How To Politely Send Your Food Back When You Find A Hair In It

It happens. You sink your fork into a slice of lasagna or prepare to dive into a bowl of noodles, and you spot something that shouldn't be there. You freeze at the discovery of a hair in your food. It isn't the first time, and it definitely isn't going to be the last. So here is how to handle this situation politely in a way that respects everyone involved.

Start by taking a pause to calm down. As unsightly as a stray hair might be, accidentally ingesting a strand is not going to cause physical harm, and the chances of experiencing some kind of food poisoning from it are pretty much nonexistent. If you aren't bothered, you can get rid of the hair and move on with eating. But if you want to send the plate back — which is totally within your rights as a customer — flag down your server and discreetly let them know about your discovery. Assume best intentions, be kind, and request a new dish.

Even if the thought of confronting your server makes your skin crawl, one of the worst things you can do is stay silent, not eat your food, and then lie if the server asks why you didn't enjoy your meal. Even more importantly, do not take to social media and bash the restaurant when you didn't let them know what the issue was. When something goes wrong, the staff wants to be given the opportunity to fix it.

Remember, accidents happen

It was likely pure chance that a hair ended up on your plate. It could have been someone from the kitchen, one of the front-of house-staff, or a guest who wasn't paying attention when they stood up and almost knocked the plates out of your server's hands. Heck, the hair could even be your own. These things happen sometimes, and you can be confident that everyone who works at the establishment is doing their best to avoid situations like this. Do you really want to give a staff member the worst day ever because of something out of their control?

Losing your temper, making a huge scene, or casting harsh blame on the staff is not the way to go. Remember, you are paying for the luxury of dining out, and an unfortunate hair is the risk you take when someone else is preparing your food. And it isn't just at restaurants that this happens. You may have had a hair-in-food incident while you were a guest at someone's home, or maybe even when you were the host. Do not take it as a personal affront.

The key to fixing a potentially disastrous situation is empathy

Lashing out at employees is a restaurant etiquette mistake and a surefire way to make sure the situation is not resolved properly. Any establishment that takes pride in its purpose will adamantly apologize, quickly whisk away the offending plate, and make sure the kitchen prioritizes getting a new dish out to you as quickly as possible. The staff may even comp the dish from your ticket, or send something special to you, like an extra dessert or another round of libations. If the restaurant does give you some special treatment, don't forget about the polite way to tip on discounted drinks.

Even if your new dish is now at the front of the staff's priority, keep in mind that it will still take some time for it to be remade. Be patient and be empathetic — both the kitchen and servers keep a fast-paced work flow that will be disrupted because of this mishap. Accept the solution that the restaurant is offering if it feels satisfactory, and move on with your meal. Ultimately, you want to enjoy the food and company, so don't ruin the experience for yourself.