It’s happened to us all. You’re out for dinner, it’s a special occasion you’ve been planning for a while, your food arrives and something’s not right.
You know what to do, you have to send it back.
But the mere thought of having to call a waiter over and say you need a new meal sends shivers down your spine.
You’re not alone. According to previous research by YouGov, four in ten Brits (39%) say they’re uncomfortable with sending food back if there is a problem with it when eating out (including 10% who would feel VERY uncomfortable).
Despite this, the majority of Brits (55%) say they would not be phased by having to complain about their food.
YouGov put 11 scenarios to people, asking whether they would send their food back.
It found that Brits are most likely to send food back if they had received the wrong meal (92%, including 94% of those who are uncomfortable sending food back) or their food was undercooked (90%, including an identical proportion of those uncomfortable sending food back).
At the other end of the scale, people are least likely to kick up a fuss if their portion size was too small (10%), their food was poorly presented (also 10%) or they didn’t like the food (16%). Among those who are uncomfortable sending food back these figures were 3%, 4% and 6% respectively.
What is the best way to send food back in a restaurant?
Whether you’re uncomfortable with sending something back or not worried in the slightest, there’s a right and wrong way to do it, says etiquette expert William Hanson.
Speaking on the latest episode of Yahoo UK’s podcast Britain Is a Nation Of…, he says: “You need to stick to the facts and the logic – remove emotion.
“And if you are in a group, especially if, let’s say, you’re not paying for it or you’re splitting the bill, the whole table doesn’t necessarily need to be in on it because that’s going to single out the poor waiter or waitress.
“I think actually if you just get the waiter over to your side and you tell them, the group can carry on the conversation and should anyone then notice it it’s not a problem, and just continue the conversation.
“Okay, you might sit there with nothing in front of you but the rest of the group, I would always say, should just get on with their meals.”
“I think if you’re nice, they’ll be nice back,” adds Mr Hanson, but admits that a lack of experience can lead to such situations descending into a stressful exchange.
“I think it’s lack of practice,” he says. “If you send back food regularly, you won’t work yourself up.
“It’s a bit like going for a blood test, the first time you go for a blood test you’re completely wound up. Go ten years later and you’re like, yeah whatever, fine get on with it, didn’t even notice the needle go in. I think it’s the same principle as that.”
Listen to the full episode of Britain is a Nation of… below
But that doesn’t mean you can get away with sending anything and everything back, he says.
“As long as you are factually correct – if it’s not to your taste, if you think the seasoning should be a bit more, no no no.
“If it’s raw, if it’s cold, if it hasn’t defrosted – in the case of a lot of puddings that restaurants serve – yes send it back. Or if it’s not what you ordered.”