Going to a restaurant for a meal should be a special occasion, and if you’re spending your hard-earned money, you want to make sure things go right. However, sometimes your food comes out and it’s less than up to par. And if that happens, how do you send food back without looking like a jerk or causing a scene?
The first thing you should do is make sure the mistake is not your own. If dairy makes your stomach queasy and the thought of a mushroom touching your fork makes you want to gag, well, make sure you don’t order the creamy farfalle dish with chanterelles. Not a fan of red wine reductions? Ask for your steak without sauce or with the sauce on the side. The first step of being a good diner is to be a responsible, educated diner.
Then, consider the severity of the situation. If you asked for your dish to be prepared with no tomatoes and it’s served with tomatoes, you can probably pick them out yourself. But if the tomatoes are seriously intrusive, politely signal the attention of your server kindly remind them of your special request. No big deal; they’ll take care of it.
If a dish is a salad that’s so overdressed or a chicken breast that’s so tough that it’s inedible, take no more than three bites. If you eat half the dish before sending it back, the server and kitchen will (rightfully) believe that you really didn’t need to send it back.
But if you took one bite and it’s a beyond unsatisfactory meal, gently request the attention of your server and tell them the situation. Remember: Be calm and kind to the wait staff; a mistake is probably not their fault. Also, don’t be afraid that they’ll get angry at you, or someone will spit in your food. It’s their job to make sure that you’re satisfied, and if the kitchen clearly made a mistake, the server will be frustrated with the kitchen, not with the diner.
Whether the kitchen simply fixes your mistake, refires a brand new dish for you, or offers you a substitute, when you get your new meal, inspect it, and take a bite. If it’s been fixed, amazing! Enjoy your meal! If it has not been remedied, kindly bring attention to your server and they’ll likely bring a floor manager or chef to your table.
So, once again, how do you properly send food back at a restaurant? First, analyze that the mistake was not yours. Then, make sure it’s a flaw you cannot fix yourself. Finally, remain polite, kind, calm, and friendly. And please, don’t make the staff suffer by leaving a crummy tip. That’s one way to really annoy your server…
Carolyn Menyes and Dan Myers contributed to this report.