What to do if you Order a Meal in a Restaurant and don’t like it

One of the many pleasures of dining out is the opportunity to try new and different foods from the everyday fare you are used to eating at home.  Whether you’re trying an unusual item on the menu or experimenting with an entirely different type of cuisine, you know you’re taking a risk when you order something out of your comfort zone.  Or the reverse may be true.  You go to your favorite restaurant and order your favorite meal, the one you’ve been dying to enjoy again ever since the last time you ordered it.  Either way, your expectations are high.

If, by chance, you order a meal in either one of these scenarios and find, when your food arrives at the table, that you are more than a little dissatisfied with what is placed in front of you, what options do you have?  Should you just grin and bear it and vow never to eat at the restaurant again or never to take a walk on the wild side and order something unusual?  Should you speak up and demand satisfaction?   

Remember that, in this situation, you are the customer.  And, while the customer may not always be right, as the cliche goes, the customer is always the customer.  Your status as a paying customer should give you some clout when it comes to getting what you want.  So, before you storm out of the restaurant, never to darken its doorway again, consider a few different approaches to the situation:

Call the waiter or waitress over to your table and explain your dissatisfaction with the food before you.  Oftentimes, they will immediately take your plate back to the kitchen to make the situation right.  Be explicit about what exactly is wrong with your food.  Is it cold?  Under or over cooked?  Dry, stale or unappetizing?  Are you plagued by foreign objects that don’t belong anywhere near your plate?  Did you simply make a mistake in your food choice and now have buyer’s remorse?  Being clear about your complaint will go a long way in helping to resolve it.

If your waiter appears to be indifferent to your plight, request to speak to the restaurant manager.  The person who runs the restaurant has a higher stake in keeping customers satisfied than a minimum wage waiter working for tips.  At this level, the solution to your dissatisfaction may end up being a free dessert or even a free meal. 

If you feel the mistake was your own by choosing something from the menu that just didn’t suit your taste buds, you may decide to simply eat your meal quietly and be done with it. 

Many restaurants have customer survey cards either in the restaurant or online for you to fill out and make suggestions and recommendations about the food or the service.  You may want to take advantage of this avenue of communication to express your feelings about the meal preparation or the choice of spices or whatever it was about the dish that you felt left it somewhat lacking in appeal.  While this is a more indirect approach, you may ultimately influence some menu changes that will keep your favorite restaurant high on the list of places where you want to eat.