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When Restaurants Run Out Of Things...

last week i was going to post about this topic but i had forgotten. i was thinking about one of my old restaurants i used to work at years ago and how some nights having to go up to a table when they sit down and say " we are out of this, and this, and this, and this..." sometimes having a whole list of popular items. this was a really nice place, and when i think about it NOW ( then i was very young and could care less ) i cant imagine how annoyed my customers were...

then yesterday my friend came into the store i work at and he is a cook. i asked him how easter weekend went and he told me it was a nightmare. he told me the owners told him last year easter weekend was DEAD, so expect the same. my friend didnt have a overly stocked kitchen, just enough to get him by for a "normal" night. well, they werent dead- they got SLAMMED and they ran out of soooo much stuff and he told me he felt like such an &*(^%$ and the customers were really upset. this conversation made me think of my initial thoughts last week. so now im posting!

what do you think? has this happened to you?

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  1. My husband has a "gift" for ordering things they are out of it....both food and drink. It's become something of an inside joke betweem us. It's worse for him than me when it happens, because he is pickier than I am in his preferences. I'm the one who is usually deciding between several things so if they are out of option one, I'll go to option two or three.

    1. There's a little neighborhood place near me that I went to a couple of times. Both times they were out of something really crucial - once it was cheese(!). Although I loved the food I will not go back there again because it's far too annoying.

      1. It has, and like Janet, I usually have another choice I can pick. If a restaurant runs out of REGULAR items on the menu (items they know the popularity of) I'd be very disappointed in that they didn't gauge quantities properly - for a holiday weekend or a regular weekend.

        With specials, it can be a bit more difficult to do so. They talk to their fishmonger that morning and get a set amount of sea bass, or whatever, and when it's gone, it's gone. Just the luck of the draw - and for what time you happen to make your reservations. The later it is, the less likely something is going to still be available.

        1. The most extreme occasion of this I have experienced was once when I was in college in Indianapolis. It was a perfect storm of eating out - Mother's day and first day of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. We went to a local restaurant on the westside of town at about 5:30pm and they met us at the door and told us they were closing because they had run out of food. Imagine not just running out of some things but having so little food at the beginning of the dinner period that you just close down.

          1. Most of the time I'll opt for something else. However, if I've made a special trip for something I'm in the mood for, I apolgize to the staff and tell them I'll try another night.

            1. It's definitely annoying when this happens, but I think it depends on what they're running out of. If it's a special, or an entree that requires a long prep (like a braise), then sometimes restaurants run out and that can be excused every now and then. But if it's basic items like cheese(!), dry goods, non-perishables, etc., then whoever is doing the ordering is doing a poor job.

              Also, if it's a chronic issue, then management can be accused of doing a bad job with tracking the product mix and creating accurate prep lists, as well as accurate pars on the food order. Obviously food and labor costs are big issues, and kitchens can't waste time and labor prepping enormous amounts of everything to ensure that they NEVER run out of items, but end up throwing food away at the end of the night. It's not a perfect science knowing which items will be ordered, but tracking your sales history and prepping/ordering as accurately as possible should minimize running out of things.

              But you never know when a ten-top will walk in and ALL want the braised lamb shank...sometimes it happens.

              1. I know what it is like to be the server with the list, and I also know that even though it is not your fault it makes you feel like a complete idiot. Just like Janet, I am usually trying to decide between two or more items, and i just go to my second choice. I find that, and I'm sure to no one's surprise, this happens more with the daily specials. Funny story, my boyfriend and I once stopped at a Taco Bell for a quick snack, and we were told they were out of beef. We left, and I think, make that know, it was for the best.

                3 Replies
                1. re: lizzy

                  A while back we went ot a local restaurant for the advertised taco special; we were told they were out of tomatos and lettuce...and had been all day. They did, however, offer us a special on leftover meatloaf!!!!

                  1. re: johnhicks

                    How hard is it to send someone to a store and buy some more!?! I can understand if it's oxtail trout or something exotic - but lettuce?

                    I was at a place that ran out of ice - their machine was broken, so they simply offered drinks and no ice. In most cities you can buy 10 bags with 10 minutes.

                    1. re: tastyjon

                      last week my husband and i went out for dinner, and they were out of diet coke (and it was early in the evening, around 7pm). we live in NYC- can't someone just run down to the corner deli and pick some up? it made no sense to me.

                2. I've been at the server and cook and manager end of running out of things. It sucks, but most guests are very gracious. I mean, it happens. I wouldn't continue to work in a restaurant where it happened often though. It's just too stressful.

                  I did once witness a woman in line at a bakery who just about had a meltdown at the clerk because the bakery had sold out of sugar cookies. I mean, this woman was seriously angry, yelling, etc. The clerk looked at her and very calmly said, "Ma'am, you're not embarrassing *me* by yelling. You're actually only embarrassing yourself." I didn't bother to stifle the laugh.

                  A meltdown over a cookie? I mean, c'mon.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: tokyorosa

                    maybe she had the same crisis situation as Elaine did over chocolate bobka in Seinfield?

                  2. Not a big deal to me, typically I just pick something else off the menu, I usually am deciding between 2 or 3 different things, and decide last minute anyway.

                    I do agree with another poster regarding having a taste for something, and nothing else will work. Last friday I really wanted an Italian Beef Sandwich, or a Philly Steak Sandwich for lunch. The bar I go to has good Italian Beef so I passed up a couple of other options to go there only to find out after a few drinks that they were out of Italian Beef. I finished my drinks & drove 15 miles each way, and got the Philly Steak that was my second choice. It wont stop me from going back to the spot that ran out of Italian Beef at all, in fact I am going tonight to get one.

                    20 Replies
                    1. re: swsidejim

                      One of my favorite local places is always out of bacon that goes into my favorite dish....I always get such a kick out of this since they are about 50 feet from a grocery store.

                      1. re: LaLa

                        I am surprised they dont run to the store and buy a staple item like bacon when they run out.

                        When I used to cook at a small restaurant, and either our produce delivery had not come yet, or we had run out of lettuce, or tomatoes, etc, someone would grab cash out of the register, and run down to the grocery store in the strip mall we were in, and get what we needed.

                        1. re: swsidejim

                          I run a restaurant and a few weeks ago we had a run on egg salad during lunch much higher than usual. At about 3.30pm four customers came in and all ordered egg salad sandwiches. I had 86d the egg salad at about 3.15 and since the menu changes to dinner at 4pm there wasnt any time or point in boiling eggs, shelling them and making a mix till the next morning. These customers went ballistic, how can you run out of egg salad blah blah blah.

                          It took a full 5 mins of apology to calm them down, saying it was impossible to boil eggs cool them mash them etc in less time than they would be willing to wait for a sandwich.

                          Sometimes running out is an inevitability. We ran through 50lbs of salmon one day.

                          1. re: smartie

                            Interesting story, I was a line cook for one of the major italian restaurants in Chicago, and had been working as a cook for a few years before this place. We used to run out of items on Friday, and Saturday nights(veal, fish, ice, etc). At other places I worked at in the past if you ran out of items like those I listed, you were out of luck.. At this place however if we ran out, within an hour some unmarked white vans would roll up with whattever we had run out of. These occurances, the "characters" I would see in the back of the house, and some other suspicious activities convinced me this place was "connected"

                            1. re: swsidejim

                              Wow! Just like in the movies. Interesting though... a "connected" place that was interested in pleasing their customers by ensuring there was enough food. Yeah, it's money too, but sort of funny.

                              1. re: boltnut55

                                I always had the suspision the restaurant was a front, and a way to "clean" their cash receipts.

                            2. re: smartie

                              What does "86d the egg salad" mean?

                              1. re: eatfood

                                To 86 something is to cut it off. When something on a menu is 86ed, it has run out.

                                1. re: mojoeater

                                  Oh okay, thanks!

                                  Why the numbers 86 though?

                                  1. re: eatfood

                                    It's a very old saying and I've heard numerous reasons for it, including: Slang for 'deep six' which means to put someone or something in a grave; reference to the NY liquor code 86 which gives the terms by which you must cut someone off from drinking; and some old one that had something to do with coal miners.

                                      1. re: deangold

                                        hee hee-- here's another:

                                        it refers to bar & restaurant phenomena during the early gold rush in california. when the old time gold prospectors (called 86ers), after living hermit-style in the hills for years, finally would hit gold, they tended to hit town kinda pirate-style, with LOTS of cash. they would purchase the most expensive dinner, most expensive beverage, most expensive, erm, evening companionship, and frequently get so overworked with their newfound flushness that there would be huge spending sprees--"finest whiskey for everyone" bar rounds, etc. running out of the higher end booze or other comestibles became associated with those gold-crazy prospectors, and the term has stuck ever since. that was the story i told while bartending for 10 years. . . although those others sound plausible too. i do believe that many bar traditions such as "buying a round for the bar" and the bartender knocking on the bartop when receiving a tip originated at this same time in america.

                                        i would propose that we could now update the term "86" to "pro-athlete," but it doesn't really have that ring to it. . .

                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                          I think somebody fed you a line of hooey. The early California gold miners were called 49ers, after the rush of 1849 following the discovery of gold near Coloma in 1948. I never heard of the term '86er' to describe them.

                                          1. re: ricepad

                                            i'm almost positive i got the story from the great read, research work, and opinion piece: "drink, a social history of america" by andrew barr. my copy is currently in storage so i can't check on that though.

                                2. re: eatfood

                                  Plenty of opinions and ideas where the term "86d" came from.

                                  The one I have heard is that it originated during prohibition at a speakeasy in New York City called Chumleys on 86 Bedford, as an above poster provided a link to.

                                  Who really knows which is the true originator.

                              2. re: swsidejim

                                One time, we made a special trip to McCormick and Schmick's for their lobster special. The manager said they had already run out of lobsters, but told us, if we were willing to wait, they'd run out and get some more!!! LOL
                                The lobster was great, by the way, and we felt special somehow.

                                1. re: aurora50

                                  Ugh! Lobsters! I worked for a chef whose signature dish had lobster in it. By 4:30, no lobster had arrived at the restaurant and the desparate search for 20 live lobsters in San Francisco was on. Well, the fish mongers were all closed, and I couldn't find just one store in Chinatown with enough (plus zooming around Chinatown, from store to store, on foot and lugging close to 40 pounds of product was not going to work). Had to be live and "not too big."

                                  Eventually found a place in Oakland. The smallest waitress in the joint and I (pretty skinny and weak) hop on BART and cross the Bay. We had to lug, on foot, two heavy boxes (with lobsters trying to crawl out) from the store back to the BART station. Whew! To keep the lobsters from escaping onto the train and causing havoc, we had to sit on the boxes. The waitress finally fell INTO the box because the cardboard was damp. Needless to say, our fellow passengers HATED us; the smell wasn't the best.

                                  Make it back JUST in time for service and guess what? The freakin' delivery truck had arrived while we were gone! #%*&@^!!!!!!!

                                  1. re: chaddict

                                    Jeez! What a story! : (
                                    I can see why you cringed when I told my lobster story.

                                2. re: swsidejim

                                  I see people in their kitchen togs in the grocery all of the time. What was real disconcerting was to see one of them with a basket full of cake mixes.

                            3. My wife and I went to a small upper-mid-range sort of restaurant one night at about 9pm (we had reservations) and were very suprised as we looked over the menus while sipping our drinks; the server came to the table and said "we got absolutely slammed earlier this evening and we're out of a whole lot of the menu so if you're game, we'll bring you a selection of what we have left and charge $50 each?" We had a tremendous meal. Granted, not every restaurant is going to have the talent in the kitchen to shift gears and create on the fly, but it worked out very well.

                              Generally, I find that what most restaurants run out of are specials or specific dishses that its easy to run out of like fish or a long-cooked dish (as people have noted above). Running out of essential ingredients and staple menu items is going to happen occasionally because someone ordered poorly, or a delivery didn't make it, or a freezer died, or one of many other possible reasons. If it happens a lot, its likely to be the first reason.

                              A last thought, when I was in college in Charlottesville, VA there used to be a place called The Cavalier Diner where they had a 7 or 8 page menu. But everyone knew they never had all of that so the servers would normally say something like "page 3 is pretty safe tonight." For them, it was part of the charm....of course they always had burgers.

                              1. I usually don't get upset if the "special" is sold-out and can usually find something to eat from regular menu. However, I do get annoyed if

                                A) I'm not told about what the kitchen is out of when I'm handed the menus (so I can plan my order accordingly).

                                B) The restaurant runs out of a staple and decides to substitute without asking/telling me.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: ElsieDee

                                  Agreed, especially B. We once dined at a semi-upscale seafood chain where the kitchen tried to switch out the macadamia-crusted mahi-mahi dish with tilapia when they had run out, hoping that we wouldn't notice it under all the sauce/nuts, etc. The manager blamed the cooks, of course, but I was skeptical... But he did apologize and offered to comp the meal. The ol' bait and switch!

                                  Anyone else have that tried on them? Pass a menu item off as something else?

                                  1. re: DBrooks

                                    I've seen kitchen staff do it, but usually those who are inexperienced and foolishly think they can get away with it. I doubt that the management specifically tried to "bait and switch" you. It's more likely either a mistake by a new line cook who didn't know better, or a mistake in communication when servers were supposed to be told or supposed to tell their tables that the item would change but information never made it. I've often seen specials, especially fish specials, change throughout the night--the chef will have a certain number of orders of one fish left and plans to go to a different one later in the night.

                                    I'm not excusing the behavior, btw. You shouldn't ever be presented with something other than you ordered. I'm just suggesting that it's just as likely a honest mistake than a deliberate hoodwink.

                                    1. re: nc213

                                      I've had cooks lie their asses off to me about substituting items when something runs out - that's a piece of seabass, it's just flat! You dumbass, I watch you clean seabass every day - I know how you cut the pieces, and that is tilapia, not seabass.

                                      If I know we are out of someting I will always tell the customers though - for example, we have a dish served over baby bok choy. When we run out, they sub asparagus, and I will always tell someone ordering that dish. That way they can opt for another dish or request another side.

                                      1. re: jnstarla

                                        it happens more than lots of people think! i've had mgmt tell me to pour rail gin into a martini because "he'll never know the difference" more times than i care to relate (i tell them he's a regular and that he will too notice, even if he's not). when mgmt gets snaky about subbing menu items its a good bet the place is about to go under, or that they simply have no respect for the people they serve. you see this latter attitude in a lot of bigger corporate places where the mgr has a business degree and absolutely no experience/love for food.

                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                          Amen, soupkitten! I worked very briefly, as a very young server for a place that hired that type of manager. They were more about the bottom line than they were about the food or the guests' experience or anything really. The best manager/owner I ever worked for had worked his way up through the ranks--from dishwasher to cook to manager to buying/owning the restaurant. It would've killed him to run out of anything--or to make a sub without the guest's knowledge.

                                    2. re: DBrooks

                                      There's a national seafood chain whose name rhymes with Blagormick and Flicks who has done this to me more than twice.

                                      1. re: jpschust

                                        Right-o...my experience was at a place that rhymes with Tart Souse. A chain that has really gone down from the '80s glory days, now run by those shady Lone Star State dudes from Landry's.

                                    3. re: ElsieDee

                                      Agreed, ElsieDee! I went to Border Grill recently and ordered the special which was a beet salad with goat cheese fritters. The plate arrived with 2 goat cheese fritters and 4 small sections of grapefruit! I thought it was a mistake but was told that they'd run out of beets earlier and started subbing with grapefruit. First of all, the two are far from interchangeable, in my book. Second of all, to bring it without even letting me know that the main ingredient had changed was wrong. And third, it was listed as an entree salad and yes, a BEET salad yet I can only assume from the amount of grapefruit that I would have only received 4 small slices of beet. I have always really liked that place, but the whole experience was a big turn-off to me. Luckily, we were with out of town guests, so I was enjoying the company too much to get too annoyed!

                                    4. I've worked both the front of the house and the back of the house, and now, as a customer, I sometimes take it as an indication of the restaurant's feelings about quality and freshness of ingredients. That is, I understand that sometimes you get a run on things unexpectedly...like the aforementioned 10-top where everybody decides they have to have the same thing. So if it's later in the shift and I hear they've run out of the fresh salmon, on the one hand I'm disappointed that I didn't get any, but on the other, I'm a little reassured that the salmon may really have been fresh.

                                      I know I'm dealing in broad generalities and I could be WAY off....but in my little world of self-delusion, it keeps me sane.

                                      1. This happens and you just deal with it like everyone says. But, unsaid is that everyone on these boards is probably a wee bit disappointed (i know i am) if you spend the time like Jfood in reading every possibility and then planning the "right" app to go with the entree. But go for plan B. Likewise I consult with Mrs Jfood on her choices.

                                        One item that would drive me up a wall. Please tell me when you bring the menus or when you tell me the specials. I do spend time getting into the app/entree selection so please do not have me waste my time if one is not available. And if you do forget to tell me, when I order it and you say "I'm sorry but we are out of the XYZ", please do not stare at me like i knew that was going to happen and I am prepared for Plan B. I need to re-lock and load at that point.

                                        On the other side of the coin are those wonderful words "Just to let you know Jfood, we have one or two servings of the braised short ribs from last night still available." Sign me up quickly, cross at least one off the list and i'll work the app around that luscious morsel. Happened last month and when the table next to us (arrived 30 minutes after us) saw the short ribs in front of me and asked for them, the waiter had to tell them there were none left. Hey you win some, you lose some.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: jfood

                                          Absolutely! If you're out of the braised frog's necks, please let me know before I've had a chance to fall in love with the menu's description...and if there's only one serving of frog's necks left, I just may ask you to run into the kitchen IMMEDIATELY and (figuratively) lick them for me.

                                          Servers who do this get their just rewards..and I remember them next time, too. Servers that don't, don't.

                                        2. A while back, we were about to go into a (new for us) sushi restaurant for lunch during a trip to visit family. The maitre'd informed us at the door that their supplier hadn't shown up and all they had was salmon and octopus. We left. I have no idea why, under those circumstances, they didn't just close. I don't know anyone who would have gone in for those 2 things only, and the restaurant was empty.

                                          It reminded me of my college days when a cop stood at the bottom of an icy hill during a storm cringing every time a car came over the top, slid, and went into the ditch. Why not just stand at the top of the hill and divert traffic?

                                          Very recently, we went to a chinese restaurant for dinner, and saw the waiters bring out a dessert for a table next to ours before they were even presented menus. The guy at the table explained to his bewildered companion that he was a regular, that he always ordered this dessert, and that it was invariably sold out by the end of his meal. That day, when he made the reservation, the management took notice and set aside the dessert for him when he walked in to be sure he got it. I thought it a nice gesture, although probably limited to this type of situation.

                                          1. Mr Goddess and I TRIED to patronise a small, family run place, near our weekender. We chose it over the other restaurants in the area, as it seemed to have a small sea-side village feel about it.. not like the trendy coffee house cum chai latte cum focaccia bars that are spreading like fungus all over the Peninsula.

                                            The had a fairly average brunch menu, but the plus side was that the restaurant (and I use the term VERY loosely) was walking distance from our place, which meant that I could feel less guilty about eggs and bacon brunches.

                                            Three weeks in a row I ordered Eggs Benedict, only to be told they had run out (of the Benedict bit, I assume, as there were plenty of eggs available for scrambles and omlettes).

                                            Week Four, I give it another go, only to be told the same... so I queried why it was still on the menu, only to be told:

                                            "The cook doesn't know how to make it, so that's why we don't have it"

                                            Erm.. then why is it on the freaking menu???

                                            Needles to say we no longer frequent that particular establishment. **ahem**

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: purple goddess

                                              Eggs Benedict seem to be problamatic for a lot of places. I once ordered them at a place well-known for its brunch and was told they were out of hollandaise. The place was not at all busy. If I hadn't been with the bf I might have said, "You have butter, don't you? You have eggs, don't you? You have lemon, don't you? Well then, you have hollandaise."

                                              1. re: bryan

                                                I was working on a reply like that, until the full ramifications of "the cook doesn't know how to make it" hit me.

                                                Visions of lumpy curdled cat vom tripped quickly across my consciousness

                                                erm... thanks but no thanks.

                                                1. re: purple goddess

                                                  I think I've told this one before, I ordered the poached eggs one time at Denny's and was told "the cook doesn't have any hot water to poach the eggs"!!!!!!!!!!!!!
                                                  I swear, I was thisclose to going into the kitchen and poaching them myself.

                                                    1. re: aurora50

                                                      at one place where I worked the kitchen would play tricks on new busboys by sending them next door to our sister restaurant for a bucket of steam. invariably, the other kitchen would tell them they had run out of steam. occasionally, the chef would up the ante saying, "what do you want me to do, make more steam? how could I make more steam?" usually the busboys would stare blankly.

                                                2. re: purple goddess

                                                  Guess it's too expensive to reprint menus... and in case another cook gets hired later... BUT if I were the owner, I'd give him a recipe and ask him to spend an hour one day making it to "perfect" it. It can't be that hard, right? OK, for a person trained in cooking, it shouldn't be... I can't cook.

                                                3. I used to work at a hotel that had a very popular brunches on Mother's Day and Easter. They were carefully planned for, reservations required, and we served 600+ people. One year, we had a similar turnout on Father's Day. Except it hadn't been planned for, no reservations had been made, and the kitchen was scrambling to make *anything* to just feed all the people who showed up.

                                                  And, in unrelated note, anyone who has worked in a kitchen will be familiar with the unexplained runs on items. If you normally serve 8 tuna sandwiches at lunch, one day you'll get 20 orders for it. You run out, and it's the one thing every customer asks for. Next day, back to normal. So strange.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: manraysky

                                                    yep I know that one very well - some days EVERYBODY wants one particular thing on the menu.
                                                    I work pizza at my restaurant during the day and one lunchtime a few weeks ago I didn't have one pizza to make right through lunch. The kitchen and I were making bets on each ticket as they came out of the machine and none were for pizza. It was a busy lunch session too so totally unexplainable.

                                                  2. Former restaurant manager here. The restaurant that I managed had a lunch and dinner menu that changed every day. There were a few standard items on the menu, but for the most part the entire menu was created from supplies delivered that morning. If by chance (and this happened very rarely) we ran out of an item that was on the menu written for that day, we'd count down the number of that item that remained on a big chalkboard on back of the line - in plain view so that the servers could see - we'd also tell everyone if an item was running low. If we ran out of something, we had a little "sold out" stamp - and hand stamped every menu on the item that sold out. Our communication worked well - no one seemed to be bothered by our system.
                                                    Holiday menus were written in advance. We were always very busy on holidays but one Thanksgiving in particular we were swamped thanks to a very heavy walk in crowd. At one point we ran out of the NY steak roast special - the gentleman that had ordered it somehow did not get a copy of a menu with the sold out stamped on it - and the server had to go back to the table to tell the nice man his entree had 'Just" sold out - which it did. This gentleman really lost his cool - stood up in the middle of the (very small) dining room and started screaming at the top of his lungs - how could we ruin his holiday and so forth. It wasn't as if he'd been waiting for his dinner and then be told we were out - the server went back to the table immediately and apologized profusely - after all we were very conscious of the situation and had done everything within our power to see that that kind of circumstance never happened. He and his party walked out - another manager tried to soothe him but some things can't be fixed. If he'd only made a reservation, we could have called him and offered him a gift certificate in lieu of his bad experience.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: OneJayneDoe

                                                      most little places that have specials do have a running "86" board, and if the kitchen/front-of-the-house communication is good, servers will be aware when an item runs low. but it's still possible, even with all of the precautions OneJayneDoe describes, that a server will take an order for the last "Thursday Special" at the same time that another server orders it for a table across the room. in this case the server must go back to the table and explain that the rest. has sold thru the special. this is nothing that diners should get overly bent out of shape about-- short-run specials are a sign that the food at the restaurant is really fresh, and usually really good.

                                                    2. A new restaurant opened here in town a couple weeks ago (vancouver, BC) and turned out to be immensely popular and one night after about 2 weeks of being open about 9pm they ran out of food! Everyone and their mother had walked in assuming since it was a new restaurant it would be ok. Luckily I was at a restauarant around the corner and started laughing when everone from there started coming into mine LOL. But hey it bodes well for the new restaurant eh?

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: starlady

                                                        I have been a server off and on for a long time - I love the industry but never got a feel for the ordering system. One of the places in which I worked used a projection system that used numbers from the previous year to guage how much business they were supposed to do. This usually worked out pretty well, but there were occasions in which I would get a phonecall before my shift and have to jet to the grocery store to pick up starfruit or mango. When a staple was needed, or a large order, they would send an employee (usually me) to the closest affiliated restaurant.

                                                        Personally, I don't get all that upset when an item that I want to order is missing, though it will take me extra time to decide on a second item. The exception to this is when the server acts flippant about the situation. If a server is genuinely apologetic (as I always was, because I hate the inconvenience of it all), I can understand and do not take it out on them - especially when it comes to the tip. I know that it's not their fault, and try to help them to understand that.

                                                        1. re: starlady

                                                          & you see "closed, out of food" signs on all of the best little BBQ shacks sometimes-- when the food is authentic and small, selling out is a reality-- it's not like you can "whip up" a 7 hour smoked brisket.

                                                        2. In the developing countries that I know, the menu is a list of things the resturant might have at a given time. One orders by asking, "Do you have x tonight?"

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                            how's this for running out i stopped at a KFC once and got what i deserved i guess. ordered a chicken dinner with mashed and cole slaw. i noticed the server didn't out any "silverware" in the take out bag so i asked for some. we run out she said. i stared at her. you ran out of plastic forks? how am i supposed to eat drippy coleslaw and hot mashed potatoes without a fork? she just stared. i asked for the manager. we run out he said. then why did you sell me this without warning me first? i demanded my money back and suggested some one run over to the costco next door for a bag of plastic utensils. we're not allowed said mr. manager. yikes.

                                                            1. re: boppiecat

                                                              While you inadvertantly replied to my post, you just perfectly described a developing country experience.

                                                            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                              Yes, I experienced that in Romania.

                                                              My worst experience was a Sunday brunch in New York at a really nice French brasserie-type place that I'd been to many times. They ran out of coffee! How does that happen?

                                                            3. Normally I'm not bothered by it ... though the waiters who come back, no menu in hand, to tell me they're out of something get a bit of a stare. Umm, menu please! I didn't memorize the whole thing.

                                                              That said my husband and I had a grand time once at a Ruby Tuesday. At the time they had 3-4 different variations of veggie burger on the menu. Great, options for the vegetarians. Well, they ran out and there's not much else on the menu that's vegetarian. This particular branch has a nasty salad bar - everything past its prime. (That's been my experience at all of them, maybe I have too high of standards?) Anyway we ended up sharing an appetizer ... So how hard is it to stock the freezer with frozen patties?

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: odkaty

                                                                Ruby Tuesday's has salad bar's?? huh... who knew..

                                                                1. re: odkaty

                                                                  Reminds me of the time my husband and I went into Glory Days Grill and they had no hamburgers!! Are you kidding me? Couldn't believe it. The server told us they had sent someone out to BJ's to pick some up, and he wasn't back yet!!!

                                                                2. To be honest with you..it bothers me more when grocery stores..particularly big ones..run out of things. You would think some of these stores would have been around enough to know what goes when (ie holidays)..and stock the product accordingly. A super wal mart opened around here and 3 days after opening..they had ran out of the deli ham special. How does the richest/ biggest food purveyor run out of inventory in 3 days ? It can't be lack of experience or buying power. These stores should not be caught "with their pants down".

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: rochfood

                                                                    Maybe Walmart didn't care whether they had enough deli hams, and just wanted to get you into the store.

                                                                    1. re: ricepad

                                                                      and.??..it still bothers me. I'm not interested in their motivation, just their results.

                                                                      1. re: rochfood

                                                                        And the result is that they got you into the store. What motivated them and what motivated you are two different things.

                                                                  2. After ordering ice cream for dessert one time at Les Halles in Washington, D.C., we were told that the place was "out of spoons."

                                                                    21 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

                                                                      It happens - once some servers who weren't communicating with each other well took every spoon in the restaurant to a catering. 1/3 at a time. By the time we got there to serve the dinner shift, they were all gone!

                                                                      Restaurants run out of stuff - it just happens. It shouldn't happen often, but it happens. Hopefully no one is going to have to make a trip on the BART for lobsters again though! That story had me laughing out loud.

                                                                      1. re: jnstarla

                                                                        worse are some outdoor catering mishaps i can mention. i got to be the one to explain to the mother of the bride:
                                                                        MOTB: "but we ordered 150 cream puffs, and we paid your boss last month-- how can you not have them?"
                                                                        SK: "well, there was a miscommunication, i'm sorry, but we only have these 95 cream puffs, but we brought some fresh fruit, creme fraiche, and. . ."
                                                                        MOTB (turning purple): "i saw her WRITE it in the BOOK-- what kind of miscommunication?!"
                                                                        SK: "well, you know, the kind of miscommunication that can happen between the wheels of the bakery cart and loose gravel when she was bringing them out to the catering van. . . really, these berries are quite lovely, aren't they?"

                                                                        2 morals-- #1. sh** happens, it's NEVER the end of the world; and #2. trust your service staff-- if you feel like they're trying to tell you something, they probably are.

                                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                                          I think the real moral is don't fib to your clients. I'd be much more understanding if I were told that someone fell on loose gravel than if I was given a lame "there was a miscommunication" excuse. Also, perhaps a "these berries are lovely, and we'll be giving you a partial refund" would have smoothed things over a bit.

                                                                          1. re: writergirl

                                                                            agreed, but not my job at the time (peon 1st class) to reimburse. it is part of a server's job to middleman between a kitchen and the patron, and sometimes a well-placed fib is what's called for: "we ran out of the fish special" rather than "the cook dropped your fish on the floor." telling the truth, such as "the lemon-pudding cake is not among the pastry-chef's finest achievements," or "the executive chef didn't order enough scallops for your party, so we're supposed to push the braised oxtails instead," can get you fired. my boss probably would have canned me if she had overheard me telling MOTB the truth, luckily for me she was generally drunk while she worked, affording me several years of employment and a chance to perfect my skills at making lame excuses.

                                                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                                                              The drunk part explains the "slipping on gravel!." ;-)

                                                                              1. re: writergirl

                                                                                ("unladylike" chortle) :) the sad thing is, she did make some awesome cream puffs, almost enough to excuse her other, erm, failings. . . okay not quite.

                                                                        2. re: jnstarla

                                                                          Is it not possible for somebody other than a dishwasher to wash a spoon?

                                                                          1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

                                                                            How much time do you devote at work to doing other people's jobs when you're already busy with your own?

                                                                            1. re: jnstarla

                                                                              I'm a professional; I do what needs to be done. "Out of ostrich filets" makes sense. "Out of spoons" is a set of nonsense syllables.

                                                                              1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

                                                                                I guess we will have to agree to disagree then. "Washing spoons" when I have customers asking me for drinks, hot food that needs to be delivered, orders that need to be taken, and credit cards that need to be run? Not going to happen.

                                                                                Just because you work in an office doesn't make you better than the person serving your table. What needs to be done is subjective, and if you're at one of my tables? You're getting drinks, and food, and your check before I wash any spoons.

                                                                                1. re: jnstarla

                                                                                  But if your customers ordered ice cream and there were no spoons you wouldn't wash them, or at least make sure that they got washed? I understand you wouldn't just as habit start washing dishes in your spare (ha!) time, but for something your customers need in order to eat? And Les Halles isn't the sort of place that has plastic spoons as back-ups.

                                                                                  1. re: writergirl

                                                                                    If there were any spoons, maybe for my table. I would definitely not go back to the dishwashing station and start running all of the silverware though.

                                                                                    But see my post above where the catering staff took all of our spoons - we really were out of spoons that night, as in had none in the restaurant.

                                                                                    I'm not sure what Bill the Professional would have done about that, but I'm certain he will let us know. Because he's a Professional, stuff doesn't just happen that is out of his control or that he is unable to fix. Right Bill?

                                                                                    1. re: jnstarla

                                                                                      You're misunderstanding the meaning of professionalism. I never said anything about my line of work; I could be an extremely professional paperboy for all you know. The point is, professionalism (and good service) dictates that you'll take a minute if necessary to tend to something that technically doesn't fall under your job description. You could wash and dry a spoon in the time it takes to throw up your hands and explain that you're out of spoons.

                                                                                      1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

                                                                                        "Once some servers who weren't communicating with each other well took every spoon in the restaurant to a catering. 1/3 at a time. By the time we got there to serve the dinner shift, they were all gone!"

                                                                                        While you and writergirl were correct that I would wash a couple of spoons if they were available, I would love to hear what you would do in the situation I posted and quoted above. Besides, of course, throw up your hands and explain that you're out of spoons.

                                                                                        I hate the (common but not universal) attitude on Chowhound that servers are all lazy and stupid, deserve to be treated like children or slaves, or are conspiring to cheat the customer out of some fantastic dining experience.

                                                                                        1. re: jnstarla

                                                                                          Obviously, people other than dishwashers can wash spoons--if there are spoons to be washed--but it takes time that servers often don't have. If ten of my tables have spoons (but are waiting for their food or drinks or their checks or whatever--all of which I am responsible for getting to them), and one table doesn't have spoons? Guess who waits.

                                                                                          jnstarla, it's a lost battle arguing with someone who has no restaurant experience about what it's like to work in a restaurant. The best restaurant/catering service makes it look so easy that even otherwise intelligent people think it really is easy.

                                                                                          1. re: jnstarla

                                                                                            "I hate the (common but not universal) attitude on Chowhound that servers are all lazy and stupid, deserve to be treated like children or slaves, or are conspiring to cheat the customer out of some fantastic dining experience."

                                                                                            Here, here!

                                                                                            "jnstarla, it's a lost battle arguing with someone who has no restaurant experience about what it's like to work in a restaurant. The best restaurant/catering service makes it look so easy that even otherwise intelligent people think it really is easy."

                                                                                            Here, here, again!!

                                                                                            Both well said, and quite accurate.

                                                                                          2. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

                                                                                            erm, maybe not wash, rinse sanitize the spoon though. Drying a spoon by hand is also a no-no. some things need to be done a certain way or the rest. can get shut down for code violation, which is why you have a brigade system-- the chef doesn't wash dishes, the waitress isn't prepping salads and the busboy knows that filleting the fish is not part of his job. the brigade system does break down occasionally-- though there isn't much excuse for this, and i've pitched in and done plenty of things outside of my station when absolutely required. i would never ever serve an improperly cleaned eating implement to a customer, no matter how insistent or displeased. food safety is 1st, sorry Bill.

                                                                                    2. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

                                                                                      What if all of the spoons in the restaurants are on the tables?
                                                                                      it happens, especially if management is lax about (or isn't given enough funds to) order supplies regularly.

                                                                                      sorry--that was in response to the idea that "out of spoons is a nonsense set of syllables," which it clearly isn't. I see others have already mentioned some examples of how a restaurant can run out of spoons. here's another:

                                                                                      My husband and I were just discussing a restaurant where we used to work that served brunch on Sundays. After a long Saturday night, we'd need to set the dining room for brunch, which meant adding coffee cups, saucers, teaspoons and sugar caddies to each place setting in the dining room. Most weeks, we would not have enough of one or more of the above. We'd wait for all of the dishes to be run through and end up short a few cups or spoons, etc. Usually, the next morning the manager (whose job it was to order or break out--the term for taking new items out of storage for use on the floor--these things) would yell at whoever had the station that was missing items. It was fun.

                                                                                      If everyone in the restaurant were to order coffee, then we'd run out of spoons. While the situation was somewhat absurd, it's not impossible to understand, nor is it a "nonsense set of syllables."

                                                                                      1. re: nc213

                                                                                        Thank you tokyorosa, DBrooks, soupkitten, and nc213 for backing me up, and for saying what I was too het up yesterday morning to say well. :)

                                                                                        1. re: jnstarla

                                                                                          This thread made me remember probably the WORST day I ever had as a server: midway through the lunch rush a) the hobart broke completely b) the servers' soda machine/gun broke so you had to go to the already packed bar area and harass the bartender to get/refill you cokes c) the water line broke. All three of these things happened within five minutes of each other right about 12:15 with a full restaurant and a half-hour waitlist. NIGHTMARE. And yes we ran out of dishes, clean silverware etc... I think I ended up comping every single one of my tables.

                                                                                          So as was said above there are many reasons why a restaurant can and will run out of spoons. Had I been able to fix any of the problems listed above so as to be able to give someone a spoon--trust me I would have.

                                                                              2. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

                                                                                I worked in a very busy breakfast place and, if a dishwasher called in on a Sunday morning, yes, we could, for a time, run out of coffee cups and glasses and even spoons. At that point, I'd offer to-go plastic utensils or cups, but usually people who haven't had their coffee are not usually very understanding about such things.

                                                                              3. It happens... not usually all the time so I put up with it. If the waiter tells you right away you just move on to option two and pick something else. The only time I get annoyed is when they go away with the order and come back ten or fifteen minutes later and say 'sorry, we're out of X'. By then I can't remember what was on the menu and I've forgotten what it was that I wanted to eat, and I KNOW that it's going to mess up the timing of the meal...

                                                                                1. After reading "Don't Try This At Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World's Greatest Chefs" by Kimberly Witherspoon and Andrew Friedman I have become very forgiven when it comes to mishaps at restaurants. It really made me take in consideration that sh*t happens and that somethings can't be avoided. If a restaurant runs out of something all that I want from them is forewarning, honesty, patience, and possibly a suggestion of a similar dish.

                                                                                  1. Most of the time, if a place I normally frequent runs out of stuff, I am okay with it, because I understand the situation. It's usually a special, limited run and I am later in the day.

                                                                                    At my favourite diner, I will often ask if there is any lemon cream pie today, when I get my menu. If so, I get them to put a piece aside for me. I hate seeing it go by and then finding out I just saw the last piece.

                                                                                    If I am going to a particular resto to fulfill a specific craving for a specific dish, I call and reserve the plate in advance. If it's a new place that I have never been, I don't much care if there are things 'missing' - though I expect to be informed before I start my selection process.

                                                                                    1. Usually, it seems like it is potatoes they run out of when we eat out.

                                                                                      1. I worked at the Olive Garden one summer, and we ran out of olives. Seriously. It was really embarassing.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: britterbeezer

                                                                                          LOL!!!!!! That's like the Spaghetti Factory running out of spaghetti.

                                                                                        2. Not quite in the same league as some of the restaurants mentioned in this thread, but this happened once to my husband at Taco Bell. He ordered some tacos, which shouldn't be a stretch, and was informed they were out of taco meat. So he skipped to something else on the menu, only to be told they were out of cheese. The counter person finally 'fessed up and said they were out of beans, cheese, and meat. Huh? Didn't leave much to order, so my husband said adios.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: Furgs

                                                                                            I have worked in plenty of restaurants and I know that whenever we were almost out of something, and we knew that no purveyors are coming in...someone would go to the store. My opinion is that if it's on our menu then we should have it... If it's a special...when it's gone it's gone.

                                                                                          2. There are a lot of reasons for running out of things. Sometimes going to the store is not an option.
                                                                                            We had "Mad" days when everyone ordered the same dish and we would go through the entire days stock in about two or three hours. Take pork for our Korean BBQ pork dish. The closest supplier that carried the bulk cut we used was 45 minutes away with no traffic (1 1/2 hour round trip). We sliced our own meat because no one within six hours could cut to our specification within a reasonable price. So another twenty minutes to slice. Add another hour to prepping for the marinade. So when we ran out, we were out until sometime the next day.
                                                                                            My favorite experience with running out of something was during the recent spinach scare. We of course got rid of all spinach as did all the suppliers. Our seasoned spinach was very popular with a lot of our customers, and one individual wanted it no matter what. When he was told that Spinach was out for the near future, he offered to bring us his garden grown spinach if we would just make the dish for him.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: hannaone

                                                                                              yeah the spinach scare was fun for us too. also there are supply gaps with some produce, especially organic and other specialty stuff. right now for example, can't get organic red onions for love or money. simply not available, haven't been for a few weeks. people who are used to food as endless mass-produced commodities don't necessarily get that food supply is sometimes dependent on the weather-- you have to kind of walk them through it-- "have you heard about the recent hail storms in the southern part of the state? okay, well, what do you think happened to the romaine fields down there? okay, we'll be getting what's left of the crop in about a week, until then we're subbing californian butterhead--" but a lot of people blow a gasket "how can NOBODY have romaine right now!" etc.

                                                                                              if you get one cut of meat, or a confection, from a small supplier, artisan, or farmer, and sell thru it, you can't necessarily just ask for more if they don't have any & must start their own process to get the next batch going.