Once in a while, you get a meal and it amazes you. It is beyond your expectations, perfect in every aspect, creative, and gorgeous. Sometimes, you get something that is the exact opposite.

So what do you do when you get a meal that’s rotting? How do you handle the server? What are the appropriate steps? Do you still tip a full 20%? What is your move? I’ve got a set of rules I personally follow and some ideas of how to make a terrible situation much better.

I have had my share of shitty meals in a lot of different cities in a lot of different countries. This comes with the territory. Sometimes the restaurant has had so much hype that it almost doesn’t matter what they do, you’re going leave a little disappointed. Or, and this happens, something doesn’t sit right and then you have a night praising the porcelain throne.

What happened to me in New York was pretty bad. I ordered my basic for a dinner, Corned beef hash with over medium eggs (my favorite). Everything seemed fine when I walked in, the dinner was pretty clean plastic menus, slightly uncomfortable seats. Really everything I look for in a dinner. But they missed one massive component. They served me rotten food.

When the dish came out it didn’t look quite right the potatoes were kind of gray and the hash wasn’t crispy at all and almost looked bubbly. It wasn’t very appetizing. When I inspected it further it smelled rank. It was foul, it probably sat out too long, whatever, it should not have been served to anyone.

So in this situation, what do you do? As a rule, I try not to blame the server. Most of the time it isn’t their fault, but it is their responsibility to make it better. They should be all over it, talking to the general manager, making it right. Your experience is their responsibility.

That didn’t happen. He took it back and I asked for eggs and toast because I was starving and it was the middle of the night. Also, I was positive they couldn’t fuck that up and I was right. It came out fine. Then I got the bill, $8 for eggs. Just the eggs. I know this is NYC, home of expensive but this was insane to me. My rotten food cost me $12, and that came with eggs, toast, corned beef hash and eggs.

How did I handle that situation?  I addressed my server, and then he argued with me and told me that the eggs were actually much cheaper. So I walked over and talked to the owner. I then had an amazing conversation where, instead of making things right, they blew me off and insisted that I paid for my eggs since I didn’t pay for the corned beef hash.

Things kind of went downhill from there, but I digress.

So what should have happened? It’s important that people in the industry remember that at the end of the day, you want your customer to be happy. You want to give them the best experience possible because that’s what we’re there for. Our job, no matter if you work for a hot dog stand, or a three Michelin star restaurant is to make sure the customer has the best experience possible.

So what are the moves for this situation, and other situations like it? Let’s break it down.

Keep your cool, Remember that you’re trying to have a good night, and it’s usually an honest mistake. No restaurant is out to get you. Be aware that they want you to have as good of a time as you can.

Treat people like people. No one likes to be talked down to, talk to your servers and managers as friends, not like slaves. They are here to serve you but they can only do as good of a job as you let them.

If something continues to go wrong, long wait times, messed up orders or whatever, take a second to look around, does your server have four tables that just got menus? They probably got quad sat, and that is intense for even the most seasoned server. Try to be understanding, is your food taking way too long? The kitchen may be getting crushed with special orders and is struggling to keep up. There is almost always a reason, especially in a busy restaurant.

Give them a chance to make it right. If your experience hasn’t been the best, let them know, or grab the attention of the guy in a suit that’s walking around talking to tables. Don’t talk to the kid who looks like he’s going to have a stroke carrying a bunch of dishes. He’s the back waiter and he’s probably already over his head. Grab someone who looks calm and in control and talk to them. Chances are they will save your night.

If no one is talking to you, or if anyone is treating you rudely, then yes, you have the right to be irritated, and you should deal with that accordingly find the Manager, let them know what has happened and then move on with your night.

Eating out should never feel like a gamble, Make sure that you do your research. Talk to your friends, read reviews, make sure that it’s the price point you are comfortable with. Remember that the important thing about where you’re going is the experience that you want and that you’re out to have fun, get a little tipsy and just nosh (bro).

 

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