Introduction:

In this second of two online exercises on complaining/problems in a restaurant, we continue to look at English vocabulary and phrases that are used for both common problems that customers have in restaurants and for complaining.

In this exercise, we will look at vocabulary and phrases used by customers to say how they wanted a dish/food cooked, speaking to a restaurant manager and problems when paying for the meal at the end. In addition, we will look at some phrases that waiters or waitresses use in these situations.

Click here to go to the first part of this 'Complaining/problems in a restaurant' exercise

Click here to see more of our free online exercises on food, drink and restaurant vocabulary


Exercise: Problems in a restaurant continued

Read the following text where four customers (Julie, Andrew, Sally & Peter) continue to have problems when eating in a restaurant.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

20 minutes later, the customers have just been served their main course

Julie:'Is there a problem with your steak Andrew?'

Andrew:'Yeah, there is. I ordered a rare steak because I like it when the meat is very red inside and they have brought me a well-done steak instead. I don't like it when they fry it for a long time, so it is brown on the inside and the meat doesn't have a lot of taste.'

Julie:'You should ask the waiter to send it back to the kitchen, so you they can give you another steak. I'll call the waiter over.'

Sally:'I have a problem with my main course as well. The roast chicken is good, but they've overcooked the carrots, so they are too soft and they don't have any taste at all. But the boiled potatoes are almost raw. They are so hard. It's like they haven't cooked the potatoes at all.'

Julie:'I'll call the waiter over now. Excuse me!'

Waiter:'Yes, madam. How can I help you?'

Julie:'One of my friends ordered a rear steak and you've brought him a well-done steak. My other friend's carrots are overcooked and her potatoes are raw. Can you send them back to the kitchen to be replaced please?'

Waiter:'I apologise for the steak. I'll replace it straight away. Both the carrots and the potatoes are supposed to be like that. I'm afraid there is nothing I can do.'

Julie:'Well, in that case. I'd like to speak to the manager, please.'

Waiter:'I'll go and get him for you.'

Manager:'What seems to be the problem?'

Julie:'The waiter is refusing to send back my friend's dish. The carrots are overcooked and the potatoes are almost raw. We're not happy with the service we have received from the waiter. He's made several mistakes with our food tonight and he's been arrogant towards us.'

Manager:'Please accept my apologies. I'll send your friend's dish back to the kitchen and get it replaced. We won't charge you for the roast chicken. So, you don't have to pay for it. Also, to say sorry we'll give you a bottle of red wine on the house for all the problems you've experienced.'

Julie:'A free bottle of wine! Thank you very much.'

40 minutes later, after receiving the bill/check from the waiter

Julie:'The bill seems very high.'

Andrew:'Let me have a look. I think they've overcharged us. They have included the roast chicken on the bill and also they are charging us for a roast duck which we didn't have or order. I'll have a word with the waiter. Excuse me!'

Waiter:'Yes?'

Andrew:'There seems to be a mistake with the bill. It has a roast duck on it, which we didn't have. And it has my wife's roast chicken on it which your manager said we wouldn't be charged for.'

Waiter:'I'm terribly sorry. I'll bring you the correct bill now.'

5 minutes later, having paid and about to leave

Andrew:'Let's leave here now we've paid the bill. It's been a disaster.'

Julie:'That doesn't seem right. I think they've short changed me. The meal cost £140. I gave them £200, but I've only got £30 back in change.'

Andrew:'They have short changed you. You should have got £60 back in change. You should call the waiter over again.'

Julie:'I will.'



Quiz: Vocabulary for complaining/problems in a restaurant part 2

Below is a definition/description of each of the words in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.

1. A politer way to say 'sorry, I can't do that for you', is
         

I'm afraid there is nothing I can do:
(phrase) This formal and polite phrase is used to answer a request/demand to do something from another person. It's commonly used by waiters/waitresses if they can't do something that a customer has asked them to do (e.g. replace a product, change a meal, give a refund etc...). It's a very polite and effective phrase because it suggests that although they would like to do it for them, there is nothing they can do (although this may not be true) because of policy/rules or the situation. It is used after the waiter/waitress has already told the customer that they can't do it, but the customer doesn't accept their answer. It is normally followed by a reason why they can't do it, e.g. 'could we have a table for 5, please' 'there are no tables available, sorry' 'we only want to eat a main course!' 'I'm afraid there is nothing I can do. We are fully booked tonight'. In Spanish: "lo siento, no hay nada que pueda hacer".

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I'm afraid there is nothing I can do:

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2. A phrasal verb that means to 'return a dish to the kitchen', is
         

Send it back:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to send something back'. In this context it means to return a dish back to the kitchen. Customers 'send a dish back' when they are not happy with it (e.g. when the food is cold, too salty etc...) and they want it replaced with the same dish but better. For example, 'my dish should have a salad with it, but it doesn't' 'I'll send it back'. This is an transitive phrasal verb (it has an object) that is separable, e.g. 'send the food back'. In Spanish: "devolver".

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Send it back:

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3. A very formal way to say that you are very sorry, is
         

Please accept my apologies:
(phrase) This very formal and polite phrase is used when a restaurant employee has to apologise/say sorry to a customer for something that has been done badly or incorrectly. Although it is used in lots of different business situations, for restaurants, it is normally the manager/person in charge who says it to the customer after they have complained about the food or service. It normally follows 'I am really/very sorry'. For example, 'I am really sorry. Please accept my apologies'. This phrase is only used for politeness. In Spanish: "le ruego me disculpe".

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Please accept my apologies:

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4. A polite way to say 'there is a problem with' a bill/check, is
         

There seems to be a mistake with:
(phrase) This is a formal and polite way to tell somebody that there is a problem with something that is written down on paper or a computer screen (e.g. a bill, article, plan, invoice etc...). It is polite because it uses the verb 'to seem' instead of only 'to be' and 'mistake' instead of 'problem'. It is followed by what the problem is, e.g. 'there seems to be a mistake with the bill. We didn't order fish'. A more direct and impolite way to say this phrase is 'this is wrong'. In Spanish: "parece que hay un error con".

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There seems to be a mistake with:

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5. When vegetables have been cooked for too long and are very soft, they are
         

Overcooked:
(verb) 'overcooked' is normally used as a complaint in a restaurant. It means that vegetables, pasta or rice have been cooked for too long, so that they are too soft and don't have much flavour. Normally, if a customer complains about this, the waiter/waitress will send back/return the food to the kitchen to be replaced, e.g. 'the rice is overcooked' 'I'll send it back to the kitchen for you'. 'overcooked' is not used for meat, where 'overdone' is used instead. The opposite of 'overcooked' is 'undercooked' or 'almost raw' (for vegetables only). In Spanish: "recocida/demasiado hecho".

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Overcooked:

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6. A phrase that means 'you don't have to pay for something' which includes the word 'won't', is
         

We won't charge you:
(phrase) This phrase is said by a restaurant manager to a customer. It basically means that the customer 'doesn't have to pay for something'. Normally, a restaurant manager will say this, after a customer has complained about the food or the service. By giving the customer something they have ordered for free is a common way for the restaurant to apologise. This phrase is followed by 'for' and then the name of the dish(s) that the customer will receive for free, e.g. 'we won't charge you for the starters'. Another phrase that has a similar meaning is 'on the house', but this is also used when the restaurant gives a customer an additional thing (e.g. a bottle of wine, an extra dish etc...) that they haven't ordered for free. 'we won't charge you' is only used for things they have ordered before. In Spanish: "no le cobraremos".

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We won't charge you:

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7. When you ask the waiter to come to your table to ask him something, you
         

Call the waiter over:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to call somebody over'. This phrasal verb means to ask a waiter/waitress/manager to come to your table so you can ask them something (e.g. 'another bottle of wine please' 'we're ready to order' etc...). Most people call a waiter over by saying 'excuse me' or by putting their hand in the air. This is an transitive phrasal verb (it has an object) that is separable, e.g. 'I'm going to call the waitress over now. Excuse me!' In Spanish: "llamar al camarero".

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Call the waiter over:

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8. A polite phrase that is used when a waiter won't help you with a complaint you have, is
         

I'd like to speak to the manager, please:
(phrase) This is a polite phrase that is used when you want to speak to the manager of a restaurant because you have a big problem/complaint (e.g. the food is terrible or you've been waiting for a very long time) that a waiter/waitress can't or won't help you with. It's basically the same as the more direct 'I want to speak to the manager', but by using 'I'd like' and 'please', makes it politer. In Spanish: "quisiera hablar con el gerente/encargado, por favor".

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I'd like to speak to the manager, please:

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9. If after paying the bill/check with cash, a customer receives less money back from the waiter than they should, they have been
         

Short changed:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to short change'. This means when you pay with cash (notes and coins) in a restaurant/shop/bar, the money that the waiter/shop assistant/bar person gives you back (which is called the 'change') is less than it should be. Although this is normally because they have made a mistake, in places where there are a lot of tourists, it is often done on purpose (deliberately). If you are a customer, you use this verb in the passive (to be short changed), e.g. 'I have been short changed'. It is rude to say this verb to a waiter/ shop assistant/bar person. So, you should use 'I think you've made a mistake with my change' instead. Then tell them how much change you should have received. In Spanish: "no dar el cambio completo".

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Short changed:

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10. When vegetables have been cooked for too little time and are very hard/crunchy, they are
         

Almost raw:
(adjective) 'almost raw' is normally used as a complaint in a restaurant. 'raw' describes vegetables that have not been cooked. 'almost raw' means that the vegetables have been cooked for too little time, so that they are too hard. 'almost raw' has the same meaning as 'undercooked'. But 'undercooked' is not only used for vegetables, but also for rice and pasta. Normally, if a customer complains about this, the waiter/waitress will send back/return the food to the kitchen to be replaced, e.g. 'the potatoes are almost raw' 'I'll send them back to the kitchen for you'. 'almost raw' is not used for meat, where 'underdone' or 'rare' are used instead. The opposite of 'undercooked' or 'almost raw' is 'overcooked'. In Spanish: "casi crudo".

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Almost raw:

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11. A phrase that means that a restaurant gives a customer something for free, is
         

On the house:
(adjective) This phrase is said by a waiter/manager in a restaurant/bar to a customer. It basically means that the customer 'doesn't have to pay for something'. A restaurant manager will say this in different situations. The most common is after a customer has complained about the food or the service. But, they can also use it when they are celebrating something or want to thank a customer(s). When a customer has complained, giving them something 'on the house' is a common way for the restaurant to apologise. This phrase follows the the name of the thing they will receive for free and the verb 'to be', e.g 'the starters are on the house'. Another phrase that has a similar meaning is 'we won't charge you'. But whereas 'on the house' is used to give the customer either something they have already ordered (e.g. a starter etc...) for free or an additional thing (e.g. a bottle of wine, an extra dish etc...) that they haven't ordered for free, 'we won't charge you' is only used for things they have ordered before. In Spanish: "invita la casa".

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On the house:

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12. When a steak or meat is cooked very little so that the meat is still very red on the inside, it is
         

Rare:
(adjective) 'rare' in this context is a way of cooking a steak (beef which is normally fried). It means that a steak is cooked for very little time, so the meat is still very red on the inside. In restaurants when you order/ask for steak, the waiter/waitress will ask you 'how do you want it done?' This means 'how long do you want the chef to cook the steak for?'. For example, 'I'd like my steak rare please'. If you don't want to have the steak 'rare', there are three other ways of cooking it: 'medium rare' (cooked for a little longer so the meat is less red inside)' 'medium' (cooked for longer so the meat is pink inside) and 'well-done' (cooked for longer so the meat is brown inside). 'rare etc...' are not normally used for other types of beef or meat (e.g. lamb, chicken, pork etc...). For these other types of meat, if you want to complain that meat hasn't been cooked enough, you use 'underdone', e.g. 'the pork is underdone it's very chewy'. In Spanish: "poco hecho".

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Rare:

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13. How customers are treated in a restaurant by the waiters and manager, is called the
         

Service:
(noun) The 'service' in a restaurant/bar/hotel means how customers are treated and given/served their food and drinks by the waiters/managers/bar staff. The word 'service' is normally used when people are giving their opinion about a restaurant/bar/hotel, e.g. 'the service in the restaurant is excellent. The waiters were very helpful and the food arrived at our table very quickly'. This noun is normally used with the adjectives 'excellent', 'good' 'average', 'poor' and 'terrible' ( e.g. 'the service was poor'). In addition to the 'service', when people give their opinion about a restaurant, they also use the word 'food' to talk about the quality of the meal/food that they ate, e.g. 'the food there was terrible' In Spanish: "servicio".

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Service:

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14. When a bill/check in a restaurant includes extra things that you have not had, you have been
         

Overcharged:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to overcharge'. This means when in a restaurant/hotel/shop/bar the bill or check you have to pay is higher than it should be. This happens when the bill/check includes extra things on it that you don't have or haven't consumed/used. It can also happens when the cost of the products are more expensive on the bill/check than they should be. If you are a customer, you use this verb in the passive (to be overcharged), e.g. 'I have been overcharged'. This is not a very polite verb to use. So, if this happens to you, you should try to be polite and tell the waiter/shop assistant/bar person 'I think you've made a mistake' and tell them how much something should be or what you haven't had or don't have. This verb is also used with the same meaning for invoices in business. In Spanish: "cobrarle de más".

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Overcharged:

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15. When a steak or meat is cooked so that the meat is brown on the inside, it is
         

Well-done:
(adjective) 'well-done' in this context is a way of cooking a steak (beef which is normally fried). It means that a steak is cooked, so that the meat is brown on the inside. In restaurants when you order/ask for steak, the waiter/waitress will ask you 'how do you want it done?' This means 'how long do you want the chef to cook the steak for?'. For example, 'I'd like my steak well-done please'. If you don't want to have the steak 'well-done', there are three other ways of cooking it: 'medium' (cooked for a little less time, so the meat is pink inside) 'medium rare' (cooked for even less time, so the meat is a little red inside)' and 'rare' (cooked for very little time, so the meat is very red on the inside). 'well done etc...' are not normally used for other types of beef or meat (e.g. lamb, chicken, pork etc...). For these other types of meat, if you want to complain that meat has been cooked too much, you use 'overdone', e.g. 'the pork is overdone, it's very hard/tough’. In Spanish: "bien hecho".

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Well-done:

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Practice

Now that you understand the new vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences with the new words/phrases.