"Special" sauce ingredients? disclose or not

Should a pizzeria/restaurant disclose uncommon ingredients like roasted red peppers, cinnamon, or other potentially strong, potentially unpleasant flavors to their customers somewhere on the menu, like in a brief description of the flavor profile of the sauce? Am I unreasonable to think that it is almost mandated? [size=2](yes, I have already considered the allergy implications in this matter)[/size]

Please indulge my narrative so I can get it off my chest and stop annoying my wife with random outbursts :slight_smile:

My wife and I just recently ate at a pizza place that is the one and only we one we have tried since we opened 7 years ago that served a pizza we simply could not eat. Many have been so-so, so kinda bad, some poorly executed, some fine, but not our personal style, and many were good. This one was actually inedible . . . three bites into a half pepperoni/half cheese pie and we were done. We got ‘pretzels’ and were alerted to the sauce when we tried it . . . had an off flavor at room temp that the waitress said several people mentioned and it was cinnamon, “most people aren’t used to it.” I eat Greek food that uses cinnamon and tomato a lot . . . that wasn’t it. It tasted for all the world like capsicum/bell pepper. I dismissed it as transfer flavor and went on. We agreed that the pizza would taste different with the cheese and pepperoni. We were right; the now heated sauce was even STRONGER (as I should have predicted), and most definitely bell pepper-flavored. Asked server if she would ask if there was bell pepper in the sauce. He reply, god bless her, was, “They said there weren’t any bell peppers, but there were roasted red peppers in the sauce.” We said we were done and would like a box in case we could find someone who might eat the pizza. We could not eat any more it tasted so bad. She brought a box and the check :o :?: Wife and I never, ever, not ever will willingly eat a bell pepper of any color, shape, preparation or flavor . . . and I am very sensitive to the taste, so don’t just pull the peppers off the sandwich/pizza and send it back out.

Puzzled, we took the check to the cashier who asked us how everything was, as she was instructed.  When we told her we found the food inedible, and we hoped our dogs would eat it when we got home, she started to suggest we try something different next time without the red sauce since it has cinnamon and she has heard several customers complain about it (even she disliked it).  I clearly and plainly told her that I was not going to spend another dollar with their place if they were willing to take my money when we clearly disliked the food we were served.  Further, no one seemed to show any concern that we were walking out unhappy and hungry.  She said she was sorry and asked for our check, then . . . wait for it . . . said "your total is $21.56". :shock:  :!: 

 At that point I would not have been able to have a civil conversation with a manager, even if I had requested one.  We paid and will take it up with management this week.  There was no misunderstanding that we were unhappy, and disliked the food, and neither employee contacted a manager.  Since both were pleasant, and showed some concern on their faces, we definitely blame management for poor training and empowerment.  Open less than 2 months is no excuse for taking my money.

[rant]My random outbursts have been, “WHO PUTS ROASTED RED PEPPER IN PIZZA SAUCE?!?!?! CAN THEY NOT AFFORD TOMATOES?!?!? TOMATOES, OIL AND HERBS IS ALL YOU NEED!” Then I will sometimes mumble that you should never, ever put a surprise ingredient like that into a sauce and not fully disclose it. Bell pepper/capsicum is such a strong flavor that is potentially polarizing in terms of like/dislike that you put some sort of comment on the menu somewhere, anywhere. People are not responding to the cinnamon, I postulate, but the red peppers that no one expects in a pizza sauce. NO ONE PUTS RED PEPPERS IN A PIZZA SAUCE!! (I know some obviously do, but that is my irrational, traditionalist rant). [/rant]

The service was cataclysmically poor an the food a real shocking epic fail for us. I have heard a couple people have similar food taste dislikes, and now we know why.

After reading Kim’s rant on FB I believe this is the same swanky place that recently opened not far from you … the one you were concerned about in another post, pre Christmas ??

If so let them be and they will not be a threat to your business.

Regards to disclosing ingredients, the question has to be asked … do you disclose every ingredient ??

I understand you a p!ssed off but tastes varies to everyone and what each puts into their make up of a sauce or other iten doesn’t need to be itemised otherwise you would have a menu full of side notes rather than the actual items for sale. The only variant to this is the “may contain meat / nuts” disclaimer.


I am mostly worked up about the service end of it all.

The sauce ingredients thing is more or less an open philosophical question. I do tend to come down on the side of expecting “odd” things to be listed since it will be an “informed choice” sort of thing. When the area marketplace expects a certain theme of flavor profile, and a business intends to create a new paradigm with something like red peppers, I would thing it good business practice to A. make sure people know it, or B. Be prepared to empower your staff to make the customer happy if it makes them unhappy. I disclose anything in my sauce that is not an “expected or common” ingredient in pizza sauce in our marketplace (30+ miles or so).

Basil, oregano, garlic, black pepper . . . tomatoes . . . all common and expected. Now, if I put a glug of distilled capsaicin in my sauce, would that change anyone’s opinion on the matter? Ground mustard seed in large quantities? How about mango? Pureed frog testicles? Pureed Pig’s Liver? Where do we get to your threshold? I know you’ll have one :slight_smile:

I am not talking about a legal or moral imperative so much as reasonable effort to advise the customer for making an informed choice. This isn’t the stuff of trade secrets if I could taste it in the 1st bite, and they’ll tell me if I ask. I do declare and admit right now that I have a sometimes irrational streak about the whole capsicum/bell pepper thing and the bizzare dishes people will put them in here in Southeast USA.

I don’t think he has to disclose anything. You don’t like how he makes his pizza & I don’t think it’s fair for you to ask for your money back. If you buy a bag of chips at the quick stop and dont like the flavor, do you walk up to the counter and say this sucks can I have my money back?

Put yourself in his situation. This guy prob thought he created the next best thing. And probably there is somebody else who thinks that too. Pizza is to broad to consider anything the norm anymore. I have 30 gourmet pizzas on my menu and half of them don’t even have sauce.

Ps I love peppers. All of them. Id like to know what he’s doing with them. Sounds good.


You want a box to take the food home
you want to not pay for it?

Maybe they should pay for the gas you used to drive to their crappy restaurant.

If this was my competitor I would tell them “the pizza is great, don’t change a thing”

If you were my customer I’d grit my teeth and give you what you want.


A bit different, since I would check the ingredients list . . . informed choice there. If I had same reaction to the ships as I did to that pizza, I would notify the manufacturer (store is a middle-man who doesn’t have a role in the product) that I was dissatisfied and most have a 100% satisfaction guarantee they send coupons out on. Different world, really. Now, if they charged me $15 for that bag of ships, I might talk to the store manager.

Thing is, I do live in that situation every night I unlock the door. If a customer is unhappy for any reason, I find it my responsibility to make it right. If our server finds out that the customer did not like what they ordered, we get them something else. Right then. If it gets to checkout, we offer refunds. That is really the norm in the vast majority of restaurants I’ve been to, even the better run fast food joints.

I think I missed the main point of the post as I keep rereading it. Are you saying that in this situation in your shop, you would let an unhappy and clearly disappointed customer walk out the door having taken their money and made no effort to make them happy? Or even less unhappy? You would just tell them to come back again and take another wild shot and hope for the best? I don’t think that’s how many of us do business. I believe most everyone here would eat the $2 or so in COGS for a 14" half pepperoni pizza and offer something else of comparable value. I’ll bet the owner of the place I went to would have the same reaction that it was worth the $2 to attempt keep a customer from telling other people how much they disliked the place.

You hit the big part of my waffling on how to approach him. I never wanted to take the food home . . . asking for the box “because we could only eat a couple bites” was my code for “now is when you make the customer happy”. Same with the line about giving it to my dogs because we couldn’t eat it. I just got flummoxed when there was no effort whatsoever. The food was not at all something we would reheat, and we don’t actually have a dog :frowning:

My gas is paid for as it was a market research expense, plus another business errand at the same time. :wink: I’m right there with you in hoping more and more people have that reaction to the service model. My way or the highway will fly for some . . . but enough people in this county will be unhappy with that sort of response and whittle their market share . . . which I am just fine with. I suspect they will change customer care responses pretty soon.

I will say that I have been very cautious not to speak about the place to anyone except my staff so far. I did a random, indirect post on facebook about going to a place and being unhappy, but no indicators about what the place is. I do want to be as fair and objective as I can when people ask me about my experience there. I do believe that they can serve whatever food they want to serve, and that I have a responsibility to be rational and even handed when describing competitor shops because it reflects well on me, and I’d want the same from others.

I likewise believe there is a shared risk on the restaurant relationship. The Operator and the customer both accept a certain level of risk and acceptance when they enter into the transaction. For an operator to be adamantly opposed to accepting a customers distaste for something that they chance ordering from a description on a page, is taking advantage of the transaction. A customer being unreasonable in demands for perfection, being catered/pandered to and belligerent is likewise taking advantage on the other extreme. It all works best when everyone accepts some of the risk, and is willing to make reasonable negotiation.

That is what I am trying to filter the whole memory of the experience through, to be sure I am reasonable in my expectations and negotiations. I still think it is goofy putting bell peppers in a pizza sauce, but I disclosed that weakness already. I am laughing about it still today how much I react to the idea of it :slight_smile: Still percolating on the rest of the interaction.

The other reason I am organizing my thoughts and not bulldozing the management. I/we made a specific decision not to wait to speak to a manager for a couple reasons: they had a sudden line out the door that the staff was fumbling a bit with, and management had been invisible during the growing surge of business. That led me to believe that that person was in the middle of whatever storm was going on where they were, and would be a long time getting out to us. We chose to let it be and come back to the matter when I had cooled off and they were not under siege. Probably it was a poor choice in retrospect, and we’ll see how it goes . . . if it goes. I am imagining how I would handle it if it were you, Dave! :smiley:

We tend to only go to the same place over and over when we get the chance to eat out. This place serves great food at a good price, even if you have to order at the counter and they give you one of those buzzer alerts to collect your meal when it is ready. We accept this and this is built into the price, but saying that all other service and food is excellent.
Many, many places here where we are offer average, overpriced food with poor service hence the reason we go back to the same place. Often we are far from satisfied with food quality and when staff ask if we we enjoyed the meal we say directly what we thought. Unfortunately the often replies are " sorry, we will fix it next time’. Guess what? There is no next time.
Where possible we talk with the manager / owner and explain our concerns but unfortunately here many people have their heads so far up themselves that the brush off any criticism. In Western Australia we are recognised for having the dearest eating out and poorest service in Australia. A lot of this is due to lack of staff due the high wages paid in the mining sector where a lot of young people go to work for a few years to earn $120K p.a. The high wages put a greed factor into a lot of eating places as people are cashed up and liberaly spend .
So, yes we do complain and try to speak to manager/owner but unfortunately the care factor is minimal.
I hate being ripped off with second rate service, below average food at top shelf prices and will tell them at the time, as well as sending food back.


I don’t think anyone has a ‘duty’ to disclose the ingredients of their sauce. But, that being said, if someone finds their food inedible for ANY REASON, only a fool would let them leave without giving them both their money back and a SINCERE apology. It’s one thing to have someone not like your food, it’s another level of heck to have that person actively angry at you!!!

UPDATE: On reviewing the print menu, I found where I made an ultimately “fatal” mistake in comprehension. The menu states mostly, “Why is our traditional pizza so good, it’s because of our traditional GetDownsauce.” (I changed their trademark name). Seems I slurped up the words traditional used twice, and missed what might have been a good red flag when they used a title for their sauce. I am still marinating the whole thing, and still chewing on the gristle of “traditional” pizza. This is purely an intellectual and philosophical struggle for me now. I have figured out how I plan to communicate rationally with the management on the matter. Jackaloo gave me an interesting moment of clarity.

As far as ingredients go, unless its disclosing something like peanuts I don’t expect any disclosure.

As far as getting your money back for not “liking” the food??? The only time I feel I should be comped or discounted is for mistakes or poor service. Poor service is really the only inexcusable. As a customer I really don’t want any discount or compensation. Just “quickly” make the situation right and I am good. Honest mistakes happen.

I don’t see not “liking” food at some restaurant as any different than not liking a movie I just purchased. I won’t order it again or won’t go back if I feel its indicative of poor quality or preparation. If I don’t like the food and they give me the money back, I am “still not” got going back. Why would I come back just because I was given a “free” meal I didn’t like?

Would I refund their money if they asked? I’m sure there has been exceptions, but yes. Would I volunteer a refund? No, not just because they didn’t like it. To me at least, its just the risk of trying something new and I think “most” people think the same.

Help me understand where you see peanuts as different.

I agree with pizzapirate in that an ingredient such as peanuts should be disclosed.

A friend of mine’s daughter is severely allergic to peanuts. If she accidentally eats a peanut, he throat starts to close. She had a really bad reaction not to long ago at school just being near one of her classmates eating some.

Still curious why peanuts would be different than capsicums. Both cause allergic reactions, and both can cause severe reactions depending on the allergy. What makes peanuts specifically different in this conversation.

By the by . . . wife and I cannot remember the last time we went to a sit down restaurant where we had some issue with the food that made it inedible to us and NOT having the server immediately either send a manger over or offer a replacement herself. There may have been one or two, but they would certainly have stuck out . . . we are really easy to please customers in most situations. Like I said before, we live this life ourselves and know the trials and tribulations.

I am sincerely surprised at the responses that would refuse to offer any sort of remedy in my situation. I got zero offer of any remedy as a 1st-time customer in a new start-up business. I sincerely hope I am misunderstanding or overstretching the intent of the responses.

This is an interesting topic that I want to start a new thread on . . . .

I only disclose ingredients if a customer specifically asks if an ingredient is in the food. I don’t run down the entire ingredient list, I just confirm or deny-Yes that sauce has garlic in it, or no there are no dairy products in that item.

I’m no expect on food allergies but I am aware of the deadly reactions to peanuts. “Seems” to be a bigger issue than most as I see warnings posted in many restaurants – even if they are only on the premises and not necessarily in a particular dish. Packaged foods always have the warning in regards to peanuts. Imo, when these warnings become common place its probably best to follow suit.

On a side note, I believe its the responsibility of the consumer to look out for themselves and their children. Many people simply ask ahead of time if a particular ingredient is used. There’s no way to account for every allergy out there.