Picky patrons at Kiwi restaurants are increasingly putting their hands up to complain, due to the rising popularity of TV cooking shows.

New Zealand restaurateurs and chefs believe dining shows such as The F Word and MasterChef New Zealand are prompting kiwis to be more critical of the food served to them. MasterChef New Zealand judge and top restaurateur Simon Gault is among chefs to notice Kiwi diners becoming more finicky about the quality of their food. And he says customers are well within their rights to voice their opinion – but only if they speak up in the restaurant, not a few days later.

“A customer has every right to critique the meal – and it’s good constructive criticism. However, if the meal has met the standard of what is on the menu it’s hard for them to say: ‘Well I would prefer it to be cooked this way’.”

Gault said complaints from his customers were rare because his front-of-house staff asked regularly whether they were happy but an odd few complained for the sake of it. Tony Astle, owner of Antoine’s Restaurant in Parnell, is also aware of “professional complainers” who send food back in the hopes of getting a free meal. He believes New Zealanders are generally bad at complaining, but agrees TV cooking shows are prompting more to put their hands up.

“People are becoming a little bit more savvy about these things,” says Astle. The Consumer Guarantees Act says services must be “performed with reasonable care and skill” and the goods must be of an “acceptable quality”.

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