To complain or not to complain, that is the question. As someone who has worked in the Hospitality industry for many years before stepping away for a time, I have always loathed complaining about bad service, food not up to scratch, or less than ideal dining situations. This is because I know what it’s like to work tirelessly on the other side of the bar, as a server, and as a manager of a venue.
It’s bloody hard work, and the last thing you want to hear is someone complaining, especially about something that may be outside of your control. But, as I get older and more experienced in the industry I also feel that we shouldn’t pay for things that don’t meet up to the standards that we, or the venue expect. Dining out is expensive, no doubt about it, and when you are served something that falls short of what you’re paying for, I think you are well within your rights to complain.
I had a recent experience where I was served the wrong meal in a country pub. No problems initially as the kitchen took back the fish that was supposed to be grilled instead of battered. When it came back out after the rest of my fellow diners where half way through their meals, that’s when the real disappointment started and the resulting dish was laughable at best. It seemed that the kitchen had taken the battered fish, scraped off the batter and then sent it back out with soggy cold chips and an underwhelming salad. Not normally one to make a scene or complain, I would usually eat a bit of it, not complain, and then simply not go back to the venue.
But instead I decided to send the meal back after a trying it, because frankly it was not a nice experience. I don’t like complaining, I find it uncomfortable at best and would rather be enjoying my evening, so when I did send the meal back I was a bit shocked when I was met with an abrupt response of “well what do you want me to do about it?”. It made me feel about as small as a mouse, and not very welcome in the venue. Frankly I was pretty darn embarrassed in front of the people I was dining with. I really didn’t expect or appreciate the response or the accusatorial tone, and by that stage I wasn’t prepared to wait for another meal as the rest of the diners had almost finished. At this point, I simply asked for my money back, and asked that my feedback about the standard of the food be passed back to the kitchen and the management.
I’m very doubtful however that it would have been passed back in the constructive, good faith manner that it was intended, because I really don’t feel like they took my feedback seriously. It makes me sad from a service perspective, and from a love of the industry that venue staff are quick to judge and dismiss your feedback, rather than appreciate the constructive criticism and see it as an opportunity to improve.
If you shopped for a brand-new dress and it had a hole in it, you would expect a refund or replacement. In general, this is done with minimal fuss, and with an apology. Often however in the food industry it is handled differently, with almost a lack of care and a rude attitude that does not befit the meaning of the word service.
To reiterate, I hate to complain and I wish that I didn’t have to, but I also think that sometimes you need to speak up. I just wish it wasn’t met with such hostility and would be received more from a place of understanding and constructive feedback that can in turn be of benefit to the business.
“Our most unhappy customers are our greatest source of learning”
Love to hear your thoughts.
Kate Bickford MD & Owner - BK AGENCY: