Complaining in restaurants gets results

Cathy Adams's picture

I’m going to put it out there – I love eating. I love finding new places to eat, or just grabbing a curry from the local. Even as a skint graduate, I still spend more than I should on restaurant bills.

And so, last week I found myself in the UK’s best-known Spanish chain, La Tasca - not that I’m a restaurant critic, but its food is about as Spanish as Santander is reliable – for dinner, as my friend had a half-price voucher.

It all started off so well. The wine was half price and so were the paellas – so we ditched the original voucher and ordered a three-person meat paella. Normally £30, at only £15.

We ordered at around 7.30, and were still waiting an hour and a half later with only dismissals from the waiters. By this time we’d quaffed another bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and a plate of hors d’oeuvres. Not cool if you’d only planned on spending pocket money on a meal deal.

When the paella came at 9pm, it was chewy and not overly tasty. I didn’t care that it was horrible because by that point I was hungry enough to eat both my dinner companions for starters and the waiters for dessert, but I couldn’t ignore the fact we had been waiting for so long.

Putting aside the chorizo and chicken sweats, we were perturbed that a short meal and conversation had dragged on way past our bedtime – all due to the lateness of our food. Catching the attention of the waiter, we queried if we could have a discount on our meal. He responded that a £30 bottomless pit of paella had cost us £15. We stood our ground and said that regular customer service still applies – and we’d had to spend extra money on wine. In the end, he gave in and gave us a discount on the wine and free bread and olives. Result!

Complaining in restaurants has got me a long way in the past. Or at least, a free bottle of wine. In a restaurant in Nottingham for my 20th birthday, all the meals came out at different times – meaning a rather odd birthday meal experience. Most ate their steaks cold, out of politeness. Needless to say I queried this, and the manager offered us three free bottles of wine, which - while not the best move for a group of alcohol-addled 20 year olds - was good customer service.

Going out for a meal is so much more than just the food, it’s about the atmosphere and the customer service as well, no matter how little you pay.

Oh and if you’re wondering about La Tasca, I paid £9 for paella, bread, olives and two-thirds of a bottle of white wine. Plus we took the extra home in a doggy bag. Now THAT is good value.

Have you ever complained at a restaurant and got money off? Let us know below.

For more on this read: How to complain in restaurants

Your Comments

I recently took my wife and family to a local pub restaurant and the service was terrible it was well over an hour and the food still hadn't arrived so I asked for the manager and told him I was not impressed. He chased the food up and said he would speak to me when we had finished our meals. After eating I went to speak to him and said we need to discuss the bill. To which he responded there is no bill sir!! So by complaining I got meals and drinks for 6 free of charge!!

By the way this is not the first time I have complained in restaurants and received discounts. One has to be forceful but not aggressive.

I stopped going to La Tasca in York as reduced value for money made it not worth it.Even with vouchers it just wasn't remotely Spanish and it appeared to be just a tourist con.
Sadly when I transferred my custom to the nearby privately owned alternative Lucia, the original high standard diminished as it grew more popular.I made a point of detailing my complaints recntly to the Manager/ owner? but the old excuse" no one else has complained " was offered.
The problem in tourist cities is that they can make money on transient visitors so why keep up a standard. Sad but often true.

Hi, Like you I am on limited income and when I do go out for meal I expect it to be served within a reasonable time, be hot and edible....
I have in the past complained (nicely) and most often than not the meal has been reheated or I have been given a bottle of wine if the wait was far too long.
I have a friend who comes round once a week and we usually eat out. I find the Carveries are the best as you are given meat/meats of your choice and then help yourself to veggies etc., This is good especially if you have to watch your diet as I usually leave out the roast spuds/yorkshire puds/stuffing and sauces and gravy.
We used to go the a bar/eatery Hare & Hounds in Timperley regularly and even there most often than not the food was cold and I mean cold and on one occasion frozen! I have mentioned to the staff who came round regularly asking if the food was ok that it would be ok if it were hot and they have replaced the veg (usually cauliflower) as they said they were not allowed to reheat it. This happened on a few occasions and to save any bother a lot of the time we would eat it or leave it. The staff came round as usual and asked if everything was ok and we told them that it would have been a lot nicer if it had been hotter.
Well we went in on one occasion and I had gone and sat down at a table and my friend was ages and ages so I went looking for her.. She came in from outside witha waitress and told me that we were leaving and told me as we were driving off that we had been barred from the premises. The reason being that the staff were embarrassed as whenever they asked us if everything was okay we always COMPLAINED. I at one stage had told one of the staff that I was embarrassed to have to mention dissatisfaction and only mentioned it because they had asked me!!
I was livid and wanted to take it further but decided that they were not worth spending my money with and changed hostelries and had the odd glitch now and then but other places have been absolutely brilliant.
My argument was WHY DO THEY COME AND ASK IF THE MEAL AND EVERYTHING WAS OKAY IF THEY DO NOT LIKE THE ANSWER OR DO ANYTHING ABOUT THE CUSTOMERS COMPLAINT??????? and why did they not make sure the food was hot anyway as I know for a fact that we were not the only ones that had mentioned the food was always warm/cold or even frozen and other friends have stopped dining there anyway, so they have lost a lot of customers through lack of Customer Service. Also the Manageress did not have the gumption to come out and face my friend, she got a member of bar staff to do her dirty work for her.
Have you heard of anything like this before?

During the summer my wife and I had a shrt break in a3 star hotel, whose restuarant was rated ! Alas having been presented with chicken with blood coming from it, on complaining the chef considered it acceptable!!
I was ill through the night,consequently we did not use the restuarant again.
On arriving home I forwarded a further complaint to the hotel manager,but I had to send another one threatening them with Health & Safety before receiving a reply.
The manager offered a free days stay,unfortunately we are 5 hours away and my experiences were so bad we would not stay there again.
At the time complaining did not dom any good, their moneycomes too easily,
bed and breakfast by the way was £140/night!!

My partner and I stayed at the Kenwood Hall Hotel in Sheffield for 3 nights on the August bank holiday. Great deal, 3 nights for price of 2 and an upgraded including breakfast for £30 for all 3 nights.
Hotel itself was shockingly outdated and the customer service was appalling. After being kept awake all night and asking to move from our room at 8am on Sunday 29th (our 5 year anniversary day) we finally got allocated one at 2pm. We'd waited all day, become very frustrated and wanted to leave.
We spoke with the manger who was extremely rude and the best we were offered was a partial refund on our stay if we left early, or we had our stay and that was that.
After explaining things again and clearly getting upset, I managed to get: £100 partial refund, we stayed the Sunday night AND got prosecco, strawberries and chocolate delivered to our room by the manager himself.
A result all in all but certainly not worth the effort as we were genuinely upset with the hotel.
Complaining can go along way but you can't expect the hotel or restaurant to give you anything, they're not obliged to.
K Bo.

In August we ate at a local branch of ASK. The service was very poor and the food portions were minimal. I wrote to their customer services and had to remind them, after several weeks, that they had still not responded. I eventually received an apologetic email from the customer services manager for our area, notifying me that he was sending me a letter in the post. A few days later i.e. last week !! I received that letter - along with £60 worth of vouchers to be used in any of their restaurants - now that's what I call customer service !! It is often worth not making a complaint at the time and writing to customer services or a company's head office over the following days.

Last week I took my friend for a meal for her Birthday at a local pub where they did a steak night serving 2 rump steaks, accompanied by chips, mushrooms and onion rings and a bottle of wine.
Prior to, I rang to book the table and was told the cost was £20 for 2. On arrival there was a bill board outside stating it was £22. We then sat down at the table and ordered red wine to accompany our meal. The waiter left the bottle on the table, I instantly recognised the label as a being a wine from Aldi! I checked the label and lo and behold it was their cheapest brand..... being served in a pub! We just thought, oh well, the meal deal is cheap.
Our 2 steaks arrived, very well presented, but as we tried to cut the steak it appeared very tough. After a few bites we swapped steaks as my friend had wanted hers med rare and i had asked for rare. She thought mine looked more medium. The problem was they were still the same, still tough and lots of gristle.
The waiter and waitress walked by our table on numerous occasions but never asked how our meal was.
After almost half way through the meal I decided I had better get up and go to the bar and ask for the manager. He came over looking rather mystified. I wasn't rude but just said that things hadn't gone right from the beginning... the bill board price against what he had said, the fact that we'd been served Aldi's cheapest wine (which he did offer to replace but we refused it), then the tough steaks. Without any hesitation he said there was no charge at all, to which I was stunned and replied 'are you sure?' Not something I would normally say I might add!
We left not long after and I don't think we'll be going back as I've read several reviews which were also not too good about the food.
At least we can try somewhere else as I still have the £22.
So complaining does work, if done without attitude.

Oh dear! While some of these coments are valid and the customers (yes, i did say customers) behaved with manners, there is always the other side of the fence... 20 years in the restaurant industry have taught me two things..
1) most people are well behaved, polite, gracious, and just want to enjoy their evening out. They are aware that a waiter is holding a hot plate of food, and therefore move their phone/glasses/other obstacles from their place setting. if room is tight, they realise that this will be tricky for the waiter and stack their plates. If they spill something, they take responsibility for their actions and offer to clear up.They thank their waiter and generally treat them as they themselves would expected to be treated. They pay the service charge because (unless something has gone horribly wrong service-wise) that's what people do. That's what happens in every other civilised country.

and 2) Well, thats another story for another day....

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