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How to Send Back Food at a Restaurant: Without Being Rude

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You go out on the town for a meal with the family and an evening’s entertainment. After the movie, you all sit down in the booth at your favorite restaurant. As you all stare at the menus and pick out your meals, you salivate at the thought of biting into the bacon-and-cheese jalapeño burger. The idea of the crunchy fries and chocolate milkshake dance across tour taste buds with delight.

However, when the meal arrives, it’s not what you expect. The bun tastes stale, the meat is undercooked, and the onions rings are limp. This burger is not what you had in mind when placing your order.

So, now what? How do you deal with sending your food back to the kitchen? We’ve all seen enough movies to know that there’s a big greasy chef back there that’s probably going to spit in your food.

Gambling with Your Gut – The Risks of Eating Out

Whenever you go out to eat, you’re taking a chance. The fact is that most restaurants are not very clean places. What you see on your plate, and what goes on behind closed doors in the kitchen are two different things.

When you’re eating out, you don’t hear about the mousetraps in the back, how the toilets bogged up last week, or how the management is moaning at the staff to wash their hands. When we eat at a restaurant, we take it on blind faith that the owners know what they are doing, and the sanitary conditions in the kitchen are up to code.

The Types of Restaurants

When you decide to take the family out for dinner, then you have a few choices on offer. You could visit a four or five-star restaurant and get great food with excellent service. However, most American families are on a budget and can’t afford these menu items. Typically, at a five-star restaurant, you won’t be sending food back to the kitchen.

If you take the family out to eat at a sit-down restaurant at the mall, then there’s a higher risk of you getting a meal you don’t want to eat. However, the chances are still rare that the meal will be so bad you’ll refuse to eat it. These types of establishments are the most typical restaurants that receive food complaints.

The last option is to eat out of a food truck. If you decide to eat out of a food truck, make sure you check the health department grading. Eating from a B or C food truck can wind you up with some terrible food.

Eating Out

How to Avoid Getting a Bad Meal

When going out to a restaurant, it makes sense to go somewhere, you know. However, if you’re meeting friends for dinner and drinks somewhere, you have no idea what the food is like when you order. Therefore, there are a couple of ways you can avoid getting a bad meal at a restaurant you don’t know.

  • Avoid eating off-menu items – These menu items won’t be trendy among the guests. Therefore, they’ve probably been sitting in the freezer for far too long. Stick with meals that the restaurant serves often. Ask your waiter for the best dish choices, and then take their recommendation.
  • Avoid high-priced menu items – These items may also not be popular with guests. Stick to mid-range priced items on the menu.
  • Look for fresh meals – Look for meals with fresh ingredients like salads. Order a pasta meal, as pasta doesn’t spoil.
  • Do your research – Before you go out to an unknown restaurant, research the establishment on social media. Look through Yelp reviews and see what people are saying about the place on Twitter and Facebook.

It doesn’t hurt to be kind to your waiter either, the friendlier you are, the more the waiter will want to ensure you get the best service. If something does go wrong with your food, your waiter will sort it out for you, without wanting to get revenge on you for insulting them earlier.

Discovering Something Wrong with Your Meal

There are more than a couple of scenarios where you could receive a bad meal. The first one is a mild case, where the food is still edible. For instance, you order a steak medium-well, and it comes to your table rare. Sending it back isn’t a problem, as long as no one drops it on the floor in the backroom on purpose.

The other situation would be when you receive a meal that is not edible. In this case, you’ll need to request something else off of the menu or decide to get a refund for your meal. It’s important to note that sending food back causes a stir with management, and the manager on duty should visit your table and ask you about the problem.

Good managers will try to apologize for the situation. They’ll recommend something else off of the menu, and ensure that it arrives at your table cooked to perfection.

However, bad managers may take your food into the back and do unspeakable things to it before returning it to your table. It’s for this reason that it’s vital to look up what people are saying online about the restaurant.


What Happens to Your Food in the Back?

In most cases, when you send food back at a restaurant, the waiter or manager will ask you what was wrong with the dish. If it’s still salvageable, then they may offer to take it to the back and fix it for you.

This practice is a double-edged sword. As a rule of thumb, you should never send food back in a restaurant that looks even slightly run down. If everything is not neat and looking perfect, then it’s a sign that the kitchen is probably a lot worse.

Kitchens that operate in sub-standard conditions have a problem with leadership. Therefore, you can expect the chef to not really care much about their job. Sending your meal back at a place like this is asking for trouble. We recommend that you either ask for a refund, or you pay and refuse to eat the meal, then slam them on social media later.

If you receive any hostility at all from the staff, then refuse to eat any meal returned to your table. You have no idea what goes on behind closed doors. People love taking a vindictive stance when people question their authority. Therefore, getting in an argument with the manager is not a good idea. If this situation occurs, it’s better to pay your bill and leave the establishment.

Why You Should Never Be Mean to Your Waitron

When you visit a restaurant, always be friendly and courteous to your waiter. Waiters are typically young kids looking for a start in life. If you ridicule your waiter and belittle them in front of other people, you can expect them to react.

Kids don’t appreciate you taking an authoritarian tone with them. If you act like a douchebag, then you can expect that your food will come with an additional “surprise.” In most cases, you won’t even be aware that they tainted your food, but later on, your stomach may tell you a story you don’t want to hear.

Always be friendly with your service staff – Their job is to serve you, but they are not your servant. Respect will go a long way in ensuring that you and your family have a pleasant and tasty meal.

How to Send Your Food Back to the Chef

When you send your meal back with the waiter, make sure you address the chef indirectly, as well. Tell the waiter that you apologize, but there must have been some mistake. You ordered this steak well-done, and it’s rare. Tell the waiter that you understand the chef must be under pressure, but if he could sort out your meal, you would appreciate it tremendously.

A request like that is polite, and no-one likes to be unforgiving to a respectful person. The waiter will relay your kind words, and ensure that the chef cooks the meal to your specifications this time around.

The way not to handle the situation would be to shout at your waiter and perhaps swear at them. How would you feel if someone unloaded their emotional instability on you? You can be sure that that steak will come back after someone’s done something terrible to it. When you complain a second time, they’ll ask you to leave and laugh at you as you go.

Bad Chef

When to Leave Your Meal

While most restaurants will gladly return your meal to the kitchen, there are a few circumstances where you should rather leave it and pay the bill instead. If you have an uneasy feeling about how the manager is behaving toward you, then avoid sending your food back.

Similarly, if you have an altercation with your waiter, avoid sending your food back to the kitchen. Both of these situations could result in you getting a nasty surprise with your next meal. In most cases, you won’t have any idea of the mischief the chef and waiter get up to in the kitchen behind your back.

If you think that this article is being overly dramatic with this situation, we urge you to reconsider. People do strange and disgusting things for respect among their social peers. The chef knows that you will be examining your food when it gets back to your table. Therefore, don’t expect them to send it back to your table with a big spit-wad in the middle of your steak.

Dropping your food on the dirty floor is all it takes for them to get even with you. An example of the lengths people will go to that you might think are impossible are real. This summer, viral videos flooded the internet of people taking ice-cream cartons from fridges at supermarkets and opening them up in the store. The person then takes a big lick of the container before returning it to the shelf.

This act is not what we think you would imagine as sanitary. However, it’s an excellent example of always expecting the unexpected. You don’t know these people that are serving you your food, so why should you trust them?

Bad Meal

Leave Your Comment with the Tip

If you have any issues with your waiter or the manager, let the tip do the talking. Waiters rely on tips for their salary. In most cases where you need to send food back to the kitchen, your waiter is stressing. They want to ensure you get the best restaurant experience because it reflects on the tip you leave them after the meal.

If you get a bad meal, don’t leave any tip. That will infuriate the waiter, and they’ll take it up with the chef on your behalf. In most cases, it’s the chef’s fault, not the waiter, but the waiter should check the food before bringing it to your table. In this instance, both parties are liable, so don’t you feel guilty about leaving no tip.

Take your digression a step further and write your comments on the till slip when paying the bill. The chances are that your waiter will tear it up in frustration, but at least you get to say your piece. Cutting or leaving no tip is the best way to voice your concerns with your treatment and the service you receive at a restaurant.

Restaurant Bill with Tip

The Final Word – Taking Action Against the Restaurant

If leaving no tip got you no satisfaction, then you can always escalate the situation online. In the digital age, restaurants want to keep a squeaky-clean image of their brand online. If you go on Yelp and leave them a bad review, it’ll help other people avoid a lousy meal at the restaurant as well.

Don’t be afraid to put the restaurant on blast on Twitter and Instagram, as well. Take photos of your meal, and post your feelings of contempt, along with the picture of the food in question. If you’re dining at a chain restaurant, you can expect the management team to reach out to you to ask you how they can make it up to you.


Oliver Dale is Editor-in-Chief of MoneyCheck and founder of Kooc Media Ltd, A UK-Based Online Publishing company. A Technology Entrepreneur with over 15 years of professional experience in Investing and UK Business.His writing has been quoted by Nasdaq, Dow Jones, Investopedia, The New Yorker, Forbes, Techcrunch & More.He built Money Check to bring the highest level of education about personal finance to the general public with clear and unbiased

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