How to complain

What to do when a waiter shows you to a table by the toilets or serves your chicken raw?

By Jewish Princess, March 4, 2010
Even if you are fuming,  it is important to stay calm when complaining

Even if you are fuming, it is important to stay calm when complaining

How many times have you left a restaurant with a bad taste in your mouth? We love the thought of eating out - great food, no washing up and, hopefully, all at an affordable price.

There are a huge number of restaurants to choose from these days. So you would think that with the ever-growing amount of competition, eating out would usually be a fantastic experience - but the truth of the matter is that restaurants rarely get it right.

Admittedly, catering to a Jewish clientele is not the easiest job in the world. It inspires the old joke: "Was anything all right with your meal?"

We may be fussy, but how many times have you been seated by the toilets, spent your evening trying to wave down a waiter and then wished he had been accompanied by an interpreter, before being abandoned with nothing to nosh, nothing to sip on for what seems like a lifetime, only to receive a plate of unappetising, cold food which should have been hot.

So do you put up or shut up when things start to go awry? Here are some tactics which should help.

1 When reserving a table, request that you are not sitting near the front door, under the air conditioning unit, by the toilets or in the overflow. If they cannot guarantee this, choose somewhere that can.

2 Once seated at your perfect table, how long should you wait to receive a menu, drinks and bread? If a restaurant is busy, it should not be your problem that they have not got enough staff to cope. If you are sitting for longer than 10 minutes and no waiter approaches you, now is the time to nip the lack of service in the bud. Go and find the maitre d, and put your point across in a quiet, calm manner. It is always better to go straight to the top. If the restaurant is dead, this is a bad sign (as is a dirty toilet), and if a waiter is still not forthcoming, maybe now is time to walk out - they probably won't even notice.

3 If a waiter is rude to you at any point during the meal, do not retaliate. Rise above it and go straight to the management. It is their job to make sure your dining experience is a good one and they should welcome constructive criticism. If the standard of service still does not improve, remember, you are not obliged to pay the service charge.

4 If an accident occurs during the meal, for example red wine being spilled, the Consumer Guarantee Act states service must be provided with reasonable skill and care. Therefore, you are within your rights to ask that they reimburse you for your dry cleaning. At this point, ensure you have the name of the manager who is going to be dealing with the matter.

5 When the food is not to your liking, do not keep nibbling, deal with it after the first bite. Of course, taste is subjective, therefore you could ask someone at your table for their opinion, but do not eat half the meal and then complain - it weakens your argument.

6 If the food is cold when it should be hot, if it contains something it should not, or if it is off, you are within your rights to ask for it to be taken away. It should be immediately replaced, there should be a verbal apology and the item should be removed from the bill. Once again, when complaining, do not alert the whole restaurant by shouting, as we have all heard stories of what happens to a rude customer's food back in the kitchen!

7 When making a complaint about any element of a meal, stick to the facts. Do not get personal with the staff, never swear and do not let your temper boil over. This is important if you need to back up your argument at a later stage with a letter, or even take legal action.

8 Remember that, whether or not you complain, if a meal is disastrous you cannot simply walk away without paying. This can be construed as theft under Section 3 of Theft Act 1978. Give your name and address to someone in charge and pay whatever you think the meal was worth. Then, the dispute becomes a civil rather than a criminal matter.

9 If a restaurant belongs to a chain, or a celebrity chef, take the time to put pen to paper and complain in writing. It is amazing what results you can achieve, maybe even a personal phone call from a renowned chef asking you to come back and give his or her establishment another go.

10 A restaurant is only as good as its last meal and therefore if your complaints are not heard and dealt with do not be tempted to return there.

Last updated: 11:29am, March 4 2010