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Eating Out – Hit or Miss?

How often do you go out for dinner in your home town or in nearby restaurants?

I can honestly admit I don’t go to restaurants very often. Last night I got another bitter reminder why.

One reason for not eating out much is the cost of it. I live in Finland, where everything is fairly expensive, also eating out is well pricey. If you fancy a steak, you hardly ever find one for less than 20–25 euros. In case you want to enjoy a glass of red wine to accompany your steak, as I like to do once I go to a restaurant, there’s no way of managing for less than 50 euros for a two person dinner.

If the food is delicious, as it should be, and if the service is great, as it should be, I don’t mind paying the above mentioned price for a lovely dinner. Unfortunately it is too often that I have to spend an awful lot of money for a bitter disappointment. This happened last night, again.

Before you read on, I want to clarify this doesn’t happen in every single restaurant in Finland. Maybe I’m just unlucky or the problem is in the area I live in. Perhaps you have experienced the same issue in your country too. Just do not make the judgement that no one should ever go to a restaurant in Finland.

Last night I had a reservation in a lovely restaurant where I went with three friends. The setting was perfect, very idyllic, but already the very first appearance of our waitress made us doubt how the evening would go. This lady, the waitress, didn’t much convince us with her expertise nor skills for customer service. Nevertheless we trusted the food is delicious despite the gutsy waitress.

Once we received our dishes, we had to laugh a little bit. ‘The day’s warm veggies’, as described in the menu, looked like the chef had had to scrape the very last bits of the root vegetable in the whole of restaurant from the bottom of the pan and try to evenly divide them between us four. The food itself was quite average, apart from the very last piece of my steak that had a blonde curly hair in it. And it wasn’t mine.

Once the waitress came to pick up the plates (plastic plates, by the way), she didn’t make any gesture of asking if we liked the food or not. So I made my own effort and politely expressed my opinion about the hair I found on my dish.

Luckily this hair on the side of the plate was found on the very last piece of my steak, as I immediately lost my appetite after seeing it.

What did I get as an answer? A mean glance and a growl asking where did I claim to find that hair.

With a friendly tone I repeated I found it on my steak. No answer. The waitress disappeared very fast and didn’t come back.

After waiting quite a while we asked the other waiter for the bill. A very friendly young man acted immediately and soon we received the checks from our original waitress. Without a word. No apologizing for the hair on my dish, not any kind of sign of compensation, not even a cup of coffee. We paid our bill and left. What an experience! No reason to try that restaurant again.

Best hamburger ever Nyhavn Copenhagen

Unfortunately this is not the only disappointment we have experienced recently. I already have a small list of restaurants I am not returning to. None of them is on the list only because I was disappointed with the food, but mainly because of the behaviour of the staff and the way they treated us.

Last winter we had a dinner in a restaurant very familiar to us. We shared a dish we have had many times before and knew very well how it should be like. This time the quality of the food was so poor that part of the dish was absolutely inedible. Again we gave feedback about the dish face to face, and again we received some growling and snapping as an answer. Worst of all were the waitresses, more than one, starting to blame a third party for their food being so poor. Once I got home I sent another feedback by email, this time not only about the food but also about how the staff took our feedback. I never received a reply to my email. We haven’t visited the restaurant since and we won’t.

I have been working as a waitress for years. I am very experienced with the downsides of the work and I know how rough it can be. That’s why I appreciate all restaurant staff wherever I go. Unfortunately it seems like the appreciation doesn’t seem to be mutual nowadays.

Not every day can be a good day, not even for restaurant staff, but it’s not the customer’s fault. Of course there are shitty customers too, I have experienced that as well, but if the previous customer has been a d***head, the next customer is not the one to blame.

The fact that makes the situation a little bit ludicrous is that nowadays you can not tell if the person walking into a restaurant is an appreciated food blogger or restaurant critic. Also the fact is that Facebook is full of groups for people to tell about their good and bad experiences in local businesses, even in my little home town. And thanks to social media, today the word spreads like wildfire.

And even if this wasn’t the case, I think everyone has a right to get value for their money, whether the value lies in the quality of food or customer service. At least for myself eating out is a rare treat. It’s an experience. Or so it should be.

nepalilainen ravintola

Why on earth should I waste 50 euros for food that I could prepare better myself in my own kitchen, without having to listen to growls and snorts from a rude waiter or waitress? When cooking at home I could also have a bottle of wine for the price of a glass in restaurant. All the time you are pushed and supported to spend your money in local businesses, buying local products and services, but if by doing so you get these cold and miserable experiences, and pay a high price for it, there will be a limit. How come anyone could even think a customer would come back to a restaurant after being treated like this? After word spreads, no one else will. Good luck with the entrepreneur who keeps ignoring the valuable customer feedback.

I guess it will take a while until I’m ready to take the chance of eating out again.

Have you ever experienced anything similar in your local restaurants? Or anywhere else in the world? Funny enough, normally when travelling, most of the dinners will be eaten in restaurants. Wherever in the world I have travelled, I have never experienced anything like this elsewhere. Getting to know a new cuisine and restaurant culture is one of the pearls of travelling. I would love to eat out more often also in my home country and the area where I live in. If it was an experience.

Note: The pictures on this post have nothing to do with the actual topic, they are just random food pictures I have taken during my travels. All of them I enjoyed very much. And the customer service as well.

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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Oh this would be so so so frustrating. I can’t begin to imagine having to spend that amount of money on food that is not delicious and to die for! In Europe, we simply can’t afford to eat in restaurants when we visit and we picnic straight from the grocery store. My choice in Canada is ethnic restaurants for value as well as they have dishes that I can’t recreate well in my own home so great value for money overall. So as a result, we eat out a lot but it is Thai, Indian and Middle Eastern dishes… not the meat and potatoes kind, which even here, can be costly and add up.

    1. That’s actually interesting if tourists outside Europe really think alike, and don’t eat in restaurants during their holidays because of the cost of it. I love picnics, so sometimes we do that too, even if a restaurant could also be an option. There’s nothing better than to sit in a park or a beach on a sunny day, nibbling some snacks and sipping some wine. Oh god, I really need a holiday! 🙂

      Anyway, back to the point. I would be extremely curious to hear more opinions from people outside Europe, if many travelers actually feel the same. As stated, I am happy to pay the price every now and then (even though I could do it more often if it wasn’t that expensive), but if I have to get disappointed that badly every single time, why should I waste my money. I can cook at home or go for that picnic!

      1. I would think a lot of North Americans would agree with me (except those who are very rich) as it has always been the case since I was in my teens…. eating in restaurants in Europe was very challenging so bakeries, grocery stores and crepes etc. on the street became our friends and enabled us to continue to travel there. I just chose to travel to Sri Lanka with my daughter in Sept. over Italy for this reason alone. It came down to expenses. It doesn’t mean we won’t go to Italy but I will wait til I have been working in Cairo for a bit before we undertake that trip.

      2. That is seriously interesting. I need to ask also my Canadian friend who is living in Germany how she sees this issue. Could you give me an example how the prices are in Canada? For example average price for a steak dinner or chicken dish in a restaurant? I’ve never been to Canada, yet, besides Halifax airport (but that doesn’t count)! 😀

      3. This is kind of funny now as a vegetarian but a chicken dish/steak dinner would range from 8 to 15 dollars or so depending on the kind of restaurant (could be 20 in a much more elegant place)…. however cheaper could be found for the chicken in particular. When we travel in Europe, we don’t even drink pop in places… it is tap water all the way. We splurged in Italy on our honeymoon and ate out a couple of times otherwise it was bars, coffee shops and picnicking all the way. I am a budget traveller, mind you… guest houses, hostels, cheaper style hotels but in Canada, we do eat out quite a bit and in Europe… well, no.

  2. I’m so sorry for these recent restaurant experiences ! A hair in your steak? Ugh… And the staff’s emotionless reply was probably even worse ! I like to eat out but I find that those meals I cook at home are the most enjoyable. I like to go out for drinks and appetizers though but one bad dinner can ruin me for a while:( I hope you’ll have a yummy and kind dining out experience soon! Hope all is well with you and sending hugs from NYC 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment Lia. Yeah let’s see when I’m willing to take the risk of eating out next time, might take a while! 😀 Although I already know where that would be, there is a new restaurant in town that opened about a week ago, so that will be the next target. Luckily, at least this far, I have heard only good things about it. But it is sort of sad when you go for a dinner to a restaurant, where a professional chef SHOULD be cooking, and then you realize you would have prepared a tastier dish at home. Without being a professional. It tells something about the motivation of the staff, doesn’t it.

      Actually, I’d love to have a dinner in one of the famous chefs’ restaurants, like Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Marco Pierre White and so on, but I’m afraid I would need a win in a lottery first… 😀 I’m sure that would be a pleasant experience if I ever get to do that!

      1. Oh, your next dining destination sounds better (I trust other diners’ experiences and often read reviews online). Here’s hoping it will go well! I agree that the motivation of the staff makes or breaks a restaurant!
        Ah, I agree about dining at a famous chef’s restaurant. I watch them on TV and wonder, hmmm, do they ever eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at home? Or just prepare gourmet food all the time! Delicious, either way!
        Take care and happy Thursday!

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