Restaurant Service Faux Pas


It seems that every time I eat at a restaurant I need to customize the meal in some way. I am lactose intolerant and don’t care for mayonnaise, but for the most part am otherwise easy to please when it comes to food. I enjoy a variety of cooking styles including almost every ethnic food I’ve tried. Most restaurants will gladly accommodate my requests, especially with dairy products given the nature of the request given my food allergy.

Inevitably, from time to time there are mistakes made and the food arrives without the requested changes, is not cooked, or any number of other things. I think it happens to all of us. In most, if not all, of the situations the plate is returned to the kitchen for re-preparation then returned to my table once an effort has been made to correct the problem. I am completely understanding of this and recognize that we are only human and can make mistakes. The reason I am writing this article, a copy of which I intend to send to the restaurant in question, is because of the unusual and completely unprofessional way in which they handled a problem with my meal.

On Monday August 3rd, Donovan, Dave, Paul (Dave’s bf) and I went to a downtown Vancouver restaurant for lunch. This popular chain restaurant is one of the ones I frequent most often, at one time (a few years ago before they changed ownership) they were my favorite restaurant. I have eaten there often enough to understand that what I ordered wasn’t prepared correctly. Beyond that the problem was with the french fries, a common side which is, almost entirely, regardless of restaurant, prepared the same way(crispy). The fries on Monday were soggy, not just soggy but oily throughout. I am no chef but I know that if you deep fry in oil that isn’t hot enough the oil just soaks into the food and doesn’t really cook it. That’s exactly what had happened.

I noticed it before the busser had even left the table. I tasted one piece to confirm the problem, didn’t touch the rest of the meal then waited for the server to let her know. When the server came by the table I told her there was a problem with the fries and that they were undercooked or cooked it cold oil. She responded by telling me they don’t cook their fries as crispy there (which I knew was wrong given the number of times I have eaten at the restaurant before). I let her know I wanted it fixed. She told me she would come back in a bit.

A short time later a gentleman returned with a side plate, he asked me to pick up the other items (except the fries) on the plate and move them over to the side plate?? I was shocked that he was suggesting this! Why couldn’t they take my plate away and fix it for me? Or bring a side plate of correctly prepared fries to my table? Whichever would’ve been better than my trying, on our small table, to move food from one plate to the other. I would’ve objected on the spot but being with friends I didn’t want to appear to be high maintenance.

Within a few minutes they returned with a side plate of noticeably well done fries. The gentleman dropped them off then left. I took one bite and knew exactly what had occurred, they re-cooked the same fries they took away in their deep fryer again. I knew this because although they were cooked on the outside, they were still soggy and oily inside. As it was clear to me, at this point, that the kitchen staff had no clue what they were doing and my server had either too much to do or also didn’t know what she was doing.  Exhausted and hungry I decided I would let it go.

Upon leaving the restaurant Donovan and I chatted about the experience and I decided to write this article. I hope that anyone reading this that serves in a restaurant or bar recognizes that they are an advocate for their patrons and the only way that the kitchen staff is going to understand when they are doing something wrong. In addition, please do not ask your patrons to re-plate their own food. Finally, throw away poorly prepared, even ugly, food! McDonald’s does it and their profit margins on food are far smaller than most.

My lesson: Next time I am going to make a greater point to stand up for myself. Donovan notices from time to time we spend alot of money on things which we wouldn’t even eat if we were at home. Why? The only answer for me is fear of embarrassment. When I begin to really rationalize this now though I realize that the restaurant is the one that should be embarrassed that they couldn’t prepare food worth being consumed. I am going to keep this in mind next time I’m eating out.

  • Brett

    Generally I try to stay away from chain restaurants in general. The volume of customers is so large that the quality of the food is bound to suffer. I always find I have more luck in a smaller room eg Bin 941, La Quercia, or Les Faux Bourgeois.

  • bruin

    ugh i can totally relate to this article! i totally know what you mean. when im w friends and something is wrong i have to be extra polite when i “complain” and less high maintenance and that really bothers me (ie just accepting w/e the server gives me). you just dont want to present yourself in a divaish way around friends. however, when im w my family and something goes wrong- it will be fixed, the high maintenance comes out! but i have friends who are servers and it sounds very tiring (ie rude customers everyday) so sometimes theres that understanding to it.

    be assertive! tell the server what you want and how you think it should be fixed. and be extra nice and smile…next time. you shouldnt pay for what you dont want!

  • James

    I am HIGH MAINTENANCE and damn proud of it. LOLz.