Problem with the food


Have you ever complained about something in a café/restaurant?

If you work in a café/restaurant, have you ever had to ask a customer to stop doing something?

Watch the video of four customers in a restaurant. What’s the problem during the meal?


Task 1 - Waiter's expressions

Watch the video again and put the waiter’s expressions in the correct place in the dialogue.

Task 2 - What's wrong?

Customers' complaints

What’s wrong in each picture?

What other kind of things do customers complain about during a meal?

Can you think of anything else a waiter/waitress might tell a customer to stop doing during a meal

Task 3 - Listening

Restaurant dialogues

Look at the pictures and complete the dialogues. Then listen and check. 

Task 4 - Match the complaints

Here are some things a waiter/waitress or customer might say when they are complaining. Notice how the intonation is different to the very polite phrases in previous tasks.

Match the two halves of the sentences. Then listen to check your answers.

Task 5 - Restaurant Rules


What rules do cafés/restaurants have in your home country/region? 
Write phrases that a waiter/waitress could say to a customer who is breaking a rule.
Use some of these prompts: 
  • I’m sorry, but …
  • You can’t …
  • You have to …
  • You don’t have to …
  • You can …
Practise saying your phrases firmly, but politely. You could record your voice and listen to it on Vocaroo. Compare your recordings to the examples in the previous task.
This video explains how to use Vocaroo:



Video transcript

Waiter:             Here you have three fantastic chickens.

Customer 1:    Thank you.

Waiter:             Excuse me.

Customer 2:    Thank you.

Waiter:             You’re welcome.

Customer 3:    Thank you very much.

Waiter:             You’re welcome. Just a second - I’ll go and get the rice as soon as possible.

Customer 4:    Thank you. Oh, was there some sauce with this?

Waiter:             I do apologise, we’ve run out of sauce. Is there anything else I can get for you?

Customer 4:    Oh no, that’s fine.

Waiter:             OK, many thanks. I do apologise.

Customer 4:    That’s OK. Thank you very much.

Waiter:             Sorry, do you need any …salt and pepper you have on the table. Do you need any vinegar or something?

Customer 4:    Actually do you have any ketchup?

Waiter:             Yes, of course. I’ll get it for you.

Customer 4:    Thank you.


Porter:             I’m afraid you can’t eat here dressed like that.

Man:                Why not? What’s wrong?

Porter:             Shorts are not suitable.

Man:                Do I have to change my clothes?


Waitress:         Sorry, gentlemen. You can’t smoke in here.

Man:                Why not?

Waitress:         You have to go outside to smoke.

Man:                Oh. OK.


Woman:          Waiter, This soup is too salty.

Waiter:             I’m terribly sorry, madam.

Man:                My soup isn’t hot enough.

Waiter:             I’m so sorry, sir.

Intonation Exercise

        I’m sorry, but you can’t come in wearing shorts and a T-shirt.

        You don’t have to wear a tie.

        You can’t smoke in the restaurant.

        You have to smoke outside.

        I’m sorry, but you can’t bring dogs in.    

        You can bring guide dogs into the café.

        Can you keep the noise down please?



What problems have you seen in restaurants? Have you ever had any problems with a meal? Have your customers had problems? How did you fix the problems? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Now try our next catering activity - After the meal