The Problem-Solving Guide to Restaurants
Problem: You don’t like your food and want to send it back to the kitchen.
Solution: “If you order a dish and it’s not what the kitchen promised—too raw, noticeably overcooked—it’s OK to send it back,” says Brian Kingsford, the chef at Al Forno, a northern Italian restaurant in Providence. All you need to say is “This isn’t what the menu was offering.” However, “there is a fine line between speaking up and being a prima donna,” warns Peggy Post, author of Emily Post’s Etiquette, 17th Edition ($40, amazon.com). And if the issue is that you just remembered you don’t like cream-based pasta sauces, the problem really is yours.
Problem: You were dining in a party of six, and the waiter tacked on an 18 percent gratuity. But the service was horrible. Can you have him take it off?
Solution: Legally, this is a battle you might lose, because most state laws protect waitstaff when it comes to a well-advertised mandatory tip for large parties. On your side, however, is the fact that the restaurant’s management certainly doesn’t want word of the below-par service to get out. Get up discreetly, as if you were going to the bathroom, says Shaw, then ask to speak with the maître d’ in a private spot. “Don’t start off belligerent,” says Davis. Instead, offer specifics: It took a half hour to get menus; you asked for more bread three times to no avail; half your orders were wrong. Assume that you and the maître d’ have the same exacting standards when it comes to service, and bring up the restaurant’s reputation. “I simply don’t think this waiter met this restaurant’s standards” is a good opening line.