That’s Not What I Ordered!

Last week, we talked a bit about what minimalists eat. I thought maybe the post would get people thinking about food (and it did) but I didn’t anticipate that a lot of those people would be the ones I live with every day!

My sister and I spent an hour yesterday weighing the pro/cons of various fad diets we’ve seen come and go in our lifetime (remember the Grapefruit Diet??). My 12-year-old niece asked me if I thought it was time to stop being a vegetarian, just before we had a heart-to-heart on why not all carbs are bad. Angie spent an afternoon at the DMV talking to folks about the benefits of online grocery shopping. My mom told her doctor that she attributes her improved health to eating less meat. And me…well, since that post, I’ve decided we’re no longer going to dine out.

Now, I would love to tell you that my decision was based on some higher ideal. I’d love to show you how dining at home saves money (it does) or how it’s healthier for you (it is) but while all these things are true, we’re calling it quits on restaurants for another reason – quality.

The last few times that Angie and I have gone to a restaurant, the quality of food, the quality of service, and the quality of the experience have all been lacking. The sad part though, we’ve gotten so used to this being commonplace that we find ourselves making excuses for it, as if it is somehow our fault we receive poor service. What do we expect from a place like that? It’s not exactly a 5-star restaurant. Maybe the server was having a bad day. They were just too busy. We should have known better than to stop in at dinner time. 


If someone hires me to write a grant for them, it doesn’t matter if my cat threw up on the bed that morning, my car wouldn’t start, and my best friend’s first cousin broke up with her boyfriend. I can’t turn around and say – well, if you wanted it done on time, you should have gone with a $60/hour grant writer instead of me. You get what you pay for! And if I have 5 clients all with deadlines on the first day of the month, it isn’t on them to come back when I have more time. It’s on me to learn to prioritize (or say no, if I can’t do something!)

So why do we accept sub-par quality from a restaurant, especially ones that fall in the category of fast food or fast casual? Because we expect that cheap equals bad? Let me tell you – there’s nothing cheap about paying $10 for a salad at McAlister’s or $8 for a burrito at Moe’s or $9 for two frozen custards at Culver’s. Yet, every single one of these places has been a disappointment to us for one reason or another, all of which can be summed up in one word – quality.

You might say, Culver’s was the last straw though. My mom wanted to go there specifically to try their frozen custard. She saw an ad and being a dessert nut, she thought it would be delicious. We ordered two caramel cashew sundaes and what we got instead was a plain dish of vanilla custard, a cone of vanilla custard, and a few cashews in a separate cup. When I asked about the mix-up, I was told that “they weren’t allowed to mix add-ins for a cone”. Okay, that’s all well and good but we ordered two sundaes – which were prominently displayed on the menu board, dripping in caramel and cashews. Despite the fact that we were in the right, the manager wanted to argue with us  and we ended up with two vanilla custards and a handful of cashews.

Now, I understand that a lot of folks would have persisted until the restaurant got the order right. Under normal circumstances, I might have too but after one round, I knew I was going to lose. The manager was the one who prepared our desserts and there was no convincing her that she had done it wrong or that we weren’t asking for something they couldn’t do. It was a mess and instead of a sundae, I got a headache.

And a new perspective on dining out.

Our budget is smaller than it has been in years so every dollar is important. I don’t want to give them away in support of poor quality products or services and I definitely don’t want to give them away for something I didn’t ask for in the first place. And that doesn’t just apply to restaurants. Throughout my life, I’ve lost a lot of dollars to poor quality goods and services and I don’t want to do it any more. Frugal living just doesn’t make allowances for wasteful spending.

I expect, because we’re human, there will be the temptation to dine out again in the future (especially after we’re over this recent rash of bad experiences), which is why I’m writing about this today. You all are now our accountability partners. If I even so much as mention a restaurant (that isn’t work related), you have my permission to call me out on it. 🙂

Have you banned a particular restaurant, service-provider, or retailer for poor service? Or maybe you’ve banned restaurants altogether? How’s that working for you? Are you ever tempted to return? We’d love to hear your story!

18 thoughts on “That’s Not What I Ordered!

  1. I already commented last month, but something happened last week that I want to share with you….after a Dr. appointment last week in town a few miles from mine I decided to finish using a gift card at Starbucks. I ordered large plain black coffee nothing added just plain black coffee in the drive-thru, what I received was far from that. I received the large cup, but it didn’t feel heavy enough and wasn’t hot. Hmmm….Since I had to come up with a bit of change I didn’t taste it. Got on freeway took a sip it was grossly sweet. (big sigh) After getting home I inspected the cup which had lip marks on it AND crumbs around the hole in the lid!!!!! I emailed Starbucks who apologized and told me they were sending me another gift card for $10, this was after I told them I’m not returning, which I’m not. Who wants to return to a coffee shop to possibly end up with someone else’s used coffee?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I guess having to deal with John and kiddo#2 having to be Gluten Free starting about 15 years ago is when we became ultra picky with restaurants. We have a few go to places that are very accommodating to their needs.

    Today’s breakfast was at Hugo’s in Studio City, CA (we also like the one in West Hollywood.) It provided wonderful food, vegan/vegetarian/gluten free options, and great service! {Guess this is a shout-out to the restaurant!} Are there any places like this near you for special outings?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A couple of years ago we did a food tour/scavenger hunt in our town. We visited 20 restaurants, some local, some chains. From that group, we found a handful of places we wanted to try again but sadly, since then, most have gone out of business – including our favorite pizza place. There is a little taco stand that we haven’t had a bad experience with…yet 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We are also vegetarian. Which means that we prefer a few ethnic restaurants in our area that we like that have a good assortment of non-meat dishes. All of these are “mom and pop” and all have certain quirks that we know and can work around. Our favorite is a Vietnamese restaurant that makes probably our favorite meal in the entire world, a Ban Xeo that they make for us with tofu in place of the usual shrimp and pork. YUM! and just over $20 plus tip for the two of us for supper. The food is consistently excellent but you can have a long wait when they’re busy and they are super cheap with the heat. We routinely dress in layers and leave our coats on INSIDE the restaurant, and I’m really conservative about utilities at home so that’s saying something.

    There’s a really good Indian Restaurant that has a great lunch vegetarian combo platter. Overall, I think Indian restaurants have the largest selection of vegetarian dishes. This place is similar in price to the Vietnamese place but only at lunchtime. Their quirk is that sometimes the food could be hotter (temperature, not spice wise.) But overall still a win.

    Last is a Thai place which is probably most consistently professional in the standard American sense and the least quirky, but also the most expensive of the three. Service is good, food is good, price is still reasonable, it’s actually located closest to our house, but it’s still last of our favorites.

    I can’t remember the last time we went to a chain restaurant mostly because it’s just not worth it to us. We like to eat out for meals that are not something we can easily cook at home. Since we both enjoy cooking and like fresh ingredients, I have no desire to pay for something we can make better and cheaper at home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re making me hungry! When we lived in Denver, we used to go to the most amazing Vietnamese restaurant and also a Chinese “by-the-scoop” place that was so cheap it was crazy. I miss having having choices like that. Here, most of our mom and pop places are the typical “meat & 3” and most every veggie choice isn’t even a veggie (like mac ‘n cheese or hashbrown casserole).

      And I’m with you – we can make a better version of most meals at home. Angie makes a killer baked burrito with mushrooms, black beans, and grilled veggies that puts Chipotle/Moe’s/Qdoba to shame!

      Thanks for commenting!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Timely post, after boycotting most food establishments in my area for same reasons you described over the last 25 years. I decided while eating on of my disgusting fast food meals two weeks ago that I’m not wasting my cash on these places. I work hard for my paycheck and I’m no longer going to throw my pay for sub par service and sub par food. I’m experimenting with various new dishes for my new rotation which was also inspired by your last post about what minimalists eat. Truth is in less than two weeks I am feeling better probably because my food choices have vastly improved. Your posts always inspire me to do better. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you!! That’s so wonderful to hear!

      I’m finding that making better food choices is a lifelong journey – almost every day there’s something new to learn. It’s incredible how what we eat can make such a difference in our health and in our wallet, especially when it comes to not throwing money away on bad food. I hope you have continued success in your food journey!


      1. One cafe seemed to not care if cup was clean or not. Cups and teapots were also chipped.
        The other, the service itself by a couple of members of staff did not feel welcoming and this was everytime, not now and again, so I thought enough, is enough. If I see they are on, from the outside, then no chance of me going in.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. It will be a very large area to cover as it owned several units. It was a cafe, they had a section for clothes and for the home, like furniture. Been there before I was born.
            This is not the only shop disappearing from the high street, as another shop is closing, both in my area and other towns.
            There are lots of empty shops already.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. It surprises me how some establishment can get things wrong like this; this is their business, it’s what they do on a day-to-day basis. Sure, staff can have an off day, and mistakes can be made with order, but beyond that, things should be done right. I don’t think “being busy” should be an excuse; the available staff should be able to cope with the number of diners, if not, then maybe such places need to get rid of some tables and chairs.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Agreed! I wish I could say that this was my first experience with a restaurant or service provider not wanting to correct a mistake, but it wasn’t. I’m beginning to believe that such establishments (especially fast food places) adopt a “don’t care” attitude because they know people are still going to go there – maybe not that particular customer but hundreds of others just like them every day. Thanks for commenting!!

      Liked by 1 person

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