On The Atlatic‘s food blog, an experienced voice in Daniel Meyer’s restaurant empire offers this on the nature of hospitality:
Once, when I was a junior manager, a guest loudly berated me for an overcooked steak. I asked him why, if the steak was so poorly cooked, he ate the entire meal before expressing his dissatisfaction. The next morning, Danny Meyer called me into his office to let me know that he had received a call from the guest complaining about how I handled the situation. As a mea culpa of sorts, Danny invited him and his wife back for another meal, entirely on the house. Echoing the wisdom of my grandfather, Danny helped me understand how short-sighted my approach was, and why taking the high road by either replacing the steak or removing it from the bill would have been the far better choice (and a much smaller investment).
Now, I’m not a restauranteur, but I find this to be utter bullshit. Berated by the same empty-plated, freebie-seeking customer as he, I hope I’d respond with a more politic “I’m sorry to hear your meal wasn’t to your liking,” and then offer dessert menus to the table. Outside of sarcasm in the server’s actual response, there’s absolutely no rationale, no excuse, even, to comp anything in this case.
But perhaps that is why I’m not cut out for the industry.