IN A RESTAURANT it is easy, at least theoretically, to send food back if you're brought the wrong dish, or to remind the waiter if something has been forgotten. With delivery service, the problem is obviously more complicated. Not for the first time, a reader has written to complain about delivery service, in this case a missing entree that was finally delivered an hour and a half later than the first.
Restaurants that deliver have policies to recompense customers for such inconveniences, but are not always forthcoming about what the customer has a right to expect. So I checked a few. The letter of complaint was about Listrani's, and it said the restaurant had offered no recompense. When I called Listrani's, I was told that in such a situation the customer should not be charged for the meal, or should be given a credit. Manager William Zinger hadn't known about this incident until the customer sent a second follow-up letter, then responded with an offer of free dinner for two.
Domino's late-delivery policy is well-known by now. If your order is not delivered within 30 minutes, $3 will be deducted from the bill. Domino's also has a policy of replacing for free any pizza that is unsatisfactory -- even if it has been consumed. As for incomplete or mistaken orders, the policy varies from one Domino's to another, but generally if Domino's has made a mistake in a delivery it will send out a new order at a discount or for free, or if the customer prefers, send a coupon for a free or discounted pizza as compensation, according to marketing coordinator Laura Kelly.
At Armand's, the policy is to replace the order immediately, or if that is not quick enough to satisfy the customer, to send a replacement at a discount or to send a discount coupon.
"We'll do anything it takes to make a customer happy," says manager John Bitango.
HERE'S A NEW twist on dinner music: B. J. Pumpernickel's in Olney serves music with your pastrami sandwich. An old-fashioned Eastern European klezmer band plays the second and fourth Thursday of each month from 7 to 10, and on the other Thursdays strolling klezmers perform throughout this sit-down delicatessen.
THE ELECTRONIC AGE could make me obsolete. I hear that Booz Allen & Hamilton has its own restaurant reviews on the company's electronic bulletin board. Presumably other companies have similar computerized services. I'd welcome any printouts readers care to send.
NOT EATING AT a restaurant can be far more expensive than eating at a restaurant, four women learned one recent Sunday afternoon. They had planned to celebrate a birthday lunch at Sakura Palace in Silver Spring and met there in two cars. Though there was plenty of street parking, when they saw that Sakura Palace had its own lot and its gate was open, they naturally parked there. But when they tried the restaurant's door they found it was locked. (The restaurant is open on Sunday only for dinner.) So instead they had lunch next door.
When they returned to the parking lot afterwards, their cars were gone, towed to the tune of $170. Their letter of complaint to Sakura Palace brought no response. When I called the restaurant to ask about the situation, the manager explained that theirs is a private parking lot, and he has contracted with a towing company to keep out cars that don't belong to restaurant patrons. Since there is no obvious way to distinguish restaurant patrons from others during business hours, cars are towed when the restaurant is closed and the lot is otherwise empty.
Regarding this particular towing incident, he said, "I don't have any comment."
Phyllis C. Richman's restaurant reviews appear Sundays in The Washingon Post Magazine.