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What does it take to make you complain at a restaurant?

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  • RonB
    Club Member
    • Apr 2016
    • 12148
    • Near Richmond VA
    • Weber Performer Deluxe
      Pizza insert
      Smokenator 1000
      Cookshack Smokette Elite
      2 Thermapens
      lots of probes.

    What does it take to make you complain at a restaurant?

    I once worked with someone who complained about anything less than perfection. It was so bad and so frequent, no one wanted to go to lunch with him. I don't remember him ever enjoying a meal out. It was suggested to him by more than one person that he should lighten up, but he always said that it was his money, and he wanted everything right.

    I hate complaining, but I will if the food or service is bad. One bad experience that stands out is a burger left on the grill until it was crunchy on one side. When I showed the crunchy side to the waitress, (you could hear it clink when I tapped it with a knife), everyone from the cook to the manager came to the table and apologized. The manager then comped our entire meal and threw in desert.

    Anyone care to share an experience?
  • Tucson Bill
    Former Member
    • Jul 2016
    • 29

    Generally speaking, just being in a restaurant is enough to make me complain. I'm probably a lot like your coworker. I don't have to have perfection, but I'd like it to be right or at least acceptable. I've had some nice surprises along the way but a lot of not very good food and a couple of bouts with ecoli. Bad food and bad service (or both) seem to be the norm. We don't eat out much anymore unless we're on the road. We used to really enjoy Chilis ( the orginal Chilis on Greenvile Ave in Dallas) When they started expanding we decided to try the new one near us. Chili burger wasn't bad but the french fry basket looked and tasted like someone had unscrewed the lid of the salt shaker and just dumped it in. When I told the waitress that it was too salty to eat, her reply was "Yeah, someone else said the same thing." She took it away and brought back another one just like it. Now a days there's no chili on corporate Chili's menu (never mind the signature chili burger). If you never got to experience the original, you missed something.


    • Michael Brinton
      Club Member
      • May 2016
      • 266

      I once had a waiter tell me that my steak looked horrible at a Red Lobster (The lobster was no better). He said, "Let me see what I can do." Went in the back and they sent out a different waiter.
      Once found a twist tie in a sandwich at a deli and they basically acted like I put it there.
      Had a manager at Caraba's call me an idiot for not giving him my email address for coupons.
      A waiter at a different chain restaurant told me my rare steak took so long to cook that it caused the whole table to come out late. So I pointed out that perhaps the steak wasn't rare at all, which it wasn't...
      Ultimately I express my disapproval by turning to sites like this to cook my own food. You can send food back over and over but the chances are if they couldn't get it right that time they probably never will.


      • Karon Adams
        Charter Member
        • Feb 2015
        • 1515
        • Chattanooga TN
        • Karon Adams
          Consort of the Flame
          Cooking is a Sacred Endeavour
          Big Poppa's Drum conversion
          Maverick wireless meat & grill thermometers
          Thermopen Instant Read Thermometer
          Pit IQ blower

        I don't go to restaurants, these days. as I learn more and more, and with my health, it just isn't worth it. I find that there isn't a restaurant in ChattaVegas that i can afford where I would be WILLING to eat.

        but, unless there is a significant problem, bug in the soup (SHHH! Everyone will want one!) hair in the salad, severely over/under cooked food, I tend to take it in stride. I know how hard these folks work, having worked in fast food as one of my three jobs(at a time) in high school and college. I generally take in account the level of the restaraunt to decide whether a particular problem is something to complain about. I would be FAR more picky at a trendy gourmet place with Chef French FOO FROU thank at, say, Olive Garden.

        however, I WILL speak to management on either end of the service spectrum. again, taking into account WHERE I am, I note the service. If I have a server busting it, even if i have to wait a few minutes for a drink refill, a smile and sincere attempt go a long way. on the other side, a server hanging around the drink station, so busy comparing notes on last night's date that, in a 3:00 dining room I cannot get a refill, then i'm mad. Either way, I usually ask to speak to the manager. I never tell the server why (they rarely ask, but the really great staff usually are nervous because they know they worked hard) and I will tell the manager how good the staff was as well as making an attempt to give the server, themselves, a little extra personal tip in addition to what goes into the communal tip jar to be divvied amongst all, good or bad. I'll also tell the manager that I want a substantial portion to go to my server and my cook staff (NEVER forget them)

        I have learned to cook mostly because i LIKE good food and really, can't afford to go out. last time I went anyplace other than fast food to eat was my birthday, 3 years ago. I was wheeled into a local Italian place who does MOST of their business as Birthday dinners. the birthday person gets the equivalent of a pasta plate free, so they come for the freebie and drag their family along. Me, with, at the time, a snapped kneecap, just out of hospital rehab, still not allowed to bend my knee, in a packed, dark restaurant with tables FAR too close together and too small, and my leg arriving anywhere 5 minutes before me. yeah. good times.

        So, speaking to the staff is not something I have had much opportunity to do, lately. but, more info than you wanted, that's why i talk to the manager.


        • chudzikb
          Charter Member
          • Dec 2014
          • 183

          It takes a lot to get me to complain, send it back and they will spit on the next version, or at least that is what I have always been told. And I am not one to question a decent theory. However, if it is truly inedible, I will complain, also complain when the staff pours a glass of cold water on one of my kids. (has happened more than once) The higher end the place, and the higher the prices, the more likely I am to complain if it is not right. I have a friend that sends everything back, it is truly annoying, and I try not to be that "guy".


          • Potkettleblack
            Club Member
            • Jun 2016
            • 1944
            • Beautiful Downtown Berwyn
            • Grill: Grilla Original / Weber Genesis EP-330 / OK Joe Bronco Drum
              Thermometers: Thermapen / iGrill 2 / Fireboard
              For Smoke: Chunks / Pellet Tube / Mo Pouch
              Sous Vide: Joule / Nomiku WiFi (RIP Nomiku)
              Disqus: Le Chef - (something something something) - it changes

            I must be going to a better class of restaurant. An order has to be wrong for me to send it back. I'm a bit of a picky eater / super taster, so, if I'm clear with a server about the things I can't tolerate, and I get them anyway, I will send it back. But, I think I'm fairly understanding of what it means to run a restaurant. That said, very few chain restaurants, or even high end chains, though I hit up Chipotle and Wing Stop as regulars on my lunch circuit.


            • ecowper
              Founding Member
              • Jul 2014
              • 3034
              • Maple Valley, WA
              • Grill = Hasty-Bake Gourmet Dual Finish
                Smoke = Weber Smokey Mountain 22.5"

                Thermometer = FireBoard FBX11 with 2 ambient and 6 meat probes
                Thermometer = Maverick ET732
                Thermometer = ThermoWorks Chef Alarm
                Thermapen Mk IV = Light blue
                Thermapen Classic = Grey
                PID Controller = Fireboard Drive + Auber 20 CFM Fan

                Favorite cook = Tri-Tip for the grill, whole packer brisket for the smoker
                Favorite wine = a good Bordeaux with steak, a good Syrah with pork, or a nice bottle of Champagne or California sparkling wine
                Favorite beer = Sam Adams Boston Lager or Shiner Bock
                Favorite whisky = Lagavulin 16 year old single malt

                Best Cookbooks - Meathead's "The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", Chris Lilly's "Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book", Aaron Franklin's "Franklin BBQ"

                Eric Cowperthwaite aka ecowper

              At moderately priced chains (eg Chilis, Outback, Applebee's, Red Robin) it is highly unlikely I will complain. The kitchen and food service staff is working their butt off for not a whole lot of compensation. I tend to overtip at such places, too.

              At high end restaurants I expect something very different. If the steak isn't cooked as ordered, sides are incorrect, etc I talk to the waiter about it. At expensive restaurants you really are paying for perfection and experience and if you don't get it, you should make damn sure they know you didn't.


              • David C
                Founding Member
                • Jul 2014
                • 104
                • Bay Area, California
                • Cookers:
                  Memphis Advantage w. Searing insert option
                  Bradley 6-rack digital
                  Thermal bath for sous vide, pressure cooker, etc.

                  Time & Temp:
                  iGrill2 & iGrill wireless thermometers used with iPhone 5
                  Drawer full of various Maverick models

                  BBQ Interests:
                  Love smoking ribs, pulled pork, salmon, sablefish, rib roasts, sausages, lox, beef ribs, and brisket when I can -- strictly for friends, fun, etc.


                It really depends. If it is a burger joint and a "rare" burger comes out well done, it goes back. Ribs cooked to death go back. Many other lesser sins get a comment, so they know there is an issue, but not a serious complaint. Then there is the "if they ask" situation, where the server or manager asks for feedback. I'll provide some, but not in the form of a complaint, or expecting anything in particular.


                • Jon Solberg
                  Former Member
                  • Jul 2014
                  • 4872

                  Tldr . .


                  • Breadhead
                    Banned Former Member
                    • Jul 2014
                    • 1

                    I never send anything back. If it's that bad I just leave. I'll pay for my drinks and tip the waitress. If the manager says I'll get you something else I say thanks but no thanks. I only dine out when it's absolutely necessary. I prefer my own cooking.👍


                    • jbeck1986
                      Former Member
                      • Jul 2016
                      • 104

                      It takes quite a bit actually. I'm very reluctant to complain. What sets me off is when we get blown off after the initial drop off of food. Then watching the waiter or waitress sit there and laugh bs with another coworker and do nothing. Especially when we are waiting for something to complete our meal


                      • gcdmd
                        gcdmd commented
                        Editing a comment
                        One of the signs of a quality or service oriented establishment is that the waitstaff, even if idle, are scanning the floor looking for signals, either overt or subtle, that there is a problem, not laughing and talking with other employees.
                    • LangInGibsonia
                      Club Member
                      • Jan 2016
                      • 134
                      • Gibsonia, PA (suburban Pittsburgh)
                      • Lang Riley

                        Suburban Pittsburgh, PA

                        22.5" Copper Weber Original Kettle Premium (2016)
                        Slow n Sear
                        Grill Grates
                        Drip n Griddle

                        Camp Chef 24" Smoke Vault.

                        Cheap Blue Ember 3 burner gas grill.


                      I find that avoiding chain restaurants all together has helped me to enjoy our dining out experiences so much more. I haven't stepped foot in a Chili's, Applebee's, Olive Garden, Red Lobster et al. in years. The food is never any good and the service is rarely any better so I just don't bother. We are fortunate to have plenty of excellent one off local joints and trendy, high end places in town so I usually don't have much to complain about.

                      There was once that we were at a very popular place (in the Strip District for those of you that know Pittsburgh) and found a used band-aid in our appetizer. We showed the waitress and got up and left without waiting for any explanation or apology. We didn't pay for anything, just got up and walked out. Everyone sitting around us heard what had happened. The waitress was not very happy about that but neither were we.


                      • Ernest
                        Founding Member
                        • Jul 2014
                        • 3154
                        • Dallas, Texas
                        • Pit Barrel Cooker AKA The Chicken Whisperer, WSM 14.5 AKA Smokey, WSM 22.5 AKA Big Worm, Weber Performer Platinum. KARUBECUE

                        I don't complain at restaurants, never send anything back. I will complain in private though.
                        And that's why I cook at home. LOL


                        • EdF
                          Club Member
                          • Jul 2016
                          • 3188
                          • Atlantic Highlands, NJ
                          • Uuni Pro (new kid in town)
                            Karubeque C-60
                            Large BGE since 2002 + plate setter + pizza stone + upper grid + stainless paella pan for drippings (the best!)
                            TEC Cherokee FR since 2014 (portable infrared grill - does a mighty sear)
                            Polyscience Sous Vide Pro since 2012 (wasn't much else available in those days)
                            Thermapen Air
                            ThermaQ (or its predecessor)
                            Thermoworks Hi temp IR
                            BBQ Dragon & Chimney of Insanity
                            Various other stuff

                          I generally don't complain. But if something needs correction, I point it out and ask. Maybe 3 times in my life, I've left a restaurant.


                          • bbqoaf
                            Founding Member
                            • Jul 2014
                            • 755
                            • Calgary, Alberta, Canada
                            • Broil King Signet Gasser
                              Weber 22.5" One Touch Gold

                              Love all things Q, especially new ideas/techniques/recipes, always down for getting weird.

                            Depends on price point, can't expect perfection for a $12 lunch.




                            Meat-Up in Memphis 2021

                            Join us in Memphis for our Meat-Up! Space is limited to 400, secure your spot by booking early!
                            Click here for details. (https://amazingribs.com/memphis)
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                            See less
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