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How to Send Food Back at a Restaurant

Learn when it’s appropriate to send your meal back in a restaurant, and how to do it without offending the chef.


  • Step 1: Evaluate the error Make sure the problem is on their end, not yours. If your food is undercooked, overcooked, the wrong temperature, stale, has a foreign object in it, or is not what you ordered, send it back. If it doesn’t taste the way you thought it would, however, try to deal with your disappointment.
  • TIP: If you’re at a business meal, don’t send food back unless it poses a health risk.
  • Step 2: Notify your server immediately Notify your server as soon as possible. Don’t eat half the meal and then complain.
  • Step 3: Be polite Be polite. Call over the waitperson and, in a calm and friendly voice, tell them exactly what is wrong with your meal and what you would like done about it. Do you want the meal to be fixed? Cooked from scratch? Replaced with something else?
  • Step 4: Insist that everyone else eat Insist that everyone else begin eating while the kitchen remedies your complaint.
  • TIP: Orders that are sent back to the kitchen usually take priority over everything else.
  • Step 5: Be persistent If the food comes back and it’s still not up to snuff, ask that it be taken off the bill. If your server refuses, ask to speak to the manager.
  • Step 6: Don’t expect a free meal Unless the restaurant’s made an egregious mistake, don’t expect your meal to be on the house.
  • FACT: Sixty-eight percent of restaurant goers polled cited poor service as the thing that irritates them most when dining out.

You Will Need

  • An inedible meal
  • Diplomacy

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