Is it ever appropriate to send food back at a restaurant just because you did not like it? Today, my boyfriend and I visited a ritzy restaurant in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood for brunch. The place was crowded, and we were seated in close proximity to neighbors on both sides. The menu items all looked very good (if not exorbitantly overpriced), but I settled for something simple—the avocado toast with a side of smoked salmon.
Traditionally, avocado toast is served with mashed, creamy avocados, sometimes mixed with diced vegetables, and served with a seasoning on a thick piece of bread. “Avocado toast,” in my opinion, is a dish like a cheeseburger; one can reasonably expect the outcome of the order with just the name as the only piece of information. This avocado toast was, in my opinion, below average, but with the side of smoked salmon, I thought it was delicious and didn’t really give the toast a second thought. That was until, I heard the man at the table to my left call the waiter over and exclaim that his avocado toast was the worst he had ever had!
The man then said something along the lines of ‘you can’t call this avocado toast! Avocado toast has seasoning, this is absolutely nothing like avocado toast! If you want real avocado toast, go literally anywhere in San Francisco and it would be better than this.” Yikes! At this point, I reevaluated the avocado toast that I had just eaten. I did realize that my meal was not the classic “avocado toast” with mushy avocado, nice seasoning on thick bun, rather it was a plain sliced avocado on ordinary bread. Now that I think about it, for $14 this was a complete rip off! However, I think my reaction was different than the angry gentleman’s reaction for an important reason—expectations.
The breakfast menu was divided into a few different sections including, omelets, specials, and daily starters (smoothies and other small dishes). The avocado toast was listed under the “Lighter Fare” section which included what seemed to be simpler, lower-calorie options. I, self-conscious about overeating, was pleased to see that a dish I genuinely wanted could be found under the Lighter Fare section. While I’m not positive, I am relatively certain that the menu described the avocado toast as a dish with sliced avocados with some sort of fancy pepper, and tomato. So, when I received my dish, I was satisfied to see a “light” meal that I would enjoy. However, for the angry gentleman, I imagine he just saw the words “avocado toast” and expected the usual. I think it was fair for him to assume such; the dish was priced high enough to expect good quality. However, given the dish’s placement on the menu and the description, I do not think his angry outburst was warranted.
The man did not send back the toast. He was visibly frustrated but seemed more interested in venting than pursuing corrective measures. The waiter was very professional, apologized, and tried to remain lighthearted about the interaction. Would it have been okay for the angry gentleman to ask for a refund? I am reserved when it comes to waiter-guest interactions, so I don’t think that I would have asked for a refund either. In my opinion, it is only appropriate to send something back if the menu description was misleading (e.g. something is spicy and it was not mentioned in the menu), the order was wrong (e.g. they added sauce when you explicitly asked for no sauce), or the food seems to be “bad” (undercooked, not fresh, etc.). I know that others have a broader view about this subject. I remember a few cringeworthy moments from my childhood in which my mom asked to exchange something because she did not like it and did not want to pay for it.
Moments like today remind me that it is important to ask questions. Waiters and waitresses are not just simple messengers who relay information from you to the chefs. These people are usually very knowledgeable about the dishes and can clear up misunderstandings about the menu before they occur. I think we become dissatisfied when our menu selection does not live up to our expectations. In these instances, we sometimes feel regret and wish we would have gone with our second choice. Perhaps, if we came armed with questions, then we could make more informed choices and end the meal on a good note.
Whether you want to keep your breakfast light or make it hearty, I wish you a pleasant and tasty dining experience.