Here in California, nobody sends anything back at restaurants. Even when the food is terrible or prepared totally incorrectly, most people refuse to send it back. This isn’t a regional phenomenon either. Even in New York, the bastion of speak-your-mind-straight-shooters, the number of people who send things back is on the decline.
A quick search for “sending back food at a restaurant” returns results like When — if ever — do you send food back? If Ever?! There are more videos and articles about How To Send Food Back than I even thought possible. What the hell happened to us? We sailed across the Atlantic to a world unknown, fought off the British, conquered the Wild West, won two World Wars, and we need help sending back a fucking piece of overcooked chicken?
Who cares? It’s not my job to complain. You’re an asshole.
By not complaining, you’re doing yourself, and whoever you’re not complaining to, a disservice. If there’s something actually bad about the food, or the service, or the product, or whatever part of whatever business we’re talking about, complaining can make a huge difference. If nobody complains, nobody knows that the new sous chef is over-salting everything, or that there’s an annoying bug that won’t let you get back to the last screen, or that the salesman is lying to customers. If nobody complains, that shit doesn’t get fixed. People in business want to be told where they’re fucking up, so they can offer you better products and service.
It’s not your duty to rehabilitate the place, or offer free advice. As I tell my guests, I get my revenge in print.
Robert Sietsema, food critic for the Village Voice, asshole
Some people are scared of complaining, maybe because they think they’re being nice or because the chef’s going to spit in their food. You’re not, and they’re not. Other people don’t complain because they’re sanctimonious assholes. You’d rather trash somebody in print, to an audience of millions, than complain to someone’s face? How righteous.
Don’t Fight: Make It Easy.
Sadly, that’s how people operate today. They’re unlikely to complain. If they do, it will likely be on yelp or twitter, where you’ve lost the chance to tell if they’re just a crazy person or actually have legitimate complaints. I’ll keep ranting, but I don’t expect it to change in the meantime. So, instead of fighting people’s tendencies, make it easier for them to complain.
I’m seeing more and more comment cards left on restaurant tables or behind the bill. There are more web surveys popping up after using web pages or apps. That’s a good start, but I imagine the response rate is horrifically low. Hell, even low end places like Panda Express figured this out a decade ago: pay people to insult you.
Offer discounts, coupons, perks, or special offers in return for feedback. Give people multiple ways, and multiple opportunities to leave feedback. If you can physically interact with customers, for christsake, don’t toss of a “Did you like it?”. Actually ask people about their experience. Ask what could be improved. Ask for criticism.
Ya, it might be scary at first, but it beats wondering what’s going wrong as your business dwindles, and it definitely beats the scramble to reevaluate everything when crisis mode hits.