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Dr. Delicious

On Sending Entrees Back (because they arrived unreasonably early)

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A few months ago, we were at a well regarded restaurant, when our 2 mains (scallops and cioppino) came out while we were in the middle of eating our appetizers. The server said he thought the kitchen was more backed up than it was, and so put in for our entrees early.

Would it have been reasonable for us to ask the server to take the mains back until we were ready? And if we did that, is it further expected that these things would just be put under a hot lamp in the interim? Obviously our meal would not have benefited from sitting under a lamp for 10 minutes. Or, was it reasonable to expect that since it was their fault, they should have made us brand new entrees when the time was right?

What could/should be done in this scenario?

[I wrote a version of the above as an aside in another thread, and so it didn't generate any thoughts, but I really am curious, hence my re-statement here. It's also likely this has been asked/answered before, or belongs in another section. If so, my bad. -- Phil]

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I guess it depends on how "well-regarded" the restaurant is.  If it's a casual place, I would probably roll with it, but voice my irritation that they came out too early.  In a fine dining situation, I would send back and ask for a manager to explain why we were sending them back.  In my experience, in a fine dining restaurant, this would (should) never happen.

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If things are off I'm more inclined to send a dish back.  I state that having come from a perspective of NEVER SENDING a dish back.  And that perspective comes from feeling bad as to how expensive things are for any business let alone a restaurant.  That is admittedly somewhat dumb.  Restaurants always get things wrong, and so many restaurants have shown great responsiveness in correcting mistakes and redoing an order, in fact restaurants of all types from fast food to fine dining.

The other evening while meeting a friend at a Stone Fish Grill the server misinterpreted my order.  When I informed them of what I wanted they willingly replaced the meal so fast. It was almost too fast.  But clearly responsive.

The order came back, this time correct.  Not an expensive dish.  Not fine dining  Simple seafood dish.  I purchase this seafood at the market. The sides I ordered are not expensive.  My auto gut is that the cost of the dish (products only) was somewhat in the 20% range.   Lots of mark up.  Which is the norm across the board in today's restaurant world.

Lots of mark up in the industry.  More for fine dining.  If its not correct send it back.

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On 9/21/2017 at 11:08 AM, Dr. Delicious said:

A few months ago, we were at a well regarded restaurant, when our 2 mains (scallops and cioppino) came out while we were in the middle of eating our appetizers. The server said he thought the kitchen was more backed up than it was, and so put in for our entrees early.

Would it have been reasonable for us to ask the server to take the mains back until we were ready? And if we did that, is it further expected that these things would just be put under a hot lamp in the interim? Obviously our meal would not have benefited from sitting under a lamp for 10 minutes. Or, was it reasonable to expect that since it was their fault, they should have made us brand new entrees when the time was right?

What could/should be done in this scenario?

[I wrote a version of the above as an aside in another thread, and so it didn't generate any thoughts, but I really am curious, hence my re-statement here. It's also likely this has been asked/answered before, or belongs in another section. If so, my bad. -- Phil]

The harsh reality is this: If you send those entrees back, 80-90% of the time, they'll be sitting in a warmer (a low-heat oven, a heat lamp, etc.) until you're ready for them. You've already lost at the point that they arrived.

Depending on the level of the restaurant, they'll redo your entrees, but I wouldn't bank on it, and I don't like being "that customer" who demands such things; I wouldn't even want them to do it except at the pinnacle of restaurant level, because I *hate* wasting food (I had depression-era parents).

That said, you should write management the following day (politely) and let them know that you weren't satisfied with the timing of your meal, and that you know you probably got the same dishes back, even if thirty minutes passed by. You're actively choosing to write them privately, rather than complain about it on the internet - stress that you're not looking for anything for free, and aren't seeking a free meal or anything of the sort. If you got baked dishes, it might not matter that much; pan-seared, it might matter a lot. In your specific case, the cioppino might not be much of a problem, but depending on how the scallops were cooked (or not cooked), there's more potential for damage here - pan-seared scallops can lose their best qualities fairly quickly when re-heated, especially if they're rare on the inside (I'd rather have mine re-served at room temperature than re-heated).

Give them a chance to make things right - many restaurants time firing of entrees based on when you receive your appetizers (a certain number of minutes afterwards). An ounce of prevention here is worth a pound of cure - I'm a notoriously slow eater, and generally say so as I order. The servers almost always take note of this, and coordinate the firing of entrees with how I'm progressing with my appetizers. 

Remember: The restaurant most likely isn't out to screw you with this; they're making the best guess they can based on a very limited amount of knowledge, and the more knowledge that you can give them in advance, the better.

To put a bow on this package: I *hate* it when my entrees arrive while I'm still enjoying my appetizers (notice I said enjoying; not "working on"). However, even if they don't arrive - if they're cooked, they're likely sitting back in the kitchen. A skilled server will know how to tell you this without sounding like you're being rushed (it's a tricky maneuver, and something of an art).

Hell, anyone and everyone is welcome to refer the restaurants to this very post, which I hope you'll feel free to use as a guideline.

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That happened last week to us. We were in the middle of the first course when the kitchen sent out the meatloaf.

Now, I'm a fast eater, but I wasn't up to my usual standard because it was also date night for my partner and I.

But we didn't mind, esp. since the restaurant we were at bills itself as an "upscale diner".

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