Sendback 101

Thursday, August 10, 2006

We've all had it happen at least one. The dirty martini comes sparkling clean. The spinach dip comes bland; a green, spiceless goo. The jerk chicken comes luke warm, begging for even a paltry glow of a heat lamp to keep it toasty for your tastebuds.

The wrong dish. It's an insufferable dilemma. Most of us when we go out are creatures of pleasure and simplicity. We want to enjoy the dining experience, not draw attention to ourselves or attract the scorn of the kitchen and wait staff. But when is enough enough? When is it time to just send the damn dish back?

I think the main reason people rarely send food back, even when they know they should, is they fear embarressment and admonishment. Embarressement for themselves and for their dining guests, and fear that the wait staff will develop a seething hatred for you. But think of it this way: You are a paying guest. You are there paying for a service and a meal, and if it isn't delivered in the way you expected, then what are you paying for? You wouldn't pay for bad producee, so why would you pay for an incorrect order?

Given though, there are limits. You don't send it back because its lacking that extra dash of salt, that's why there's some on the table. You also don't send it back just because you wanna score a free meal. So when do you send a meal or drink back? Well, here are some guidelines to help you through that decision, but keep in mind there are always exceptions:

  • Is the order completely wrong? Send it back, but don't eat half of it first then "discover" the mistake and expect the kitchen to take it back.
  • Cocktails are finicky creations, if the balance of ingredients isn't right for you don't worry, the bartender will understand and will be happy to modify it for you.
  • Don't make a show of sending anything back, and don't be embarressed.
  • Take your dining guests' feelings into consideration. Will they be mortified? Probably not, and if you let them all taste as well, 10-1 they'll encourage you to send it back too.
  • Don't be a snob. Sending everything back due to it being too hot or cold, too spicy, too bland, and so on, salad to dessert will garuntee the animosity of the wait staff, kitchen, and other patrons. Plus, you're obviously anal.
  • Make sure to check the menu and ask the captain if what you want to order contains any allergens or ingredients you don't care for, and see if the dish can be altered as such beforehand.
  • Are you in a different country? Be aware that the way they prepare food, and the ingredients they use may be very different to what you're used to. Be willing to take a risk, but try to ask beforehand what your order is all about.
This should help, but again, there are exceptions. I went out to dinner with some friends once and sent back a cosmo 3 times before the waitress admitted the bartender didn't even know how to make one, which in my opinion would be grounds to hire a new bartender. I checked in with my fellow diners and they all tasted and admitted it was just wrong (one time it came back blue). I had to write down the recipe on a napkin and send it to the bartender.

Use your best judgement, and make sure you enjoy your meal!


  1. Once in Paris, to the chagrin of my colleagues, I sent back a piece of steak, two or three times, with the instructions "cook it more".

    I had ordered the steak rare, which in France is called "blue" and is basically raw, just slightly seared at the edges. No kidding. RAW. How was I to know that this is how the French eat their steak?

    Sort of like the first time I went to a Japanese restaurant, ordered a plate of sashimi because it was a plate of "assorted fish" and I loved fish. I sent it back too, and asked them to cook it. What an idiot I was. Can't believe it now. Later when I lived in Japan I practically lived off of sashimi, couldn't get enough of it.

  2. I'm usually terrible at sending things back- I always feel so guilty. Usually my boyfriend ends up speaking up for me because I'm too shy!

    The exception was when I was staying in a hotel in Colombo and ordered a Caesar salad. Alarm bells should have started ringing when it was described as 'a traditional Ancient Roman salad'! It was basically just mixed leaves with those nasty salty tinned anchovies and NO DRESSING! Yuck!

    It turned out they didn't really know what a Caesar salad was either!It was supposed to be a 5 star hotel too!

  3. Augh! The international sendback! I knew I was forgetting something when I posted this but I couldn't remember! Graci'!

    You lived in Japan? I did not know that. Super cool, I wanna do that. And hey, when I was a kid I asked the waiter to take back the blue cheese cause it was moldy.

  4. The cosmo story reminds me of my local bar. My favorite bartender left and they replaced him with a busboy. Dude got every single drink order wrong unless it was a drink on the menu. Inlcluding a cosmo, which came out clear.

    I ordered a sidecar and got something bright red in a highball glass.

    However, I generally drank everything because it still tasted okay and I am not really a cocktail snob.

    Then one night my friend and eye order vodka gimlets with Absolut Vanilla. They make their gimlets with fresh lime juice and the vanilla cuts the tartness. However, the menu has a mint gimlet, so the bartender made vanilla mint gimlets. It was so nasty. Like brushing your teeth and then drinking orange juice. We sent them back and asked for no mint. We got back regular gimlets (no vanilla) with no mint and a buttload of lime juice. It was so sour that I could barely drink it, but did because everyone else was almost done and I didn't want to send it back again. I won't go in their anymore unless someone else is behind the bar.

  5. I'm an awful wimp about sending things back--even when I should. The only time I've been able to do so is when we ordered two salads and they both came with the chopped romaine lettuce frozen solid!


Hey, you're leaving a comment! That's pretty darn cool, so thanks. If you have any questions or have found an error on the site or with a recipe, please e-mail me and I will reply as soon as possible.

Vanilla Garlic All rights reserved © Blog Milk Powered by Blogger