How To Complain in a Restaurant. Restaurant Complaint.

How to Complain in a Restaurant
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An easy to follow guide to complaining in a restaurant that won't leave you blushing or raging. This article describes the correct etiquette involved in making a complaint in a restaurant.


  1. Act immediately. The key to successful complaining is to highlight the problem immediately, thereby giving the restaurant the opportunity to resolve the problem with minimum fuss - don't wait until you've eaten half of an inedible meal, or for the bill to arrive, to voice an objection.
  2. Remain calm and objective. You are less likely to get what you want by being rude or aggressive with a waiter. Discreetly call them over, explain the problem, express your disappointment and ask them to resolve the situation.
  3. Suggest a resolution that matches your complaint. Would an apology be enough? Would you like your food replaced? Or do you expect money off the bill? If a meal you have ordered is well cooked and served as described on the menu but you just don't like it, it's unreasonable to demand compensation. However, if you ask politely, many restaurants will be happy to offer you an alternative. If there is a hygiene issue, you are unlikely to want a replacement meal and would probably just like to leave without being charged.
  4. Take it to the next level. If your concerns are not met with an acceptable resolution, ask politely to speak to the manager. Explain the problem and state that you are not satisfied with how it has been resolved.
  5. Reduce the tip. If other options proved fruitless, reducing the tip, or not leaving one at all, is a powerful way of expressing your displeasure. Please try to differentiate between a problem with the waiter and the restaurant. If the food was of a low standard but the waiter did a good job of addressing your complaint by giving you a discount or complimentary dish or promptly alerting management to the problem, then a tip is still appropriate. If your server is trying to do everything for you please recognize this fact. The management are the one who do all the discounting from checks so don't take anger out on wait staff.
  6. Tell your Friends! spread the news that restaurant lacks. (Our forums)This will prevent others from making the same mistake and hopefully indirectly effect how the establisment is run.
  7. Seek outside help. If after complaining to the waiter and the manager you still feel like you have been fobbed off, it's time to take your complaints to a higher authority. Contact your local consumer standards body for advice. In the UK, for example, you can try the Citizen's Advice Bureau or the Office of Fair Trading. In the US, contact your local Better Business Bureau office.
  8. Immediately report any illness. If, once you've left a restaurant, you become ill from food poisoning that you believe can be traced back to the restaurant, you should immediately report it to the restaurant first. Some municipalities require establishments to report any complaints involving more than one individual eating the same dish on the same day. You should then report it to the local health department or food standards agency if you are not satisfied that they are taking your report seriously and doing their own thorough internal investigation. This is for everyone else's benefit, as well as your own.


  • Be assertive. Don't be shy - you're paying for a meal to be cooked properly and to be waited on efficiently and politely. If this isn't your experience, then you are well within your rights to complain.
  • Compliment. As important as it is to complain if something has gone wrong during a meal, it's equally important to compliment and reward good or exceptional service. Whether it's good or bad, feedback is often appreciated by managers as it offers them a real insight to the service they are providing, so speak up and enjoy your meal.
  • Consider who is the cause of the problem. When complaining about a long wait for food, remember it is likely the kitchen's problem, not the waiter, and the waiter is probably going triple time to make everyone happy.
  • Complaining loudly will only disrupt everyone else's experience. Your issue is with the restaurant, not the other patrons.
  • Those who wish to insult the wait staff believe it's better to leave a small tip than no tip -- no tip suggests that you may have forgotten to tip, but a penny for a tip lets them know that it wasn't an accident.
  • NEVER enter the kitchen to complain (or compliment for that matter). Remember that it is the kitchen's job to provide you with beautiful food, not be polite to you. If you wish to speak to the chef ask your server, and the chef will come to your table when they have time. However, it is usually better to direct any comments to your server or the front of house manager.


  • Alert the waiter to allergies and dislikes. There are often ingredients guides on menus but to avoid problems it is worth telling the waiter of any allergies or aversions to particular ingredients while you're ordering. If any of the stated ingredients are then present in your meal, you should complain and send it back immediately.
  • Leaving a lower tip can guarantee you bad service if you return to the restaurant, even if you get a different server. Make it clear to the manager or front of house regarding the service so there is an opportunity to resolve the problem before you return again. However, if you never plan on returning--if the service was that terrible--then not leaving a tip will be the most powerful message you can send to the server, if it was really their fault.
  • Remember this before you decide to be rude to the waiter: The waiters communicate with the cooks, who are in complete control of preparing your food. If you are rude to a waiter who is having a bad day, you may get a nasty surprise with your order. As gross as it sounds, it is a lot more common than you would think when people are rude to the wait staff.
  • Once you have registered your complaint, make ready to leave. There is little point continuing to eat food prepared by somebody you have just criticised (think about it).

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