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Do You Ask for the Price of Restaurant Specials?

A thread in the Outer Boroughs prompted me to ask this question. I know I always do, with no hesitation or embarrassment. But others do feel embarrased or, as one poster pointed out, even ashamed to do so. I think it's kind of shameful that restaurants don't automatically tell you how much the specials are in the first place. Here is my partial response:

"Why the shame? You are paying not only for the food, but also contributing to the staff's salary, health benefits (if they get), the restaurant's overhead, etc. I understand all the reasons cited for people not wanting to ask how much something costs--many of my friends are like that, and then they nearly fall out of their chair when the check comes--but this is a case of be careful what you don't ask for.

I have friends who make six-figure salaries who can well afford to indugle every day, and they always ask for the price of the specials. There is no shame in asking. The shame is all self-perceived. What's more "shameful" is to get a not-so-nice surprise when the bill comes that could have been totally avoided."

I'm really interested to hear what my fellow CHs have to say about this, including those of you who work in the restaurant industry. Do you flinch when patrons ask for the price of specials?

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  1. If the server does not vounteer the price of the specials I will ask. It beats getting a surpise on the check at the end of the meal. I dont feel any shame in asking, I think it is being a smart diner.

    1 Reply
    1. re: swsidejim

      Of course it is! If you were buying a suit, and your sales person added a shirt and tie for yu, wouldn't you ask how much?

    2. I am interested in hearing the replies. A lot of restaurants will give the price up front, but if not, I will ask. Years ago, I worked in International Sales, and did a lot of entertaining of clients from Europe and Asia. When I took them out to eat, the European clients, without exception, always thought it odd when the server told the price of the specials. They told me that would not happen in their country ( clients were mostly from Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, or the UK). I had never noticed before they mentioned it, that the prices were not recited when I visited their countries. But it was true! Wonder if it is still the same- this was in the 80's.

      1. If the special appeals to me I will ask the price. Only took one time of being charged about 1/3 more for a special than the most expensive entree on the menu for me to develop that habit. But I am ususally the one in the party that will ask for details on how menu items are prepared or seasoned. The server is there to guide and serve me. I feel no shame for asking.

        1 Reply
        1. re: AreBe

          it depends on who is paying. if you are being taken out to dinner then I think it would be rude to ask the server. If the person paying could afford it (a business dinner maybe or someone you know has the money) then I guess it would be ok to order a special, but if you know they can't afford it or it's a date or whatever then I wouldnt dream of ordering a special.

          If it's just you and your SO then I don't see any reason not to ask the prices.

        2. I hope the servers won't flinch if I ask the price of a special. I'd say it depends upon so many situations. Some specials are not more than the regular dishes on the menu, and I'd be happy to find that out. Some places actually mention the price. Some have more elaborate specials that are more costly than the rest of the menu. I would agree if someone else is paying it would be odd for the person ordering OR the person paying to ask, actually, if the price wasn't volunteered. Either one would seem awkward in that case.

          I actually asked a server for a wine (by the glass) recommendation once (I'm not much of a wine drinker, but it's a really wine-oriented restaurant and I wanted to try something, and SO and I wouldn't go through a whole bottle). Must've been a bit of a crazy moment for her, but she did come up with something. And I did ask her how much at that point, which felt maybe a little weird. Hopefully she wasn't insulted by that. I wanted to make sure I wasn't being recommended a crazy expensive glass just because I asked, as the chances I would enjoy the difference seem slim. Clearly she realized this as well when making the recommendation, but it's good to confirm rather than be surprised when the bill comes. :-)