Giving Constructive Criticism While Dining

The stereotype of the Pacific Northwesterner is that our interactions are passive, whether it pertains to driving, dating, work and beyond. For me, this is true when it comes to dining out. For someone who is so honestly opinionated on food I cringe when I  hear myself, over enthusiastically reply, “mmm so good” when the waiter asks “how was everything?”. It’s my healing mechanism to get passed the confrontation as soon as possible so that I can forget about my dissapointment of spending $30 on my overcooked wild salmon and move on with my life. Then something happened the other night…

While dining out on a stunning terraced restaurant, overlooking the coast of Split, Croatia, when asked “how is everything?” during our meal, my husband responded “actually, my steak is really dry and overcooked”.

Dvor Restaurant Split, Croatia

Dvor Restaurant- Split, Croatia

He was exactly right that his beautiful Angus steak was burnt to a crisp when he specified medium rare. But I wasn’t prepared to hear him assert the truth! My eyes anxiously darted toward the waiter gauging how this turn of events would play out and if I would be able to order dessert next knowing that the likelihood of his spit ending up in it was rapidly increasing. The waiter sympathetically responded ” oh yes, it does look over cooked..can I get you another?”. My husband agreed and the issue was resolved.

I compare the feeling to jumping into cold water after hesitating for way too long then, once realizing how exhilarating it is, wished I’d jumped in sooner. For some reason, I always associated giving feedback as negative complaining when it comes to eating out but if the information is delivered in a constructive way there are two potential outcomes: 1) the server can address your issues and make you a happier diner or 2) future clientel may benefit from the correction. Obviously, the scenario changes based on the issue itself, the server and the diner’s ability to politely address the issue but for those of you holding back, like me, I hope this inspires you.

Being that we are traveling for a full year, we will, inevitably, be eating out more than usual. I will challenge myself to voice constructive criticism when necessary and to also provide thoughtful complements when it is deserved.

On an aside, Dvor was a very good restaurant that I recommend in Split, Croatia. The seafood and meat are fresh and the pastas and desserts are made daily. The only downside is when we went back a second time with friends the waiter up-sold us on the quantity of fish we needed for four people; leaving us with about $100 more of a bill than if we got the quantity we thought would feed our group. Many restaurants in the Balkan charge for fish by the kilo.  Maybe I should have spoken up then but I didn’t figure out the math on the bill until after we left the table. Bon courage!




  1. Andrea says

    Not that it happens often but how do you manage the awkward moment of not liking a course at a dinner party ? Sometimes your face just cannot lie and leaving food on a plate never is a option.

    • says

      Great question Andrea 🙂 ! I think it depends on the closeness with your friends. If you think they appreciate the feedback and you can deliver it in a sensitive way than you should speak up. Otherwise, white lies don’t hurt. There’s a responsibility to be a gracious guest and to show appreciation for someone putting the time and energy into a meal. It’s easy to forget that not everyone strives to put the most perfect meal together.

    • says

      More “meatier” posts to come 🙂 …just working on a few last tweaks to my site before putting it all out there. Stay tuned!

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