I’m so happy to introduce our latest guest writer for Eating Britain, Alison Clarkson, a food stylist, home economist and food writer. Alison grew up in a small village in South Wales surrounded by generations of great home cooking and from an early age it was clear that she had a passion and flair for excellent food. A Marketing degree enabled her to become a food and drinks Marketeer spending the early part of her career working on new product development and food and flavour trends. Find out more about Alison and see her portfolio in Alison’s Kitchen.
As a fully fledged foodie I spend a lot of time eating out, but whether it’s at a Deli, the local greasy spoon or a smart restaurant I suffer from a very British affliction. You’ll recognise the scenario, the meal isn’t up to scratch and you spend 5 minutes complaining to your dinner companion and the waiter comes over to enquire ‘Is everything OK?’ and your response is ‘Fine thanks, lovely’ and then you kick yourself and spend the rest of the meal moaning but will probably leave a tip – it’s impolite not to!
How often do we put up with poorly cooked meals and substandard ingredients but are far too polite to complain? In other countries it doesn’t happen, the French would be up in arms, Americans would rather complain than not, Italians just wouldn’t put up with it. But us Brits don’t like to make a fuss, claiming we’ll vote with our feet instead but essentially we cop out. This is the case for a lot of transactions but especially when we’re eating out, we put up, make do and bow out.
On Saturday my husband and I were served an overpriced, poorly prepared lunch at a nearby Hotel, we did complain and, in fairness, they were very apologetic and did all they could to remedy our complaints. The situation did, however, spark off the conversation that maybe our reluctance to complain means Chefs will just carry on regardless, without our feedback they may think that everything is fine. And, if we don’t make our feelings known we aren’t giving them the opportunity to make amends. Given our foodie status we’re actually very well placed to give constructive feedback but whilst we eat out a couple of times a week rarely do we give an honest and specific response. If the foods good we’ll often throw in a cursory ‘lovely’ or ‘very nice’ but not much more.
So we’ve made a pact, for the next 3 months, when asked, we’ll give detailed and candid feedback both positive and negative, and I throw down the gauntlet to you too. There are two critical elements to remember though. Firstly to be really specific and constructive stating what you liked and why you liked it and the same for what you didn’t like. Secondly, if you’ve had more than 3 glasses of wine, let it lie! So join us in taking the waiter by the horns and seeing if we can make a difference. If we don’t change the face of British eateries, we’ll at least make ourselves feel a bit better!
Are you honest when it comes to telling the waiter what you really think? Do you keep schtum and just think, well, I won’t be coming here again? We’d love to hear about your experiences and any feedback you’ve received.