How to complain in restaurants

Published by Cathy Adams on 24 November 2010.
Last updated on 19 November 2012

unhappy customers

When you've shelled out for an expensive meal, you don't expect the customer service to let you down – but if you're unhappy with it, it's often easier to sit tight, shut up and pay up.

But rather than paying the bill without a second thought, why not follow our guide to make sure you get the service you pay for?

Speak up

When you eat out, you're entering into a contract with the restaurant and should expect a good level of service in return for your hard-earned cash.

Alert the waiter or waitress to your complaint, and ask to speak to the manager. Restaurant staff welcome feedback, and they will be happy to listen to any comments you have.

Be specific

Make sure your complaint is specific. If there was something wrong with the taste, or if your food was hours late, say so. You'll be taken seriously if you stand your ground and give reasons why you're unhappy with the service.

Ask for your money back

While there's more chance you'll be offered a free bottle of wine or dessert, if you want your money back or a reduction on the bill, ask for it. After all, you're more likely to return to a restaurant if your complaint was dealt with efficiently – which means more business for them.

Don't flee without paying

It might seem tempting, but don't do a runner from the restaurant even if the service was appalling. According to, 11% of people have done this – but they risk never being able to go back again, and in the worst case scenario, could face prosecution.

Take your complaint further

If your complaint isn't resolved then and there, write a formal letter to the general manager. You'll most likely get a grovelling apology and compensation – as, after all, complaining customers are bad for business.

Read Cathy Adams' blog: Complaining in restaurants gets results

Leave a comment