Restaurant Complaining Done Right

Learn how the right kind of complaining can make a difference.

Trent Armstrong
4-minute read
Episode #75

Frequently, I receive emails from listeners asking me to address one topic or another, often formatted thusly, Dear Modern Manners Guy, I have a [insert noun] who is [insert objectionable adjective/adverb].... Something like, Dear Modern Manners Guy, my friend is sooooo stupid... or, Dear Modern Manners Guy, my sister is powerful dirty... or, Dear Modern Manners Guy, my parent's are reeeeally mean... or, Dear Modern Manners Guy, this Modern Manners Guy thinks he's such a bigshot... Of course, since it pleases the court, I'm exaggerating (ever so slightly) but I think it's high time that we address the manners, my friends, of complaining.

A Time and A Place 

Now, I'm sure I don't have to tell you that there is definitely a time and a place for complaining. Sometimes, things are just wrong, they need to be changed for the better, and the only way to get anyone to pay attention is to dig out your most shrill voice and shriek until someone begs you to stop. On the other hand, occasionally, things just are the way they are and there's nothing we can do about it. And even worse, sometimes, just sometimes, we have no right to suggest a change-- often when that change just relates to our own pet peeves.

All of that aside, over the next few weeks I want to walk through the manners of complaining for a variety of scenarios that are near and dear to my heart and that are situations in which I believe complaining is justified, but often ineffective and construed as rude. 

The 12oz Filet Situation

Say you're out on the town having a nice meal at Maximillian's Steak House and you order a 12oz. filet, baked potato with all the fixings, and a salad.

Your salad comes out--fresh lettuce, crisp carrots and ripe heirloom tomatoes-- a beautiful salad to be sure, but all you can think about is that filet. 12oz of buttery beef marbled perfectly because you requested it cut from the laziest cow they could find, and cooked to marshmallowy medium because you and I both know that that is how the west was won. Suddenly, your steak arrives and you realize that you've barely touched your salad, but salad be darned, because You. Want. Steak.

They rest the plate in front of you, and--smiling--you pick up your knife and fork and begin to cut into the slightly tougher... than.... expected steak. It seems pretty done: like almost well done. Disappointed, but open-minded, you place the meat between your teeth and you chew... and chew, and chew some more before finally...

SERVER:  "And how is everything this evening?"

ME:  "You know what? This just isn't going to work..."

So, you've received your steak, (or overcooked, black bean, veggie burger) and have subsequently been disappointed by it. What do you do?

Cheese and Whine

Be honest. If the food isn't up to your expectations, tell your waiter-- after all you're expected to pay for it. Tell your waiter exactly what is wrong with the food: it's overcooked, it's too salty, it's cold, or maybe it’s even the wrong dish. Do not be afraid to send it back if it's plainly incorrect, but do not whine!