Is there a tactful way to mention to a chef that a dish (or dishes) is perfectly cooked and presented, but completely flavourless and lacking even basics such as salt and pepper (which are rarely on tables with cloths)?
It may sounds crazy but at restaurants where I got problematic food(not spoiled, but let's say with hair, or overdone), if the the situation got cleared proffesionaly I went out with a better feeling about the place.
Mistakes happens, I've been on the line long enough to know. The shouldn't but happen. If you give the guest proper treatment, take the dish without arguing, sometimes with an attantive crew without even the guest complaining, he'll know he's in good hands and will return. Make sure mistakes doesn't happen, but always make sure the customer will enjoy himself. Be attantive.
Andrew - you couldn't have stated it any clearer! Let's face it, it may not be the best experience to have food return from a table. However, anybody (chef, cook, teacher, mechanic) must push themselves to achieve perfection... if you do not strive for perfection, you will certainly not stumble upon it. When a dish returns there is one of two reasons 1. It really is not what it should be and should be fixed or 2. It is as described and the customer has other expectations,right or wrong. In either case, a swift and immediate fix is necessary... not a temper tantrum.