“Garçon!” How to (Politely) Complain in French Restaurants Posted by on Apr 16, 2011 in Vocabulary

Quoi qu’il arrive (whatever happens), try at all costs not to antagonize the French chef!

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How to (Politely) Complain in French Restaurants—Or Congratulate the Chef

Although the stereotypical image of the viciously rude French waiter is no doubt often exaggerated around the world, here at The French Blog we want to make sure you are equipped with all what it takes to face n’importe quelle situation (any situation) at a French restaurant.

Here are quelques exemples (a few examples) of phrases you may want to use, depending on the nature of the situation that arises (and, of course, if you have a request for a specific phrase or question, you can post it as a comment below!):

* “Je m’excuse, mais nous avons réservé une table pour deux personnes, et non quatre”
(“I am sorry, but we reserved a table for two people, not four.”)

* “Si, si, je vous l’assure, nous avons pris une réservation cet après-midi” (“Yes, I assure you, we have made a reservation this afternoon.”)

* “Pouvons-nous nous asseoir plutôt là-bas?” (“Can we not sit instead over there?”)

* “Nous préférons ne pas nous asseoir trop près de la porte” (“We’d rather not sit too close to the door”)

* “Nous aimerions nous asseoir devant la fenêtre s’il vous plaît (“We’d like to sit by the window, please”)

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You may have very little to complain about in this traditional French cooking restaurant!

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If you have some special food requirements, you can say:

* “Je ne peux pas manger ce qui contient…” (“I cannot eat what contains…”)

  • Je ne peux pas manger ce qui contient de la viande” (“I cannot eat what contains meat.”)
  • Je ne peux pas manger ce qui contient du porc” (“I cannot eat what contains porc.”)

“Qu’avez-vous à proposer aux végétariens?” (“What do you have to suggest to vegetarians?”)

* “Avez-vous des boissons pour les personnes diabétiques?” (“Do you have drinks for diabetic people?”)

Or if you have an allergy, say to nuts, you can say: “Je suis allergique aux noix” (“I’m allergic to nuts.”)

If you have des enfants (children) with you, you can ask:

* “Avez-vous des bancs pour enfants?” (“Do you have seats for children?”)

* “Est-ce que vous avez des portions pour enfants?” (“Do you have children’s portions?”)

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Reinventing French cuisine with “Christine”: Marvelous, unpretentious, discreet

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If the garçon brings you the wrong dish, don’t panic! You can just say:

* “Ah désolé, ce n’est pas ce que j’ai commandé” (“Ah sorry, that’s not what I ordered.”) “J’ai commandé” (“I ordered…”)

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Other general remarks about the food can be:

  • “C’est trop dur(“It’s too tough.”)
  • “Ce n’est pas assez cuit (“It is underdone.”)
  • “C’est trop cuit” (“It is overdone.”)
  • C’est trop chaud” (“It’s too hot.”)
  • C’est trop froid” (“It’s too cold.”)

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A distinguished French restaurant by the historically famous île de la Jatte, which inspired numerous artists, such as Vincent Van Gogh, Seurat, and Monet

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Although the food and the service are usually bons et propres (good and clean), you can on very rare occasions, hélas (alas), run into unpleasant surprises. For example:

* “Les plats ne sont pas propres” (“The dishes are not clean”)

* “Cela a une mauvaise odeur” (“That has a bad smell”)

And of course, if worse comes to worse, you can always say: “Garçon! Il y a une mouche dans ma soupe !” (“Waiter! There’s a fly in my soup!”)

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In case you think that there’s a problem with l’addition (the bill), you can tell the waiter:

* “Il doit y avoir une erreur dans l’addition” (“There must be a mistake in the bill”)

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If the problem persists, you can always ask: “Puis-je parler à votre patron s’il vous plaît” (“May I speak to your manager, please?”)

However, if you were satisfied with your experience, then you may definitely want to congratulate the chef by saying: “Mes compliments au chef !

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  1. Benn Harrison:


    NEVER say “garçon”. Would you like to have the word BOY shouted at you? No.

    It is Monsieur, or Madame, or Mademoiselle – they are there to be respected, not to deal with rude and ignorant tourists.

    • Hichem:

      @Benn Harrison Hello Benn, and merci for your comment!

      I’m not sure if you are a native French speaker, but to call a waiter “garçon” in France -in addition to the fact that in this context it wouldn’t be the equivalent of the English “boy”, and that its use has become somewhat “old fashioned”- is not necessarily “pejorative.” In fact, it all depends on la manière of doing so (whether the waiter is dealing with French people or tourists!)

  2. Steven:

    1) “et non quatre”, not “et PAS quatre”?
    2) We don’t use “Puis-je” nowadays in a casual conversation, right?
    3) Can we call the waiter waiter “garçon” without offending him?

    • Hichem:

      @Steven Hello Steven!

      To answer your three questions:
      1) Both expressions are acceptable, although in this case French people tend to use the former than the latter.
      2) You may certainly use “est-ce que je peux” instead, although no one would accuse you of being a snob if you said “puis-je” in the middle of a casual conversation 🙂
      3) As to the use of “garçon” for waiters, I refer you to my answer to Benn above!

  3. Shannon Fabry:

    Merci! This is very helpful. Are there phrases for “gluten-free?” Or “without cheese?”

    • Hichem:

      @Shannon Fabry Je vous en prie, Shannon!

      In French, “gluten-free” is “sans gluten” (You can find more about it here:, and “without cheese” is simply “sans fromage.”

  4. Rania:

    Thank you, this was very helpful. How would you reply to the complaints? Can you please do a page about that?