Yesterday on the Bruni blog, Frank Bruni fielded a readers question pertaining to the protocol involving the delivery of a mistaken entrée when the other guests have appropriately received their dinners.
The situation is an awkward one for all parties involved, especially the restaurant, and as Bruni admits there is no protocol he offers advice to alleviate some of the tension.
Alert the server, right when the wrong entrée arrives. That way, even if you decide you’re going to keep the entrée — which is one option, if it’s an entrée that suits you well enough and if you’re disinclined to disrupt the meals of everyone at the table — you’ve given the server and the restaurant the chance to do what’s right under these circumstances, and remove the cost of that entrée from your bill. It wasn’t what you asked for. You shouldn’t have to pay for it.
Although there is no stone scripted protocol for the situation, the least the restaurant can offer is to remove the entrée from the bill. But remember as a guest, the problem has to be brought to attention early. It will be quite difficult to make your case of a restaurant error after the entree is have eaten or finished.
In my opinion what the server should do, all in all, is offer to prepare what you originally ordered while also insisting that you keep what was erroneously delivered, so that you have something to eat, and your tablemates feel less uncomfortable about eating their food, in the meantime…because this gesture doesn’t eliminate all of the awkwardness and disappointment that were created, the restaurant shouldn’t charge you for any entree at all.
Bruni insists that the restaurant should eat the cost of both the mistaken and corrected entrée. For this I agree. However, some restaurants, especially smaller budgeted establishments cannot afford the cost, especially if the entrees were of high food cost or rare items.
The mistaken entree should definitely be removed from the check no questions asked and the proper entree should be offered. This we have established. If the guest chooses to retain the erroneous entrée and passes on the correct entree, then the meal is free. If the guest passes on the erroneous entree or chooses to enjoy it and wait for the correct entrée, that second entrée sometimes cannot be taken off the check.
In that case other amends have to be met. Again, both entrees should be removed from the check, but in the case that they can’t, something else must be yielded, whether a round of champagne for the table, dessert or compliments of another nature.
The most important thing the restaurant can do is to acknowledge the mishap and to attend vigilantly over the table and not solely the guest. The error can be as awkward for the other guests as it is for the individual with the wrongly served meal.
In the best-case scenario, both meals would be removed from the check and something for the entire table would be offered in the end (i.e. champagne, dessert).
And as Bruni notes some of his colleagues expect that all the meals be removed from the table and replaced for one incorrect item. This is completely wasteful and absurd.
That act is more offensive than delivering one wrong dish.