I’ve noticed that in Lebanon some people consider complaining at a restaurant to be a major faux pas. Now, if it is done impolitely, it definitely can be; raising your voice, pushing the plate away from you, and attacking the waiter are certainly not acceptable forms of complaining.

While the complaints of rude diners are cringe-worthy and embarrassing to witness, the opposite end of the spectrum—that is, not saying anything—is also really bad. If customers don’t complain, how can you expect service to get better?

To keep it appropriate, first you have to make sure that your grievance is a legitimate one. It’s completely acceptable to send back a meal if it is not cooked appropriately or if the order is wrong—even if it’s something simple, like you ordered Greek salad and they gave you Caesar instead. Legitimate complaint.

Also if you take a few bites and suspect that the food has gone bad (especially if you ordered seafood) it’s completely appropriate to ask for it to be sent back. After all, you are not going to take a risk with your health.

Now we get to trickier terrain to navigate: if the food item you ordered looked one way on the menu, but landed on your table looking completely different. A friend of mine once ordered eggs sunny side up once at a popular Hamra restaurant. When the plate arrived in front of her it looked nothing like the appealing depiction on the menu.

What do you do in this case? Smile, smile, smile. Preface your complaint with a complimentary statement about how you love the restaurant. Then go straight for the kill and tell them directly what you want done: “I’m not happy with this dish, it’s not what I expected, and I would like to order something else please.”

You may face resistance at first. The waiter may tell you that what you got is “normal” or that “it’s known” to look like this. He may say that the dish you ordered is just super photogenic and doesn’t actually look like that. Keep your calm. Take a deep breath and look him or her straight in the eye and repeat your request again. Maybe a little tiny bit lower than the first time—but no yelling! That’s not okay. Restaurants want you to leave happy, so make your request and then proceed to tip generously. Win-win.

Make sure to sound firm but not militant. Like all things in life, with practice you will perfect this art. Your fellow diners will be dazzled by your diplomatic prowess and take-charge attitude.


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You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar!!!!

Lynne Skerritt on Feb 10, 2016 via web