comp meals

Comp Meals: What They are, Plus When and How to Offer Them

You might have heard of a comp meal before in restaurants but do not know what they mean, it’s totally okay to want to find out what these meals are.

comp meal

The success or failure of a restaurant can often be determined by how satisfied its customers are.

This indicates that every restaurant owner and manager’s first priority is ensuring client happiness.

But what if one of your guests is unhappy with the cuisine they were served, the manner in which they were served, or some other element of their dining experience?

Sometimes, in response to a customer’s concerns, management will offer to comp a dish or even the entire meal. However, this strategy has both benefits and disadvantages.

What is a Comp Meal?

When restaurant management or owner (or, less frequently, a waitress) pays for all or a portion of a customer’s dinner, it is known as a comped meal.

They might provide a complimentary item to make up for an error that was committed or to mark a special event, such as giving a slice of cake to a guest celebrating her birthday or glasses of champagne to a couple toasting their wedding anniversary.

Situations that Require a Comp Meal

In the following circumstances, it may provide a complimentary dinner:

  • The food was of lower quality.
  • The wrong food was presented to the guest.
  • A visitor requested a certain method of preparation for a meal, but it was not followed.
  • Extremely slow or poor service.
  • The guest is a regular, therefore you want to reward them with a complimentary stay.
  • The visitor is commemorating a noteworthy event, like a work advancement or birthday.
  • The guest is a professional colleague from another restaurant, such as the general manager or chef.

Comping shouldn’t be a hasty response to a little complaint or issue, but it might make a guest who is upset feel better.

Comping should ideally be carried out deliberately and in compliance with the rules of your establishment.

Who Should be Allowed to Comp a Meal

Depending on the establishment, different staff members have the power to decide whether a dish or an entire meal can be free.

Only managers are permitted to issue comps in some restaurants, although servers are permitted in others.

If you give waiters this authority, you should have a documented policy that specifies when comped meals can be served, as well as whether family members and friends can ever receive free or reduced-price meals.

The employee handbook at your restaurant should state whether a manager must consent to a free dinner before the order is placed or after the item has been served (in the event the comp is offered because the guest was unhappy with the dish).

The POS system for your business should likewise reflect these rights.

When Should a Restaurant Comp a Meal?

comping a meal

When choosing whether to comp a dinner, there are a variety of things to take into account.

If you’re comping a dish or a meal because a guest is dissatisfied, take into account the person’s response and the gravity of what occurred.

Here are several scenarios in which it would be appropriate to comp a specific item or meal:

1. Poor service: If a guest has claimed that your waitress was unpleasant or dismissive to them, you may be entitled to a complimentary night.

2. Long waits: The kitchen occasionally produces food slowly. However, it’s wise to think about comping in the event of an extremely long delay, like waiting 30 minutes for drinks.

3. Finding hair, insect, or other foreign objects in your food: You need to take action right away. Have the dish redone in the kitchen, deduct it from the bill, and let the visitor know you’ve done so.

4. A serious cooking error: Did the guest make a special request that wasn’t fulfilled? Or was the meal cooked in a way that renders it unfit for consumption? Have the kitchen redo the dish and think about giving it for free.

5. One of your best regulars: Regular customers come to your restaurant more often than just to eat. They might even serve as unofficial brand advocates for you, promoting your business by recommending other visitors.

As a means of saying “thank you” for their Patronage, you could occasionally want to give them a complimentary drink or food item like an appetizer.

6. Special Occasion: Is a family celebrating a birthday, graduation, or another noteworthy occasion? Offering your guests a complimentary dessert or beverage will really wow them.

Situations that do not Require Comping

But not every error or blunder calls for compensation. When a comp might not be your best option, think about the following scenarios:

1. The do-you-know-who-I-am Visitor: Whether the person is a local politician or a commercial bigwig, you’ll probably receive visitors that expect freebies simply because of who they are.

Think about the repercussions of comping and whether it will probably result in greater revenue. 

2. An insensitive, unpleasant, or threatening visitor: You’re bound to encounter folks who lack manners at some time in your life. Comping the dinner might not have much of an impact on whether a rude or unpleasant visitor returns.

Of course, if a customer starts acting violently or abusively, you should try to diffuse the situation right away and ask the person to leave without giving them a discount.

3. The guest is impossible to please: If you have a guest who isn’t thrilled with one meal but won’t try another (or doesn’t like the substitution any better), they may just be fussy or unsatisfying no matter what you do. 

4. The visitor’s expectations are too high: Occasionally, diners will complain to try and receive a free lunch. If a customer requests for a full comp after a minor fault with the meal or service, think of alternative ways to satisfy the customer.

To Comp or Not to Comp

Comping is based on a rather straightforward principle. It’s to make an already happy guest even happier or to make an unhappy guest happy.

But in a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to give out many freebies in response to service or food complaints.

How would you go about doing this? by making sure your staff provides superior service and by frequently checking in with customers while they are at your restaurant.

This entails giving your management and/or staff the go-ahead to check in on your diners periodically. Not just after the main course has been served, but also after the drinks or the appetizers.

Your servers may have a routine of checking in at that time, but far too frequently this occurs before guests have had a chance to arrive.

Making Your Customers Satisfied

comp meals

After customers have consumed a portion of the meal, train your servers to check on their satisfaction and handle any issues or complaints then.

It might only take adding an overlooked “extra” to the main course or warming up a dish to the guest’s preferred temperature to satisfy the person. 

Comping a dish or, less frequently, an entire dinner can satisfy a guest and increase the likelihood that they’ll come back. However, the manager’s attitude and behavior throughout that conversation are as crucial.

However, keep in mind that if a customer is sufficiently dissatisfied with the food or service, they are likely to complain and complain to multiple others.

The Importance of Quality Service

Online reviews can greatly influence the success of your restaurant, so it is important to address customer complaints directly when they arise rather than through an online portal.

Take the time to respond to any bad online reviews you might receive. Thank the guest for their review, and apologies, and kindly request a second chance to improve moving forward.

Your prompt response might persuade that visitor to come back while also impressing review readers in the future.

Comping is frequently given additional attention as a means of appeasing a disgruntled customer. But keep in mind the value of a complimentary or thank-you note.

Wrapping Up

When it comes to comping, you should understand that it depends. It’s crucial to have a policy that outlines your attitude on comping, including giving friends and family discounts on food.

It’s crucial to teach your managers when to comp, as well as your servers if they have the right to do so.

Remember, though, that concentrating on service and maintaining constant contact with your guests will probably reduce the volume of guest complaints.

It’s important to remember that comping is merely a show of goodwill.

Frequently Asked Questions

Comping a meal is a practice used by restaurant owners, operators, managers, and occasionally servers to cover a guest’s dinner as a show of goodwill.


The majority of the time, you’ll see a comp as a result of a restaurant error, but it can also be a gesture of goodwill; for example, if a visitor is celebrating something very important and you want to provide a free dessert.

To be given something for free

Complimentary Meals

All of your fingers should be tucked underneath, or barely touching the edge of the rim where food will not touch, while you hold the plate in your palm.

Always carry dining utensils by the handle, such as knives, forks, and spoons.

No, It is not.

This is done if they were given a wrong meal.

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