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11th January 2019

The politics of complaining about food

As customers, we have the right when paying for food to be able to finish our meal: Catrin Stewart muses on the politics of complaining in restaurants
The politics of complaining about food
Photo: Pixnio

Last week, for the first time ever, I complained about food in a restaurant. I had been looking forward to my mango and tofu salad all day. Yes, I’m one of those people who studies the menu online in advance. But when it came, it was swimming in soy sauce. It was as if they had mistaken the bottle for salad dressing.

I couldn’t eat my meal besides a few leaves and a couple of cashew nuts. I was ready to perform the classic sigh and wave to signal ‘yes, it was fine but I’m much too full to finish it’ to the waitress, but my fellow diners convinced me to do otherwise. So, when the time came and the waitress asked ‘Was everything okay with your meal?’ I replied that I couldn’t finish mine as it was far too salty. In due course, the receipt was brought with my main taken off.

I have to admit, my palms were sweaty, my heart was racing and I regretted my complaint the moment after it came out of my mouth. However, in hindsight I am glad I complained. As customers, we have the right when paying for food to be able to finish our meal. But as my past experience as a server has shown me, there are ways to execute this complicated social dance.

It never (and I mean never) pays off to be rude. You will get your own way, most likely, but you’ll probably get it faster and with a smile if you are kind and patient. Apologise, but stand your ground. I know it can be very difficult for many of us to do something like this, but your feedback will only help the kitchen improve. Keeping this in mind can help you gain the confidence to speak up. Just don’t shoot the messenger — the server did not cook your food, but they do have the power to spit in it.

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