Speak English Around Town » LESSON 6 - Complaining at a Restaurant

Complaining at a Restaurant

At Carmen s Bistro, all is not going well. John complains to Kevin, the waiter, about his overdone steak. Tanya complains that her fish is too rare and that the music is too loud.

Kevin: How are we doing?*

John: Not very well. I ordered my steak medium rare, and it's burnt to a crisp!

Kevin: I'm sorry about that. I can ask our chef to prepare another one.

John: Okay, please do that.

Kevin: You bet. And how's your fish, ma'am?

Tanya: It's very rare.

Kevin: Would you like me to have the chef put it back in the oven?

Tanya: No, I've lost my appetite for fish.

Kevin: I'd be happy to bring you something else.

Tanya: Okay, let me try the stuffed chicken breast.

(Ten minutes after the waiter has brought the new meals.)

Kevin: How are we doing over here?

Tanya: I was wondering if you could turn down the music. Loud music in restaurants is a pet peeve of mine.

Kevin: Sure, I'll take care of that. Can I get you another round of drinks?

John: No, we're all set for now.

(The waiter returns after 15 minutes.)

Kevin: Are you still working on your meals?

Tanya: I'll need a doggy bag.

John: Would you mind wrapping this up, too?

Kevin: I'll bring you some containers, and you can box up your leftovers. Can I interest you in dessert?

Tanya: I'm stuffed.

John: Could you please bring the check?

* Sometimes waiters will ask, "How are we doing?" instead of "How are you doing?" This sounds very friendly and informal.

  • all set
    not needing anything else
    Example: When the waitress asked if we needed anything else, we told her we were all set.
  • (to) box up
    to put leftover food from a restaurant in a container
    Example: It looks like you've got a half a hamburger left. Would you like to box that up?
    NOTE: In the USA, the trend is for restaurants to give customers a white container ("box") and have them put their own leftovers in it.
  • burnt to a crisp
    completely burnt; very overcooked
    Example: Joe put the hamburgers on the grill and then forgot about them for an hour - no wonder they're burnt to a crisp!
  • Can I interest you in dessert?
    Would you like to order dessert?
    Example: When the waitress asked, "Can I interest you in dessert?" I replied, "Yes, we'll take a look at the dessert menu."
  • doggy bag
    a bag or container to take home food that a customer could not finish at a restaurant
    Example: This salad was huge. I'm going to need a doggy bag.
  • leftovers
    food that is not eaten at a meal; extra food that is eaten later
    Example: After our big Thanksgiving dinner, we had leftovers for three days. We were all sick of eating turkey by then!
  • (to) lose one's appetite
    to not want to eat any more due to a bad experience
    Example: After finding a hair in her soup, Andrea lost her appetite.
  • medium rare
    cooked just past the raw stage
    Example: This steak is overcooked. I ordered it medium rare, but it's brown in the middle.
  • pet peeve
    an annoyance; a particular thing that bothers someone more than the average person
    Example: Paul hates it when people talk on their cell phones while driving. That's his pet peeve.
  • round of drinks
    drinks for a whole group
    Example: Ed offered to buy all of his friends at the bar a round of drinks.
  • stuffed
    to be completely full
    Example: After eating five pieces of fried chicken each, we were all too stuffed to eat any dessert.
  • (to) turn down the music
    to lower the volume of the music
    Example: I can't hear you. Can you please turn down the music?
  • (to) work on
    to eat; to finish eating
    Example: When the waitress asked me if I was finished with my lobster, I said, "No, I'm still working on it."
  • (to) wrap up
    to put in a container or box (to take home)
    Example: Sue didn't finish her meal so she asked the waiter to wrap it up.
  • You bet
    yes; no problem
    Example: "If this DVD doesn't work in my DVD player, can I return it?" -"You bet."
Practice the Expressions

You did well on the exercise in Lesson 5, and you still have your job as a waiter/waitress at Anita's Restaurant. Choose the appropriate replies to your customers:

  1. Customer: "The music is so loud, we can't hear each other speak."
    Your reply:
    • a) "Let me tum up the music."
    • b) "Let me tum down the music."
    • c)"You '11 need to speak louder."
  2. Customer: "Can we get another round of drinks over here?"
    Your reply:
    • a) "Sure. I'll bring the check right away."
    • b) "Sure. What would you like?"
    • c) "Sure, but first you should finish what's in your glasses."
  3. Customer: "This fork is dirty. Dirty silverware is a pet peeve of mine."
    Your reply:
    • a) "Right. I don't like pets in restaurants either."
    • b) "Sorry about that. Let me bring you a clean fork."
    • c) "I don't mind dirty silverware either."
  4. Customer: "There's a hair in my soup. I just lost my appetite!"
    Your reply:
    • a) "Sorry. Let me get you a fresh bowl of soup."
    • b) "Sorry. I forgot to mention we serve all our soups with hair."
    • c) "Sorry. Let me just reach in and remove it for you."
  5. Customer: "I ordered my steak rare, but this is burnt to a crisp!"
    Your reply:
    • a) "I'm sorry. Let me tell the chef to put it back in the oven."
    • b) "I'm sorry you don't like burnt meat."
    • c) "I'm sorry. Let me have the chef prepare another one for you."
  6. Customer: "The pasta was good, but now I'm stuffed!"
    Your reply:
    • a) "I'll let you relax for a while before bringing the dessert menu."
    • b) "Okay, then let me bring the dessert menu right away."
    • c) "I'm sorry you didn't get enough to eat."
  7. Customer: "This steak was delicious, but I couldn't finish it."
    Your reply:
    • a) "Should I throw it in the trash for you?"
    • b) "Should I put it on a new plate and serve it to somebody else?"
    • c) "Should I wrap it up for you?"
  8. Customer: "I'll need a doggy bag."
    Your reply:
    • a) "We don't allow dogs here."
    • b) "I'm not surprised. The portions are big here."
    • c) "I'm glad you were able to finish everything."
  9. Customer: "I'm still working on my dessert."
    Your reply:
    • a) "Okay, let me take your plate away."
    • b) "Okay, I'll be back in a few minutes to check on you."
    • c) "Okay, I'll bring the check right away."
  10. Customer: "We're all set here."
    Your reply:
    • a) "Okay, I'll bring more drinks."
    • b) "I'll let the chef know."
    • c) "Okay, I'll bring the check."
Answer Key
Practice The Expressions
  1. b
  2. b
  3. b
  4. a
  5. c
  6. a
  7. c
  8. b
  9. b
  10. c
Answer Key
Language Lens: Polite Requests

Use one of these phrases to make polite requests:
Could you (please)
Would you mind
I was wondering if you could

Here's how to form the sentences:

=> Option A: Could you + base form* of verb + "?":
Could you pick up a pizza on your way home from work?
Could you help me translate this letter?
Could you please** drop my book off at the library?

*The base form of the verb is the verb without any endings
** The "please" here is optional. Of course, it makes the request more polite.

=> Option B: Would you mind + [verb + ing] + "?"
Would you mind picking up a pizza on your way home from work?
Would you mind helping me translate this letter?
Would you mind dropping my book off at the library?

=> Option C: I was wondering if you could + base form of verb + "."
I was wondering if you could pick up a pizza on your way home from work.
I was wondering if you could help me translate this letter.
I was wondering if you could drop my book off at the library.

Note that Options B and C are less direct than Option A and therefore may sound a little more polite.

Quick Quiz

Turn the following phrases into requests, using the words in parentheses:

drive me to work tomorrow ( would you mind)
Answer: Would you mind driving me to work tomorrow?

  1. feed our dogs while we're away (I was wondering if + could)
  2. pick me up from the airport on Friday (I was wondering if + could)
  3. borrow your car (I was wondering if + could)
  4. return my library book (I was wondering if + could)
  5. loan me your laptop (would you mind)
  6. tum down the music (would you mind)
  7. pick up my clothes from the dry cleaners (would you mind)
  8. show me how to design a website (could you)
  9. please let Jim know we're running late (could you)
  10. call the theater and reserve tickets (could you)
Answer Key
  1. I was wondering if you could feed our dogs while we 're away.
  2. I was wondering if you could pick me up from the airport on Friday.
  3. I was wondering if I could borrow your car.
  4. I was wondering if you could return my library book.
  5. Would you mind loaning me your laptop?
  6. Would you mind turning down the music?
  7. Would you mind picking up my clothes from the dry cleaners?
  8. Could you show me how to design a website?
  9. Could you please let Jim know we're running late?
  10. Could you call the theater and reserve tickets?
Answer Key
Favorite Books

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