The Right Way to Send Food Back, According to Waiters and Chefs
Take it from the professionals.
We partnered with Culinary Agents, a professional network for the hospitality industry, to poll their more than 400,000 members, and we asked the chefs and restaurateurs at the top of their game what restaurant guests can do to help make their nights out the best they can be—for everyone involved. One hot-button issue? Sending food back, of course.
Few things are more deflating than biting into something that looked super-tasty on the menu and hating it. What to do (aside from never ordering it again)?
“It’s always OK to send a dish back,” says Danny “Mr. Hospitality” Meyer. Here’s how to do it.
Be honest. If you changed your mind or decided to try a dish you knew you might not like, be up-front with your server about that. Don’t say, “This dish is no good.” Say, “I think I ordered the wrong thing.”
Be specific. Why exactly didn’t you like it? Was it poorly executed? A line like, “I don’t like this because it’s too acidic and spicy,” may help the restaurant describe the dish better in the future.
Be confident. No one wants to make a guest unhappy (even if said guest should have noticed the menu called out the fish sauce in the salad). Send it back without apology—and then tip well.
Be mindful. If you send back more than one dish, maybe the problem is you.
Same goes for the wine. If you don’t enjoy a wine, return it (see: “Be Mindful”). “If the wine isn’t flawed, we can still sell it by the glass,” says Carlton McCoy, wine director at The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado.
For more restaurant etiquette, read The New Rules of Dining Out.