The Insane Waiter

Running wild on customers, chefs, owners and managers since 1997. I bring to you, The Insane Waiter. What do bring to your table? A crisp bottle of San Pellegrino ? Perhaps a lovely seared Sashimi Tuna? Start off with a wonderful bottle from Tuscany perhaps? Why I'll be more than happy to bring you your White Zinfandel and Chicken Caesar. No you can't order the mac and cheese off the kids menu and sorry no, we don't serve cheese sticks....

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Waiter, My Steak Is Overcooked!

Interesting point here from a commenter

"After reading your thoughts on customer etiquette for split checks, I had a question for you, if you have time to answer it. What do you consider customer "etiquette" for returning food that is "unsatisfactory"? The reason I ask this, is a couple weeks ago my husband and I went out with a couple of friends and I ordered a steak. I specified very clearly that I wanted my steak medium-well. I even went as far as to say that the steak could be a little pink in the middle but NO blood. When I got my order there was not only blood when I cut into the steak but it was right there on the plate (it MIGHT have qualified as medium rare) I was polite both when ordering and then when I asked my server if it could be put back on the grill for a bit longer. The server proceeded to tell me that it WAS medium-well and didn't seem to have intention of taking it back to the kitchen. At this point I had to inform her that I'm undergoing chemotherapy and that I have a compromised immune system and that all of my food (especially any that can expose me to something like E-coli or salmonella) must be fully cooked."

First off you did the right thing by pointing out your preference when the server brought you your food.

It really ticks me off when people wait until they are done with dinner to complain.

If I am given no opportunity to fix a problem, how can it be fixed.

Pretty much if people wait till the end of the meal they're probably bastards looking to eat for free as I always give my customers the opportunity to give me input and I will fix any problem immediately.

If they don't send their food back for further cooking, new entree or whatever else I can do to fix it I probably won't take anything off their bill if at the end of the meal if it becomes an issue.

The only time I'll consider doing some kind if food comp is if it has gone back more than once or if the replacement entree takes an exorbenant amount of time to get back to the table.

Be prepared to pay for at least half of the cost as well, we aren't going to prepare multiple entrees just to give them away for free or throw them away.

Food costs us money as well, not just the customer.

Most of the time I offer dessert on the house to ease the situation and the customer, the house and I all benefit from this.

A dessert costs much less than a $25 steak that has a much slimer profit margin.

The one thing I noticed about your query is the no blood thing.

Now I didn't see your steak so I don't know if it was cooked to temperature or not.

However I've seen many steaks cooked perfectly med/well with blood on the plate, and had them sent back.

Blood sweats to the surface as its cooked, giving the appearance that it may be undercooked, always slice into it to be sure.

As long as the steak is cooked to med/well it is cooked well over 165 degrees, well over the heat tolerance for E-Coli and samonella.

It seems many people don't know how to order their steak, maybe that's why the server was a little rude to you.

Not excusing his reaction, just putting it into perspective.

Usually if I know the customer is wrong (And yes they can be)

I just send it back regardless, with an apology to the kitchen from myself for the customer's ignorance.

I've sent back literally hundreds of perfectly cooked steaks just because the customer had no idea what medium is.

It is irritating and it takes time away from my other guests.

The kitchen usually gets rather ticked off as well as many chefs and cooks take pride in their product and pride in the fact they make few mistakes.

Learn your steak temperatures!

Rare - Cool Red Center

Medium Rare - Warm to Hot Red Center

Medium - Hot Pink Center

Medium Well - Slightly Pink Center

Well Done - Cooked all the way Through

Through If you get a well done steak I just have to shudder...

The usual condiment for such a monstrocity seems to be ketchup.

Usually pronounced Cat-shup by the amature diners that order them.

Usually they send these steaks back as well...

For being overcooked or burnt, what did you expect it to be?

Juicy and tender?

If you want your steak to taste great, don't order well done, expect it to suck if you like your food like that.

You might as well go order a hamburger off the kids menu and save a few bucks.


At 7:07 PM , Blogger Jen in Door County said...

As a chef, this issue is always a thorn in my ass. Customers not knowing meat temps/descriptions.
What I have also found in my travels is that some food related things are different depending on where you are.
The one thing that has remained a constant though, is the meat thing.
Medium-well does not have blood at all. If it has clear juice, that's a lot.
When I have been asked the difference between Med, MW, W, etc, including the fluid content usually helps them.
(MR-red center with blood, Med-pink, clear juice, MW-pink no juice, W-gray, etc.)
What chaps my ass worse is when they order MW, and then have the insanity to get hacked off if it comes out W. Get a fucking grip!

At 10:50 PM , Anonymous Chris F said...

Well I'm a philistine, I love my steak MW or WD and yes sometimes I add ketchup (tomato sauce in New Zealand where I come from).

I eat very plainly, however, when I go out I like to try exotic dishes that I would never attempt at home because I'm a bloody awful cook.

I'm not a fussy eater, I've never sent a meal back, for me going out for a meal is more being out with friends and watching the people in the restaurant including the staff, I'm a starecat.

That's not to say that bad service or mediocre food doesn't detract from the experience it does, though more for other people in the party than me, usually if either are mediocre that's what the conversation ends up being about for the rest of the evening, boring.........

At 12:22 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You brought up some excellent points in your entry. One thing you mentioned was that a customer might not know all the facts and be misled by an appearance. I'm afraid I was misled by your blog as well.
You have excellent ideas, and I genuinely enjoy your posts, but, like the blood on that unfortunate diner's plate, posts that could be real works of art have so many grammatical errors and strange seperations of ideas that my first impression of this blog was that it was written by an incoherent Waiterrant wanna-be.
Polish your posts, and I guarantee you your comments will increase seven-fold.

At 12:37 PM , Anonymous CurlySue said...

Agree on the "polish your posts" comment. Jeez! Anyway, I would have to agree with the commenter on this one. He has a REAL problem to deal with and handled it rather well. He was polite in his request and should not have been argued with -- rather catered to as I see it.
On the other hand, as a former restaurant owner, I have seen many a steak kicked around the kitchen floor, spit on, etc., just because some ahole kept sending it back or just was damn rude about the whole thing. Be very careful in your requests for re-cooking of food. You might get more than you bargained for!!!!

At 3:43 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all it's a blog, if you want perfect grammar and spelling, buy a book.
As far as the complaint goes, I am a little shocked by the server's attitude about cooking the steak up. That's the easiest correction you can make and the attitude about it was unwarranted. It is the servers responsibility to verbally explain what their establishment's temperatures look like so that the guest has a clear perception of what they're ordering.
I am usually on the server's side with issues like this, but the lack of empathy and compassion for the customer who is a cancer patient is a deal breaker.

At 4:27 PM , Blogger Grotesqueticle said...

Well, not to get into how polite the server was or wasn't, it really annoys the hell out of me to have to ruin a good piece of meat because some idiot asks me to cook all the taste out of it.
Were I to win the lottery, I'm opening my own steak house, where in large letters on the front of the menu, it will state that my establishment will only cook your steaks rare, med rare and medium.
I agree, with your last sentence. Just get a hamburger if you like well done, because obviously you can't taste the difference.
In my America, anyone caught eating a decent cut of beef with ketchup would be shot on sight.

I have issues.

At 4:50 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was bartending I also had issues - anytime someone ordered a top shelf margarita blended, I would blend them up a nice well margarita, right out of the gun, and bring my liquor cost down. Or else I'd drink the shot of Patron, Herradura, or whatever was supposed to go in their glass. Screw liquor cost. Either way I'm not wasting good tequila by blending it with ice. Did it for three years and no one ever noticed or complained.

At 5:06 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding temperature and cooked beef, medium-well would be around 140-145 F, 150 F for well. There are some older guides out there that suggest higher temps but they're not taken seriously by modern chefs.

Is that hot enough to kill bacteria? It's borderline, not quite in the perfectly safe zone. However that's a moot point since we're talking about cuts of meat where any bacteria is going to be on the outside of the cut (and destroyed by the grill) but not in the actual tissue. Not that I would have argued with this woman but she could eat rare beef (125-130 F) as there will not be any pathogens in the interior.

Perhaps her doctor is being extra cautious and who am I to argue, but fear of bacterial infection from undercooked beef is much less likely than most people realize. The most significant risk comes from ground beef and it should be obvious why: the bacteria that was on the surface is now in the center of the meat and will still be alive when consumed if not cooked to at least 140 F.

At 7:08 PM , Blogger Kailie said...

perhaps when someone orders a steak a certain way, you can say, "medium", a hot pink center, is that OK? That way both of you know what the guest means. Contrary to popular belief, many restaurants have different descriptions for temperatures, not to mention the cut of meat factor and thickness.

At 7:22 PM , Anonymous Curious said...

Thanks for answering my question. My main issue was that there was blood on my plate...not to mention the steak was still pretty dark pink all through it and the juice was far from clear. I'm not a huge fan of having blood around anyway, but there are a few reasons why I shouldn't at right now.

1.) I do have a compromised immune system, and though the chances of me getting sick are probably pretty slim, they are there. If I am one of the unlucky ones to get sick, I can't fight it off like most people would. I'd just rather be safe than sorry.

2.) Have you ever SEEN someone that's going through chemotherapy? While I haven't had a terrible reaction to it, we get nauseous easily and the sight of blood isn't really appealing to me on the best of days.

I was polite when I asked for the steak to be cooked a little longer, I even said I didn't mind waiting. It really wasn't a huge deal to me. All the same I was polite, I am a paying customer AND I clearly asked for no blood when I ordered and anyone (including the server) could see the blood all over the plate.

I did cut into the steak to see how done it was, which is why I said there wasn't only blood on the plate but when I cut into it as well. I REALLY try not to be one of those bitchy customers that makes a server's life hell, and only asked as a last resort. (And yes, I add more tip when I feel I'm being a pain in the ass to the server)

I agree with you totally about waiting until the end of the meal. If someone's food is good enough to eat, they don't deserve anything free out of it. Freeloaders irritate the hell out of me.

At 7:46 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I usually tell my waiter that I'd like my steak to come out with a hot, pink center and let him determine the proper terminology. In my town, ordering a medium steak can get you anything from a cool, red center to a dry graying piece of shoe leather.

Find myself telling friends - if you have a complaint and are going to let the person try to fix it, then tell him, otherwise don't say anything. Can't stand it when friends tell the waiter "this wasn't what I ordered". When the waiter offers to get a new entree or adjust the cooking they sit there like martyrs and refuse to let it be corrected. Why bother to tell someone there is a problem if you aren't going to let the person attempt to make it better ?

At 11:32 PM , Anonymous Cachis said...

Ya know, there's a "profile" in the industry for people who order a good cut of meat well done. They usually use A1 or catsup as well.

At 2:25 AM , Anonymous pokervixxen said...

You are welcome in my restaurant any time, (I'll even get you a bigger portion of mashers:)

A cook up is alot more convienent than throwing down a whole new steak. I'll take a well done steak eater over a chicken caesar salad beatch any time, any day,(see blog above).

At 8:36 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, that's not blood coming from the steak. When the cattle are slaughtered, they are bled entirely so that there is no actual "blood" left in the animal. It's actually a combination of the water in the muscle (muscle is 75% water) and pigment from the muscle cells.

At 10:33 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Usually I order it 'Pittsburg' - black and sizzling on the outside, hot and red on the inside. Once in a while I'll order 'Black and Blue' - same as Pittsburg on the outside, raw on the inside. Ummmm, good!

At 9:01 AM , Blogger Wendebular said...

Labels are always such a hassle.

I had a perfectly lovely couple one night. The guy ordered a medium scotch fillet. When I went to check their meals, he retorted "I ordered this steak medium." I apologised and looked down at his steak. Pretty damn medium to me. Pink in the middle, not red, not grey. I replied with a hesitant "Would you like me to get that cooked a little more for you sir?" He snapped "I want it medium!" Ooookay. I took a gamble and got the chefs to throw it on a little longer. He was happy with the second presentation. You never know.

I also had a guy order "medium to medium rare", but also want "a little bit pink in the middle, but not too much." I suggested medium well done for our eye fillet as they are very thick steaks. He freaked out at the idea of ordering something medium well and made me order medium instead. I should have just left the terminology out of the conversation.

Also, does anyone else hate "medium rare, but a little more towards the rare side" (etc)? As if waiters and chefs don't have enough to worry about without MMR, MMW, and every other picky temperature imaginable? Blue, Rare, Medium Rare, Medium, Medium Well, Well Done, Very Well Done (shudder). Aren't those enough options?

I also have no qualms about recommending otherwise when people order Well Dones, predominantly with lamb, venison and tuna. It's ultimately up to the guest, but nobody's ever complained to me about their Medium or Medium Well once they've tried it.

And to comment about the actual query (I will probably re-post this rant on my own blog eventually), the server's response was ridiculous, whether or not the customer was immunologically impaired or not. Throwing it back on the grill shouldn't be a bother and they're not the ones who have to eat it.

At 8:51 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fuck you you cock sucking whore. I am better than you

At 12:21 AM , Blogger KMB said...

Personally, I like my steak seared on the outside and raw in the middle. The rawer the better. I got tired of going to restaurant after restaurant and ordering my steak either "black and blue" or "rare as legally allowed." If I was lucky, it came out medium. On a few occasions, it's been medium well. So now I just order medium across the board or order pasta and make my steak at home.

You know, it never occured to me to look down on a person for how they like their steak. I have a friend who likes his charred beyond recognition and I don't think I'd ever turn up my nose at him because he has a different taste preference. Reading this blog, as much as I enjoy it and waiterrant, is making me paranoid about eating out. I'm afraid of being categorized a certain way because I don't drink alcohol, I happen to enjoy ranch dressing on occasion (a local upscale place makes their own which is fabulous), I like cucumbers on my salad, hate raw onions, would rather drink a soda with my meal, and never thought that wanting a side ceasar would label me as a low-tipping piece of trash troublemaker.

At 5:49 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sheeple are so picky, eat the meat , enjoy the meat, and if it's close to the way you ordered it shut the f up and eat it.
Also the way some people eat depends on mood or the amount of booze in their system, when i'm drunk it's bloody when i'm hung over it's burnt drowned in horsey sauce



At 7:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

At 1:36 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a server and manager, order your steak how you like it and be specific. I will repeat back to you what you ordered as well as what to expect from your steak. If you say medium rare, you should expect a warm to hot red center. If it comes out under, let me know. If it comes out over, let me know. If the lighting in the restaurant is such that you say its overcooked (or under) without actually tasting it, then you are in the wrong.

The customer is not always right.

At 7:40 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

i work in a restaurant and am in charge of preparing the steak's. When i get a ticket with a w steak in my eyes its a waste of a good quality piece of meat but i do tells the servers everytime im done with it so they understand if the customers is not happy with the temp tell them i would be more than happy to cok it longer.another thing i always hear people say i eat mine well done cause i do not like blood on my meat well actually its not blood like someone said before the protein and myoglobin is what gives it the color oh yea by the way i have worked in many other places and yes be careful how you treat your server when it comes to food remakes or re cooking because if your a asshole about it and am one of those people who are like im the customer i am always right... 90% of the time its gonna end up on the floor in someones pants spit on step on and various ways to get back at the "dick at table 201"

At 10:12 PM , Blogger Michael Smith said...

Ok, i didn't bother to read all 22 comments, so if i'm repeating anything someone else said, i appologize. so...

Wow, I cannot believe this exchange. The fallacy started at the very beginning and was not only not addressed by the OP, but validated. There was NO BLOOD on the plate. Blood does not 'rise to the surface' as it cooks or anything like that. THERE IS NO BLOOD. The cow was drained of it's blood at slaughter, just like chickens. The juices happen to the same color as blood, just because mammals produce far more myoglobin, which happens to give the meat a red color. That's why it's red meat. You might expect the juices from a red meat to be, well, red. that doesn't mean it's blood just cause it happens to be the same color. Just eat the damn meat while it's still juicy and delicious, and don't ask to have the goodness cooked out of it just because you too simple minded to realize that not everything that's red is blood.
Also. Lets just say it is blood. So what? you're already eating flesh, and other it really that much of a stretch to eat blood anyway. Even if it were blood, it's not like it would be cooked out anyway. only the water would be evaporated, drying the blood, but leaving the dried remains throughout your'll still be eating it.


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