Something interesting happened that other night when I was out to dinner - having finished the meal a customer mentioned that their fish had been a bit tepid! Obviously this was reported back to the Maitre D' who came up to the table to apologise.
When she suggested that next time the customer might want to mention this earlier so that the mistake could be rectified, the guest quite understandably replied that he was in mid-conversation with his dining companion and didn't really want to be sitting there with an empty space while his friend ate.
I noticed that when the check came to the table the customer's main course had been comped (to comp - does this verb exist?) by the house, much to the customer's surprise I think!
I was certainly impressed, with things being as tight as they are in restaurants these days and the fact that most restaurants in our area are still reeling from the summer, the temptation might have been to give the customer a dessert or an after dinner drink to avoid too much overhead being lost, or in some cases the argument could have gone - you ate it, you pay for it, you should have said something earlier!
Of course all of these reactions are justifiable in one way or another, but although I don't think the restaurant was obliged to do this, I feel the right thing was done here. The customer left with a good positive feeling towards the restaurant as did his companion, which means that they will probably come back and are less likely to talk about their bad experience, or if they do it will be tinged with praise for the way the situation was dealt with.
I already hear the cynics out there, and believe me I am not immune to this - what if the person in question did this everywhere they went (and this could be for a number of reasons - they always have to complain, they are seeking attention or they like to get comped etc..) - I guess that's where the Maitre D' earns her keep - will this person be back, will their complaints impact business, do they just need to be kept quiet for the sake of other diners etc...
One idea that I like which sort of avoids these issues is to give out Gift cards as an alternative to comping. In this way the person needs to come back to benefit, so if their experience has left them slightly luke warm (!) you get another chance to wow them. Using this method, you can also appear to be comping a bit more and you can up the value of the comp on the theory that this will be future business that you might not otherwise have had.