How To Correctly Complain About Restaurant Service

David had a disappointing experience at a local brewpub, and thanks to what he’s learned from reading The Consumerist, he was able to get the management to make things right. He didn’t do it by making a scene, emailing the entire executive board, or holding a protest rally. He just went up to his server and said how things were less than ideal, and then, most importantly, asked for a specific remedy. To his delight, he got more than he asked for. His story, inside…David writes:

BJ’s brewpub opened a few months ago at Tricounty Mall here in Cincinnati. My wife and I had been by to try it, but passed since the wait was 45 minutes. A few months later, we were taking my cousin-in-law out for her birthday, and decided to give it another shot.

I called to ask if they had call ahead seating, since we could kill some time rather than waiting. They told me yes, but between the start of the call and the end, they increased the wait time from 25 to 45 minutes. Reasonable, we figured; we’d just kill another half hour before heading over.

We got there and waited 20 minutes beyond the time we were told. It was clearly busy, and they came around with pizza samples, so not unreasonable so far.

Our waiter, Dave, reviewed the specials and took our drink orders right when were seated. Great. But then the problems started.

It took 20 minutes for us to get water and our drinks. Five minutes later, our appetizers came out, but we never saw a sign of Dave, and still hadn’t ordered. I grabbed him from a nearby register, and he quickly came over to take our order.

The food took a reasonable time to come out, and everything tasted wonderful, but the service was limited. In my head, I’d decided that if the manager came by to ask, “Is everything okay?” I would tell him about our dissapointment, but he didn’t.

Without the Consumerist’s influence, we would have sat and bitched, and never come back. Instead, while waiting for the check, I approached Dave. I told him that we were disappointed in the wait for our drinks and order, and asked him to comp one of the appetizers. (I figured that at best they’d take off the $5 one, rather than the $15 one, but at least it would be something.)

Dave apologized, explained that he had been swamped in ringing out tickets, and said he would ask the manager. After telling the manager the story, he comped both appetizers, gave me his card, and asked us for the chance to demonstrate the right level of service on another night. He was glad the food was good, and gave me his card. Dave also came over and asked us to ask for him next time, to make sure we had a good time.

I don’t know if we will go back, but I do know this. If we’d sat there and fumed, we would be done. If I’d raised my concern and they hadn’t responded, we wouldn’t go back. Now? It’s possible.

Thanks, Consumerist, for giving me the confidence to step up, and the knowledge to ask for a specific remedy.

(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. jaydez says:

    I had a simmila experience at as few restaurants. One was a Hibachi place right after it opened. Our waites clearly did not understand Engish at all. She never got us our drinks and the food orders were half wrong. When we finally got our correct food the manager came over and said he would take care of it. There were 4 of us, 2 drinks each and $20 hibachi dinners each. The manager comped all 4 meals and all we had to pay for was the drinks. Needless to say we have been back at least a dozen times in the last year.

  2. tfvdw2at says:

    I could not agree more with Dave’s assessment. I was in the restaurant business for ten years. Believe it or not, good restaurant managers want to know when the meal did not live up to a customer’s expectations. That way he or she has the opportunity to turn the negative into a positive. When I had a customer that explained to me what went wrong, I always apologized, offered my card and name, explained what I planned to do to make sure that occurrence would not happen again and then did something that threw most people for a loop. I asked what I could do to make them happy. I feel like when a restaurant just offered desert or a round of drinks, it was the lazy way out and gave the manager an opportunity to avoid a confrontation. Every once in a while a customer would respond with “Buy our Dinner!”. Most though said “We just wanted to make you aware of the problem.” or “Can we ask for you next time we come in to ensure things go better?”. Also, when I am out to eat and get really bad service from the server, I always tip 15% and then talk to the manager. If you leave no tip or a lousy tip, the waiter will think you are a jerk. They never say to themselves, “Wow, I guess I need to give better service to get better tips.”

  3. azntg says:

    Nothing like losing a couple of bucks to regain it all and then some. Good PR move!

  4. It’s always nice to see when soemone responds positivly to service issues.

  5. humphrmi says:

    I have a friend who’s faher (now deceased, unfortunately) was a master of getting comped meals. He would brag about his ability. One time, he took about 20 of us out for dinner for his son’s (my friend’s) birthday, and someone challenged him to get this meal comped.

    My wife had ordered a cheese qiche. We’re Jewish. When they brought the orders, my wife bit in, and promptly ran for the bathroom. Apparently they had run out of cheese qiche, and had substituted ham. Without telling us. My wife not only doesn’t eat ham, it makes her ill.

    We left, and I found out later that the “master of comp” had gotten the entire party comped.

    And the approach that Dave used was exactly how he did it. He never raised his voice, made a scene, or anything. He was an executive of a manufacturing company, and would find the highest ranking person in the restaraunt, pull them aside to a quiet corner, talk for about five minutes, and then walk away. He always got what he wanted.

  6. mmcnary says:

    The food cost of comped entrees is nothing compared to the loss in revenue from a poor customer service.

    I’m trying to instill into my kids the viewpoint that no matter what kind of job you end up in, you are always in customer service. Whether you are serving food to the public, or supporting complex banking applications, you always have a customer. Treat them right and you will prosper. Fail to do so and you are risking your livelyhood.

  7. MyPetFly says:

    Restaurants (at least not huge chains) seem to one of the few industries that understand the concept of customer service. My wife and I had a similar experience regarding the wait, etc. a few years ago, and our situation was resolved, plus some. I just wish I could remember where it happened so I could praise them online.

  8. CharlieInSeattle says:

    That’s the thing that some managers don’t understand, maybe you lose money on that first meal because of bad service, but call it an investment, because word will get around about your Restuaraunt if you have lousy service. People make mistakes, but if you suck it up and admit the mistake and do anything reasonable to recitify the mistake, people will come back, which means more money for your business.

  9. satoru says:

    God my friends need to read this. They are classic ‘shit disturbers’ in restaurants. One time they ordered lemonade from this chain restaurant, and it was pretty expensive like $5 a glass. When it came out the things was filled to the bring with ice, and drizzled with 1oz of lemonade between the cubes. They dragged our poor waiter and manager over and discussed the how they weren’t paying $5 for ice, they were paying for lemonade. They then argued that they wanted another glass but with no ice. They never got it, but we did get a few free sodas for them. In any case I was more worried that the staff were spitting in our food as we hadn’t gotten them yet.

  10. Wormfather says:

    Congrats man, good to hear. Me, I’m either completly spineless or overzelous in these situations. I was down at Max Brenner’s (Chocolate by the Bald Man) for dinner witht he lady a few weeks ago and everything was an abomination…I fumed all night…but I didnt want to go there in the first place.

  11. bonzombiekitty says:

    @MyPetFly: It’s probably because that’s one of the few industries where customer service really matters. Sure, it should always matter regardless of the industry, but in most other industries bad customer service isn’t all that likely to keep customers from doing business with them. When it comes to things like cable, phone service, etc, customers are much more orientated towards the price point rather than service.

    In restaurants (particularly sit-down ones), service matters a whole lot. Bad service can easily keep customers from coming back regardless of the quality of food and price point.

  12. nikkomorocco says:

    something tells me if you hit applebees or outback steakhouse trying this, they wouldnt give 2 flying fig leaves what you say. i went with friends to outback on NYE (i didnt book it, a friend did. i’ll never forgive him). it took 2 hours and all the food was incorrectly prepared. the manager came out and acted like we were lying to him and all we got were 3 coupons for their stupid blooming onion app. needless to say, even after calmly telling them we were disappointed with our service and the wait time their response sucked and i’ve vowed to never go there again.

  13. Copper says:

    My boyfriend and I love Olive Garden and one Friday, we came in at about 10:15, which is normally plenty of time to get us out of there by 11, which is when they close. But there was a wait and they were apparently short-staffed so we still didn’t have appetizers by 11 and didn’t get our food until 11:30. In all honesty, we hadn’t noticed the long wait, but the waiter and manager came by right before our food came out and apologized and comped the entire meal. The kicker was that we weren’t even unhappy and hadn’t complained and for the two of us, we’d ordered two whole meals and four desserts to go, on top of what we ate there.

    I love Olive Garden.

  14. highmodulus says:

    Good article- with some timely tips on the importance of complaining without being a jerk.

  15. TheBigLewinski says:

    @nikkomorocco: Hey, can have your blooming onion certificates since your not going to use them? lol

  16. Swervo says:

    We we semi-regulars at a local Japanese restaurant and ended up getting truly abysmal service and not so good food one day. We told the manager, and they didn’t comp us the meal, but did tell us when we came back, they’d treat us to an entire meal to make up for it.

    Sure enough, they did. However, after we told them right when we were seated that we were there to collect, the staff attitude promptly changed and our service was far worse than the night we complained about.

    So much for that…at least it was free.

  17. tande says:

    My friends had gone out to a Shari’s (24 hr dinner type thing if they aren’t in your area) one night after a wedding reception. Since it was after the reception everyone was completely trashed. Many of them were also quite nicely attired in suits and what not.

    They were probably having a little bit too good of a time and they started to over hear one of the near by tables complaining about the noise and the fact that they still hadn’t gotten their food yet. One of my friends in a suit got up, walked over to the table told them that he was the manager and that he would have their meals comped. Then he went through the restaurant, found the real manager, explained the situation, actually got their meals comped, brought their food out, tore up the ticket and told the other table to have a good night. They were absolutely thrilled with the customer service from what was just another customer.


  18. alstein says:

    Usually if a place does this, I give back the value of what they comped in tips- to show I’m not being a cheapskate, and I appreciate it.

  19. Snakeophelia says:

    I love stories like this. Give people the benefit of the doubt, and assume the manager would welcome the chance to make things right, and 99% of the time you’ll get your problem solved or your money back. If you don’t, well, you know never to go back there again (and you can feel free to blog it and tell the world never to eat there!)

    I’ve gotten a free meal at Chili’s when they took 40 minutes to bring out two sandwiches, and I got a free meal at an IHOP when the ham was so salty I couldn’t eat it. In both cases, the manager took the initiative to comp the food before we could even complain.

  20. Meisterjager says:

    @Copper: I had a fairly similar experience in a local Pizza Hut restaurant. It was a simple matter of going there to eat during a shift change-over, which seemingly meant that there was confusion about where exactly the pizzas that were sat on the counter were meant to go. My friend and I were just chatting away, and took a long time to notice that we hadn’t got our pizzas yet. I couldn’t find our original waiter, so I approached a different one. Shortly after that, he came to our table and explained the problem. For our trouble, we got the pizzas comp’d, got larger sizes than we ordered, and got offered free dessert, or dessert vouchers.

    For Pizza Hut, that’s pretty impressive.

  21. MrMold says:

    It’s called pride. If you try to pull the ‘you a servant’ routine, I’ll gladly spit in your food. Or worse.

    After 30+ jobs, the only constant is the pride one takes in doing the task well. Remove that and I really won’t care what you get.

  22. Starfury says:

    My son and I went out to Red Robin and the chicken sandwich I had was sub-standard as was his burger. The piece of meat only covered half the bun and the onion straws were a bit limp and on the other half of the bun. His burger was overcooked. I didn’t say anything at the restaurant but did file a complaint on their website. The store manager called me the next day and then sent a $25 gift card…which was more than we’d paid for our meals. I was surprised at how fast they responded and have continued to take the family there on a regular basis.

    One thing I didn’t do in my e-mail was rant. I had a well written complaint letter in there which is probably why I got the response that I did.

  23. civicmon says:

    I do this all the time as appropriate. I can’t say I’ve ever really had service so bad where it’s warranted a discussion with a manager.

    I have had food that was that bad, sometimes horribe. I do it politely, say why I did not like it and explain that after watching TV, I’m a bit leary of sending food back for replacements. 9/10 I’ll get the meal knocked off.

    I make sure that the server isn’t the object of my hate (“I realize that you didn’t cook this and you did a fantastic job..”) but will often “see if anything could be done” about that. If the plate’s empty, good luck, but if the dish has been picked at or one part eaten (say, the side of veggies with a steak) it’s obvious that something was wrong.

    Being calm and appreciative of the service is the key. They’ll advocate for you. My friend’s a restaurant manager, first question he asks when he gets a similar comment: Are they acting agressive or loud? If the answer is yes, pay up.

  24. thalia says:

    At least they copped up to their lack of service that night. I went to a local Chiles once and the service was awful…this is the second time we’d been there mind you (the first time the waitress kept filling water into my husband’s soda cup, but we thought it was funny and she rectified it right away) and the restaurant was nearly empty yet our server took forever to get our order, and then brought our order without silverware, sauce, or drinks. We finally got silverware and finished our entire plate minus the bit that required the sauce and our server kept apologizing saying, “Let me go get it right now” and he’d come back with something for another table and not ours. Finally we got our check and I told our server, “Why did you put drinks on this tab? We never even got them” (even though we had reminded him) so he blamed it on ‘the drinks guy’ and said he couldn’t have the drinks removed from the tab without the manager. So the manager comes out ten minutes later, saying, “So, I hear you had some bad drinks? What was wrong with the taste?” I’m sitting there like, “WTF?” The guy totally copped out and lied to his own manager about what the real problem was. Looking back now, I should have really gotten dirty and complained about the whole affair, but instead I just asked for the drinks to be removed from the tab as we had never gotten them (not even water). This really sucks because I like Chiles very much, but you can sure as hell bet I’ll never go to the one we have here ever again.

  25. josh1701 says:

    I recently ate at California Pizza Kitchen for a late lunch. The server presented the dessert menu just minutes after being served our pizzas. She then came back a few minutes later with the menu forgetting that she had already presented it to us. She then presented the check before my friend had finished her pizza. The restaurant was not busy, but maybe it was the end of her shift.

    I complained via their web site, and got an email from the general manager of the restaurant asking ME to call him so he could apologize and learn more about what had happened. I wrote back giving him my phone number, which had been provided when I complained via the web site, and asked him to call me. It’s now been over a week, and I haven’t heard from him. I won’t be eating at that location again.

  26. Moosehawk says:


    I went to an Applebees last night, and these group of girls kept complaining about how their food was made improperly. This chick sent her steak back once and the manager came over and offered her a gift card for next time and she was like “no I’m not coming back to this shit hole ever again.”

    She could stand to lose a few pounds, so maybe it was a good thing she didn’t eat that steak anyway.

  27. chenry says:

    I ate at a local pub, Barley Mow, and it took like an hour to get our food on a pretty calm night. My Fish n’ Chips had hair in the fish, which was awesomely disgusting. Complained and made a remark about how I didn’t want another order if it would take an hour to get my food back. Within 5 minutes (!) I had a fresh order of blazing-hot fish n chips. Why it took an hour to get the first one is beyond me.

    All told, the entire experience took us like 2 hours for 3 people to get food and a pint. The upshot? Politely complaining about the wait times and gross, hairy fish got the entire bill comped. That’s 3 entrees and 5 pints of beer for free!

  28. falc says:

    that is definitely one of my pet peeves. an inattentive waiter… where it takes a long time to get the drink order or doesnt stop by to ask if we need anything during the meal. but what is the biggest problem i have is when the meal is finished and we have to wait forever to get the check and have them perform the transaction and get outta there… its at that point that i start reducing the tip as the minutes pass by. the other pet peeve i have is the waiters that don’t write down the order, they memorize it… they’re only opening themselves up to blame when order comes back incorrectly (which has happened several times).

  29. MyPetFly says:


    Very true. For the most part, it’s the service that draws people in to restaurants anyway. Most of the food is pretty much the same from one place to another, and a lot of it can be cooked at home.

  30. EyeHeartPie says:

    One of my biggest pet peeves is when you are looking around for a waiter, and then you take a bite of food, and your waiter chooses that exact second to come and ask if everything is ok. I’ve been to places where there’s no way it could have been an accident, because the waiter only showed up to ask after the food when everyone at the table had food in their mouths. Seeing no one answer, the waiter would promptly leave, since no one asked him for anything.

  31. sasper says:

    @humphrmi: Oh those jews. They sure know how to do it right.

    Joking, of course ;)

  32. @nursethalia: Our Chili’s has a similar inability to leave silverware, but it just got funny after a while, as there were no other problems.

  33. bfhjabby says:

    I was at Big Bowl with my wife. I ordered the beef and brocolli. It was so-so. Not great but not bad either.

    The waitress asked me how I liked my food.

    I said it was “OK”.

    The waitress replied, “Just OK?”.

    I said, ‘I’ve had better.”

    The waitress said, “We want you to enjoy your food. We can redo the dish for you or you can a different dish you think you would like better.”

    So I order a different dish. I was impressed!

  34. nick_r says:

    My best story of restaurant customer service was from Malo in Los Angeles, wherein, after I sent a letter to the manager complaining about the service at my birthday party, he retroactively comped the entire meal and THEN invited us back for a free dinner on the house.

  35. Buran says:

    @Copper: Their breadsticks + dipping sauce is crack.

  36. Finder says:

    I think it’s pretty funny some of you are complaining about crappy meals served at crappy chain restaurants like Applebee’s, Red Robin, and similar. How good of a meal, exactly, do you expect to receive at one of these mediocre-at-best eateries?

  37. Valhawk says:

    @falc: The thing you have to understand is that it is not always the waiters fault in this case. Especially if you are ordering mixed drinks. In the restaurant where I work the Bartenders prepare any alcoholic beverage. When we get busy they sometimes get backed up taking care of all of the drink orders from the bar and the floor.

    On the waiting for the check to transact the problem can be a limited number of terminals to run the check through on, or even a slow internet connection. This can slow everyone down.

    Basically if I run into these problems I try and keep the guests informed.

  38. vdragonmpc says:

    I had an awesome waiter at the ‘el-dorado’ hotel in Reno a ways back. I had this really REALLY good soup and asked if I could have a second bowl instead of the steak dinner I had ordered originally. He looked at me and said the soup was on the house no charge have a great night and enjoy Reno.

    I tipped him the full cost of the meal plus his tip. What a great memory off of that trip (I was feeling a bit under the weather and it was fantastic soup)

    I went there later in the week and the
    steak was great too! So was the service.

    Outback in Colonial Heights has always been bad. I hate getting my salad appetizer and meal at almost the same time. Nothing like a nice night out getting rushed. I have told them to drop the appetizer or take it back if we get it with the meal. Its just not worth it at that point.

  39. steve says:

    When a new Chinese place opened up near my apartment, my wife and I went for a sit-down dinner to check out the food. The waitress was friendly, but her English was a bit lacking. We ordered our food and I asked for “two cokes.” She went off, and 15 minutes later comes back with our food in a bag. Confused, I look up at her, and she says “to go?” Guess I wasn’t speaking too clearly when I asked for the cokes. Anyway, the manager was nearby and we all had a good laugh. He gave us the drinks for free, and we ordered takeout from them often until we moved.

  40. mountaindew says:

    @mmcnary: I totally agree with you.

  41. G-Dog says:

    You better hope spit is the only thing they put in your food if you go back.

    When I get bad service, I leave no tip, an explanation of what they did wrong on the receipt, and never go back. There are hundreds of places for me to eat within 10 miles of my house, so why risk bad service a second time?

  42. sysak says:

    I used to be a restaurant manager, I was promoted to manager specifically for my customer service. If a customer had a complaint, I would usually bring over a dessert and a chair and sit with them for as much time as I could allow and talk about the service and usually offer to personally serve them the next time and give them a voucher for something free, usually an entree or two. Even that customer who cursed me out because the blue cheese was green got that service.

  43. akede2001 says:

    @tfvdw2at: The tip is where I differ. When I go to my favorite places, I usually tip 20% when I get the “normal” service from them (they know me, and my friends, and my family because we go so often). When the service is really bad, I’ll tip maybe 5% or so.. and they know that because I normally tip very well that someone really screwed up. Plus they know that when I go in there, they’re automatically going to make around $50.. and when I take a few friends and family, they can expect to see around $200 + tips. It’s a family owned sushi joint. Very good. Matsu Sushi in Lynnwood, WA.. I’ve never had a bad meal from them. Having been there over 100 times in the last few years, I’ve only had bad service a couple times.. and they were always new people.

    Also, I don’t tip on alcohol. It’s one thing to tip for actual service, but your pouring me some wine and being very strict on pouring just enough is not worth a $2 tip.

    But ultimately, I disagree with tipping well if the service sucks. Just because the waiter won’t make the correlation between a crappy tip and crappy service doesn’t mean you should just default to giving them a full tip. It means you should reduce the tip and still speak with the manager, so that they understand why they received a crappy tip. If you reward them the same for crappy and great service, then they likely won’t work as hard when they know they’ll get a good tip even when the service blows.

  44. akede2001 says:

    @G-Dog: You can’t expect the perfect experience every time. Even great places can have their moments and days.

    Hell, I’m a surgeon and even I’ll go into work every once in a while totally hung over and half asleep.

  45. potohead1 says:

    When something like this happens I tell them that the food was late once they bring it over, then they apologize, I ask for dessert if they take more than 10mins to cut and bring me a piece of cake I get up and leave, yes without paying the bill.

    I have been back to the few restaurants where I did this and noone has ever said anything.

    So that is a better solution.

  46. potohead1 says:

    @akede2001: That was a joke right?, my wife works at a hospital and she tells how you guys make fun of patients that you (surgeons) operate on.

  47. nick_r says:

    @Finder: I can only hope that people continue to have bad experiences at those places so they’re forced to try out the local restaurants that are inevitably better and more interesting.

  48. aka Cat says:

    @nikkomorocco: Wrong!

    A while back I went to an Outback by myself, because I was dying for one of their entrees. When I finished eating, the waitress came up and apologized for the slow service and asked if there was anything she could do to make up for it.

    I hadn’t even noticed that there’d been any delays, because I’d been reading a book. I told her so, then laughed and said if she really wanted to, she could give me a loaf of their bread to go.

    She came back with a bag containing six loaves. Seriously, it probably cost them about $1.50 wholesale, but I was delighted.

    (Too bad about half of it went stale before I could eat it!)

  49. akede2001 says:

    @potohead1: Yeah, it was a joke. I’m actually a software engineer.

  50. ElizabethD says:



    Now I’ll have to carry a portable breathalyzer into the OR if I ever have surgery again.

  51. @nikkomorocco: Actually I was at Ruby Tuesday’s not too long ago with some friends, and I had eaten a late lunch, so I just ordered a baked potato and a soda while everyone else got a big dinner. When the salads arrived, the manager came out to apologize profusely that my potato would be about 5 minutes behind the meals. I was like “Whatever, no problem, thanks for letting me know.” It arrived just a couple minutes after their main meals, the waiter apologized profusely, and then they comped my potato and everyone’s drinks.

    It wasn’t even a meal, I was just having a sort-of mini dinner to keep everyone company and so I wouldn’t have to eat later on, and it totally could have come halfway through the main meal without a problem. I would have been perfectly happy if they’d just let me know it was going to be a couple minutes late so I wasn’t left wondering.

    Definitely improved my opinion of Ruby Tuesdays!

  52. meadandale says:

    As someone who worked in the restaurant business for quite a few years:

    It takes a new restaurant awhile to get in their ‘groove’. Even chain restaurants will have some opening jitters that take awhile to iron out. While they may use a GM and Chef from an existing restaurant to open a new one, almost all of the front of the house staff (waiters, bartenders) and back of the house staff (cooks, dishwashers) are typically brand new employees in a brand new build out.

    I never go to a restaurant until they’ve been open AT LEAST 6 months because this experience is the likely result, especially if there is a buzz and they’re busy.

  53. humphrmi says:

    @akede2001: Oh my lord! A hungover software engineer? Sheesh, I could accept a hungover surgeon, but I’m pretty sure it was a hungover software engineer that caused the sub-prime meltdown.

  54. The Commenter Formerly Known as StartingAces says:

    In recent months I’ve handled bad dining experiences like OP, it works so much better in nearly every instance.

    Unfortunately, I find that some times a calm and confident attitude can really piss people off in certain situations.

  55. powerjhb says:

    My wife is a vegetarian and loves the grilled cheeses at In-N-Out. We got take out and when we got home found a double-double instead. No phone number for the store could be found, so she emailed corporate who promptly sent us coupons for 4 complete meals. We love In-N-Out and it is the only fast food we normally eat, so this made us very happy.

  56. brettt says:

    Eh, you’re just lucky and had a good manager.

    “Hi, it took too long, comp our appetizers” could easily lead to an awkward, b!tchy confrontation.

  57. forgottenpassword says:

    And if you get the wrong kind of server….. better expect some spit & god knows what else in your food next time.

    “Here’s my card!…ask for me next time (so I can make sure to spit in your food for complaining about me)”.

    I’d rather sit & fume, then never come back again than risk added ingedients in my food.

  58. mrosedal says:

    That doesn’t seem unreasonable. It is good that you were able to keep your cool. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but companies do need to earn my business.

  59. Residentdrunkgirl says:

    I worked in the service industry for quite some time and never actually saw a server do anything to a customer’s food. Never. I mean of course because I never saw it, doesn’t mean it never happened. I’m just saying.

  60. e.varden says:


    – Which is why you don’t ever get a tip. And are prime for a lawsuit that would blow you and your carrier in to mending chihuahua legs.

    (“You want fries with that?”)

  61. Robert_SF says:

    I have interesting cases where the meal I ordered was new to me (a new dish I had not tried before):

    once at Olive Garden
    once at my favorite sushi restaurant in SF

    The OG experience was very unsatisfying, I didn’t like the taste of the spices or the a few of the ingredients…as far as I knew it was made correctly, I just didn’t like it. The waiter (or the manager who came by and saw the mostly uneaten entree) asked me about it and I told him I just didn’t care for it. They took it off the bill after I made it expressly clear it was me not the food…that was cool!

    At the sushi restaurant I misunderstood the verbal description of the special and could not finish more than one bite. The waitress asked about it and didn’t even apologize or make an effort to appear that my satisfaction mattered to her at all. She didn’t even say “sorry to hear that”…just a “oh wow….” sort of statement. I wouldn’t have expected them to comp it, as again it’s not their fault, but to appear concerned was all I would have liked. Nope, nothing doing as far as she was concerned.

    I wasn’t impressed with the lack of customer consideration there and haven’t really make it my go to sushi place since.

    Sometimes it’s about the effort and offer…

  62. ironchef says:

    do it Gordon Ramsay style…

    This is inedible you DONKEY!
    Shut it down!

  63. nate0681 says:

    Seriously you people have no idea about restaurants. I have done everything from serving to cooking to management and its obvious just about everyone who has posted here is either cheap or clueless. You not leaving your little tip because something outside the servers control happened is ridiculous. There are at least 5 or 6 people involved with every dish that goes out. One of those people messes up and your going to take money out of the servers pocket? Do you realize that they get paid between 2 and 3 dollars an hour? How about doing the right thing next time and telling a manager so that the cook or whomever it was that messed up can have money taken out of their pocket instead of the server who didn’t do anything wrong. And to all you people who have had legit problems that really should have been taken care of and got brushed off instead, well you can thank people like the above referenced “master of comp”… an executive at a manufacturing company thats too cheap to pay for the food he eats. Just a little food for thought…

  64. smackswell says:

    This crowd of commenters seem to be, for the most part, unconscionable assholes. Walking out on a meal? ARE YOU SERIOUS?

    A server is responsible for their money. You’ve just ruined that servers night. Maybe tomorrow night and the next as well.

    It costs a server MONEY TO WAIT ON YOU. For every item you purchase, a percentage is owed to one of the other staff members as tip out. Bussers, bartenders, dishwashers, etc. So when you decide to be a cheapskate because your water is ONLY 1/4 full, or because the kitchen messed up your meal, you’re screwing over someone who’s overworked and underpaid.

    Make you feel important? Yes? Big shot?

    Never tip below %10 percent, don’t take your feelings of inadequacy out on your server, and you are NOT hot shit just because you can afford to go out to dinner.

  65. arkitect75 says:

    Although I personally have never waited tables, I do have family members that have had to endure rude customers and lousy tippers. I’m not condoning lack of service either. Even if the service is shoddy at best, the person gets 15%, since most places do tip pools.
    Also, if I have a problem with my meal, I am VERY polite about it, b/c these are people that handle the food you are getting. Has no one ever seen the movie “Waiting”? Things like what happened in that movie DO happen in restaurants.

  66. Orv says:

    @akede2001: For me it depends. I’ll only tip low if the problem was clearly the server’s fault. If the kitchen screws up (cooks the wrong item, or whatever) and the server makes it good by comping something, I’ll still tip them well. In fact, I’ll tip them as if I hadn’t gotten the comp. Why should they miss out on part of their tip just because I got a comp?

  67. mariospants says:

    Heh, I just got my fish & chips comped at lunch today. Gotta agree: if you don’t ask, you won’t get. Fuming won’t help and paying $20 for a sub-standard lunch is a bad deal no matter how well off you are. Just make sure you tell the person giving you the cheque. Often the person taking the dishes and the person handing out bills isn’t the same person.

  68. humphrmi says:

    @smackswell: While I understand your frustration as a server, I don’t agree that a 10% minimum does anybody any good. Do you really want your competition for tips to survive in this industry based on a pre-determined minimum? Should the servers who don’t understand their personal impact on the tip receipts of back kitchen workers keep working just to make 10% and split that minimum amount amongst their co-workers? I doubt it.

    Poor servers will get less tips, and will eventually be forced out of the industry by their coworkers and back kitchen support staff.

    Good servers don’t need a minimum and will always keep their back kitchen staff happy anyway.

    Hence no 10% minimum… stiff your waiter if they don’t provide you with the service they are supposed to provide, it’s survival of the fittest and the kruft needs to be sorted out quickly so everyone else can make more money.

  69. Paul_Blackstone says:

    I honestly would be embarrassed to eat at a restaurant with some of the commenters in this thread. Its amazing that the United States is one of the only developed countries where we treat servers and service industry laborers like utter garbage. We pay them poorly, we overwork them, and then we tip them poorly when they can’t keep up with the excessive demands we place on them.

    Its sad that there are so many “professional complainers” in the world – who think getting their meals comped is some kind of game. If it wasn’t for them, servers and managers probably wouldn’t be so reluctant to right wrongs in many situations. Think about it – if a restaurant comps a meal for an honest customer, they might get a lot of revenue in repeat business (as the theory goes). If they keep comping meals for scam artists, they’ll get nothing, ever, other than valuable table space being wasted by someone who doesn’t intend to pay.

    You have to have reasonable expectations when you eat at restaurants. If you don’t, we will constantly be disappointed with the experience. It seems the expectations of many of the commenters here are way off the mark.

  70. gowildcats1970 says:

    I have been in the restaurant management business for twenty years. I am now considering going into another line of work, because of the beatings I have taken from guests lately. Guests are worse than ever.
    I am happy to resolve any guest legitimate guest issue and believe in being pro active, but most try to embarrass and demean folks in the restaurant industry, especially obnoxious folks who demand items comped before you have an oppertunity to apologize. Everyone should wait tables for at least 6 months of their lives. It would make the world a better place.

  71. wetwader says:

    Remember people, your tips are usually split up amongst the entire crew, busboys, cooks, etc. So, if the entire experience is bad, they will all deservedly suffer financially.

    At busy restaurants, try tipping half upfront. Seriously. Throw down half, and be upfront – if they take care of you, you’ll double it. It works.