substituting and not telling the customer

Joined Aug 11, 2000
I had dinner the other night at a new hot spot and ordered short ribs with roasted roots and mashedpotatoes....IT was POT ROAST>>>> I can tell the difference no matter how you stack it.
Did not say a word, but am working with the chef on a media project....would you say anything? Kinda peeved me.
Joined Dec 1, 2002
I guess that truth in menu copy is an ideal some choose to live by and others don't. An example I suppose you can relate to is a wild mushroom ragu that turns out to be shiitake and ports. As far as saying something I think that it would be a touchy for how to bring it up, without sounding like you are being critical of his practices. Especially if you are working with him. The other night I had a steamed broccoli w/ sauce Moutarde. I thought it would be a Hollandaise derivative w/ mustard, but was served a Hollandaise w/ blood orange. It was good, I guess they had some blood orange to get rid of. There is also a difference between cheating the guest out of something and changing the flavor. An interesting subject.
Joined Oct 28, 1999
Darn right I would say something. You ordered what you wanted, certainly not what you recieved. If they mentioned a substitution, then that would have been up to you. They tried to pull a fast one. Certainly we all know that we can 86 something on occassion, but full disclosure is requisite to ensure customer confidence. Now, given that you are working w/this particular chef, I would mention it using some tact, but I would still be sure to bring it up. Just one of those "You know that I know" situations.
Joined Oct 13, 2001
Wow shroomgirl , a very touchy subject . I would follow C.C.s advice . I remember grandpas way of putting it was
" son Ive noticed one thing in life , the more you run over a dead cat the flatter it gets " Good luck , Doug.............
Joined May 26, 2001
Shroom, they should have said they were making a substitution. Actually, they should have ASKED if it was all right to make the substitution. And you should have pointed out to the server that what you got was not what you ordered; then s/he could have explained why they subbed. You know me: I would have mentioned it to the server as soon as I noticed the difference. But it would be a question, as in, "I ordered the short ribs; this looks like pot roast to me. Can you explain it?" If I were given an semi-satisfactory response (e.g., "Sorry, we ran out of the ribs"), I would say, "Well, I wish you had told me before you brought something different." If the response I got was unsatisfactory ("That IS short ribs."), I would take it up with the chef next time I spoke with him/her.

I disagree with Jim that you can assume they were trying to pull a fast one. They just might be stupid. :D No, seriously, if it's a new place, the staff probably has been fully trained, and the kitchen isn't yet up to speed. CC's right about giving them the benefit of the doubt, but for THEIR sake, you have to say something.
Joined Jul 23, 2002
I concur with Suzanne,
The waitron may have messed up...rang in wrong key.
The kitchen may have messed up...spaced the order.
They both may have messed gave wrong dish and waitron may not have known what it looked like.
I would hate to think that a reputable establishment would "pull a fast one" on purpose.
gotta go,
Joined Feb 21, 2001
Braised boneless short ribs would be a lot like pot roast. Unless the slices of meat had a very identifiable shape like bottom round or something. And the Sauce Moutarde..someone really flubbed that one. Isn't Hollandaise with blood orange called Maltaise?
Joined Aug 11, 2000
I was on a date and didn't want a dinner flow problem, the room was date actually said when it was set down, you ordered the short ribs not pot roast...(pot roast not on menu). I took the majority of it home (big crab ap) and it was definately chuck. Short ribs are prime to me, I had a pot roast in my fridge.
So, yeah I goofed by not telling the waiter, just thought ahead and didn't want to mess up the flow. So by doing that I relinquished my irkedness (is that actually a word?)....?
As to the kitchen not knowing....well, first pot roast woulda had to be on the menu for there to be a misunderstanding, then it having been a Tuesday night I woulda said the chef coulda been off, BUT I think it probably was an economical move to hit the $17 cost....and they figured no one would notice. Chef is not owner nor manager....though the manager did stop to ask how everything was...I know um from the farmer's market (barely). They are part of the Food show I'm conslulting on.
So....that fleshes out the scene sorta.


Founder of
Staff member
Joined Oct 5, 2001
I most definately would of said something. If you go in to purchase a sony tv and you find out that inside the case is actually panasonic you wouldn't think twice about it.

Sounds like maybe one of the cooks may of not had their mise en place together and tried to pull a fast one. It is possible the chef wasn't even aware of what happened. I would talk with them in private when the time is right and see what they say. Most likely there is a good explanation.
Joined Nov 29, 2001
I'd find out 1) did they run out of the short ribs and sub the pot roast? 2) did they really believe the pot roast was short ribs?

The other night my husband and I had dinner at Carrabba's. Yes, it's a chain down here in FL but we have never had a bad meal there, so we go back.

It seemed like an unusually long time to wait for our entrees, then the kitchen supervisor came over to our table. "The Canneloni got a little burned on top, so we are making you another one. Please have dessert on us tonight."

This chain restaurant made a point to NOT serve the overdone canneloni, have a supervisor come over to explain the delay to me, then give us a five dollar dessert gratis.

You bet your ***** I'd say something.

P.S. We ordered some kind of chocolate explosion thing and shared it with two forks. ;)
Joined Aug 11, 2000
Um....braised pot roast and short ribs take 3 hours to cook...seems like last minute substituting with something that isn't even on the menu is a stretch. The chef is sharp. He's worked under some respectable chefs and I would find it really out of character for him to not know the differences in cuts of beef....the cost differential in cuts is 3x short ribs being more exspensive....
Joined Jul 23, 2002
This is driving me nuts.
Please call him and ask what was going on.
I must know.
I can't take it much longer.

Joined Mar 25, 2002
Very touchy subject to bring up to the chef Shroomgirl but one I feel that needs to be brought up. Like someone pointed out, the chef may not even have known what was happening.

Not to get off of the subject of your thread too much Shroomgirl, but how does everyone feel about substituting menu items in their kitchens?
I have used blue cheese, say in a cream sauce, instead of gorganzola in a pinch or maybe mozzarella on a sandwich instead of monterey jack. Once, to my astonishment, a broiler chef replaced a NY strip with a ribeye. He hadn't been keeping track of how many he had left and was suddenly short one steak at the end of a busy night. Instead of telling the customer that we goofed and were substituting his steak we just 'pulled a fast one on him'. The ribeyes were very fresh and of good quality but it was clearly not a NY strip. The customer never said anything to the waitress but who knows if the customer was just being nice and didnt say anything.

Just my humble thoughts here.
Top Bottom