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Pet Peeve...no prices for specials

  • j

Just returned from a great dinner at Lutecia in Sebastapol...really good and reasonable...almost wonder if we should keep it quiet, but what the hell, its Sebastapol. Pet peeve. We were guests and the waitperson announced the specials without giving the price. Sometimes I will ask, but my wife feels this embarasses the host. Many of us consider it tacky to order the most expensive item on the menu when you are a guest...therefore are reluctant to order the special, which could be well above the average price. Ergo, I would suppose that many specials go unordered for this reason. Three solutions: 1. Put the specials on an insert to the daily menu; 2. Orally tell the customer the prices of the specials, or 3. If remembering prices is too difficult, set the specials prices as fixed prices on the menu. How can we get this message to the restaurant owners?

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  1. I almost always ask the price of specials, if they're not volunteered, having been burned more than once by something way out of line with the regular menu. Also, I'm not as mannerly as you and would not have hesitated to do this even when someone else is host. Yet, I share your pet peeve. Servers should specify the prices in their pitch.

    And, don't feel bad about revealing Lutecia. While I haven't been there myself yet, I mentioned it a couple weeks ago as a tip from friends. I'm glad you liked it. I'd heard from some other friends that after the favorable local reviews, there had been a scathing letter to the editor criticizing the restaurant which affected business.

    Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

    3 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Thanks Melanie...no one has ever called me mannerly about restaurants before. Usually, its "Oh God, there goes Dad again." You are right...we should ask as a matter of course. You would think the owner (who usually wants to push the specials) would realize that if the price isn't given (unless its a dish to die for), the customer will say "what the hell" and order from the menu. I think the easist solution is to have the special prices fixed every day (we're really talking about minor differences, usually). Of course, you can put them on a blackboard in colored chalk placed 100 feet from the tables...with reflected light.
      The meal was very good...resasonably priced, although my wife preferred dinner at home tonight.

      1. re: Jim H.

        Well Dad, I don't doubt that she liked today's menu better, if you were cooking!

        1. re: Jim H.

          I always feel the absence of announced prices on specials is akin to a big sign saying, "WELCOME, SUCKER!"

      2. I so agree with you, Jim. This is also a huge peeve of mine. I always, always, always ask the price, even if I need the item re-discribed, which can happen when the menu is already elaborate and there are "specials" thrown into the works. I have eaten out too often in years past where the "special" can be almost twice the normal menu item cost. It's flabbergasting. The worse was at Tra Vigne, up here in Napa. I ordered their Halibut "fish of the day" (birthday celebration . . . who's asking cost?) and it was a simple Tuscan grilled fish with orzo pasta at $28.00, absolutely an overly priced meal. They do now tell prices for everything there, which is so smart on their part. In this economy, we all need to have the choice of what we want to spend for a meal, don't you think?
        In my business, the specials are discussed, not just announced and let to ponder by customers with all waitstaff nearby for questioning. Good topic to explore.

        1. b
          Brandon Nelson

          This annoys me too...

          Being involved in retail for almost all of my adult life I am very aware of the stance that California takes on prices being displayed. I'm not sure of the jurisdicttion (I want to say weights and measures) this falls under, but retailers can be fined for not having the price of a good clearly displayed. If this is true for restaraunts, I've encountered many who ignore the rule. I guess we shouldn't be surprised. All to often restaraunts can't seem to keep their wine list up to date either.

          Chow!!!

          9 Replies
          1. re: Brandon Nelson

            Along that line, I was in Bern's in Tampa several years ago with a group, one of whom was a sophisticated wine buff from Texas. He spend quite a while examining Bern's wine list (about the size of a NY phone book) and said that many prices were less than his wine dealer...talk about not updating the wine list. Bigger may not always be better.

            1. re: Jim H.

              I don't understand: Are you telling us your friend was disappointed at finding good prices on wines??

              Are you criticizing a restaurateur who takes into consideration the original price paid for wines when pricing them on the wine list rather than charging all the market will bear??

              BTW, we ate at Bern's over 20 years ago and still hold it up as one of the great restaurant experiences and in many ways a model. (Does it still offer free, organic vegetables? Put the potato on to bake when the diner orders?)

              1. re: Fine

                I commend any restaurant that does not try to gouge the customer on grossly overpriced wine. I have not made many commendations lately. Bern's was perhaps, one of the few. It was a joy, however, to dine in a place that meets all the standards for perfection. Even the decore reminded me of a Venitian bordello, and lent a joie de vivre to the evening.

                1. re: Jim H.

                  There you go with the Venetian bordello comparison again...you still haven't shared where this comes from. (g)

                  I didn't have time to go to Bern's the 48 hours I once spent in Tampa/St. Pete's which still burns me. I'm surprised that your friend didn't know about the wines there. Bern's is famous for not marking up the wines. It would be pointless to raise the prices because they can't sell enough as it is. They opened a retail shop a few years ago to try to clean out the cellar, and I spoke with someone recently who's trying to market the wines more vigorously.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                    r
                    R Gould-Saltman

                    I'm an LA lurker on the SF board, so I gotta ask, because I don't know, and the curiosity is hurting me. There seems to be a recurring metaphor or theme here: What exactly is the decor in a Venetian bordello like, and how does Jim H. know this?

                    (Although now that I think about it, many years ago I was in an office building where the landlord's office in the building was decorated like what I imagine a bordello in a Zorro movie would look like, had there been bordellos in the Zorro movies. Maybe Jim is just extrapolating.....)

                    1. re: R Gould-Saltman

                      A Venetian bordello is decorated just like Bern's restaurant in Tampa. Satisfied?

                      1. re: Jim H.

                        Once upon a time Ernie's looked kind of like that (see "Vertigo") and Alfred's still does. Red flocked wall paper is an absolute reguirement, and the more candelabras the better.

                        1. re: Jim H.

                          You're not off the hook yet, that url doesn't resolve.

            2. Agree! Agree! Agree!

              If the restaurant puts prices on menus, then why not on specials?

              In my younger and less assertive days, I was too embarassed to ask and got burned with a special that cost over 60% more than the highest item on the regular menu. Needless to say, I never returned.

              Now, I always ask, usually politely! (It still bugs me).

              1. I just had to laugh about your comment regarding your wife. My wife actually cringes when I ask the price of a special, (she makes me feel a little like Jed Clampett dining at Spago). But like a lot of the posters here I am tired of getting singed.

                1. The Grubster always asks the server for the price of specials during the recitation. After several decades, this is no longer a source of discomfort for Mme Grubbe. I generally handle the situation where I am being hosted -- business or pleasure -- by explaining to my host, within hearing range of the spouting server, that I believe spoken menus should have spoken prices, just like printed menus have printed prices, etc. Generally speaking everyone at the table is then releived, rather than embarrassed.

                  See my report of a recent episode at the Parkway Grill in Pasadena on the LA board, below.

                  Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...