Thursday, 11 January 2018

Send it back!

The Morning Advertiser has recently published the results of a YouGov survey showing that 39% of people were uncomfortable about sending food back in pubs and restaurants. If anything, I’d say that’s a surprisingly low figure, as it’s a subject that is potentially far more of a minefield than returning unsatisfactory beer to the bar.

Looking at the figures in more detail, the first two reasons, of getting the wrong meal and the food being undercooked, are fairly clear-cut, and you should have a strong case. Indeed you have to wonder who the 8% of people are who wouldn’t send the wrong meal back. But, after that, it becomes more problematical. The range of potential faults in food is much greater than that in beer, and very often it becomes a matter of subjective judgment.

I freely admit to being a distinctly fussy and eccentric eater, but in general I simply try to avoid ordering dishes where there may be an issue, as I wouldn’t feel at all comfortable about returning a meal just because it wasn’t cooked to my liking. How fatty or gristly would a steak need to be before you deemed it unacceptable? And what would be your expectations of getting a better one? There have also been several occasions where a dish, while maybe not objectionable in its own right, turned out to be something very different from what the menu had led me to believe.

Plus there is the question of what happens to a meal if you send it back. With beer, it’s simply a case of replacing it with another one, but if your food is undercooked, are they going to cook it a bit more, and if they did would that overall be a satisfactory cooking process anyway? Or are they going to start again from scratch, which will cost them money, and cost you time? That may not be a good solution if you have something else to do later.

If a pub can’t provide you with an acceptable replacement beer, then it’s not really a major problem if you have to forgo a drink. But if there’s nowhere else suitable to eat nearby then you may be forced to go hungry, hence why people may often decide that struggling through unappetising food is the less bad option. And there’s always the suspicion that the kitchen staff may feel affronted by seeing their carefully-prepared dish sent back and end up spitting in it – or worse. The whole business of returning food is always likely to leave a sour taste in the mouth.

Looking back, I can think of a few occasions where I’ve returned dishes because they were grossly undercooked, although with at least one of those it seemed to be taken with ill grace. And there was the notorious ploughman’s incident in Tewkesbury. “This is ham, I asked for cheese.” Then, when it came back, “Er, isn’t a ploughman’s meant to include bread?” There were also a few others which, with hindsight, I really should have sent back.

So it’s hardly surprising that, overall, many diners tend to stick to dishes where the scope for making a mess of them is limited. And it has to be said that independently-run pubs, while they can serve up some excellent food, also seem to have a knack for putting their own spin on dishes and coming up with some truly bizarre and unappealing interpretations. In McDonald’s at least you know what you’re getting, and what it’s supposed to be like.

18 comments:

  1. You should give guidance on the protocol like you do with pongy gut rot real ale which unlike the lager arguably needs a protocol for complaint.

    Something on the lines of, Instead of complaining your pie is under cooked and cold in the middle, simply ask that the grubby looking lad in the kitchen with the dirt under his fingernails, bad acne & a mouldy smell about him nuke it for an extra 5 minutes and then rub his ball sack along the top of the pastry. Then you will at least get what you have asked for.

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    1. That's precisely what I'd be worried about. In general, I'd say unless it's the wrong dish it's generally the best policy to eat as much as you can and then complain afterwards. Sending it back for further cooking is never going to end well.

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  2. " And there’s always the suspicion that the kitchen staff may feel affronted by seeing their carefully-prepared dish sent back and end up spitting in it – or worse."

    A colleague from a few years ago, who had previously worked in catering, advised me in no uncertain terms never to accept back food that you've returned, for this reason. Given the other reasons you've stated, I would rarely return food, and if I did, I'd want a refund or partial refund.

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    1. Quite so. I might send something like a pizza back if it could obviously just be cooked a bit more, but apart from that, no.

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  3. The Tewkesbury trauma is a classic. as is the Anonymous comment about the DIY burger that includes "The Landlord was dressed as a pirate".

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  4. The other Mudgie !12 January 2018 at 14:24

    Yes, “Indeed you have to wonder who the 8% of people are who wouldn’t send the wrong meal back” but as they say near you “there’s nowt so queer as folk”.
    I could even imagine someone, so long as he was in a Wetherspoons venue, that wouldn’t complain if his seven chips were soggy and appeared to have been nibbled by a rodent.

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    1. Maybe there is an 8% who always order the cheapest meal on the menu - if they got the wrong meal, it would always be a more expensive dish than the one they'd paid for and they might consequently be delighted with the mix-up?

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    2. That actually is me, Ben.

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  5. The other Mudgie !13 January 2018 at 02:04

    Clearly the biggest “Don’t know” is for “I didn’t like the food” although such a personal preference, rather than something actually wrong, is just about the least valid reason for sending it back.

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    1. You wouldn't get very far if you sent the chips back in Wetherspoons on the grounds that they were soggy.

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  6. Judging by the current divorce rates people are more inclined to put up with bad food more than they are with a bad spouse. ��

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    1. The other Mudgie !13 January 2018 at 10:00

      Yes, but you're not comparing like with like.
      A bad meal might last only twenty minutes while a bad wife might last over twenty years.

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    2. The other Mudgie !13 January 2018 at 10:13

      And I can think of quite a few men who would welcome twenty minutes with a bad woman but none who would want a bad meal in a pub.

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    3. But wouldn't the food equivalent of a bad woman actually be something that was laden with saturated fat and carbohydrates but was wickedly tasty?

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    4. The other Mudgie !13 January 2018 at 19:00

      I am NOT going to be drawn into entering into a long discussion here about the definition of “bad”, and I don’t doubt that a few women are laden with saturated fat and carbohydrates, but maybe women might be a bit like music in that very occasionally they can be so bad that they’re good, or so I’m told !

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    5. {raises both hands}

      I graciously concede defeat to both Mudgies. Any witty remark I tried to come up with after that would most likely be bordering on a ban. (LOL)

      Cheers

      PS - With regards to the music analogy I was going to attempt a riff on "Bad to the Bone" but lickily* I'm only on my 2nd beer.

      * - deliberate play on words with regards to women's tasty bits ;)

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    6. The other Mudgie !14 January 2018 at 00:32

      With regards to the music analogy I was thinking of Mama Hated Diesels by Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZNVF1F23oQ
      With regards to the woman analogy I am NOT going to be drawn into naming names !
      Now can we please return to discussing sending back pub meals, unless you’re now on your eighth pint and are really going to post what you think ?!

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