When a Restaurant Has a Bad Night


Have you ever been to one of your favorite restaurants and the experience just isn’t as stellar as usual?

You’re disappointed. You’ve been there often, but this time the food doesn’t meet your expectations. You know what your favorite dish should taste like. You’ve had it a dozen times. But something’s off.

Or maybe… You talk up the place. Of course you do, it’s one of your favorites. Then you bring some friends there. They might even be visiting from out of town. And nothing seems right. No one is really impressed with their food. The service is slow, too. Nothing is like what you remember. You are completely disheartened.

There have been a few occasions when this has happened to us. We’ve even said that if it were the first time we’d been there, we’d never have been back. However, we know the restaurant’s potential. They must be having a bad night – short-staffed, the cook is new, ingredients didn’t arrive. Whatever it may be, we still return.

So it makes me think: How many times have we been to a restaurant for the first time when they were just having a bad night? We blow off the place because we aren’t impressed and then don’t return. They should probably deserve a second chance, shouldn’t they? However, in all reality, every restaurant has just one shot to woo new guests.

Still, when your favorite restaurant is having an off night, do you let them know?

You could think of this two different ways. Either you cut them some slack because you know it’s a great place, or you let them know so that they can minimize the chance of it happening again.

Furthermore, what should we expect when a restaurant does have a bad night?

Our friend “The Sheriff” gave us a new perspective the other night. He ordered a burger medium rare with onion rings. Service was slow that evening and when his burger finally came out, it came with fries. He let the staff know of the error. They took the plate back and brought him a new burger with onion rings. He ate those first. By the time he got to the burger, he realized after two bites that the burger was well done.

When he finally flagged the manager down, we were just about ready to go. The manager asked him if he wanted a new burger. We didn’t have time. Even if we did, who’d want to wait that much longer? The manager said he’d take the burger off his bill.

Normally, Rob and I would be satisfied with that, but “The Sheriff” brought up a good point to us later: That’s all you’re going to do? Not make me pay for a burger that you got wrong and I didn’t eat?” Excellent point!

It reminded me of a time we went to see a show in downtown Minneapolis. We made reservations for dinner beforehand. However, the restaurant was very busy that night and we had to wait at least 30 minutes past our reservation time before we were seated. Then, once we were seated, service was scarce. Our food arrived about 15 minutes before the show was about to start. We still had to eat, pay, and make our way over to the show.

Somehow, we got a manager over to our table. She understood completely. She knew they were slammed and having a completely off night. We could only have a few bites of our food to make it to our show in time and couldn’t take the leftovers with us. She apologized and comped our entire meal – including our $45 bottle of wine that we emptied while waiting. She knew this didn’t make up for the fact that we barely had dinner before the show; but wanted us to know that we didn’t have to pay for food we barely ate.

Have you ever been to a favorite restaurant on an “off” night?

What do you think diners should expect when your order is incorrect or service is sub-par?

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