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How to Complain Nicely

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I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do. Here’s how to do it properly. 

You’ve had to deal with it at one time or another: The restaurant you’re at messes up what you’ve ordered. This is especially a touchy subject if you or your child has special dietary needs.

For many, it can be a very serious situation, but there’s complaining and then there’s an all out psycho melt down screaming tantrum. You want to avoid the latter. So, first off, stay calm. Flying into a rage is not going to help your cause and it won’t get your problem fixed any faster. Speaking as a former server, when someone complains, it’s never a good thing for us because a lot of times, the customer blames the server even if the server had everything right on the ticket and it was the kitchen who misread it. The server is probably already upset and sorry that it happened and yelling at them will likely just make them more upset. Mistakes happen. We’re all human, so please, bring it to the server’s attention right away and the calmer you are, the quicker it’s likely going to be fixed.

When something is wrong and you tell your server something is wrong, be specific about whatever is wrong. If you say it “tastes weird” the chef is going to send the server right back to your table for an explanation so they can fix whatever’s wrong. Tell your server that the dish is overcooked, undercooked, you asked for no tomatoes, wheat bread, etc. When you’re specific about the issue, the kitchen and server can remedy the situation right away. Once I was grabbing breakfast and I had ordered scrambled egg whites. The eggs that came were over easy. Before she had even set the plate down, I said (very politely) that I had ordered scrambled egg whites. She turned for the kitchen and came back about a minute later with my breakfast and apologized. Someone had ordered the exact same thing I had and she just grabbed the wrong plate. It happens.

When you send something back, trust your server. If you’re at a steak house and you send your food back and ask for a new steak, that’s going to take a while. Give the kitchen some time to get your food out. Especially if they’re slammed. A good server will stop and let you know that your food is on its way.

If you send your food back and it still isn’t right, it’s best to follow up with an email, or even better yet, a hand written letter. That being said, it’s also best to wait until you’ve had a chance to calm down and think of what to say. Correct spelling and grammar are more likely to get your note taken seriously. Also, refrain from profanity because that’s probably not going to help your cause. Like I said, speaking from experience, I can tell you that restaurants want you to come and eat there. Sometimes, the manager or the local owner (if it’s a chain) isn’t aware that there are problems, so letting a higher up know something was wrong can allow them to speak to the staff and make adjustments as necessary.

Do you have a restaurant horror story?

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