In these dog days of summer, when business is a bit slower, air conditioning is welcome, and summer’s bounty makes the specials on the menu still more enticing, many of us are meeting up with clients and colleagues we haven’t seen in some time to have the kind of relaxed, no-agenda dinner that allows creativity to flow.
Under these circumstances, it can be extremely disappointing when it turns out that the waiter’s glowingly recommended “must-have” item isn’t special at all– not because it’s spoiled, overcooked or undercooked, but just because it’s….bad.
In moments like these, there’s a lot of room for under or over reacting. Those of us who tend to try to keep the peace might say nothing, telling ourselves that, technically, there isn’t anything wrong with the food. This does not, however, keep us from silently seething– a less-than-optimal choice as our state of mind rarely goes unnoticed by those around us. Over reactors, on the other hand, might hop right over to a hostile place, which rarely furthers the cause. What, then, to do?
My first recommendation is: be discreet. There’s no need to make surrounding tables aware of your dilemma. So, as you begin your conversation with your waiter, smile.
Next, try to remember as nearly as possible, the words he or she used to describe the dish. For example, “A number of us picked this because you had mentioned its flavors would transport us to Southern Spain.” Using their language is helpful because they then begin by agreeing with you, “Yes, I did say that.”
It’s at this point that you describe the problem. In this moment, it’s important to make it sound like the dish let you down, not the waiter or the restaurant. “I thought so, and we were really looking forward to it. What we’re finding, however, is that the dish is both bland, and somewhat oily.” Having stated the discrepancy, move quickly to your request. “Although there’s nothing technically wrong with it, it’s not what we expected. Would it be possible for the restaurant to offer us a replacement?”
The acknowledgement that it isn’t bad, and the use of the word replacement here are very important. It checkmates their next move, “But it’s not overcooked,” etc, and ensures you won’t end the evening being charged for two rounds of dinners.
What’s the likelihood of this request being met? All I can say is, you don’t ask, you don’t get, and most restaurants will, at the very least, give you a deep discount on your replacement dinners. More satisfying still will be the knowledge that you spoke up—made it their problem not yours—thereby freeing you up to enjoy the primary reason you came out to dinner at all: your guests.
Frances Cole Jones is the President of Cole Media Management and author of How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Selling Your (Brilliant) Self in any Situation and The Wow Factor: The 33 Things You Must (and Must Not) Do to Guarantee Your Edge in Today’s Business World. Attention Job Seekers: Frances has also created an app for the iPhone and iPad called “Interview Survival Kit.” For more information visit Apple’s iTunes.