We have all experienced it - below par food, service with an attitude, music too loud, too dark to see what you are eating, etc. I was in one such occasion not long ago with a dining companion - we thought the food was mediocre at best, the service was a wee bit less than attentive, and Evian was poured into our glasses of Badoir. My companion's displeasure was expressed expediently and explicitly. I was watching and observing - thinking how many time I have found myself in such situations.
So you want your displeasure known. Is there a "right" or "wrong" way of doing it?
First - gauge the environment before expressing anything:
- Do observe your fellow dinners. Are they content? Do they look impatient?
- Do observe the waiting staff. Do they look harassed? Bored? Grumpy?
Second - estimate the likely impact of any critical comments from you:
- Do consider the practical options - if the food arrives luke warm because your table is a long way away from the kitchen, then the staff could possibly put a lid on to maintain temperature. If the strawberries taste hard and sour in December, the chances are that's all they have in the larder.
- Do determine whether you can make a direct and positive recommendation - sometimes the fault could be rectified easily - adding a candle to the table to get more light, requesting the water to be placed by you so you can quench your own thirst, relocating to a nearby empty table, suggesting less salty recipes.
Third - get the timing and person right:
- Do state your exacting requirements at the beginning of the meal - so that the staff can try to meet your expectations. E.g. "I have booked this table a month in advance and I hope it's going to be a memorable evening.'
- Do ask to talk to the manager / maitre d' during the meal and give positive / non-threatening feedback. The manager, who is unlikely to be serving you directly, may be more sympathetic to diners' needs.
- Do not complain to the waiters - most of them just do as they are told (by the manager / owner). They might not even speak your language.
- Do give critical comments at the end of the meal - so that your pudding or coffee could not be poisoned.
- Do not waste your breadth if you think anything is likely to change.