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So far in my overview of the English you need for Business lunches, I’ve focused mainly on the kind of mistakes that YOU might make. But what happens when it’s the restaurant’s fault? Even in the UK you can expect some standards…

Be very afraid…

When you launch a complaint in any restaurant you’re entering a potentially confrontational situation, so the English that we use is suitably respectful. Get the waiter’s attention with a questioning “Excuse me?” then begin with the phrase “I’m afraid… (+ problem)”. You’re not apologising for complaining; you’re just disappointed that you might have to start a fight, but prepared to do so if needed. In English, polite usually means the opposite of friendly… 

Over or Under

If your instructions were ignored when they grilled your steak, you’re afraid it’s overcooked or undercooked. You may well be afraid the bananas or strawberries are overripe or underripe, but for other things, we normally use basic adjectives after too or very.

So, your soup can be too salty or very bland, your fish might be very dry or too greasy (whereas your steak is very fatty) and your pasta could be too hard or very soft. It’s often easier to make positive adjectives negative, so salad or bread is not fresh, cutlery is not clean and the wine is not good enough.

I’ve been waiting so long…

If you’re short on time and the service is very slow, bear in mind that these things are subjective and you’re unlikely to speed things up by complaining. If you remember, ask the waiter about service times before you take the table with a friendly “We’re in a bit of a rush, can you tell me roughly how long the whole meal will take to serve?”.

If you’re stuck mid-meal, start with the same phrase but then say “Can you bring us the bill with the next course?”. And if the waiter pushes you about coffees, liqueurs, etc., reply with “I’m afraid we won’t have time”, then tip accordingly.

If there are any more restaurant shortcomings that I haven’t covered, feel free to let me know via LinkedIn and I’ll give my best advice. Meanwhile, my next blog will move from the table to the bar as I explain the intricacies of ordering a drink like a native in a British pub.

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