A Side Order of Contempt

I can’t decide which is funnier: some of the ludicrous suggestions made for eating “smart when dining out” in this Reader’s Digest article:

Above all else, be assertive. Dining out is no time to be a meek consumer, notes Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and coauthor of the book Restaurant Confidential. “You need to be an assertive consumer by asking for changes on the menu,” he says. For instance, if an item is fried, ask for it grilled. If it comes with french fries, ask for a side of veggies instead. Ask for a smaller portion of the meat and a larger portion of the salad; for salad instead of coleslaw; baked potato instead of fried. “Just assume you can have the food prepared the way you want it,” says Dr. Jacobson. “Very often, the restaurant will cooperate.” Below, you’ll find more specific requests.

Try double appetizers. If there is a nice selection of seafood- and vegetable-based appetizers, consider skipping the entrée and having two appetizers for your meal. Often, that is more than enough food to fill you up.

Ask your waiter to “triple the vegetables, please.” Often a side of vegetables in a restaurant is really like garnish — a carrot and a forkful of squash. When ordering, ask for three or four times the normal serving of veggies, and offer to pay extra. “I’ve never been charged,” says dietitian Jeff Novick, R.D., director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Aventura, Florida. “And I’ve never been disappointed. I get full, not fat.”

Or the comments section on the article at Consumerist:

Not a great idea–most midrange restaurants, and chains, are not equipped for such customization. All you’ll do is annoy the kitchen.  And I don’t want to eat food prepared by annoyed people…

yea i was thinking this person must love eating spit 🙂

What afrix and Skankingmike said. The number one rule for healthy restaurant dining is “Don’t piss off the staff.” This guy’s first order of business seems to be to violate that rule.

assertive vs. polite maybe, but he said assertive. After working in the service industry assertive usually means being a dick.

How arrogant to go in and to assume you can change everything that is offered. Unless you have a food allergy there is no reason to do this. (and even then, you should explain why you need something left out of your dish. ) Order whats offered or find a place that suits your diet.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO EAT EVERYTHING that’s on your plate. Who knew???

I just order stuff on the menu that looks good to me and that I want to eat. If there is something on the plate I don’t like then I don’t eat it. But then I grew up in a house where I was told that I could make myself a sandwich if I didn’t like what the family was eating.

Those of you who know me know how I am at restaurants…I eat what’s offered, never ask for substitutions and have never sent anything back in my life.  But I’ve also worked in the service industry and have many friends who currently work in the industry.  It ain’t easy, so why make the meal difficult for both of you?  Just relax and enjoy your meal is my philosophy, at least.

However, when I see a server being either lazy or incompetent for no good reason, that’s when the claws come out; if you aren’t in the weeds and we’re your only table for days, fill my damned iced tea and take my order within at least the first fifteen minutes of us being seated or prepare yourself for a shoddy 10% tip.

What do you think, readers?  Are you “assertive” at restaurants?  Does it net you good service (that you’re aware of, at least?)?  Or do you follow the “eat what’s on your plate or find a healthy restaurant” approach?  Is my 10% tip for crappy service policy too draconian or too lax?

9 thoughts on “A Side Order of Contempt”

  1. It’s important to be assertive at Whataburger, but not at Charlie Trotter’s.

    Customers who respect a chef’s artistry would never special order. It is like telling a painter, “Please make my painting with mostly blue. No red today.”

    But if you are at a Whataburger, you have no hope of artistry unless you create it yourself. So with great confidence we order our burger with bacon, guacamole, and double jalapenos.

    In other words, we only learn to assert our true selves in the world if we eat once in a while at Whataburger.

  2. I totally agree with your comments, although I will fully admit the the concept of “no substitutions” at expensive restaurants irks me the same way 5 star hotels charge for internet access while Motel 6 doesn’t. I was at a really nice restaurant and they had what sounded like a fantastic entree, but the sides they served with it sounded horrible to me (I freaking HATE brussell sprouts!). I asked if I could substitute and the waiter told me that I couldn’t.

    Look, I understand the chef is picky about selections, but if the two side items make me ill while the side dishes that I like come with entrees I don’t, I’m in a jam here – particularly at $30+ for an entree.

    Of course, I took what was served and ate around the stuff I didn’t like and I was very polite to the waiter as always. It just bugged me.

  3. I think assertive can lean towards rudeness in restaurant situations. I have however sent food back. Several times in fact. If I order a steak medium and it comes out cold to lukewarm then I send it back. I don’t mind it being less than that perfect shade of pink/red, but lukewarm? In a steakhouse!! And a very expensive one no less!! Seriously.

    Other than that, I enjoy the food as it is described and planned on the menu because that is why I ordered it. And if I need to make as many changes as recommended to be “assertive,” it wuld be cheaper and tastier for me to just stay home and cook myself!

  4. I never, EVER send back food. If it is that awful, I make sure to leave a “You’ve Been Yelped” card so they can expect a review. However, if the food is awful, I don’t usually take it out on the waiter, since it isn’t their fault. If the waitstaff sucks–oh, there’s just nothing that irritates me more. I’ve worked in the service industry. Yes, you’ll have bad days. No, it isn’t the customer’s fault. ARG!

  5. Well, firstly, it really, really doesn’t pay to be rude to waitstaff. It does pay to be polite and kind and to tip well. Those people work HARD!!!

    Secondly, the chef at a restaurant does not exist to serve your narcissistic ass Michael Jacobson, PhD. Don’t try to teach others to behave as abominably as you apparently do, dickhead.

    Also, most chefs worth their toques carefully craft all components of a meal to complement each other and substitutions will most likely ruin that confluence. Trust the chef – especially in a good to great restaurant!

    And, yes, I have sent things back…most especially that rawish chicken breast – being as I was just not in the mood for salmonella that particular day, thank you very much.

  6. @ anonymouseater: I agree with you on both counts. But what about at mid-range restaurants, the Chili’s of the world?

    @ Jeff: Frankly, I’m a little surprised that they wouldn’t just put another veggie on there. Were the brussels sprouts integral to the dish in some way?

    @ Nikki: Hee! That’s why I always order my steaks rare. Pretty impossible to undercook “rare.” 😀

    @ coowen: I need to get some of those Yelp cards, dammit!

    @ Jo: Mmm…raw chicken!

    @ M.Morgan: …yeah.

  7. 10% is what I leave for crappy service. Down to the penny, if I can. It’s enough to let the server know you didn’t forget, but not enough for them to feel as if they did a good job.

  8. I’m with you K – I feel like I am a really respectful diner.

    On the other hand, if I really want (like *craving* want) a particular item and it has maybe one thing I want changed about it, I will say something. I think that’s pretty normal.

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