Ask The Salty Waitress: I Don't Want This Super Late Dish Anymore. Do I Pay For It?

Hey Salty,

I was recently out to dinner with a medium sized group of friends. Everything was going well, I ordered a main dish and a side. When our food came a little while later, our server checked in and asked if everything was right, but I let her know I was still missing my side dish. She came back and apologized that it would just be a few minutes before it would be out. It became pretty clear that the side didn't get entered in with the whole order, but no worries, it's all good. By the time the side came out, everyone in my party was pretty much done with dinner and had started packing up leftovers into boxes. I ended up packing away almost the whole side since I'd stolen bites from my neighbors in addition to my main dish.

My question is: Is it okay to tell my server that at this point, I don't really want the side anymore? It came out super late and the dinner was basically over. I wasn't upset about it, but if I don't have to pay an extra $9 for another side, it would be nice.


Dinner's Over

Dear Dinner,

First of all, let me commend you for your calm and grace under pressure. You did not mention letting loose a shower of rage and abuse upon your server, a demand to see a manager, or a request that someone be fired for their incompetence. I know, I know, these should not be the standard response to kitchen errors, but there are many who would disagree.

Anyway, onward to your question. Yes, it's okay to tell the server you don't want your side anymore if you're not interested in reheating it at home. And since the restaurant was clearly in error here, and since that side didn't arrive in a timely enough manner for you to enjoy it with with the rest of your dinner, you're perfectly in your rights here to request—and here I would say politely, but you seem like a polite sort anyway—that it be comped. And I would say, "Sure, hon, this one's on us."

I can't guarantee this is what would've happened—it depends, after all, on the restaurant—but I can't imagine what the restaurant would have to gain by not making this up to you, especially if you ask nicely. Well, I guess they'd get nine measly dollars, but how does this stack up to your goodwill, the possibility of a return visit, and (yeah, yeah, you know I'm gonna say it) a nice tip?

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