YouGov Omnibus research found that while the majority (55%) of the 1,602 adults surveyed said they would have no problem complaining, 39% said they would feel uncomfortable sending food back if there was a problem with it (including 10% who would feel very uncomfortable).
On the occasions where people are confronted with a problem with their meal, more than one third (38%) said they send their meal back every time or most of the time.
A further 21% return it some of the time, while 34% said they only rarely or never complain.
However, YouGov put 11 imperfect food scenarios to respondents and asked whether they would or would not send the food back in each instance, and in five, the majority of those who don’t generally feel comfortable returning food to the kitchen would be willing to speak up.
Respondents are most likely to send food back if they had received the wrong meal (92%, including 94% of those who are uncomfortable sending food back) or their food was undercooked (90%, including an identical proportion of those uncomfortable sending food back).
Standard of food
But those answering the survey are least likely to kick up a fuss if their portion size was too small (10%), the food was poorly presented (10%) or they didn’t like the food (16%).
Two thirds (66%) of people who say they are uncomfortable sending food back would dispute cold food and 34% find complaining discomforting.
YouGov head of data services Ben Glanville said: “Many of us can relate to a time where we have complained to our dining companions about the standard of food, only to reassure the waiting staff that everything was fine.
“While the majority of Brits would be happy to raise an issue, there remains a sizeable minority who are uncomfortable with causing a scene.”