I learnt a very valuable lesson when I was quite young. It’s a very simple lesson, but one that many British can’t seem to grasp. If you’re served food in a restaurant that doesn’t match the description, taste nice, or is sub-standard, complain.
Restaurants make their money by having people come to them, buy their food, and then recommend them to other people. A pissed off customer is bad news for a restaurant, as they will always try to persuade their friends to not go to said restaurant. Similarly, if they have a good experience, they will always recommend the restaurant to their friends.
I was in London recently, as my eldest daughter had won a national dancing competition, and the prize was an all-expenses paid weekend in London, and a workshop with the amazing dancer Lizzie Gough. Our concierge (yes, it was a posh hotel) booked us a table in a restaurant where they thought charging £25 for a 6oz steak with anything else being an additional cost. Naturally, despite being all-expenses, we felt that this was taking the piss. Especially considering that restaurants such as Harry’s Grillbar in Exeter, charge around that for a Porterhouse AND sides. £28 actually. And their food is fucking glorious. I can’t recommend them enough (see, good experience means good publicity).
So we left. After paying £9 for water.
The restaurant that we ended up on, was right on Covent Garden and was a fabulously steampunk/retro-Victorian place. It was fabulous. The staff were fabulous. They were friendly, attentive, and quick to get to us. However, when I had started to tuck into my medium-rare Sirloin Steak, I noticed that it was absolutely chock-a-block with fat. Not the yummy soft fat that slips down the throat like Angel’s tears. No, this was proper gristle and yucky fat that I couldn’t eat.
As a result I complained. Levi, the waiter was brilliant. He couldn’t be more apologetic and immediately offered to have another one cooked. Unfortunately I was on a time budget as it was late and I needed to get the youngest back for bed, so I asked for money off. The manager was less apologetic, and pointed out that Sirloin came with fat. I agreed that yes, it did. I then asked if he had seen the plate and that the fat didn’t in fact run along the steak, but was pretty much half of the steak.
Having eaten, I left poor Levi to the wiles of the increasingly drunk ladies in my party, and took the youngest back for a well-earned kip. The next morning I enquired as to whether anything had been done about the steak. My wife confirmed that yes, they had halved the cost of my meal. Bingo.
Moral of the story? It always pays to complain. You can’t complain if you’re an arse however. You have to have a justified reason, you have to be polite (it’s not the waiter’s fault for example), you have to remain calm, and you have to be ready to compromise. Restaurants need your money. They need people through the door. As such, they will do their best to accommodate you. The next time you have a crappy meal, point it out. Even McDonalds will swap or give money back. Go on. I dare you.