Archive for the ‘Restaurant Complaints’ Category

Writing a Wrong: Sample Restaurant Complaint Letter

January 11, 2007

First, see my other posts on when to complain.   Remember, your name and your word are on the line when you write, so make sure you mean it. This is not a lottery! That said, here’s a sample expression of concern about a meal.

Dear Service Director:

I am writing to express my profound frustration and disappointment with my January 6th dinner at Café B. I went to your restaurant that night with high expectations. Not only were my expectations not exceeded, they were not met.

My concerns revolve around two primary areas, pacing and dish preparation. Regarding the former, we were rushed through our courses after waiting half an hour for a table. As for the latter, on that particular night, the food was not up to the B. name.

First, our wine arrived well after our appetizers, though I had ordered it to complement them. As a result, we were left with only water to accompany our appetizers and more wine than we needed to accompany our entrées. The courses were also brought out almost on top of each other. Additionally, our coffee, which we specifically ordered for after the dessert course in order to make the heretofore rushed meal more leisurely, arrived with the desserts. The server either wasn’t listening or wasn’t on our side.

I was at least as surprised to find several problems with the food itself, harder to understand even on a busy night. The amuse bouche of tuna was rubbery and stuck to the plate. I presume it had been prepared well in advance. Similarly, the sauce on my spouse’s ravioli had congealed. Finally, my lamb was so salty as to be difficult to eat. Why not make an issue during the meal? Simple. I wanted to preserve what I could of the evening.

On our honeymoon in Provence my spouse and I never had a bad meal. We certainly didn’t expect one at a B. restaurant featuring Provençal dishes. I am sure this experience was a rare aberration from your usual high levels of service and food quality. Unfortunately, it occurred during what should have been a very special evening.


Fulano de Tal


Writing (Righting) a Wrong 2: Additional Sample Restaurant Complaint Letter

January 11, 2007

Dear Customer Service Director,

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of patronizing various dining establishments in your restaurant group. Consequently, my expectations were high last night when I took my husband to his birthday dinner at Café Z. My expectations were not met.

There were several problems which I would like to mention. First, the service was indifferent, uninterested and uninformative. No suggestions, commentary or inquiry as to the quality of food was made. A maitre d’ passed our table several times to speak with a couple at a neighboring table but made no effort to acknowledge our existence. I expect such treatment in some restaurants, but not in one that proclaims its democratic atmosphere as a virtue.

Second, the seating was behind a busing station, though seats were empty in more aesthetically pleasing portions of the restaurant. I’d chosen the restaurant for my spouse’s birthday largely because it’s so beautiful. Sitting in the most remote wing under a low ceiling did not allow us to enjoy much of the décor.

Finally, the food was not up to the high standards of your restaurants. My scallops were greasy, the foie gras was underseasoned, and the cake in the chocolate dessert was dry. I enjoyed my beef and my husband enjoyed his lamb. The wine was also good. Again, no one asked. Again, in a restaurant of this quality, everything should have been superb.

I regret feeling compelled to write this letter of complaint. At this point in life, I eat out less often and choose more carefully where I go. I thought I’d made the right choice last evening. I hope it was just an off night.

Fulana de Tal

Top 5 Restaurant Service Screw-ups: Killjoys to charm the pants back on you

December 14, 2006

1) Shameless steering towards expensive items or add-ons. I’m willing to pay a lot, but I’m not willing to feel screwed.

2) Race-pouring glasses of wine to push extra bottles. I like to drink, but not to relive college hazing rituals with good wine.

3) Failing to address and correct pacing problems. Hurry up and wait is a nauseating and enervating way to get through a meal. I can’t go back and talk to the line cooks and runners, nor should I have to.

4) Not listening: Failing to bring coffee after dessert or salad after mains, when it’s been ordered that way. Overshooting a stated price range for wine. Serving the whole table according to one person’s dietary restrictions. Any and all of these result from closed ears and open mouths. A little listening speaks volumes about competence and respect.

5) Waiter wanting to be elsewhere, and showing it: If a server wants to be somewhere else, so should you. If he isn’t a knowing and enthusiastic fan of the food, setting and style of the place, why should you be?

Restaurant Complaints: Why We Complain and Why We Should

December 14, 2006

In bed and at table, communicating what you want is the key to total satisfaction.  In a great restaurant, you’ll rarely have to ask, because they’ll already know–Think of Judi Dench’s speech in “Gosford Park–and you’ll never have to beg, because they’ll always say yes. Nonetheless, if you do speak up, chances are your experience will be even more satisfying. In short, in a great dining room, you’ll get as much and more than you paid for.

That said, most of us don’t eat in great restaurants that often. So let’s move on to merely good restaurants. Here service and food problems will arise from time to time. When they do, you should always try to resolve them during the meal. It’s much easier for a restaurant to overcome a slight dip in an evening’s experience than redeem itself with apologies or favors after the fact; it’s also better for you. Early intervention makes for a far happier meal and a bileless, bitterness-free morning after. If you’re concerned about making a scene, you can always excuse yourself and speak with the manager discreetly, saving your guests an unsavory experience and maybe saving the night.

If your attempts at correction are rebuffed or insufficiently addressed, a letter to the restaurant’s director of service is definitely in order. I firmly believe that letters are better than phone calls, as you’re more likely to articulate your concerns clearly and concretely on paper. If you do write, your letter should be as precise as possible, and refrain from name-calling, profanity and lazy adjectives. It should also be framed in terms of how things could have been better. Think of it as a suggestion letter, not as a rant. Chances are, you’ll get results.


In New York, restaurant service directors are among the few people that will listen to you and strive to do a better job next time. Can you ask that of an awkward hookup, a taxi driver, an airline reservationist? Restaurants can make the world feel perfect and you feel taken care of for a few hours. Nonetheless, the world isn’t perfect and ultimately, you need to take care of yourself. Don’t abuse the restaurant’s trust. This is not a chance to weasel a free meal out of a place. Complaints are about correcting a problem, not playing the ambulance-chaser lottery. Yes, better restaurants are more likely to respond. They’re also less likely to have had a legitimate problem in the first place, so be honest with yourself and the place to which, ultimately, you want to return.

Top 5 Reasons to Send a Letter to a Restaurant: When to Write a Wrong

December 14, 2006

1) Broccoli in the supermodel’s teeth: If a place is beautiful and perfect, except…, let them know. Maybe the stairs leading to the bathroom are dangerously dark, or the organic toilet paper could sand Masa’s bar, or the servers are mispronouncing all the dish names, or they spelled “pintxos” as “pinxtos” on the menu.

Most problems are fixable, and a place would rather know sooner than never see you again.  Put another way, this is like telling a friend that his fly’s unzipped or that her underwear is tucked into her dress. Initial embarrassment will quickly turn to gratitude at a problem identified and solved.

2) Bad food preparation or bad ingredients: Failure to correct doneness problems or repeated problems over several courses. Accidents happen, so do patterns.  Same goes for off tastes and textures, including aging oysters and gritty greens.

3) Ill-willed or Incompetent Service: See other posts on topic. In short, two questions. I) Was the server advocating for you in the front and back of house? II) Did your server display the professionalism, i.e., hard skills, consonant with the level of dining offered by the restaurant?

4) Food Poisoning (Call!): You awaken with symptoms of food poisoning traceable to your meal. Hop off the pot. Drink some ginger ale. Let the restaurant know by phone as soon as possible. This is not the time to hone your mastery of the epistolary arts. Help others to be spared your experience, and consider this service sufficient reward. That said, chances are good that you’ll be more than adequately compensated by a grateful restaurant.

5) Acknowledge a Wonderful Experience: Slamming a place is dangerously easy. It’s also okay to share the joy. If you can articulate what you liked, you may just get it again, whether it be warm gougères, a Spanish newspaper at the bar, or the greatest waitress to ever come out of Kansas.

Sobremesa: A few more thoughts

Ultimately, you should leave a restaurant feeling happy and restored, thus the word “restaurant.” If you entered unhappy, perhaps you shouldn’t expect a miracle to take place in two hours. If your mood falls during and due to the dining experience, something is probably wrong. After making sure it’s not just you, articulate what was wrong and what could have been done better. If the concerns are concrete and can be turned into suggestions, why not communicate them to the only people capable of offering redress? You can improve your future experience and that of others.