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An Honest Answer?


Kerry Beal
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Assuming there is an issue, how I answer depends on two things:

1. Do I think there's a chance for the restaurant to something about it and do I think they might actually do it?

and

2. What kind of mood am I in?

Regarding 1, I've been in restaurants where it's obvious that it doesn't matter what I say, it's going to fall on deaf ears. If I'm not being food poisoned, it's not worth it to say anything because instead of just having lousy food, I'm going to continue to have lousy food AND I'm going to be mad/frustrated/annoyed/bent out of shape at the place further because they don't care. I'll take the lesser of the frustrations, thanks.

Which leads in 2, my mood. Sometimes I just don't want to make a fuss. I'm not in the mood to take on the servers and manager and their finely rehearsed lines of BS designed to convince me that I'm wrong and this is veritable nectar and ambrosia. I want peace more than I want things changed. Maybe they will take what I say well and change things. Maybe they won't. Sometimes I don't want to take that risk.

Then again, sometimes I'm in a real piss and vinegar mood and while I'll be polite and not use four letter words, I'm going to call it as I see it. I did this once at a restaurant we used to dine at regularly until their food went down the crapper - and I spoke with the manager about exactly what had changed before we wrote them off. (Reassuring the server the whole time that it was nothing she did or didn't do, she was doing a fine job, and we left her a nice tip.)

Yes, I know that things can't get better unless someone mentions what's wrong, but sometimes I just don't want to be that person.

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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Probably in most instances it is a rhetorical question, but I try to answer honestly in case they really want the feedback. And without hostility, of course. There's more than enough of that in our world.

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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:

My point exactly.

:cool:

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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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.

So, back to the original topic. The meal hasn't gone to plan. Nothing in the correctable sense, but it could've been done differently. The server approaches and asks if it's "fine?".

I'm old, so I have fewer reservations (about commenting). If the server is particularly knowledgable about the food, I'll say that I wasn't quite there with the meal, and ask what the chef was aiming for? I've had some textures and methods where I didn't care for it, but that was my "fault".

In a lot of cases, the waiter will flee for the chef at this point ("Just a moment, sir, I'll get the chef"). I've had some good sit downs with chefs if it's later in the evening and they're no longer run off their feet, looking at either what his target was with the dish ("No, I didn't want the skin to be crisp"), or what could be done better ("Yes, some rock salt on the edge of the plate would work").

I do this more with tasting menus, as I feel that there should be a story, or a structure, to such things.

Of course, I've had a number of offended chefs, too. One New York Bistro diva was quite upset when I pointed out that the risotto had too much variation in the texture, and someone wasn't stirring when they should've been.

Look upon it as a chance to learn. What's the worst thing that happens? You embarrass your date to death?

Well, okay.....that could happen......

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if i'm eating with johnnybird he will NOT allow me to say anything if the food is inedible since he is paranoid about the boh doing things like spitting/ etc on the food (i worked boh and have tried to reassure him the staff really aren't like that if there is a genuine problem).

if i'm on my own - usually lunch - i will say something if i feel there is a problem with the spicing/heat of the fryolater/supplier of the seafood. i have never had any problems though i have suggested that the oil was a "bit " under 350 when i had calamri come out with the batter oil soaked, at another establishment the fish came out and smelled of ammonia though assured "it was just delivered today", and had calamari that had the consistancy of rubber bands(it was an iqf product that didn't work). the kindest was when i had ordered a kind of steak sandwich with mushrooms and mozzarella(i always ask for no cheese) that was more like frozen steak um's with brown gravy and canned mushrooms. when the bartender asked if it was ok i said it really wasn't to my taste and she tossed it, asked me if i wanted a replacement and i said no - i'd lost my appetite by then. she removed it from the bill but of course i tipped her on the full meal/drink bill.

the worst was in vt. eating on my father-in-laws christmas present (gift certificate we had asked for) at a place he had patronized. the food was so oversalted i could not eat it. mashed potatoes, filet with a bernaise sauce so salty...the only thing edible was the cold soba and shrimp with peanut sauce. again john didn't want me to complain but we changed plates and his entree - chicken with mushrooms in a wine sauce was also so salty as to be inedible. when the server came by and asked i said it was inedible and who had been seasoning the food. the floor manager came over and said the chef had just left and a new chef was taking over the kitchen "soon". unfortunately that left the sous and staff on their own - i don't buy that a good sous has to be able to do service when the head is on his/her day off. they offered to comp us a dessert but didn't take the filet off the bill - guess if you taste it you bought it there. i took it back to my mother-in-laws, rinsed the sauce off, thin sliced it and it was still salty - though johnnybird ate it.

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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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.

Usually I find it annoying, especially if they ask you several times over the course of a meal, but....

last weekend I took one of my daughters out for breakfast. I ordered eggs florentine and when it arrived I took a bite and discovered soggy bread underneath my eggs. The kitchen had substituted a hamburger bun instead of an english muffin. When I was a kid and my mom made "hot chicken sandwiches" for dinner I hated them. Soggy bread makes me gag. The waitress was busy, and spotting my unhappy expression made a point of NOT checking on my table. I was really hungry, and it had taken a long time for the meals to come out of the kitchen in the first place, so I had to move my eggs off of the nasty mess of bread just to eat them. I told the waitress when I paid for the meal that if they had told me the kitchen was out of an ingredient I would have changed my order to something I would have enjoyed.

My point is.....the problem with the food could have been corrected with good service. It was not, and I won't be eating there again.

If only I'd worn looser pants....

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I will normally say something is "fine" even if it isn't - unless I feel that there's something that can be done.

I learned the hard way that criticizing a dish can lead to being confronted by a defensive chef (see this thread).

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best --" and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. - A.A. Milne

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F***ed up

Insecure

Neurotic

Emotional

:biggrin:

...and then you have people like my Dad, who i love deeply, but with whom i can no longer go to restaurants. it is not beyond him--seeing the plates arrive and noticing someone else's order looks more to his taste--to LIE to the server, and say that he ordered what the envied diner is having. :angry:

"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the ocean."

--Isak Dinesen

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We were having this conversation over brunch Sunday. There is the rhetorical question that is used by staff to check in with customers after the food has been delivered - and we can appreciate that as an opportunity to make sure everything is as anticipated - but why, oh why has the phrase "How's everything tastes?" come into the vocabulary of a younger generation? That is such a small part of the overall dining experience (okay, not so small.) I really appreciated it when the owner (?) or host came by later in the meal and asked "How's your breakfast?" which let us say "Great!" The food was fresh, interesting and competently prepared, the room was lovely, the service was attentive, the music and temperature levels were spot on.

We do tend to let staff know if something is wrong, and give them a chance to correct it - sometimes handled well, sometimes not so good. Sometimes we answer "fine" and let it go at that. And sometimes we get into a discussion, after cleaning our plates, regarding small points like chewy pasta or salty greens - and may have to preface it that we are not asking for any correction - just offering our comments.

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I'm unlikely to say anything about poor food or service, unless I have some sort of connection with a restaurant (e.g. a friend owns it or I like the place), or the food is completely inedible. It' not MY obligation as the customer to fix every restaurants' problems. If they can't figure out that something's wrong on their own, then they probably should go out of business.

On a similar vein ... my wife & I just returned from 3 weeks in France. Not once in that time were we ever asked if the food "met our expectations" or "tasted as it should." The wine was always checked (after it was opened) but never the food. I never felt we were being slighted, but rather that the kitchen & FOH was serving everything as they wanted it to be served. Was it always good? No, but I doubt if I said anything there would be cries of "Zut alors! Monsieur thought his steak was a little tough! We must fire the butcher!"

A.

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Well, I've come to like it when servers ask how everything is after they've seen that you've dug into what they have served. It takes the burden off me (the diner) to have to speak up if something is not quite right, which is pleasanter that way. Sometimes they ask so they can correct, and sometimes they ask as a mere formality, of course. But now that I think about it, I can't recall if/that they ask after each course in France, but I do know that they always ask how everything was at the end. So thinking that it's okay at this point in the tread to drift a teeny bit...

A few years ago I had a most disappointing and mediocre meal at the 3-star Auberge de L'Ill in Alsace (France). The food was mediocre at best, nothing hideous (well, some off tastes in the lobster concoction), but otherwise nothing better than you'd get in Business Class on an airplane - truly disappointing food (perhaps my own fault for going, but that's another topic). And the service was rude and unfriendly, very atypical for France, and especially for that region. (Only the sommelier was nice, and helpful, and we drank great.) So we finished our meal, and left. On the way out, it was clearly one of the family who got our coats, and asked, "How was everything?". I replied "disappointing, very disappointing" - I said it nicely, but those were my words. "Oh", she asked, surprised, "do you mean the food or the service?" "Both", I replied. Then she asked, "When you say disappointing, do you mean that you expected it to be great and it was not?" And I replied "Yes, exactly." To which she said, "I'm sorry about that. Would like copies of the menu to take with you?"

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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