Restaurant Etiquette

May 18, 2009

Last night, J and I hopped into Spice (an old-NYU favorite) after we saw Star Trek (amazing). We were completely eavesdropping on the family next to us — a son and his parents. When the waitress came to pick up their plates, she very innocently asked, “How was everything?” The father (seriously) looked at her and said, “Not very good, actually.” And went on and on to tell her that the teriyakki was too sweet, the lettuce was limp, etc. I was mortified for his poor son. But it got me thinking — here’s my philosophy about eating out in NYC.

Dear Unsatisfied Father,
Welcome to NYC. There are maybe a million restaurants in our beloved city, and something at every price point. I am very sorry that you didn’t like your dinner, but you chose to walk into Spice. You chose to order something off their menu. And then you chose to EAT THE ENTIRE PLATE OF FOOD. Maybe you were unhappy with the meal (although you didn’t really show it on your plate), but that is simply the gamble you take when eating out in NYC. You didn’t like your food; so don’t go back. But please keep your opinions to yourself, and better luck next time.

I was especially annoyed because the waitress gave them 15% off their bill. J and I both felt like we should get 20% off for not complaining!! But then, we’d have to complain to achieve that. It’s one thing if you find a rock in your food (it’s happened to me), or a fish hook in your food (it’s happened to me), but if you simply don’t like the flavor… deal with it.



  1. Re your eating out experience in NYC, yes, it’s rude to be loud about your complaints, and especially if you eat the food. BUT, these days, I find that many restaurants are getting away with “murder” in terms of their food. Now while that isn’t the server’s fault, it’s also not fair to the customer. So I feel a genteel comment would be appropriate.

    It doesn’t sound like the man at the next table was loud about his dissatisfaction, just disappointed. And he had every right to complain although he should have done it before he ate his meal. It’s not like he made a scene, and the server did ask.

    I happen to live on the other coast–maybe we are more forgiving than you New Yorkers? Or less willing to be treated badly?

    The only time I was in Manhattan I was treated well and the food was awesome everywhere we ate, by the way. But to imply that you have to put up with poor service or poor food just because it’s ***NewYork*** is silly. I wouldn’t put up with it anywhere, New York or any other city from San Francisco to Paris.

  2. Lydia… I’m actually insanely excited by your thoughtful comment. And I’m going to try to thoughtfully respond!

    First, the man was definitely loud about his dissatisfaction, not just disappointed. But you are right that he’s allowed to complain. Everyone’s allowed to complain. It’s just one of those annoying facts of life — the squeaky wheel gets the grease. He eats an entire plate of food, then complains loudly enough for my date and I to become fascinated, and then he gets 15% off. Also, his complaints were more about the flavors of the dish — and I feel like he should’ve been more considerate of that while reading the menu and choosing an item.

    Second, I definitely agree that other cities are “less willing to be treated badly.” We do let people get away with murder in NYC. And I’m maybe more passive than most. But there is something about NY — maybe it’s the ability to choose from 10 different restaurants in one block — that feels like you have to succumb to the gamble. At least, if you’re a native here… I feel like I have to deal with the good days and the bad days… the good food and the bad food. The same way I have to deal with delayed subway trains, crowded sidewalks, and $7 beers… it’s just the deal you make to live in NYC. Just my opinion 🙂

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