Discussion: Bad Restaurant Experiences

I’d like to start a discussion with the fine readers of GrubGrade.  I went to Uno Chicago Grill earlier this year and met some family for dinner.  Since I wasn’t first to arrive, drinks had already been ordered and were being delivered to the table as I was about to settle in.  I sit down and the waitress drops an entire glass of Sprite onto the table. My jeans were able to absorb the damage heading for the floor.  Seeing that I wasn’t about to spend the next hour with soda all over myself, I just got up and left.  Luckily I lived only 5 minutes away and was able to change and return to dinner.  There were apologies upon my return from the waitress.  I felt bad for her because it obviously wasn’t intentional and if I had spilled an entire drink on someone, I’d feel terrible and apologetic as well.  What do you do in a situation like that?I reassured the waitress that “it’s ok”… “no big deal”… etc.  You know, even though I’m sort of steaming inside, it’s not the end of the world and accidents happen.  There is a huge array of responses to something like a spilled drink.  The hot-tempered could explode on the wait staff and demand to speak with the manager immediately.  The even-tempered could brush it off as no big deal.  Depending on the reaction of the customer, is there a certain protocol that is to be followed by the restaurant? Discussing this topic with some friends brought out a bunch of similar resolutions from restaurant management.  Most common response: free appetizer.  Manager approaches table, “I’m so sorry sir, let me bring you an appetizer on the house.”  A bad experience at a restaurant can vary of course and there are many reasons why one persons experience can be terrible.

Let’s list some examples of how a meal can be ruined:

  • Food undercooked, spilled drinks, hair in my food, bug in my food, wrong order, forgotten order, rude wait staff

So what is your bad experience worth?  How should the restaurant react?  Someone who will remain nameless had steak sauce spilled all over her shirt at Outback Steakhouse.  An apology was given and that’s where the damage-control ended.  There was nothing comped on the bill, nothing free was offered, there was no visit to the table by the manager on duty.  An article of clothing was stained and a lasting impression was made.  The victim of the steak sauce assault didn’t raise a big stink and got nothing out of it but a stained shirt.  If the victim of the steak sauce assault would have had a harsh reaction, would something free come their way?  Is there a standard “start at free appetizer and work your way up depending on how pissed the customer is” rule?  I reached out to Outback via Twitter just to see if I’d get a response.  I wrote, “Hey @Outback … When your waiter spills steak sauce on a customer and stains their clothes… what do you do for the customer?” 

I was hoping for some sort of public relations intervention and canned company response just so I’d have some extra fodder for this post.  Outback did not respond to me, yet they’ve been active on Twitter throughout the day.  I know whoever is running the Outback Twitter account might not have any practice in handling a customer complaint, but isn’t Twitter a social network tool?  Some companies do it better than others.  I once did a “test complaint” via Twitter for another unnamed company and got a response within ten minutes.  There’s a right way to do customer service and a wrong way.  Some places are amazing at making sure the customer is happy while others don’t seem to care all that much.  You’re always going to find a hierarchy of good and bad.  I’m not one of these “impossible to please” types, but I know some of you out there might be afraid to admit it.  So readers… I’d like to hear some of your stories related to bad restaurant experiences.  Even if the restaurant did a nice thing and comped your meal, I’d like to know the details.  If you work in the industry, please chime in.

80 comments on “Discussion: Bad Restaurant Experiences

  1. Sarah says:

    I am a restaurant manager. Anytime we have a complaint, I offer something to the guest if I know we were at fault. If the customer is upset at something that is out of our control or sees something in a different way, I am more likely to go out of my way for someone who is nice. I will still give something to the rude customer–but I will not go out of my way unless they were deliberately wronged (ie a rude cashier that I had witnessed). Example? A lady had come through our drive through. Her sandwich was made incorrectly. When we had fixed it, the shift manager accidentally handed her the wrong sandwich. So back in she came and spoke to me. She was very nice, said she understood it was a mistake, but at that point she just wanted a refund and we could keep the sandwich. So I made her a fresh, correct meal and also refunded it. If she had been rude, I would have given her her refund and sent her on her way with an apology. I believe that every customer deserves the best and am quick to hand out cards for free meals and sides. what the customers need to remember is that employees are people too and do make mistakes. Please dont yell and scream at them.

  2. Jrdunn says:

    As a former server, if I or the cooks made a mistake I would always comp something if the customer brought it to my attention, whether given permission from the manager or not. If I knew it was my fault I may even pay from my tips. If the customer is rude I would give a simple Im sorry and move on… I know Im not getting a tip and do I really want he or she back anyway? Thankfully i had few of those. The only thing that kills me are the people who will eat their whole meal or even not eat it… Not bring issues to the staff, then go on a social media site and bash the restaurant!

  3. SkippyMom says:

    As a former waitress, I too am laid back about things like this. An apology is all I need. I have sent a few meals back that were made wrong, but instead of eating half or most of it, I will notice right away and ask them to remove it from the bill [without more than one bite taken out.] Spilling a drink on me? I only need a simple apology – things like that happen. I understand. I don’t want anything comped.

    In the past decade or so people have learned that the squeaky wheel gets the grease – and if you forget their 3 lemons on their ice team you darn well better be prepared to give them something for free. We aren’t talking a ruined shirt [which they should’ve have at least offered to have dry cleaned imo]. Restaurants, especially corporate, are quick to JSY [just say yes] to keep customers happy. Which is sad because it just fuels the self entitled and scammers of the world.

    My best story of a waitress messing up was actually perpetuated by me. [I know!] heehee I worked in a small, family owned Mexican restaurant. I came out of the kitchen, carrying a large tray with 4 oval dinner plates on it. As I approached the table I lost my balance and all 4 dinners slide off and onto the 2 gentlemen sitting closest to me. I not only lost 4 plates of food, I covered the guys. EEK!

    I will tell you Ryan, they could not have been more gracious. They realized I had slipped and didn’t mean to do it. The men ordered more drinks for their wives, ran home, changed and came back all smiles. They didn’t want anything comped and actually left me a nice tip. My manager was furious, but they talked to him and convinced him not to fire me.

    I miss patrons like that. I get so tired of going out to eat at a sit down restaurant and listening to people bitch because they had to wait when the servers are obviously in the weeds. Wait, it’ll come. You don’t deserve something free because you waited as long as everyone else.

    And do not get me started on people that insist they get a free dessert on their birthday. Why? Do get free groceries from the local market or a free dress from Macy’s on your day?

  4. Lisa says:

    ooh had my fair share. we got screws in our pizza (ended up getting free…pizza….) and once my dad ordered a sandwich and the WHOLE table got their meal, ate the whole thing, and then they finally brought his out bc they “dropped” it on the floor. poor dad had to literally eat the sandwich in 2 minutes.

    I think poor service should be complained about. if the waiter is rude, then reflect it in the tip. and dont go back. bring your service elsewhere!

  5. Eli Porter says:

    When I burn the cat on the grill see, at my restaurant the meal is always comped.

  6. Murray says:

    Here are my thoughts:
    1. I don’t expect a comp unless you really screw up or your mistake costs me money (like a ruined piece of clothing, being late to a concert or something).
    2. I’m not impressed by a waiter’s ability to remember our table’s order without writing it down. I’m impressed with the order being correct, including the details. If your not going to write my order down, you better get it right. I am not offended if it takes you a little longer to take my order because you are writing it down.
    3. When you pick up my bill and I have left cash, the correct comment is: “I’ll be back with your change in a minute”. It is not: “Do you need any change back?” or “How much change do need back”. A freind of mine once responded to that comment: “All of it”.
    4. Know the menu. I once asked a waitress: “What’s this stuffed Pablano Pepper” all about. She responded: “It’s a Pablano Pepper, that’s stuffed”. Thanks.
    5. If you are out of something on the menu, the waitstaff should be made aware of that and should lead with: “Just to let you know, we are out of such-in-such.” I hate agonizing over what to order only to find out later that I can’t order what I finally decided on.
    6. Being a waiter or waitress or cook is a difficult and often thankless job. Tip well.

    • Raiders757 says:

      #3 is a huge pet peeve for my wife, and I have to say that I agree with it. My wife will cut a tip in half if this rule is broken.

      If I may add a rule…

      7. When our meal is finished and we’ve decided that were no longer in need of anything else, please don’t take forever to return with the bill, then take even longer to return for payment/return with the change. I’ve been in places where I swear they want me to become part of the decor.

  7. ohiorn says:

    I actually had an extremely positive experience at Outback. I went to dinner with my mother and the medium steak I ordered was fairly charred. I am definately not one to ever speak up unless there is something literally crawling in my food, but the waitress noticed that I seemed a bit deflated and I finally admitted that the steak was sadly beyond overly done. She and the assistant manager apologized profusely (even though I know that it definately was not her fault since she wrote down the request correctly, hey stuff happens) and brought me out a completely new steak dinner free of charge. I gave her beyond a generous tip for truly caring about my experience and even sent in a note-thank you to cooporate to tell them how greatful I was for the help and care I received from both ladies.

  8. Tracy says:

    We go to Outback often because it’s the one restaurant my 3 children and my husand agree on. We always order steak, 4 medium, 1 well done and one of the mediums without seasoning. We go often, I can’t tell you why I still go, but it’s one of the few places they all will go and I don’t have to cook. It is a VERY rare occasion that any of the steaks are cooked properly. They are all either too rare or shoe leather. We gave up sending them back long ago because you either get a rare that is now dry and overcooked from being pressed on a grill after it was cut into or you have to wait so long that everyone else finished their meals to get another cooked. I have learned to take the worst of the steaks (and fill up on something else… beer works!) and we pass around until someone finds something they can deal with.

    EVERY single time lately, we say nothing and the waitress notices the food still on plates and sends the manager over. We assure the manager that the meal was fine, this is a common occurence for us and we still come back, and we are comped something everytime. We don’t ask for it, definitely don’t expect it. I don’t know how they are still in business. We haven’t paid the full price for a meal in so long. This is at least for the last 2-3 years since new management took over the restaurant. Wouldn’t it be less expensive to train cooks how to cook steak properly?

    We also had a time when ants were crawling across the table in a straight line (no where near food) during the whole meal. The place was full, we had ordered and had our bread and drinks before we noticed, so we dealt with it. Again, waitress saw us laughing about it, called the manager over again we were comped.

    The last time we went we asked about the wood fire grill menu. The waitress said it tastes very smoky, like off a campfire. We order the steak cooked the normal way with wood fire chicken for my daughter and wood fire maui for me to give it a try for only $3.00 more. If we didn’t like it at least we tried it and it didn’t cost us much and we still had the steak. My daughter and I felt as if we were eating a piece of charcoal, it was horrible. The waitress asked if we liked it and we told her she was right about how smokey it was but we were glad we gave it a try. Again, the manager. I knew going in I might not like it, I told him that and that it was a personal preference, the waitress was dead on in description and I was glad I tried it. Get the bill, both meals comped. Baffling. I don’t know if it’s good customer service or stupidity at this point.

    The worst customer service I ever had was Olive Garden. It was only the 2nd time I ever ate there, the first visit many years before. I informed the server I was severely allergic to shellfish as I do everywhere. I ordered mushroom ravioli in cream sauce. Two ravioli’s in I started to burn all over, breaking out in hives everywhere and my throat began feel as if it was closing. Luckily I am very prepared for the situation and was fine in the end. I was baffled, I eat presently and have eaten many mushrooms and mushrooom raviolis. After looking over the menu I realized they have lobster raviolis. I called to see if it was possible that the raviolis were cooked in the same water as the lobster ravioli. I was assure that the mushroom ravioli are always microwaved (ewww) so I wrote the website customer service to get ingredients. Nothing there was a trigger so I wrote back asking the procedure for cooking them. Sure enough they are cooked in the same water as the lobster ravoli. The server & 2 different managers said it wasn’t cooked that way. This isn’t a little mistake, it could be deadly. Truly bad customer service. I didn’t want anything. I just tried to get informed to see what I should avoid.

    • Mary says:

      Tracy, I’m pretty sure you blew it with the Olive Garden incident. That would’ve called for a full-blown lawsuit. Restaurants should inform you when cooking food that could be contaminated with allergic food like that.

  9. Justin says:

    Very similar to you – on my birthday a waitress was carrying a tray of beers to us and dropped one that broke on the table and DRENCHED me. There honestly wasn’t anything I could say to her, because it was obvious that she was so embarrassed and ashamed. I mean… I was sitting there drenched and sticky and I actually felt bad for her. We weren’t charged for the beers (I mean the replacement beers – obviously we weren’t charged for the ones she dropped – and the table got two plates of three desserts each, on the house.)

  10. Ryan says:

    Another experience to share that I’m sure others have experienced as well.

    Red Robin:

    Our party is seated, we are starving and decide to quickly order appetizers because the the 12-15 minute wait for burgers will be agonizing for us divas. We order drinks and appetizers when seated and our main entrees when the drinks arrive. The appetizers end up coming 15min later followed by the entrees 2-3 minutes after that. There’s got to be a big enough gap of time between the two or else it defeats the purpose of an app. The appetizers unfortunately sucked btw. My last 3 Red Robin experiences have been pretty awful.

    • Jay says:

      This is a pretty common problem for me when dining out as well. It depends on the restaurant but one way we often side step this is order the drinks, appetizer, and ask for more time on picking our entrees. Depending on how busy they are or how long they make us wait the time to order the entrees is usually when the first drinks arrive.

    • SmoledMan says:

      To me it’s part of the decades-long trend of trying to herd you in and out of there within 60-70 minutes to maximize revenue. To me, it’s offensive and takes away from the user experience. I appreciate those restaurants who don’t rush me.

  11. Chefprotoss says:

    Lol, all of this is why people go to fine dining.joints. Better food, better service. Our biggest problem is stupid customers. Like the guy who came into the kitchen and lambasted me because his perfect medium steak was pink. “medium don’t have no pink!” Ok jackass… Lol

    We have a lot of contempt for you customers. Almost as much contempt as we have for the inept wait staff. If all customers were like larry and ryan I would be in heaven.

    • Katie says:

      Yet sometimes, I find the worst service at fine dining restaurants. If I forget to wear my furs and carry my Louis or Prada, I am dirt on the floor, and clearly don’t have enough to tip.

      • Chefprotoss says:

        Yeah, dress codes are stupid, but as long as you don’t come in sweat pants you should be fine. Overly dressed staff sucks too. I am not a fan of the wait staff looking like they are on their way to a funeral. I’m big on old school food and forgotten Escoffierian dishes, but the atmosphere from that era blows. I hate wearing chef pants and clogs as well. I fail to see the problem with cargo pants, skate shoes and a clean white chef coat. To some I look unprofessional. They can screw themselves. Pretentousness plauges this industry. People can’t have fun if they aren’t comfortable. That goes for the staff and the customers. My 30 dollar lamb dish doesn’t taste any better if you wear a tie or I wear a chefs hat.

    • Raiders757 says:

      I’ve found “fine dining” to be one of the most overrated and expensive forms of “eating out” ever. More often than not, the food is extremely expensive and it seems more time is put into presentation than anything else. I’m sure that’s not the case, but I find it to be rather stuffy and silly to say the least. Rarely is it “better food”, and rarely does it justify the cost. Nine out of ten times, in every city in the world, you can rest assured that the mom & pop restaurant right down the street, blows the “fine dining” scene away. Not only that, you get friendlier service, and your bank account stays in tact.

      …and no pink in a medium steak? I’ve never heard of such a thing. Even medium well has a little pink, or should at least. I would hate to see what that guy thinks well done is.

      • Chefprotoss says:

        With fine dining the food is supposed to taste like the best food you have ever had. Better than sex. Unfortunatly there are a lot of idiots and hacks in this industry just like any other. I reccomend yelp.com before you try a new place.

        • Raiders757 says:

          I won’t go as far as “better than sex”, but you’ve hit upon what disappoints with “fine dining”. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had several great “fine dining experiences”. The thing is, I always left with that “was it worth it” thought process afterward(never had that problem with sex).

          I’m a penny pinching bastard. I’ll also add, that I’m not one to enjoy fancy pants settings, so the “fine dining” experience doesn’t have that “special treat” effect on me. The entire experience gives me that “stuffy feeling” inside. The dress code, the formal decor, the robotic service, you name it.

          Not saying I haven’t been blown away by some of the dishes I’ve tried while “fine dining”, but I’ve never walked away feeling that I got my money’s worth, or enjoyed the experience to it’s fullest. Personally, I just can’t stand the hoity toity atmosphere, nor can I stand the ass kissing that goes with it. I can look the part, but I prefer to drive my Mercedes up to a place that doesn’t mind me wearing my Rush tour shirts, and Raiders cap. (I’ll admit, my folks are somewhat “well to do”. When I meet them at a fancy pants place for diner in Williamsburg, Va., I make it a point to drive my 4×4 truck for shits and giggles. I’ll also admit I’m driving a 1998 Mercedes that’s payed for. I can drive up looking like I’m made of money, but that’s hardly the case. I just manage my money well.)

          I have posted a few reviews on Yelp myself, but I can’t say Yelp is very helpful in the area of “fine dining”. Not for my neck of the woods at least. Thanks for the recommendation anyhow.

          Personally, I would love to have a chance to enjoy some of your creations, no matter the cost, or the dress code. Your posting here has made me a fan of sorts, so I keep my fingers crossed for your happiness, self fulfillment, and success. If I am allowed to be selfish, I hope your end result is a tasty dive where I can sport my Rush tour shirts and park my Benz myself.


          • Chefprotoss says:

            Thanks man, that made my night. If you wanna get my email from ryan I could send you a couple cool recipes and it would be just like I was cooking for you. Plus there is no dress code. =P

            I did a cooking show a while back. You should check it out. I think it is the second result if you google chefprotoss. You can’t miss it. Typing this paragraph was easier than posting the link.

            Don’t stop disagreeing with me either. These back and forths are a ton of fun. =)

  12. TN says:

    Worst experience. Olive Garden. An entire tray of water glasses spilled on my son’s soon to be father-in-law at their engagement dinner. He got a general, I’m sorry, and yes it was an accident, but this poor man had to sit through our entire dinner, soaking wet. IMHO, he should have had his dinner comp’d, or something should have been done to compensate him for the discomfort he had to endure, but nada. We were given a survey at the end of our dinner to complete, trust me they got a call from me. I do need to add, some of our best service has also been at Olive Garden.

  13. Scott says:

    Just wanting to show the other side of the rainbow, the Example all restaurants should follow on these things is Chick Fil A. For wrong orders alone I have been given gift cards, my money back, or just a fresh new meal (atop the wrong one). Those guys will take any complaint to heart and if the owner is anywhere around the workers will get him for you so you can give your complaint to the top guy. I have seen this at all the CFA I have been to.

    If all restaurants handled things with such care and worried less about the few dollars they would waste comping a meal they would get a happy return customer for life.

    You remember restaurants WAY MORE for the service then for the food. If the service is awesome but the food is meh, your likely to still have a positive image of the place. If the Food is awesome but your service is horrible, you will not leave there happy regardless.

    I am a waiter myself and have seen all the approaches mentioned above.

    Good topic

    • Chefprotoss says:

      The service more than food? You carry stuff from point a to b, don’t let that inflate your ego too much.

      • Scott says:

        I meant that more from a customer standpoint. I have been to some places with fantastic food but they seem to be unable to refil my water more than once or ask if I want another beer.

        I have also been to some crummy places with meh food but such great service i recomend them to tons of people.

        just saying the average person goes to a restraunt to be waited on as well as for good food. Not just one.

        • Chefprotoss says:

          So people would rather have a crappy sandwich and a smile than house made lamb sausage and an empty water glass? I once again am out of touch with the public.

          • Chefprotoss says:

            Are the places you recomend strip clubs?

          • Raiders757 says:

            I get what Scott is saying, and can agree to an extent. Your lamb sausage may be “THE bomb”, but bad service can put one in the kind of mood where it’s awesomeness is overlooked due to anger. Great service can go a long way towards making an average meal become a good dining experience. Bad service can turn an outstanding meal into horrible night out.

          • Scott says:

            Thanks Raider757, said it better then I could.

            Chefprotoss, I see what your getting at too and I guess I was speaking for more middle of the road restruants. Obviously there are exceptions (the best stripper in the world will not wash out the taste of cigars from a strip-club steak) but I still think service is a big part of dining out.

      • ChrisLad says:

        You’re absolutely correct Chefprotess. Whenever I hear something like “you remember the SERVICE more than the food”, I know it’s a waiter speaking. Their prespective is skewed from their experience and therefore say such out of touch things. It’s like watching a baseball game with an umpire. He is going to pay attention to the umpire significantly more than an average fan.

        As someone who has always been on the customer side of the food industry, I literally don’t remember the service unless it was bad.

  14. Ross says:

    Went to a Waffle House this past August. Living up to the reputation I was served a water with an adult roach floating around the glass.

    I got my All-Star comped of course, but I can’t get that image out of my head when I see their restaurants.

    Last Thursday a big cricket or waterbug leg was stuck to a French fry. I didn’t say anything about it, just left.

  15. Kate says:

    I’ve worked in restaurants since I was 13, and it really depends on a few factors – the manager on duty, the kind of establishment, and the customer’s reaction.

    Like Sarah said, if the customer is polite and reasonable, then I’m more likely to go out of my way to make up for my mistake. When you’re working for a chain (like Outback, or Applebee’s) the corporate office most likely has a policy in place for everything, but a local/family owned restaurant won’t have a standard response and it’s all up to the manager and his attitude.

  16. SmoledMan says:

    Sandwich shops are all bad IMHO. They have no correct notions of hygiene when assembling sandwiches and I have basically stopped going to Subway/Quizno’s(probably good for my health too) because of that.

    • Katie says:

      I refuse to eat at Subway.

      Their bread is overbaked and dry. Their meats are improperly seasoned, and usually dried out. Their sandwiches are made with little care. I have *always* been disappointed at Subway. I wish they would just put a little more care into their products.

  17. Ross says:

    Oops, it was an Arby’s where I received an insect leg fried into a French fry.

  18. Ali says:

    My boyfriend and I met up with his brother for dinner at Maggiano’s, since we were in the area and I had received a gift card for that family of restaurants.

    I ordered my pasta with a different kind of sauce than was listed on the menu, and the waiter said no problem, we can use any sauce.

    Another server comes out with our meals, and mine had the original sauce, which I didn’t care for. I’m not really the type to complain, but I figured I would mention it when our waiter came to check on us. He immediately noticed the mistake and took the plate away to make up for it. I encouraged the boys to continue eating… and I waited… and waited… and waited.

    After at least 15-20 minutes, with my dining companions nearly finished with their meals, the server finally came with my correct meal, apologizing profusely. Apparently another server took my second dish thinking it was for one of his tables, which increased the wait time as the kitchen had to make it a third time.

    Our server told us that we could order as many desserts/coffees/etc as we wanted for free. While we considered ordering three, we ended up just ordering two and splitting them (and was still able to take a lot of dessert home). Most of the bill was paid for with my gift card, but I made sure to leave our server a good tip on my credit card, as the problem wasn’t his fault and he apologized profusely.

  19. Ron says:


    What would you like Subway to do to put more care into their subs?

    I mean, they cant help how the meat tastes. They make the sandwich right in front of you. What do you want different?

    • chakrateeze says:

      Okay, I’m NOT Katie, but I can answer that! Subway’s food is atrocious! All the food has an unappetizing odor, as if it were all stocked uncovered in a fridge for a couple of days. The “cheeses” taste like plastic. And the sauces, especially the onion teriyaki, are way too sweet.

      Ugh! Can’t stand Subway!


      • Raiders757 says:

        Subway uses cheap turkey based cold cuts, which have an “unappetizing odor” to begin with. Honestly, most processed cold cuts stink, be it from Subway, or from the packages sold in your local grocery store. You can’t expect much, as it’s obvious that Subway uses the cheapest meat alternatives they can get away with.

  20. Ron says:

    Scott I disagree.

    I think food still trumps service.

    If I go to a place with excellent service but meh food, I wont be goin back.

    I would rather have crappy service and excellent food any day.

  21. Chris says:

    I work in a pizza place and it really just depends on the situation. We have two combo meals, one comes with thing A OR thing B and one comes with both things A and B. Plenty of times we’ve had people mention that they wanted the one with both instead of a choice and if they’re nice about it, or at least not rude as hell, I’ll work it out. However, there are the ones that get rude or downright ANGRY because THEY didn’t choose to comprehend the difference between the two combos (even though it is CLEARLY stated on the menu)…those guys and gals don’t get any sympathy or free shit from me.

    In the case of the soda, I’d be happy if they apologized, comping isn’t necessary but it’d be nice.

    In the case of the sauce, I’d probably take 50% off the bill and offer to have the shirt cleaned or replaced.

  22. Reviewscout says:

    When I was really young I used to be hooked on Sonic’s Chili Cheese coney. I still consider it their signature item and a timeless fave, but one morning I woke up vomiting the end portions of french fries and pale, oily, and waxy crap with half of a bun. Maybe it had to do with the fact I had been sick two weeks before. Meh.

  23. Jane says:

    I have worked in restaurants for over 4 years. Here’s my $0.02. (Keep in mind I’m not a manager, none of this is policy, just my opinion.)

    Something undercooked, that can easily be thrown back on the grill for a minute or two- a comped app or dessert could possibly be offered to the guest, but is not standard. If it’s able to be fixed and back out to you within 2 minutes, I say no harm done.

    Something that is overcooked, cooked wrong, came out cold, or the wrong item, where the guest has to wait for it to be cooked again- complimentary small item such as soup should be offered as well as comping the wrong entree.

    Food inedible, for reasons such as hair, bits of plastic, bugs, etc- entire portion of that particular guest’s meal comped (within reason, not talking 17 free drinks here.) Also soup or similar item offered while you wait for your new entree.

    Rude service, poor service- First, find and notify the manager as soon as possible about bad service. Don’t wait til the end of the meal when the plates are clear and the check is down to say you’ve had a horrible time. If they had known it took the server 20 minutes to get your drinks, the manager could have reassigned the table to a different server or assisted to make sure you didn’t have a horrible time. In my opinion, a comped dessert might be offered to smooth things over, but if nothing was wrong with your food then you should pay for it. You can reflect your unhappiness with the server in your tip, but please don’t leave a low tip without speaking to a manager, or you’ll be seen as cheap instead of having a legitimate concern. Plenty of people who had excellent service leave bad tips, too.

    Accidents, such as spilled drinks, barbecue sauce, etc- Tell the manager how you would like them to fix it. Something like “I realize this was just an accident, but I have to return to work in this shirt, so I’d like you to pay for the cleaning.” Or “I’m going to have to go home and change clothes, I’d appreciate it if you would remove the price of the entree from my bill for my inconvenience.” Really they should offer to comp something for you too, but if they don’t, ask for what you want.

  24. Justin ST says:

    That’s hilarious, my waitress also spilled soda on me at Uno’s! Earlier this year too. I’m not lying.

    Anyways, I went to the Olive Garden one time in a group. Since the 18% tip was being added regardless, our servers were never around, not even to refill drinks. I complained. It was disgusting. My friends couldn’t even order dessert because the servers made themselves absolutely scarce. They knew they were getting our money, so they didn’t care. No one else in my group had the guts to complain. I had to. It was not right.

    I also went to Red Robin one time to get my free birthday burger, and the server treated me like a criminal, interrogating me and making very rude, condescending, very unsettling comments. We went up the highway to the next one and there was NO PROBLEM!!! That made me so mad.

    I also hate how servers think they deserve larger and larger tips because they claim the cost of living is going up. Hey, doesn’t that mean your restaurant’s prices are going to rise also? They need to understand what percentages are all about. Anyways, most are definitely not poor. I have so many server friends who wave their cash around and brag to me. I tip 20%, but I’m trying to transition to doing 15% again. I’d love to do 10. I feel that’s fair. Why should a server get a bigger tip for just bringing out a more expensive item? Often times, it’s their gophers in the kitchen who bring it out, not them.

  25. Jeff D. says:

    Went to a Mr. Chow’s chinese fast food restaurant once years ago, it was kind of late, maybe 8:00pm but didn’t think about it. I walk in order my food and the server asks if I want it for here or to go, I said for here. Like 5 minutes pass and some guy yells at me from behind the counter “WE ARE CLOSING NOW. EVERYBODY GOING HOME. YOU HAVE TO GO NOW.” NEVER went there again, and surprisingly I think most of there restaurants shut down including the one I had this problem with.

    If they only had the smarts to inform me that it would HAVE to be to go, then it would have been an entirely differant outcome.

  26. Laura says:

    Some friends of mine had a date night recently which they haven’t done in 3 years since their oldest was born. The decided on Chili’s because it was close to the movie theater. The ordered from the $35 meal for 2. The margaritas were more like Kool Aid but they were willing to overlook this, it was more about time together with no kids. Chips and salsa was fine, hard to mess that up. The chicken tacos and chicken quesadillas were dry and tasteless which started to change their minds on overlooking the margaritas. Suddenly the waitress comes and drops their lava cake with ice cream on the edge of the table with the bill when they weren’t half way through their meal. When the finally flagged her down they asked if they could get a fresh dessert when they were actually done eating. She took it back to the kitchen and came back to tell them she could microwave it when they are ready. This put them off so they told her their issues with the meal and drinks. She said she would comp the drinks and dessert. 10 minutes later she came back to the table asking if she could sit down, then burst into tears. The manager came out and sat down and started to comfort the waitress! They asked for the bill so they could get out of there and try to get to the movie on time which they didn’t. I don’t even know how they kept their cool with a crying waitress sitting at the table.

  27. rob says:

    I had a friend who if the service was slow and he felt he was being ignored, he’d grab empty chairs from nearby tables and start building a pyramid of chairs on his table … by the time he had three or four stacked up a waitperson would notice.

  28. JJ says:

    A few years ago my then GF and I went to a restaurant not too far from my house. We ordered pizza from there all the time and for my money it was the best in town. This time though we decided to order some of their other entrees.

    I order a chicken marinara that was stone cold when it arrived, and her pasta was like cardboard. The waitress apologized and took our meals back. She came back 20 mins later with a “new” meal, although it was obvious it was the same CM but spent some time under the broiler. The chicken was tough as hell and her pasta still sucked.

    Manager came out and comped us, we ended up chowing down on an order of garlic rolls.

  29. Raiders757 says:

    I’ve experienced all sorts of bad dining over the past few decades of my life. The one that still makes my stomach turn to this day, was a trip to the Rockola Cafe in Newport News, Va.(which is now closed)

    I had ordered a Long Island Ice Tea, which seemed tasty and well enough made. After taking a sip or two through the straw, I noticed a band-aid trapped in the bottom under the ice. You can only imagine my disgust. It even had a little blood on it. I didn’t make a scene or anything, and management apologized and replaced my drink for me. I thought surely I would get the drink for free, or get comped in some sort of way, but to my surprise, the apology is all I got. I’m not one to expect things for free in life, but this was a stomach turning mistake and it pretty much ruined my meal.

    I really wish we had gotten up and left, but we stuck it out. The place had gone through a facelift/upgrade and was no longer the Rockola Cafe some know of. They made fresh bread, and their sandwiches and subs were supposedly “to die for”. It was a complete overhaul from the menu to the sign out front. Gone was the jukebox decor and nostalgic feel the place was known for. We wanted to try it, and needless to say, we never returned. They upgraded the food, but lost something in translation along the way. I guess that’s why the place is closed now. I’ve decided that if I ever find another band-aid in my drink, I’m not taking any sort of apology, and doing the only shallow and greedy American thing there is to do. Sue the pants off the the place.

    • Raiders757 says:

      Let me edit my mistake. The manager brought me another drink, but it wasn’t free. Not sure how the “for free” part got in there. Distractions I guess. I was still charged for my replacement drink sans band-aid.

  30. Crysta says:

    The only bad experience I remember was at a Carraba’s a couple years ago. We were taking a friend of ours to dinner, and Carraba’s was our favorite place to eat. When we got there, the restaurant was packed, and there was a “15 to 20 minute” wait. No big deal, we won’t starve in 20 minutes.

    More people came in and were told the same thing. Then they were seated before we were. Not single people or couples either. HUGE groups. Some came in and were seated immediately. When we asked, the staff said, “Well they called ahead to make reservations” followed by “We have to take care of the regulars first.” They proceeded to take every last customer that wasn’t us before finally giving us a table.

    Needless to say, we were pretty pissed. We sat there for over an hour. I wanted to leave and go somewhere else, but our friend said “F–k them. They WILL serve us.” So we waited. The service was crap too, after that ridiculous wait.

    We haven’t gone back to another Carraba’s since that happened. No sense in going to a place that treats us like garbage because we aren’t regulars.

  31. Raiders757 says:

    Now I’m having reading comprehension problems with my own. Can you please delete my last post?

  32. Jack says:

    Went to a Cheddar’s (great place!) to meet with my wife’s brother, and my wife wants only a dessert. She orders it, and about twenty minutes later waitress says “Sorry, we’re all out of it! I forgot to come back and tell you. But *suggests another one*.” So we say ok and accept it. Now, I’m not expecting any comps or anything (not necessary, and she was a nice lady), BUT some information woulda been nice, because the waitress did fail to mention that “Btw the dessert I suggested is $3.50 more than what you originally ordered.” Made it look like padding up the check for a bigger tip. Not a terrible story, just a little odd.

    • Yum says:

      It’s very annoying and very immoral how alot of restaurants don’t leave a dessert and drink menu at the table with the prices of each dessert or drink. If I had known that the key lime pie I ordered from Joe’s Crab Shack was gonna cost me $7 I would’ve never ordered it but they don’t put the prices on the menu and that is just wrong. Everyone should be informed of how much something is going to cost before they buy it.

    • Raiders757 says:

      Funny you mention Cheddar’s, as they are near the top of my list, but story ended well.

      My wife and I were dining at the Cheddar’s near us several years ago, and ordered their tasty chicken fingers. Sadly an accident in the kitchen resulted in our chicken finger batter having shards of glass in them. In our case, the management went well above and beyond the call, as it was a rather serious situation. Seems we weren’t the only table having this issue, and management went on the defense with all guns blazing. Lucky for everyone, nobody got seriously hurt, and those of us effected, got free meals that evening, as well as the next visit.

      That’s one thing I can attest for. Our local Cheddar’s has always done their best at being what they are, and refuse to be anything else. There’s no advertising, and there never has been. They’re hardly the best at what they do, but they have lasted through the good times and the bad. Yea, they’re a chain, but they’re doing something right, or they would have been long gone by now.

      They’re not my favorite, but I do what I’m getting when I plop my arse down there. I’ll patronize a Cheddar’s over most of the other “casual dining” chains, that’s for sure.

  33. Natalie says:

    Good service:

    Went with my parents and brother to a place in Atlanta called OK Cafe. Diner themed restaurant with the waitresses in 50s diner waitress uniforms. When our waitress was clearing off our plates, she accidentally knocked over a sauce and got a small stain on the cuff of my brother’s shirt. She immediately apologized and asked if he wanted the restaurant to dry clean it (as they all had their uniforms dry cleaned as well.) My brother was fine and didn’t bother, but it was nice that she offered instead of just saving “sorry” and running off.

    My boyfriend and I went to dinner with his brother and SIL at a local place in Anchorage. SIL and I both ordered sandwiches while my boyfriend and his brother were splitting a pizza. About 15 minutes after ordering, the server came and said the pizza oven was a little backed up so it’d be a few minutes and asked if we wanted some soup or tater tots at eat while we waited.

    Bad service:

    The worst service I’ve had recently has been my last few trips to Red Robin. My boyfriend and I went a couple months ago for dinner, for once they weren’t too busy. He ordered a wrap, I got a burger. An expo dropped off my burger without a word. We waited a couple minutes, looked around for the server but couldn’t find her. Finally I started to eat my burger and his wrap arrived a full 15 minutes after my burger did. Our server came by during this time with fresh drinks, but didn’t bother to ask why my boyfriend didn’t have his meal or go check in the kitchen. At the end of the meal, my boyfriend asked if she could comp our app or something. She went to talk to the manager and came back with a card for a free appetizer for a future meal. The manager never came to the table to apologize.

    We swore off Red Robin until this weekend when we went with his family (party of 7) for dinner. The overall experience was just bad. We were greeted by a sullen hostess who lead us to the table with a stack of menus in the center. It was a busy weekend night but there weren’t many servers working. A food runner or busser took our drink orders, but then the server came to the table and took the orders again and delivered my diabetic boyfriend a regular coke (as opposed to diet.) We ordered a couple appetizers and a few minutes later our entrees. 25 minutes later our entrees arrived with food runners. Our server came up then and apologized for us not getting appetizers and said the computer messed up and lost the order, but he didn’t have time to come retake the app order. Well okay then.

  34. Tiny says:

    I went to this restaurant for the first time with my boyfriend (kind of pub style bar/restaurant) there was a sign at the door saying to wait to be seated, so we waited… and waited… a server saw us.. and waited… and waited… finally someone said we can sit wherever we want, so we sit.. and wait… and wait.. (it’s already been about 10+ minutes) server comes over and says “what do you want to drink?” doesn’t say hello or introduce herself or even look at us, we order our drinks, she brings them quickly and rushes off (they were not busy at all, maybe 2 other tables) so we wait to order, and wait, she finally comes back “did you decide on what to eat?” still no eye contact, we place our order. I ordered chicken strips with honey mustard on the side, which apparently sounds an awful lot like dipped buffalo chicken strips because she brings me a plate of the wrong food.. runs off before i even have a moment to tell her she gave me the wrong food, and my boyfriend’s food (garlic parmesan chicken) was literally nothing more than chicken nuggets with melted butter and shaker parmesan cheese.. at this point we never see our server again, ended up just leaving everything at the table and walking out, terrible service, rude staff, bad food, wrong food, unattenetive.. just bad. and whats more annoying is that this restaurant gets amazing reviews, i’d love to go back and hopefully get good food, but my first experience was just so bad i don’t want to risk it again

  35. Chelsea says:

    I actually just had a bad restaurant experience this past Monday.

    It was my boyfriend and I’s anniversary, but we just wanted to eat somewhere laid back, where we could get a good burger. I suggested the local Fuddrucker’s, because he had never been there before. We go there around 8, and it was pretty dead except for a small birthday party of about 8 people. We ordered, then sat down.

    After 35 minutes of no food, we started to get a bit irritated. He finally went up and politely talked to the manager, and apparently our ticket had gotten lost, so they’d make it asap. The manager then came over and apologized, and asked if there was anything they could get for us.

    We decided to split a vanilla milkshake. 10 minutes later, our food comes out, and I see a vanilla milkshake being walked to a table behind us, that had 2 guys sitting at it. It didn’t look like they were making any more in the bake shop, so we started to wonder if the guys at the other table had taken our shake. I, still very polite and calm (because I work in the food industry), let the manager know that I think the guys at the other table had claimed our shake. She once again apologized immediately and went to get one made for us. When it was done, she brought it to us, along with a $10 gift certificate and a very sincere apology.

    I’ve been going to that Fuddrucker’s ever since I was a kid, and I wasn’t about to hold the lost ticket against them, especially after we were offered basically anything we wanted for free. I was VERY pissed at the two guys that claimed OUR milkshake, however. But the manager did everything absolutely right (I really didn’t expect the gift certificate!), and I’ll definitely continue to go there. 🙂

    • Lindsay says:

      Wow – I can’t believe those asshats claimed your shake….whenever I get someone else’s order I let the servers know right away!

  36. McMike says:

    I’d like to start by saying that, having worked in both fast-food and full-service restaurants, I would be glad to have any of you as a customer. Everyone who’s posted seems to have a level of common sense, understanding, and logic that the vast majority of patrons I deal with seem to lack.

    In a fast-food concept (at least in my McWorld), the main goal in dealing with complaints is two-fold; get the customer out as quickly as possible, and make sure they don’t escalate the complaint. Every minute I spend talking to a customer with a problem is time that could be used to serve other customers who haven’t paid yet. It’s not that I don’t care about the complaint, but there are at any given time 8-10 cars in the DT line and 4-5 people up front. The customer in front of me is already mad, while the 12-15 people in line aren’t (yet). It’s much easier to prevent a mistake from happening than to try and fix the issue after the fact. This may seem insensitive to an individual with a legitimate complaint, but the business is based on sales volume. Every customer is important, but barring a health-related complaint or an issue with service, most people won’t swear off the Golden Arches based on one bad experience. Also, in my store at least, we have the most generous customer satisfaction policy of anywhere I’ve ever worked, or eaten at for that matter. If you’re unhappy, we will do just about anything to resolve the issue…including making your order again, letting you keep the original order, giving you a free drink, fries, and dessert (depending on what you already ordered…), refunding your money, and buying you and your family breakfast, lunch, or dinner next time you visit. All of this is done in an effort to make sure you don’t call the “1-800” number that is emblazoned on every article of packaging from sandwiches to desserts. Whenever a customer calls that number to complain, they will normally be mailed a Be Our Guest card for whatever they ordered, plus some extra stuff to make them happy. Which would be no big deal, except for the fact that the 1-800# people contact the local owner/operator to tell them about the complaint. The local franchise is then required to call the customer and apologize, along with offering them still more free stuff. Even this would be fine, if not for the fact that one way stores are ranked is by the number of 1-800 complaints received in a 12-month period. I suppose it’s a good way of keeping everyone on their toes, and it definately gives us a tangible incentive to resolve customer issues (too many corporate complaints=increased unannounced inspections).

    In a full-service setting things are usually more open-ended, and personal judgement plays a larger role. As a general rule, I will try my best to fix any legitimate complaint (i.e, one that hasn’t been made up in an attempt to score free food). I have no problem with a customer sending a meal back for just about any reason, even if we’ve done nothing wrong and they simply changed their mind. Almost the only exception to that rule is if they eat the majority of the meal, then ask for a replacement. If it was that bad, why did you keep eating it? Service complaints depend entirely on the server involved and the nature of the complaint. If a server has worked in a location for years and never (or very rarely) receives complaints, I’m much more likely to side with them. Of course I would still apologize for the perceived slight, but it would not result in anything being comp’d or discounted. If I witness rude behavior, or the server receives complaints regularly, then I’m far more inclined to make amends. I very rarely give 100% comp’s, and it’s generally to tables who have had a bad overall experience (wait to be seated, wait for drinks, wait for apps/food, wait for refills, wrong order, rude/inattentive service). If a customer is rude or hostile enough, I’ll sometimes comp them just to get them out of my face…depends on my mood.

  37. jessyjess says:

    I could care less about service, if the food is exceptional. I once went to this tiny bbq dive in KC and stepped up to the counter to have the woman taking orders scowl at me and proceed to chat on her cell. After her 5 minute conversation she took my order and I’m pretty sure she rolled her eyes at me 17 times. Despite the service, my rib tips were so amazing that they gave me a brief orgasm. Amazing service plus bad food equals bad food. I don’t pay for exceptional service, I pay for edible food.

  38. Mikey F Baby says:

    When I was a kid there was a place called Duff’s Buffet (I know right. I was kid, what could I do?!) There was literally a fly in the macaroni and cheese.

    Showing their infinite concern, they simply asked “Well, is the fly dead?”. Thank goodness it didn’t ruin Mac ‘n’ Cheese for me forever!

  39. Brian J says:

    For the first story I’m a little fuzzy on the exact details as it was about 18 years ago and I was only 10.

    My family, along with two other families, went as a group to a restaurant while on vacation. I think we had a party of 13. The wait to be seated wasn’t bad, maybe a half hour, and we were seated in the center of the dinning room. We ordered drinks and apps. The drinks came out promptly. Then a few minutes later they took our meal orders. 40 mins later we hadn’t had any food brought to the table so my dad flagged down a waiter and asked what was going on. They said the food should be right out. Another 20mins go by. At this point several of the tables around us had not only been seated but served and had paid and left. Finally our entrees arrive and 3 of them are wrong. My dad tells the waiter to get the manager. The manager comes over, apologies, promises to fix the entrees, and offers free desert. 15 mins later and no sign of the food my dad has had enough. He goes and gets both the waiter and manager. He pulls over two empty chairs from a nearby table and has them take a seat. He then proceeds to lecture them on their poor service for a good 5-10 mins in front of the entire dinning room. In the end the manager comped the entire and my dad tipped the waiter a penny.

    More recently some friends and I had an issue at a local Chilli’s. It wasn’t terribly busy and we were seated almost immediately and gave our drink orders. Upon receiving the drinks our waiter went off to serve other tables for about 30mins. Then, in passing, we were told our food was almost ready. That was odd because he had never taken our order beyond drinks. A few mins later he came by to refill our drinks for the first time and we told him as much. He just stood there for a min with this deer in headlights look and then started to profusely apologize. He took our orders and the food came out a short time later. The food was so-so. Other than the apology we received nothing. One friend left a zero in the tip line, the other wrote a note, and I left a dollar. That was the last time I visited Chilli’s and its been about 3 years.

    And finally a high note, courtesy of Chick-fil-a.

    About a month ago I ordered a Chargrill combo in the drive thru on the other side of town after running errands. Got home and had a spicy chicken combo. Not the end of the world as I like both. I filled out the online customer comment card just to let them know what had happened. Two days later I received an email apologizing and notifying me that the owner of that particular store had been made aware of the issue. Well, that was good enough for me. A week later I received a letter of apology in the mail with two free Chargrill sandwich coupons. I’ve also receive coupons for free food anytime I’ve had to pull up and wait on food to cook. Imo Chick-fil-a sets the bar for others to follow and its a rather high one at that.

  40. Andrea says:

    This is an older post but I wanted to chime in. I can be a bit of a stickler when it comes to service, but I also think I’m pretty forgiving and easy to please. A pet peeve of mine is sitting with an empty glass for a long period of time, and especially if I have to ASK for a refill… if my food just came, of course I want more to drink! If I can see it’s busy or my waitress has a lot of tables, I understand if she isn’t as fast at refilling my drink, or getting extra whatever. But, I appreciate a quick “sorry for the wait”.

    If the food is screwed up, that always sucks, but I don’t judge by the mistake but how it’s handled. I don’t want to be made to feel bad for asking for what I actually ordered. If something is comped, that is even better.

    My most recent experience is one of our favorite local restaurants. It’s not super expensive, but a steak will run you about $30 – so we expect it to be cooked correctly. BF ordered medium rare and received a well-done steak. The waitress apologized and took it back. When they brought the new one out, the manager came to the table and said he was sorry and that he was comping our appetizer and giving us the steak for half-off. BF cut into the steak and this time is was RARE. The manager immediately said “well, now it’s free”, and quickly brought a new one. We ended up sitting at the restaurant for a LONG time, but they went out of their way to fix it, so overall we had a great impression.

    So, long story short, I’m pretty laid back and understand that mistakes happen. As long as it’s not a consistent problem, and amends are made, I am good with it. I wouldn’t ASK for a comp, but if I’m given one I’m more likely to come back knowing that I can expect good service.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *