From many years of experience working as a food server, it is completely understood that the “customer is always right”. When the customer orders an item, he or she is anticipating a specific product to be delivered to their table. Upon receiving the meal, the customer is the one that ultimately decides if the meal meets the expectations for which he ordered. If the meal does not meet expectations, it is up to the customer to voice his concerns regarding his dislike of the meal. The owner of the establishment would prefer that the customer leave happy than to eat a distasteful meal and never return to the restaurant again (or to tell his or her friends about his unpleasant experience at that particular establishment).
There are many reasons a meal would seem unsuitable for what the customer is paying for. The food may have come to the table and appear to have been sitting in the cooks window for a long time. The food may be dry, too cold or simply of poor quality. The customer may have given a special request such as “no mayo” and gotten extra mayo instead. When a customer is paying his or her hard earned money, it is expected that the item being paid for is of the quality expected. When this does not happen, the customer has two choices to make.
First, the customer can simply eat the meal without sending it back or complaining. The problem with this scenerio is that the customer will have an unspoken resentment that he is being ripped off and not getting his moneys worth. The customer will leave unhappy, never to return again. He may even go as far to tell a friend that the restaurant is unsuitable and a waste of money and time. Word of mouth can be a stronger agent for advertisement than an actual ad in the paper or yellow pages. For this reason, it is important to tell the server that the meal is unsatisfactory so that the cooks have the opportunity to prepare a more enjoyable meal for the customer.
Second. the customer can voice his concern to the server or even the manager. When a customer speaks the truth to an establishment (with respect and dignity), the staff on hand are given the opportunity to make a different impression on the customer. The last thing an owner wants is for a customer to leave unsatisfied and unhappy. Depending on the nature of the mistake made, there are a few things that could happen. The cooks may offer to re-cook the meal, or offer a replacement meal of a different kind. The manager may opt to deduct a portion of the meal off the bill for the inconvenience. Sometimes, the server or manager will offer a free dessert at the end of the meal so that the customer leaves the restaurant with a sweet memory.
There is, however, a proper etiquette to sending a meal back to be prepared to the customers satisfaction. The server is the first person that the customer would voice his complaint to. This must be done with an appropriate demeanor as the server is NOT the one that cooked the meal, but simply the one that brought what the cook prepared. The customer should simply state to the server that the meal was not what he expected and ask for a different meal or to have the same meal prepared over again. When the customer explains to the server that the meal did not meet expectations, it is also appropriate to voice to the server that the customer understands the server did not cook the meal. Many times, a server will feel responsible and bad that a customer is unhappy, especially if he or she is living on money made off tips from customer.
For all purposes, it is important that customers send back a meal if it is prepared inappropriately. Especially, for small businesses, the word of mouth scenerio could make or break a business. The customer should feel that his hard earned money is honored and that his business is appreciated. The last thing anyone wants is to go out to dinner after a long week of work, only to go home disappointed. The customer and the owner of a business BOTH benefit from the honesty of the customer.
To all customers in a restaurant establishment, please be honest about your experience. Be respectful to the server and the manager. If your request for a more suitable meal is not honored, ask for the number or address for the owner (or manager higher up). A letter can be written to the owner explaining the distasteful experience. The owner will almost ALWAYS respond with an apology and possibly a gift card for your return to the restaurant. Guaranteed, if this happens, your business will be honored and appreciated the next time you return.