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An Honest Answer?


Kerry Beal
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There you are in any old restaurant, a few minutes after you start eating your food (actually usually when your mouth is full) the server approaches you and asks how everything is.

So here is the question - the food is not great, perhaps not what you expected, or just not well made, (different from undercooked, overcooked etc, something you might send back to the kitchen to have corrected) - what do you say? Do you do the white lie thing - "it's fine" and just never go back, or do you tell the truth -"well if you are going to call your burger 6 ounces of charbroiled beef, perhaps leaving out the 4 ounces of filler might be a start"?

Let's hear it.

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I never lie (about anything). I try not to be unkind, but I always tell the truth about things like this. If the food's not very good, and I'm asked how it is, I say so, but I say it nicely. If it's too terrible to eat, I'll send it back and say that. But if, all things considered, I keep it, then I only say something if asked a direct question, and then I tell the truth. There's not a great point in lying. (Yes, there are cases in life when I probably will tell a white-lie, but being asked about the food I'm paying for is not one of those situations.)

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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I always believe that the comments requested can be handled in a diplomatic fashion ... not intending to cause unhappiness or inflict acerbic barbs ... but, if I am not pleased, I may indicate this by not returning ...

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Often the waiter is just checking that they haven't missed anything like water, condiments, the bottle of chardonnay you ordered but never received. Sometimes it's a welcome opportunity to request more bread, missing cutlery, whatever.

Frequently, though, I think it's just a rhetorical question.

Occasionally the devil makes me do it and I ask: "What's everyone else in here saying about the food?"

Website: http://cookingdownunder.com

Blog: http://cookingdownunder.com/blog

Twitter: @patinoz

The floggings will continue until morale improves

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I think its important to be honest because I strongly believe in positive ciritcism. Having said that, I hardly ever say anything,... more out of being uncomfortable.

However, I think it is often the case that the server doesn't really care if the food is ok when he asks, and is just being polite. The other day I was at a restaurant and a friend I was with ordered a dish that was just awful, it was seared tuna with sautéed vegetables and passion fruit sauce. The sauce was so overwhelming that not only did it not taste good on its own, it completely smothered all the other flavours in the dish whish were probably very good. It was positively horrendous. I totally egged her on to say something because she literally didn't want to eat any of it (my dish was delicious!), and so when the waiter came by and asked, she said that well actually, the sauce is a bit overpowering... HINT HINT,- please could you do something about it... and the waiter was very matter-of-fact about it and said that that's what the sauce was like, and my poor friend insisted a bit about how really, really overpowering it was, extremely acidic, and how she couldn't taste the fish at alll,- and in the end the waiter (who was actually the maitre'd) did nothing whatsoever about it, did not offer to bring her anything else and she was stuck with the dish, hated it, and never went back. And the restaurant was almost empty,- he wasn't rushed off his feet or anything, - he just really didn't care.

His attitude totally discouraged me from speaking out, which is awful because I really think we should! (complain, that is).

Edited by Patricia Bon (log)
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i find that the older i get, the less embarrassed i am about commenting about the food when asked. i tend to reply "everything's fine" when i'm eating at a chain or someplace like that because even though the food isn't great, it isn't as if there's a chef who can correct the problem...most of the food is probably already made and delivered in a truck from sysco.

i'll be more honest at a restaurant where i know there is a chef or at least someone doing something more than throwing food in the general direction of a fryalator. often, even if you know you're right (like the above experience of Patricia Bon's friend) they don't do anything about it because they think it is just your "opinion"...you couldn't possibly understand what the chef was trying to do. this happened to me at a restaurant where the dessert was actually so bad i had to laugh about it. the waiter's response was "well, people either love it or hate it" and even though i pushed on with "no, actually it is inedible", he didn't do anything about it.

then again, i once went to tgifriday's specificially to eat potato skins (don't ask :blink: ), they were so bad (from my memory...i hadn't had them in probably ten years) i mentioned it to the manager who stopped by to ask "and how is everything here?". he apologized, said they looked a bit off and took them off the check. that's what i expect from anyone and was pretty surprised to get the "right" response from a friday's.

i guess it does pay to be honest. i try to do it in a positive way...being positive about a negative response?! :rolleyes:

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If asked and I care about the restaurant, I will reply honestly, but not with the intention of seeking a new or replacement dish, unless the dish was not what I ordered (e.g. well done meat when I ordered medium-rare) or totally different from what was described. If it is simply a matter of it not meeting my palate, I tell them only for feedback. If the restaurant is a chain or totally alienating to me, I won't bother complaining. I simply don't return.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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There you are in any old restaurant, a few minutes after you start eating your food (actually usually when your mouth is full) the server approaches you and asks how everything is. 

So

At this point I believe the question is not meant as, "How do you like the food?", but rather more like, "Is there anything else I can do for you right now?"

If there's a mistake with the order, or you need more of something, this saves you the trouble of flagging them down. In the (hopefully) rare event something is actually so wrong as to render it unedible, this gives you the chance to request a correction.

At the end of the meal, when the check is delivered and you're asked how everything "was", is the time to offer complaints, suggestions or (hopefully) compliments.

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I don't know about other states, but here the point of asking if "everything is ok" is where your obligation to pay for it comes in if you say its ok.

Frankly, I've only once in my life walked out of a restaurant without paying because the food and service was terrible. The waiter actually got the boss and they both accosted me at the doorway. He wanted my name and telephone # and gave me some sort of business card of his saying I could eat free next time.

We never went back, and the restaurant was out of business next time we drove by.

doc

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There you are in any old restaurant, a few minutes after you start eating your food (actually usually when your mouth is full) the server approaches you and asks how everything is. 

So

At this point I believe the question is not meant as, "How do you like the food?", but rather more like, "Is there anything else I can do for you right now?"

If there's a mistake with the order, or you need more of something, this saves you the trouble of flagging them down. In the (hopefully) rare event something is actually so wrong as to render it unedible, this gives you the chance to request a correction.

At the end of the meal, when the check is delivered and you're asked how everything "was", is the time to offer complaints, suggestions or (hopefully) compliments.

Just to clarify for the purpose of soliciting opinions, I'm asking what people say when the server asks specifically about the food vs 'everything ok, anything else I can get for you'?, whether that be in the middle or end of the meal.

So Steve, do you offer complaints or suggestions? I'm thinking most eG types don't have a problem offering compliments for good food.

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I almost never, ever, say anything critical. I like to stick to, "Everything's fine." The food would have to be really, really bad for me to say anything negative, or there would have to be a bug or something gross in my food or beverage.

But then, I have suffered (and still occasionally suffer) through decades of embarrassing dining episodes involving my mother, who doesn't hesitate to complain, and who rarely does so in either a friendly or a positive way.

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If the food really is 'just fine' - not fabulous, not wonderful, not great - but acceptable (i.e., edible), in answer to "How is everything?", I say, "Just fine." If they ask "Is everything good?", I say, "It's just fine."

That doesn't mean I will or will not go back to that particular restaurant. If I'm really hungry, and it's convenient, I'll probably go back. Although I'll probably never seek it out. And if I do happen to go back, I'll order something else. If the food continues to be mediocre (and therefore, "Just fine."), I'll eventually make an effort to find an equally convenient place to try.

But if the food is not even up to my personal minimum standard of "Just fine," I look directly at the waiter, establish firm eye contact, and say in a pleasant but unwavering voice, "I'm sorry, but I don't care for this at all. I'd prefer something else."

If there's an obvious reason, like the fish is bad, I'll say, "...don't care for this at all because I think the fish is bad." But if I just think the dish doesn't go together well, like the sharp sauce mentioned above, or if it's simply not what I expected, or not to my personal taste, I don't usually go into it with the waiter. I don't want to argue with him or her. I just want something else. Which I believe is my right.

And after I've said that, I lean back into my chair, away from the table, giving them an obvious signal that I expect that dish to be removed.

And that's usually that. They bring me the menu, and I select something else. Sometimes the chef will come out and ask why I didn't care for it and I'll tell him/her. But I've never had anything that I could even remotely call "trouble" over this approach. There's never a scene, and nobody ever tries to talk me into eating it. But I am not at all wishy washy about this procedure, and I'm certain that I give off the vibe that trying to talk me into keeping it would be futile.

May I add that this doesn't happen often...I'd say maybe only two or three times a year, and I eat out a lot.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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If you don't say anything (tactfully) and just don't go back, how will they know that they need to fix a problem?  :blink:

I write a letter, if it's really that important to me (and it very rarely is, with regards to restaurants, anyway).

One thing that I think should be remembered here, is that different cultures have different ways of dealing with giving (and receiving) criticism, whether it be constructive criticism or otherwise. My mother is Filipino; she can complain with the best of them, even if there's really nothing to complain about. My father was Thai; he could put up with just about anything. I mostly take after my father--unless strongly provoked or offended, I won't make a fuss.

In order for me to complain at a restaurant, the food would have to be inedible or there would have to be something disgusting on/in my dining ware. Otherwise, it's not really that important in my world.

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I almost never, ever, say anything critical.  I like to stick to, "Everything's fine." 

Personally, I hate lying, whether it's on the giving end, or the receiving end. I think that life would be somewhat less complicated if people had the decency to tell the truth; I think that a lot of harm, and needless confusion, and bad feelings come from lies. And so I just don't like being put in the position where I'm supposed to lie, as in, if the food's bad and the server asks how it is, why in the world would I have to compromise my values and say "Everything's fine"? It's unfair to me.

I don't answer nastily, though, because that's disrespectful to the person who asked the question. If I'm asked, "how's the food", I'll answer "not very good, actually" but I won't say it angrily or nastily (as I stated earlier, I always know that as the customer, I have the right to send something back, so if I decide to keep it out of expediency (usually knowing I'll never return), that changes the situation; but if asked, I'll give an honest answer.

For me, it's an uncomfortable situation if I have to tell a lie. I tell the truth to be true to myself, and if the person who asked the question then turns it into an ugly situation, that's his problem; at least I was true to myself. He certainly could answer, "I'm sorry to hear that" and that would be that.

(Side note, since I have an extra minute on my hands and this may help clarify my feelings: I used to have a lot of friends who were opera singers and frequently found myself backstage after performances, getting introduced to the rest of the casts. If I had liked somebody's singing, I would always say so, as in "I really enjoyed your performance", or "I thought you were terrific." One day I was introduced to a cast member (who I thought had sung terribly) and after the introduction and the outstretched hands, I said "Very nice to meet you."

Later my friend screamed "How could you say that? You're supposed to say 'you were terrific - I really enjoyed your performance' ". And I replied to my friend, "so that when I say it to you, you'll never know if I mean it or just say it to everybody?" He went on to say that saying "Nice to meet you" was an insult, then he thought it over and apologized, saying that come to think of it, he always appreciated how he knew he could always count on me to tell the truth.

A side-side note concerns a friend whom I went to hear sing once, and wound up saying "Nice to meet you" to just about everybody she introduced me to. The last person was somebody I had thought was terrific, and I said so. My friend turned to the person and said "You have NO idea what his compliment means, trust me!")

When somebody shows me their newborn baby and asks "Isn't he cute?", then I tell the little white lie. But to "how is the food that we're charging you for?" - why don't I just tell the truth?

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Personally, I hate lying, whether it's on the giving end, or the receiving end.  I think that life would be somewhat less complicated if people had the decency to tell the truth; I think that a lot of harm, and needless confusion, and bad feelings come from lies.

In some cultures, what you call "lying" in this context is called "saving face". And even if you are the one being offended, it's still important to help the offender "save face". And in some cultures, "a lot of harm, and needless confusion, and bad feelings come from" telling the truth about something so minor as eating not-so-good food in a restaurant (and really, bad food is pretty minor unless you get sick or die from eating it).

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So Steve, do you offer complaints or suggestions?  I'm thinking most eG types don't have a problem offering compliments for good food.

That depends mostly on whether it's a place where I'm a regular customer or not, but most often a "fine, thank you." will suffice in any case.

In an establishment where I know the owners and staff I can be more forthright. For instance, "Very good, thank you. The soup was excellent.", or "Fine. The toast was burnt, but a little carbon won't kill me."

If I have a chance to speak with the owner/manager/chef I might be more candid concerning problems, knowing they'll accept it as constructive criticism. Even then I try to be casual. Having been on the that end of the business I know what a tough job it is.

Some examples might be: "I liked the ravioli I had last time better." "Somebody went a little heavy with the salt shaker in the chowder." "The fries were a little on the limp side."

Often you can infer a problem by using a question: "Did you switch to a different produce supplier?" "Where did you get the idea to serve squash with fish?" "Have you seen how (another restaurant) serves their filet?"

Visiting a restaurant for the first time, or one where I don't expect to have occasion to return, I'll usually just let things go. The only exception might be if one of my guests has a problem and is hesitant to say anything themselves: "Ms Beal's prime rib is too rare. Could you please take care of that for me?" (Note: Having somebody other than the person with the problem mention it makes it seem less personal or confrontational.)

I guess, to sum it up in one word, the word would be "tact"?

SB :wink:

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Do you do the white lie thing - "it's fine" and just never go back, or do you tell the truth -

You know, some of the disagreement in this thread might be semantical. To me, if it's edible, it IS "just fine." I don't consider that a lie. I consider that a more polite way of saying, "It's acceptable, but that's about it."

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Anything blatently wrong, I don't wait for the server to ask. I call the server to the table - assuming the server is actually capable of noticing me, or to put it more accurately, new at the job and not yet able to intentionally not notice my effort at eye contact, a nod of the head, a hand motion or my standing on the chair and waving my napkin.

Otherwise the question is an intrusion on my meal and, unless feeling uncommonly gracious, I answer "fine" in a tone I hope implies, "go away, stay away, I will let you know if we need anything." Or, as is more often the case, I hold up my hand to indicate I am chewing some food, chew away until finished, and then answer as above.

Tragic problems that can not be corrected on the spot, such as a steak ordered rare and arriving well done - if I really like the place I will mention it to the owner or manager in the hopes he will properly flog the broiler cook, maybe twenty well laid on lashes or keelhauling through the deep fat fryer. If not a favorite restaurant, I simply do not return.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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If they are really asking about the food, and if it tastes weird or does not seem to be the way it was decribed on the menu, I may say, "Is it normally this [whatever]?" or "Does it usually come with a sauce?" This alerts them to the fact that there is a problem and gives them a chance to (e.g.) supply a missing sauce, but it does not force them to take action. Almost always, unless there is a clear-cut problem like a steak being too well done, complaining and risking getting into a big discussion is too much of a pain for me.

We had a host last night ask us about a soup and it really sounded like he was fishing for negative comments. I thought the soup was too salty; my friend thought it was "greasy" and I believe the host thought it was too thick. It was kind of a funny conversation. I forgot to ask whether the soup appeared on the bill.

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Do you do the white lie thing - "it's fine" and just never go back, or do you tell the truth -

You know, some of the disagreement in this thread might be semantical. To me, if it's edible, it IS "just fine." I don't consider that a lie. I consider that a more polite way of saying, "It's acceptable, but that's about it."

All I know is that if GF says she's feeling, "Just fine", I'm in big trouble! :sad:

SB :blink:

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