Why 'No Substitutions' Should Make You Think Twice About A Restaurant

Chances are you've been to a restaurant before and spotted an item on the menu that piqued your interest, but you weren't thrilled about an ingredient or two. Or perhaps a dish caught your eye that you think could be especially amazing with an extra ingredient you see listed elsewhere on the menu. Maybe you've asked for the substitution, only to find that the restaurant doesn't allow them. But why do some restaurants have this policy, and should you be concerned when you come across one?

This point was touched upon in an AskReddit question about red flags when eating out. One Reddit user says this "no substitutions" policy is something to watch out for, stating that any restaurant that prepares its own food can make any sort of substitution requested (via Reddit). "While they may try to play it up as 'Our food is perfect and we refuse to change it on moral grounds,' its [sic] almost always a sign of 'This was made 2 months ago and all we do is reheat it,'" the commenter wrote.

There's also the customer service side of the argument to abolish "no substitution" policies. For example, when Victoria Beckham, who was dining with chef Gordan Ramsay, ordered the smoked trout salad with a list of desired alterations at one Los Angeles restaurant, she was told "no." Ramsay wasn't pleased. "I don't think customers should be treated that way," he said (via Today).

Why a 'no substitutions' policy might sometimes be necessary

But this argument didn't come without a counterargument, as after the initial post mentioned above, Reddit exploded with opinions to the contrary, many explaining why a "no substitutions" policy is implemented and often necessary. "There's more to it," one Reddit user responded and went on to explain that when customers make substitutions, food costs may be altered and ticket times could increase. "You know what makes people b**** more than anything else? Slow food on their lunch break," the user wrote.

Another user stated that although the food at the restaurant at which they worked was made fresh daily, alterations to certain items could not be whipped up on the fly. "Saying 'we don't take substitutions or alterations' to anything on the menu is a red flag, but if you ask and they say 'I'm sorry we can't do that,' then odds are good there is [a] reason behind it," the user wrote. 

A third Redditor pointed out the need for consistency if customers want quality food, stating, "We can't focus on making it good if all we are doing is making it different." Finally, there's the argument of respecting the chef's creativity. "Would you ask Picasso to change his painting?" asked chef Jon Shook in an interview with Today. "We're putting a lot of our personal beliefs, heart and soul out there."