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Nov 4, 2007 09:30 AM

Menu Dynamics

So boyfriend and went to a restaurant last night. He ordered one of the specials (delivered orally by our server). When the manager (owner?) came by to check how everything was, we asked how often they had this particular special. (Boyfriend realyl liked it and so if it was going be an every Saturday or every other Saturday or something we might have taken that into account in deciding when to go back.) The manager told us that they offered this special every single night. Seems it started off as an occasional special but was so popular that if costumers came in and it wasnt offered they were disappointed. So he added it to the regular menu but found that people werent ordering it nearly as much that way. So he took it off the menu and went back to offering it as a special but offering it every signle day. Seems interesting to me that it would sell out every night as a specal but the exact same dish does much worse when included in the regular menu.

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  1. A little Psychology 101 (???): Specials can be greatly enhanced by the way the server describes them. On the menu page it's in black and white (or whatever) but a good server can make you 'taste' the item in ways that the printed page can't do. If the menu is written in such a way that the item is not 'romanced' at all, that would add to the disparity. I guess, too, there's the element of specials being just that......... special. Unless you dine there very frequently you don't know they're available every day.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Midlife

      I think the (mistaken) impression that it is an "expiring option" dominates the
      spin/presentation/romancing by the waitstaff. There are plenty of times when
      I'll order something unusual ... whether it's some special in a white table cloth
      resto, or an exotic fruit drink in a asian or south american place ... because I
      think it would be hard to find again ... eventhough I suspect there is something
      I'd like more.

    2. Did the server tell the price of the special when he described it? Perhaps that was the insidious game -- patrons didn't want to pay the elevated price when the item was on the menu, but the restaurant could hide the ball when playing up the oral "special."

      1 Reply
      1. re: nosh

        I dont think she told us the price but when the bill it came it was very similarly priced to the rest of the menu.

      2. It's possible that they sell out because they only make a few each night, whereas if it was on the menu, they'd have to prep a lot more.

        2 Replies
        1. re: piccola

          C'mon, piccola. The OP wrote that when the same item was on the regular menu, it sold a lot LESS than when it was a special.

          1. re: nosh

            OK, so I read it wrong. Sue me.

        2. I don't know about other people but when I look at a menu it's "Oh, I think I'll have that" at leat ten times, so the special would have been lost in the shuffle! When a wait person tells me about a special before I even crack the menu, and the special sounds really good, I'm grateful to escape the confusion. I suspect it works that way for a few other people too.

          1. I think I understand the dynamic here because I'm guilty of it. I remember there was this restaurant that had this special that I really liked and whenever they didn't have it I'd be disappointed. One day, to my surprise, the item had moved onto the menu yet I didn't order it, instead, I opted for that day's special. I guess I'm just extremely fickle.