Illustration by Sofia Bews.

Illustration by Sofia Bews.

Euuughhh, I used get so nervous about sending food back at restaurants! So much so that…I never sent food back. Ever. Even if the hamburger was raw in the middle. Even if the waitperson gave me the actual wrong meal. If I ordered a chicken caesar wrap and received a fish ’n’ chips plate, I was so afraid of coming across as a spoiled brat that I’d sigh inwardly and go, Welp, OK. Fish ’n’ chips. That’s what the universe wants me to eat today, I guess.

Y’all: If you order a chicken caesar wrap and you get a plate of fish ’n’ chips, that is not fate. That is an error. And it is not bratty to say something: You can speak up!

I got over my fear pretty quickly when I became a server at a restaurant. I saw that so many people were unashamed about sending food back, and that when they did I, the server, was not bothered a bit. I promise: Your waitperson is not going to hate you/spit in your dinner! Unless you’re being a jerk about it. (Kidding! Even if you are being a jerk, they probably won’t spit in your food.) Your server wants you to be happy with your meal. So does the cook. So does the owner of the restaurant. So do you. If something’s wrong, send that food back!

How to send food back when a server brings you the wrong thing: Tell them! Right away! Don’t eat half the fries and then say something, doi. Be nice, stay calm, and remember that nine times out of 10, it is not the server’s fault. The cook may have read the order wrong—who knows? But the server does not want to bring you the wrong food, and they are not going to be annoyed when you point out that you did not, in fact, order the pita plate. After they bring back what you actually ordered and you’re done eating it, tip them the normal amount.

How to send food back when there’s something wrong with what you ordered: Let’s say your mashed potatoes arrive stone-cold, or something else is not quite right about the food on your plate…

1. Don’t panic. It’s OK. This happens every day.
2. Get your server’s attention. Remember, this probably isn’t their fault.
3. Nicely, politely, point out what’s wrong. Try something like, “Hi! I’m so sorry, but these potatoes are cold. Would you bring them back to the kitchen for me, please?” There! So polite! You’ll notice I threw an unnecessary apology in there. You, of course, do not need to apologize because what’s wrong with the food is not your fault, either, but…I don’t know—it’s a way of letting your server know you don’t throw fits in restaurants on a regular basis.
4. That is all. There is no need to be nervous or feel bad about sending that food back. Even a little.
5. Thank the server when they bring the new or warmed-up plate of food to your table. Tip them the normal amount.

How to send food back when you messed up your own order: If, for example, you did not realize sweetbreads are not breads-that-are-sweet but lamb pancreas until it was sitting on a plate in front of you, and you want something else…Say something, asap! Apologize for your mistake profusely, and politely ask if you can order something else. Your server will say yes, and sometimes the restaurant will even take the offending item off your bill. (But don’t demand it. You did make the order, remember.) Lavish your server with thanks, then tip them extra!

And that’s all there is to it! Great job, assertive-you. Bon appétit! ♦