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Etiquette: How To Send Food Back Without Being Terrible

The Karens of the world may be experts at sending back their meal over the tiniest gripe but...

The Guardian has asked food professionals for advice on when to send back food, politely. They also got the scoop on the most farcical customer complaints, because who doesn’t love hearing about that foolishness?

Others amongst us wouldn’t complain unless we were served actual dirt, and even then, only if the dirt wasn’t properly seasoned. So how do we find a balance between being an unreasonable customer and accepting garbage food?

Hospitality staff have seen it all, so The Guardian reached out to a number of food professionals for their advice on when it’s justified to send a meal back. Although opinions varied on a number of matters, the overall consensus is that people should feel confident to send back dishes containing off items or undercooked meat, eggs or seafood, as well as dishes missing key ingredients or with bonus hair, objects or critters. Apologies to anyone eating while reading this article.

Another reason was if it is over-seasoned to the point of being inedible. They agree that obviously it should all be done in a polite manner.

Now for the fun part, annoying customers, being annoying.

Ben Shemesh, owner and chef at Small’s Deli in Sydney’s Potts Point recounted one of his most ludicrous send backs. When asked how they wanted their steak cooked, a customer said “chef’s choice”. Then, after receiving a textbook medium-rare sirloin, they sent it back and said they couldn’t understand why the chef would choose to cook it that way, and could they have a new steak?”.

Former waiter and cafe manager, Lynsey Martin said the most ridiculous complaint she ever encountered was about chocolate brownies that a customer called “just too chocolatey”. Fair call, everyone knows the worst part of chocolate, is the chocolate.

Bar manager, Dave Hinnrichs has encountered people who demolish a plate, then complain about it. Saying “I had one couple recently who, after eating their whole meal – four or five tapas dishes – decided to critique everything and then demand a refund”.

As you venture out to your favourite eatery, keep this etiquette in mind. Also, never complain about chocolate.