Dish of the Day: Sticking it to the chef

Dan Doherty

DuckWaffle duck egg 300x225 Dish of the Day: Sticking it to the chef“Your food is bad, no, it’s f*cking awful.”

I am standing at a customer’s table, the target of his invective. After being informed we have a less than happy guest by my manager, I am trying to find out where we went wrong, what we can learn from this – and ultimately trying to turn this around before they leave and shout about it to every man and his dog.

Maybe we did mess up. Although I’d like to think that the other hundred or so people that come along day after day aren’t doing so just for the views, as spectacular as they are.

Rewind 20 years and there I am sitting at the table with my parents, after an excruciatingly bad meal at a less than average chain restaurant. As the waiter comes over to check how we’re doing, we all, even my 13-year-old self, agree that everything is, in fact, fine. We might tell our friends this how bad this place is, and that we’d never return, no way – but the waiter? No

So, my question is, when did we Brits become so vocal – when did we learn to “give it” to the chefs? I see it so much more often in my restaurant these days.

Is it an American thing? Is the flip-side that we will all be hugging each over a decent cheesecake; telling each other how we really feel about the food on our plate?

Question is: Is it a step in the wrong direction? Too much frankness?

Personally, even if I do have to stand at a table taking flack, I think it’s great; if I’m prepared to take all the praise for what my team achieve, then the very least I can do is have someone tell me I suck to my face if we slip up. From my perspective, sure beats not knowing at all, like the good ol’ days.

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  • approveds

    Restaurants in the London used to be nice places to eat, until greed came along, prices went up, and we were given ‘time slots’ in which to eat our meals, and ‘get out’. So if we do go to these unfriendly greedy places called restaurants now we expect value for money, which means we have to complain if something is not right.

  • Neil Rankin

    My manager told me that a couple the other week told them our sunday lunch was the ‘worst thing they had eaten in their life’. A pretty strong opinion. It’s hard for me to argue in the face of such certainty so I just said ‘ok, thank you’. In general though I relish negative feed back as I know myself nothing is perfect so its helps us develop.

    I think the restaurant trade in general will benefit from people being more vocal but you can’t take it all to heart. Some of them are full of it and I only hope the couple in question were as mad as mince.

  • harrymeadows

    I think that there is an “escape velocity” of anger that people have to reach before they will complain, but then when they do, they really go for it.

    Being disappointed is not enough, you have to be so disappointed that you’re angry about it. Because if you’re going to complain, you need to have the stamina for the fuss it will cause.

    “What’s wrong with it? Disappointing? In what way? Let me get the Chef … Disappointing? In what way?”

    If you can’t be ar$ed with the faff, there is nothing for you, as a customer, to gain. A free meal (that you didn’t like anyway)? Thanks. A free drink after a less than comfortable exchange? I.e. stay longer? No, cheers, you’re OK. Simpering apologies, uncomfortable looks from staff etc – not many people like it.

    My good lady wife complained about a meal on Friday. Too salty. I love a good dose of salt and it was even too salty for me. The thing is that we were both so hungry, she nearly didn’t complain. Who wants to go back to square one when the food, however bad, is sat in front of you and you are famished? Unfortunately, it was completely inedible, so we had no choice.

    The waiter took the plate back and we heard a distinct “What are you talking about, I didn’t add any salt at all?!” A few minutes later the culprit, in the form of a change of premade spice-rub, had been found.

    Profuse apologies, have a free drink. As if that makes things right.

    “Too salty” is easy, because it is not a judgement call. The food was too salty. But “I was expecting something a lot more interesting” is a harder suit to play. People want specifics that they can pin down as the cause of the problem.

    And once a complaint has been made its like being on a blind date where one person says “you know what, I just don’t find you attractive” – it may be honest, but it does not make for a fun, or satisfying eating experience.

    There is a self-consciousness on both sides, bordering on embarrassment.

    Speaking as a customer, the first thing I want if I send food back is replacement food, fast. Particularly if everyone I am with is eating. At that point staff focus on investigating the problem – something I think that could do *after* they have replaced my food.

    Offer a selection of starters, or the fastest main on the menu (free, of course) – something / anything to get food into me quick. And don’t offer me a free drink, offer a bottle. If you want me to come back, a reprise of the same dish, or a free limoncello isn’t going to send me home happy.

  • Max Wallis

    This is a great insight. I never really thought about that.

  • Jeremy K.

    I may be wrong but I think that, by law, if the meal is seriously unsatisfactory, you are entitled to refuse to pay for it. After all, if a shop supplies faulty goods, you are entitled to a refund – I think.

  • Guest


  • LesSteel

    There’s complaining and there’s being a dick…

  • Spanner1960

    You are allowed to pay essentially what you think it is worth, so if it was poor, maybe pay half, if it was inedible, nothing at all.

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