Thursday, 26 December 2013

Feed Me Well, Or Don't Feed Me At All

I have been strangely inspired to write by a friend's bad experience in a restaurant.

I eat out very rarely. Apart from it simply not being in the budget, it's neither necessary nor convenient. The closest decent restaurant is a 45 minute drive. When I do go out it's normally to visit friends, at their homes. So they cook. I work from home. I'm a good cook, my husband is a good cook, and my sons are good cooks. All in all, eating out is currently not a big thing in my life.

But if I do eat out I expect good food. And good service. I only eat fast food in extremis, and consequently, it's not cheap for us to eat out. When I'm spending $50-100 on a meal it'd bloody well better be good.

For a start I do not wish to eat something I could cook better myself. This applies to the vast majority of hot plain vegetables, BTW, so I hardly ever order them.

In fact, I really don't want to eat something I can cook myself anyway. I tend to chooses dishes that I wouldn't have at home. Unfortunately, I have had a taste of very fine cuisine and my standards are quite high.

Which is not to say I insist on posh food. Not at all. I love fish and chips and I'm perfectly content with a decent steak or even a really excellent burger.

The point is, whatever it is, it had better be good, it had better be served well, in an appropriate amount of time, and it had better not cost an arm and a leg. That is to say it should be worth what I pay for it.

I have voiced these views many times over the years, and usually people agree with me. When they don't it's normally because their lifestyle involves eating poor food out of necessity, i.e. business trips with insufficient expenses, long drives away from civilization, unpredictable hours, whatever. They suffer and suck it up.

Occasionally the objection I get is that I should be grateful I have enough to eat, as so many people in the world don't.

This is a very silly objection. If I were poor and starving I'd be grateful for a bowl of rice, and I'd probably enjoy it. When you are incredibly hungry some very ordinary things taste great.

But I'm not poor and starving. If I eat bad food it doesn't help the poor and starving. It doesn't help me either.

In fact as is common here in the decadent west, I'm financially comfortable and overfed. So it makes absolutely no sense for me to eat bad food. I will not starve if I reject something on the grounds of quality, and therefore I can sensibly do so.

There is no logic whatsoever in eating bad food. So I refuse to do so. I won't eat just because it's there. I don't need the calories. I won't eat just for something to do, and I certainly won't eat when I'm not actually hungry.

Now, then if in the situation that even though I am reasonably hungry, and I've travelled some distance to your restaurant, and you put bad food in front of me, I am not going to eat it. Because I'm paying for that. At least 5 times what it would have cost me to cook it at home. Which, generally speaking, as I said, with a few exceptions, I'm perfectly capable of.

Yes, I will return things. Yes, I will complain. Yes, I will refuse to pay. Yes, I'll get up and walk out if the service is too slow, or rude, or whatever. Done it before and will do it again.

There is absolutely no excuse for a restaurant to serve bad food. It's a purpose-built facility for cooking, with qualified staff.


  1. I've worked in restaurants for 16 years. When you send food back to the kitchen, you run a very high risk that someone will do something to the food to retaliate against your complaint. I never did that, but I was powerless to stop the cooks from doing something. If you aren't happy, it is likely best to just refuse the meal and leave after complaining.

  2. Traveling on business as I do, it's a rare week that I'm not at the mercy of one eatery or another. That said, I'm as 'picky' and 'snooty' as you are - because I'm one of a rare batch of North American males who actually grows a lot of what he eats and knows how to *cook*, my tastes and opinions run close to yours.

    First, I don't order junk food. Ever. I'll starve before I eat at a McDonald's. Food is necessary to *feed* the person - brain, muscles, etc. - and the link between fast food and decreased brain/body function is too well established to ignore.

    Second, I'm a sucker for hotel restaurants. The better hotels actually have pretty decent chow - even if it *is* overpriced by most standards - so survival on-the-road needn't go much further than the hotel lobby (assuming you're not staying at a place where bring-your-own-linen is a requirement for the bed)

    Last, I don't eat at chains - ever. No matter how much a customer wants Buffalo Wild Wings, T.G.I. Friday's, Hooters or Applebee's, all of those places are one step above junk-food.

    If I've got time before a trip, I'll do some research to see what's on the other end of the plane-flight; some of the best locally-owned establishments are hidden gems which bear seeking-out.

    (Corollary: If the county in which an establishment is located posts their restaurant-inspections, I *always* read those. Amazing what you'll find....

  3. I enjoy dining out on occasion and like you, I expect good, well prepared food. I have sent things back, I have even complained to head offices of certain chain restaurants.. and received gift cards in response.

    There are a couple of restaurants that I really do like to go to, even though I think they are overpriced. The service, the quality of the food and the reasons we go there make it worthwhile... and the fact that as soon as they find out that both Marc and I have certain food allergies, they fall all over themselves making sure we are safe.

  4. One of the first extemporaneous expenses we cut was eating out. It's easy to rack up $60 or more just by ordering out, too. Usually, food is cold or questionable. For those who want to ensure quality at the very least, home cooking is the best way to go. ~ Blessings!

  5. I agree completely though I totally refuse to eat rutabagas even years ago when my sainted mother regularly cooked them...

    1. I'm rather fond of rutabaga mashed with butter.