like that.

SO, up to the waitstaff on their own to fix it between the kitchen and themselves, and up to the kitchen to ensure that it doesn't happen again. Otherwise, you're on the road to major issue.

Not sure of the term 'Floor Manager" - a person only responsible for the empowerment of his staff. Not really sure what you mean by "empowerment" either unless you are talking about an expidter or something similar.

I'm referring to the host, the maitre d', the restaurant manager or whomever is working the floor and who is responsible for guest relations. In most fine dining restaurants it usually isn't necessary to ask for that person. He/she just appears, having been cued by the server that something has gone wrong and that a diner is less than absolutely delighted with the experience.

The knee-jerk solution of recooking the entree all to often just doesn't cut it. Take an overcooked steak. From the time the server is summoned (1-5 minutes) to the time the server gets back to the kitchen and communicates the problem to the line (3-5 minutes) to the time it takes to recook the steak (5-10 minutes) or grab one from another order in progress (2-5 minutes and throws off another table's timing) to the time it takes for the server to pick it up and get it back to the diner (3-7 minutes), the chances are that everyone else at the table is probably half way through to all the way through their entree. The entreless diner is just sitting there watching them eat or filling up on rolls. Then he gets to eat his entree while everyone watches him.

Not all that great a solution.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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