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Apr 29, 2008 05:35 PM

Server Pet Peeves?

Here's my most recent pet peeve. When I go out to eat, I almost always have leftovers. Portion sizes are huge these days, even at my favorite upscale restaurants, and the way CG and I eat, I'd rather taste from several different dishes and take home leftovers than only be able to eat two dishes between us and finish the plates.

The last several times, when the server has boxed up my food, they have not boxed up the entire plate. They leave the delicious sauce, put in only half the eggroll, whatever. It's getting to the point that I am going to return to boxing up my own food-- which I know would make my grandmother very proud, since she has it in her mind that once the food leaves your sight, all manner of horror could befall it.

Why is this? What are your experiences?

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  1. I always order more than we can eat at ethnic type places, to get the variety, but I've never had that problem - I always consolidate what I want to take home into a couple of plates and ask them to pack it. Maybe some of the stuff is considered garnish? If the sauce is on the side it's rarely packed with the food unless you ask for it. If there's a lot of stuff it's probably easier to ask for boxes to pack it yourself, I've done that too but not often.

    1. I just ask for a To Go container and do it myself -- I don't like my food going out of my sight after I've started eating it. No telling if what you get back is what you were eating.

      8 Replies
      1. re: podunkboy

        Are you serious? What, exactly do you think is going to happen to it? Why on earth do you think the server would not give you back your food?

        1. re: hilltowner

          That's exactly what I initially said to my grandmother, but since the sauce debacle (intentional hyperbole, of course, for poetic license and dranatic effect) I am beginning to rethink.

          1. re: hilltowner

            in response to the "what do you think is going to happen to it?"

            once,back in the early post-university days, we ordered take out from a place that had stuff from pizza, to chicken to fish and chips. We ordered a pizza i think, and maybe a small fries for whatever reason. We got the order, as well as a small plate with some fries and a piece of fish.

            Relishing in our good fortune, we ate some of it before we got the dreaded phone call from the take out..........we had been given someone's doggy bag instead of our fries.........

            1. re: hilltowner

              There have been numerous occasions when a guest's food that was supposed to be boxed up to go wound up in the garbage can. I now have servers bring the container to the table so that there are no mistakes/mix ups with whose food gets returned to whom. Also (and unfortunately) if a patron has been rude, made sexual remarks, etc. to a server, you might be shocked as to what happens to the to go portion.

              1. re: oystershell

                oyster shell, you wrote: "you might be shocked as to what happens to the to go portion."

                shock the monkey!

                  1. re: oystershell

                    please tell us what the servers do to the "to-go" portion of those who have "misbehaved" toward the server.

                    1. re: alkapal

                      I've seen (with my own eyes) things come out of the trash if thrown away by accident, especially if the customer was jerky. Not sayin' it's right...

          2. My pet peeve is when you ask a server how the special of the day, soup, whatever is and they say "I don't know". Makes me crazy especially if it is a decent restaurant. My husband who has been in food service forever says that the servers should always (and owners/managers should encourage it) come in on shift and taste the special of the day, soup, and anything new on the menu so they have an idea. I don't even have a problem if they say "I don't like ______but my fellow staff has had it and says it is _________".

            Ok, that is my peeve!

            16 Replies
            1. re: jodymaryk

              I agree, but (as an former server) I have worked at places where management was too cheap to allow that. Sort of penny wise, pound foolish - but it happens. You feel like an ass not being able to answer that one! "I have not had the chance to try the "xyz", but the chef specializes in sauces from Brittany..." Tried to give what info I had with as positive of a spin as I could - but I won 't lie!

              1. re: meatn3

                I agree with you, jody-- and as for the places where they won't allow the servers to taste? I won't patronize them again. There is a nice restaurant on the way to Duluth where that happened on our mini-moon, and it really left a bad taste in our mouths. Pun intended. Appreciate the not lying-- really.

                1. re: cheeseguysgirl

                  Many small independent restaurants simply can't afford to though, especially in the winter when it is slow.

                  Let's say for example that the chef orders 15 pounds of halibut for $120(usually this is a minimum order if you don't have a local fresh fish market). It is delivered on friday and butchered, yeilding 28 orders, that is $4.29 per piece. In Minneapolis a typical restaurant will multiply that by 5 and sell it for $22 an order or so. It might not sell out until Tuesday and often you have different servers each day. If you make one for the servers to try 5 days in a row suddenly it is $5.22 per piece and you have to sell it for $26 to make your margin. That is only a $4 difference but it is huge in the psychology of selling; maybe not to foodies but to the other 99% of your customers. If it is the difference between $19 and $23 per order it looms even larger. People are very price sensitive these days and many small independent restaurants are really in dire circumstances.

                  Right now my wholesale reps tell me that most of their accounts are past due. A lot of restaurants are about to go away. A lot of people who own small restaurants are about to lose their houses, cars, etc. That is where these decisions come from.

                  The other factor is that often restaurants are in a desperate mad scramble to get ready for dinner service. This is especially true in states like Minnesota where servers make the full minimum wage (restaurants have to compensate by cutting kitchen labor). If it is 6 pm on a Saturday night and you still have prep to do and are cooking orders working at a dead run it is not always easy to make a sample plate for the staff.

                  My personal preference would be to make sure everyone on the staff tries everything but it is not always possible, and the decision usually isn't driven by greed.

                  1. re: Somnifor

                    What a great response. I understand about the math, and I thank you for taking the time to calculate it out and reply. The other reason wouldn't apply in this case since the restaurant was empty, and it was a policy to charge the staff the same price for the food as the customers (and the staff just couldn't afford to pay it).

                    1. re: cheeseguysgirl

                      I realize there are always exceptions to the rule and cost reasons why owners/managers don't want to put out food for servers to taste. My husband has waited tables and managed places where they put out one plate of the specials as servers come on for the dinner shift and keep it under the heat lamp so servers can stop and see it and taste it. Most dinner shift people come on at the same time so this usually doesn't sit out long. I realize that smaller places may have a harder time doing this because of overhead but your higher end places that have been in business for a while should be able to afford it. I just like knowledgeable servers that know what they are serving. A lot of times I depend on my server to make my choice when I can't decide and have found IMHO most good servers won't steer you wrong on the menu items. I have really great luck asking them what I should go with and have ended up with some wonderful things that I probably wouldn't have chosen myself. Although I am a 20% plus tipper anyway, this usually ends up being even higher as I appreciate their honest opinion and help.

                    2. re: Somnifor

                      "This is especially true in states like Minnesota where servers make the full minimum wage (restaurants have to compensate by cutting kitchen labor)."

                      I'm sorry, but in no way does paying servers a legal wage validate a restaurant's inability to allow its servers to try the product. I understand that halibut is expensive (and that is a hyperbolic example), but I refuse to allow any negative to come from servers actually getting paid by their employer.

                      1. re: miss_bennet

                        The last time they raised the minimum wage in Minnesota I was instructed by my employer to cut hours from the kitchen schedule to make up for the fact that front of the house labor was going up (front of the house cut some hours too).

                        This made things more chaotic in the kitchen which in turn made it harder to find time to make sample plates.

                        1. re: Somnifor

                          Paying employees is part of the cost of running a business. Period. If I heard that as an excuse from a waiter as to why they were not familiar with the product, I would likely not return.

                          1. re: miss_bennet

                            lol! i think every server has gotten the $0.18 paycheck. it is one of the great american ironies that restaurants *employ* waitstaff, but the servers *work* for the customers, who are the ones who *pay* them. the restaurants pay uncle sam the servers' taxes.

                            restaurants are not required to feed employees, although most of them do. i doubt the expensive halibut will be served for employee meal, though. an employee's getting paid, and getting a free $26 main at the beginning of her/his shift-- these are two different things.

                            oftentimes there really are too few portions of a special or a very costly comestible to be passing it out to the waitstaff. a server should be able to describe a dish adequately without describing their own tasting of it. same as if a vegetarian server was asked to describe a meat braise. . .

                            1. re: soupkitten

                              The other factor is that the last couple of pieces of a special are the most profitable ones. If you get 28 orders you usually cost it out at maybe 25 pieces because you can't really run 2 or 3 orders of a special if you are left with them at the end of a day. So if you cost it out at 25 pieces but can actually sell all 28 the last 3 are mostly profit. You keep your job as a chef by selling the last 3 pieces of everything that comes into your kitchen. They pay for the waste, they pay for the cool little extras that you really can't afford but still buy - the things that give your restaurant it's je ne sais quois. They are 75 extra dollars. 75 extra free dollars on a bi-weekly basis goes a long way in a small restaurant, it will help pay for a produce order or is the difference between organic and conventional. If you give it away to the staff you don't make your numbers and either go out of business or get fired.

                              A good server knows what halibut tastes like, they know what the pickled ramps on top of it taste like, they know what the starch and vegetable under it tastes like. If they can't triangulate and sell the dish without actually tasting it then they shouldn't be waiting tables in your restaurant.

                        2. re: miss_bennet

                          Maybe you're misreading; most states (rightfully) allow restaurants to take tips into account (on tips alone, waiters are generally among the top paid employees in a restaurant).

                          In other words, in most states, for example, tipped staff make $2/hour + tips; if a waiter makes less than the legal minimum wage (say $7/hour) for a shift, the restaurant has to bump it up to the legal minimum. Having to pay actual (untipped) minimum wage + tips adds significant pressure to reduce labor hours.

                          1. re: xanadude

                            I am not misreading. I just don't understand how it is legal for a business to not pay employees.

                      2. re: cheeseguysgirl

                        Any good chef/manager should make it mandetory that all servers taste the dishes, to be served that night. I feel the same about wine pairings from the "list." If they do not know, how can they help the diner? The staff is our only tie, unless we dine there all of the time.


                    3. re: jodymaryk

                      I agree, a server should know know the soups, and the specials, otherwise they are not doing thei job correctly, and will be tipped accordingly.

                      1. re: jodymaryk

                        reminds me of a story of some friends who went to a country restaurant and were looking at the menu when the waitress came to take their order. They asked what the soup de jour was and she said she didn't know and ran back to ask the chef.

                        With great applombe (sorry sp?) she ran back to their table and said
                        said "it's soup of the day".

                        1. re: smartie

                          That is hilarious and tragic at the same time!

                      2. I've got a couple of REALLY BIG pet peeves. The first is when the server rattles off the specials and doesn't tell you the prices. I'm not embarrassed to ask, and I almost always do, but my thinking is, specials are no different from menu items; I want to know how much I'm going to be charged WITHOUT having to ask, whether it's an appetizer, an entree or a dessert, on the printed menu, or off.

                        The second pet peeve is an offshoot of the first: I want to see the specials in writing, even if that means having to add a page to the menu on a daily basis. I want to be able to ponder specials, their sauces, their special ingredients, etc. in the same way as I ponder the rest of the menu's printed offerings. I don't want to have to ask the server to describe, for the umpteenth time, the nuances of each of the specials. I know it's adding an extra bit of work to have it all written out, but it would be so much easier for customers.

                        My last pet peeve -- and this is a BIG one that occurs primarily in the less expensive restaurants -- is servers who stack plates in front of me (or any other guest) as they clear the table. I HATE that. What's worse is when a server scrapes left over food from one plate into another in front of me. Now, I'll admit, I've never worked in a restaurant, but I've got to believe that any server who's ever had any kind of server training has been taught to never, never, never stack dishes in front of a customer. It's rude and disgusting. And I don't think it's too much to ask, even in the local pizza shop, for a server to not do that.

                        Not so long ago, I was in a local Mexican restaurant -- a place I go to quite often. Now granted, some of the folks who clear tables are not all that fluent in English. The young woman who was clearing our table was on her way back to the kitchen with dishes she had just cleared from a nearby table. She stopped at our table, set all of the dirty dishes from that table down in front of me, and proceeded to empty the dishes from our table into the top plate of the stack. I asked her very politely to please move the dishes away from me. She smiled sweetly at me and said, "Yes... yes" and continued dumping food onto the top plate. I said, "No, no" and pushed the stack of dishes away from under my nose. She looked at me like I had just landed from the moon of another planet.

                        Now, this might be an exaggerated example, but I'd like to hear from servers in particular -- were you ever specifically taught to NOT stack plates on front of customers? And, if not, do you see anything wrong with stacking dishes at the table?

                        33 Replies
                        1. re: CindyJ

                          In higher end places, servers are taught not to stack and make multiple trips if necessary. In low to mid range spots, servers are taught to clear tables as quickly as possible - which means stacking.

                          1. re: mojoeater

                            I've seen stacking done successfully on a server's arm, off the table. If they have to carry the dishes away anyway, they might as well clear them properly. I'd hate to think that stacking dishes on the table is a "given" in less expensive restaurants, and, in fact, my experience has shown otherwise.

                            1. re: mojoeater

                              I work at a higher end restaurant. We can stack on our arms/and in our hands, but not on the table, and certainly not at the guest's place setting. We don't use trays or bins, just us.

                            2. re: CindyJ

                              Agree with both of your comments about specials. Write them up and put on the prices. However, I don't think it should be that much of a problem to do it on a computer.

                              1. re: CindyJ

                                Although it is nice to know the prices of specials, most higher end restaurants prefer employess not to mention a "number" when reciting them. This is done because it distracts from the actual food/sauce/quality...etc...and it doesn't flow with the description. If a customer is concerned with cost, then by all means, ask the prices. Servers should never be offended and willing to answer ANY question. Additionally, stating prices sounds very "chain/corporate/kitschy restaurant"-ish.

                                1. re: cocktailqueen77

                                  I guess you could also make the argument that some customers might feel embarrassed or uncomfortable asking for the price, and that it should therefore be mentioned with the description. I don't think mentioning the price of a $30 entree sounds "chain/corporate/kitschy restaurant-ish" at all. And it helps to avoid unpleasant surprises when the bill comes -- like when the special entree is priced higher than most others on the menu. And, the truth is, the cost DOES matter to most of us who are not on expense accounts.

                                  1. re: CindyJ

                                    I never said that cost DOESN'T matter. Just that it is, occasionally, a policy that restaurants do not want servers to state prices. It is not because they want the bill to be a surprise, but for the reasons stated above.

                                    As a server, I have no problem answering questions regarding price, and handle it professionally (as should all servers, price should never be looked upon as a negative). As a customer, I have no issue asking how much something is.

                                    I suppose there will be no conclusion to this topic anyway, since there is too much opposition from a customer/server/policy standpoint.

                                  2. re: cocktailqueen77

                                    jfood does agree that stating the price does ruin the flow. he also believes that the customer should NOT have to ask the price of any dish, whether special or ordinary.

                                    It is so simple to write or print the specials and leave with the table. Jfood just does not buy-in to all the excuses that restos use for why they do not leave the specials with the customers other than to pull a gotcha at the end.

                                    Now jfood is not accusing anyone, but come on how hard is it to print or hand write (remember that is with a pen and pencil) the specials on a piece of paper.

                                    1. re: jfood

                                      agreed, in order to evaluate my options, I have to see it in writing or I get confused and just order off the regular menu, price regardless, so the restaurant doesn't get to move its special with me. sale lost due to my cluttered and visually oriented brain.

                                      in this day and age of relatively cheap printers, it's just silly.

                                      1. re: hill food

                                        Aaah, thank you. I too am visually oriented, and a server would have to repeat each special a couple of times before I could really make a good choice. If it's written it's a cinch. Often I will get caught up in one word, be it "mushroom" or "cream" or whatever, and I miss the rest of the description. So, so simple to print it out so I have a visual aid. If it's not written, complete with price, I'm not ordering it. Sorry resto...

                                  3. re: CindyJ

                                    As someone who's been a server at several different establishments, I can say that I was never specifically instructed to stack or NOT stack plates when clearing off a table. Common sense, however, dictates that I will definitely not be placing half-eaten food from one table on or near any other table.

                                    As for pricing on specials, I was instructed at one place to avoid mentioning them, as the guest might interpret a mention of price as an insinuation that they cannot affford it. Although I personally would never take it that way, I can attest from several pretty bizarre experiences that even something that harmless can be taken the wrong way if said to the wrong person.

                                    1. re: Al_Pal

                                      So, does the fact that the menu has prices insinuate that the guest can't afford it?

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        Personally I think the prices of specials should be mentioned only if they're way more expensive than items on the regular menu.

                                        1. re: Buckethead

                                          The specials should be written down, with prices and handed to each person along with the regular menu. That way you know the price and you can actually remember (see) what is in them as you make your choice(s).

                                          1. re: Servorg

                                            Exactly. printers are cheap, no reason not to print the specials with prices.

                                            1. re: rednyellow

                                              Good point. Black ink and bond paper are cheap, and if a restaurant can't afford them...they shouldn't be in the business.

                                              1. re: rednyellow

                                                lots of things are cheap. the reason specials are often not printed has everything to do with the staffing and operation of the restaurant and preparation of the food--and nothing to do with how cheap printers and ink are. specials really are often *special*, and they are changed and added to right up to the opening hour of service, and it does not make sense for chefs to be running off of their station while customers are waiting for their food, to put coherent descriptions together on paper. it is the server's job to adequately describe a dish and give the price if the customer requests it. you might as well expect your surgeon to walk off and print the invoice for your appendectomy five minutes before
                                                s/he makes the first incision.

                                                chain restaurant menus are available for people who need everything in black and white, and who want to eat "fake" specials that are created and costed out to the penny by corporate marketing staff months before they are featured on a menu. folks who want real "specials" created from the day's fresh market produce, fish, etc. should realize that the verbal transmission of the day's specials *does* indicate that they are indeed fresh, transient and *special*. let the cooks cook for eff's sake, it's what they're good at. there is so much paperwork in a restaurant nowadays that many executive chefs don't even get into the kitchen anymore, and the same customers who piss and moan about "so-and-so doesn't even cook anymore" are the ones demanding that someone sit on their butt in the cook's office and take fifteen minutes to write a special menu for what turns out to be less than twenty portions of freaking food that s/he could have cooked in that amount of time. you expect little weensy mom & pops to have the full-time marketing staff of corporate chain restaurants and at the same time the roof needs to get fixed the fridge needs to get cleaned and i'm just going to go ahead and stop because i could go on but guess what i don't have time!!!

                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                  >>specials really are often *special*, and they are changed and added to right up to the opening hour of service,

                                                  a. use a pencil with an eraser until specials are finalized.

                                                  b. before doors are opened, use magic marker to write down the name of the dish and the price.

                                                  c. run off on printer. I've seen hostesses just sitting there chatting, surely they can handle a printer?

                                                  d. have the servers explain the dish in detail.

                                                  1. re: dolores

                                                    or, just listen, ask if something isn't clear, and move on to more important concerns

                                                    1. re: thew

                                                      Either way could be used.

                                                      I like it better my way.

                                                      "important" is relative.

                                                      1. re: thew

                                                        I have enough trouble hearing my dining companion at many of today's restaurants. Listening to and understanding as a list of dishes and their ingredients is rapidly recited is just about impossible many times.

                                                    2. re: soupkitten

                                                      Re the dreaded specials recitation: They are ignoring the scientifically proven fact that a great many people can only absorb new information by reading it. Hearing it will result in little to no retention. Restos that refuse to give them in writing will preclude selling them to a significant percentage of customers.

                                                      1. re: Leonardo

                                                        And think how the poster on another thread could have been spared paying $39. for a tiny bit of King Crab if the special 'special' had been written down!

                                                      2. re: soupkitten


                                                        With all due respect the restaurant really owes it to itself and the customer to adequately describe the special in such a manner as these "special" dishes will sell. If the chef has spent time in getting this newly created dish perfect, then why blow the chance to sell it by not adequately spreading the news.

                                                        For example, jfood is deaf in one ear and obviously has his good ear facing in so he can hear the conversation and participate. Therefore his deaf ear is to the server. Although he goes through the 90-degree turn and his hand cupped behind the ear he probably gets about 30-45% of the information the server is trying to convey. Add to that the various accents in ethnic restaurants and that number plummets. And frankly 90% of the time after the server leaves after describing the specials, the conversation at the table is "does anyone remember the specials?" And that's from people with 2 good ears.

                                                        So it is sorta self-defeating in taking all the time and effort to develop these "specials" only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory to leave the conversion in the hands and ears of the server and the customer. Add to that the potential of "well the server did not tell me that the stuffed flounder had mushrooms in it" and you could get into the he said-she said scenario when the dish is served.

                                                        There are so many downsides to not handing the table even a hand written descriptions of the specials that jfood just does understand why such a simple task creates such angst. The heck with printers and inks and all that other stuff. Assign each server the chore of writing copies for their section. It just can;t be that hard compared to the other items that go into making a good service.

                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                          J, as always, a great point. I think maybe its time for everyone to start asking the same questions over and over, from everyone at the table,over and over and over and then maybe, just maybe, specials will start being printed.

                                                          1. re: rednyellow

                                                            that would be fine. it is the server's job to explain-- verbally-- the specials. part of their job to actually speak to the customer and explain any and all questions regarding any menu item including specials, in as much detail as the customer would wish-- some customers like the "verbal skim"-- good to know that there's truffles on the menu, but they want a steak, or a sandwich, off of the regular menu, not a frou-frou special that costs three whole dollars more anyway. some customers are very interested in the specials. they tend to be the real foodies/chowhounds/whatever, or have some sort of special interest in the food, but the percentage of customers who order the specials is in most cases less than 10%. sometimes an even smaller number. the restaurant in many cases is running a limited special (think a paltry number of servings-- 6 or 8 or 12 *total*) for a variety of reasons related to running the restaurant, and the *function* of the specials is not commonly understood by the average customer. the *function* of the specials is in many/most cases actually *not* to make a bunch of money for the restaurant. that's the regular menu's job. the specials are all about *not losing money.* in most cases they don't *want* to sell more specials than regular menu items-- that would screw things up. they *do* want to sell the special item to the customers who would be most interested in it-- and chances are these are the same customers who bothered to get off the cellphone when the server recited the specials and listen.

                                                            unfortunately the marketing savvy that Leonardo and Jfood exhibit in their posts above don't transfer when you realize you're dealing with six portions of a special as opposed to 50 portions of a regular menu item. you could spend twenty minutes writing, spellchecking and formatting a mouthwatering description of the special that would make twenty two customers instead of six order it, but you've got merely six portions, and now you've also got sixteen disappointed customers--when you do it that way (the wrong way, arguably, here we go again); you've also wasted twenty minutes of a cook's time doing that at five thirty, when s/he should've been cooking, so you've got sixteen *hungry,* impatient, disappointed customers. :(

                                                            conversely when the servers recite the specials, the customers who will most appreciate the special food have a better chance at getting it. most customers are the burger and chicken folks, regular diners, table 5 has a food-obsessed chowhound whose ears perk up when the server says "hand-foraged local ramps"--omg! gotta have the special! s/he pays attention, s/he gets the gold nugget. same concept as paying attention during lecture class, church sermon, business meeting, what have you.

                                                            it's been established on these boards that chefs are morons, but doing the physical work of cooking for a living leads to a pragmatic outlook, and chefs fail at the big picture when they get bogged down in minutiae like using valuable cooking time to type up specials menus. after all, they have already obsessively and exactingly penned (developed, sourced, costed) out the regular menu to appeal to the broad base of their diners, and that's *not* whom the specials are aimed at-- the specials are generally aimed at diners with special food knowledge that is above average. call it the 95th percentile of food i.q. and up. you can write pulitzer-prize winning prose about the deliciousness of guinea hens all night in the chef's office, but it's not gonna help you sell it to 95% of your customers because it's unfamiliar, it's risky, it's outside of their comfort zone. but you *want* to cook them, so you order four young hens from farmer sue since she's bringing in the lamb for the regular menu anyway and run a guinea hen special, hoping to sell 7/8 portions, make 7 customers happy, and have one portion for the staff to eat and comment on, and hopefully not lose money on the deal, and dang, if you do, it was just four hens. see-- that's a typical, moron chef's pragmatism at work. the guinea hen special is super cool but it's not paying the rent. that's not what it's for. it's also not for the average customer, and i'm sorry if i'm letting it somehow out of the bag by saying that. specials are for the other chefs who are visiting. food critics always order the special. very food-savvy customers will take a chance on a special. we give every customer the option to choose a special, fully counting on 95% of them *not* to order it. maybe you're trying out a new sauce in advance of the new fall menu, you were able to get a great price on fish that's normally above your price point, you scored a very small amount of unusual game meat, you have a few portions of succulent braise left-over from the special event that got rained out at the end that's even better today. run a special-- the customers who are paying attention will be all over it. pragmatism.

                                                            now it's the servers' job to sell the specials. i notice as a diner that a lot of servers will skim over the specials (understandable, since most diners aren't interested/paying attention), and since i am always interested in the specials, i try to cue the server to my interest, often by glancing at the menu, then at the server, and saying something like "i am interested in your specials today," and since servers get brownie points for selling specials, and are often enthusiastic about the specials themselves, the server generally readjusts to: oh, here we have one of the 5%! and excitedly goes over the specials, answering any questions i might have. it's often a delightful human interaction, one that most diners miss out on. in practical, time effective terms, i think one of the nicest things a server can do to sell a few more specials and avoid the whole "whether to state the price verbally or not" issue is to describe the specials, verbally, and drop a handwritten card that notes only the basic special and the price: guinea hen, $19, pork-belly braise $15, soba/ramps/chanterelles $14. i think that's as close to spoon-feeding as customers can expect on this issue. but it's no more the chef's job to write descriptions of daily specials than it is to fold napkins, sorry.

                                                            1. re: soupkitten


                                                              There is no "marketing savvy" in selling 6 portion nor does jfood think chefs are morons. And no one insists that it's the chef who takes pen in hand to write. But at the end of the day SOMEONE has to take a piece of paper or a small chalkboard or an index card in one paw, and a pen, pencil or marker in the other and stand with the chef and write the menu and prices for the customers to read. And when you run out of one because the chef only bought 8 hens, you take the pen or marker and cross it off the hand written special lists.

                                                              If you are saying that noone, including the servers have the time to do this small task then how the heck do they have time to stand at a 4-top and describe each one in detail, answer all the question and enter the perpetual do-loop.

                                                              Jfood is sorry but there is absolutely no excuse for this simple task of customer service. You and he may agree to disagree on this one.

                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                Jfood, i do respect your opinion, but who is this SOMEONE you speak of? restaurants have cooks, servers, dishwashers, but by and large they do not have full-time secretarial staff making $20/hour writing menu descriptions, and if they did, we'd all pay a lot more for every single menu item. i am a full-time chef who also has a bfa in writing (english language) but i can tell you i am really, seriously, in the minority. there is a long thread currently running about menu bloopers which pokes fun of the average menu-writing abilities of restaurant staff. i can laugh, too--but really, should i be adding "ability to write english-language descriptive menu blurb" to every job description? "sorry you may not wash our dishes, you can't even diagram a sentence correctly?" in any event, it makes no economic sense, and is wasteful, to spend excess personnel-hours on a non-moneymaking item that is aimed at a very small percentage of customers. it would make more sense to do away with specials entirely, which is even more wasteful, would raise menu prices higher yet, and would also be a huge loss for the small group of diners who are fans of specials and who actively pursue them.

                                                                specials are offered to every customer (like the louis viii cognac displayed behind the bar), and few folks are interested/buying said item, for a variety of reasons. printing a drink menu stating that a shot of louis viii costs $120, and dropping it off at each table, will not increase the sales of the item. customers who prefer this liquor will order it whether it is on a menu or not, the vast majority will say thanks but no thanks. some customers will no doubt be offended by the menu: "omg they have a liquor that costs $120, that's ridiculous, what hosers, why would they print that on a menu and shove it in our face." unfortunately, many specials menus feature items that may also offend the sensibilities of the average customer: "omg blood sausage? BLOOD sausage?" "omg bunnies? people eat little bunnies?" "ostrich/yak/octopus/stinky tofu?" "wow home-cured 3 year old ham for $13/2 oz? guess they don't know oscar meyer's is on sale at price chopper, that's ridiculous, what hosers, why would they print that on a menu and shove it in our face?!" pitching a menu item toward the correct customer demographic *is* the most basic customer service. pitching an inappropriate item to a customer is the opposite, and can be needlessly insulting to that customer. verbal specials menus give the power to both types of customers-- the savvy customer can question the server about the specials menu which interests her/him; the average customer can cut to the chase and place her/his regular menu order, skipping the hoity-toity weird specials menu, which may make her/him uncomfortable, entirely.

                                                                the specials are where a chef can show a little unscripted originality and play around with unusual/local ingredients, recipe development, etc. a crew that cranks out a lot of burgers and roasted chickens can have a little fun on the specials menu, and i would argue that they deserve to test and improve their chops through the experimentation and unscripted nature of specials. like a commercial photographer who likes to spend two hours a week taking art photos, the weekend specials menu hones different skills, keeps you out of a rut, keeps you from going nuts. for that reason i feel strongly that specials are valuable, they are personal, they are a chef's territory. if customers want something scripted there is the carefully honed regular menu. the specials are like a chef's "sketchbook." specials are for the connoisseurs, the fans, the obsessives, the weirdos. scripting the specials inherently destroys the spontaneity and fun of the whole thing. the chef no longer picks up the nettles at the farmer's market, because doing so, s/he'd have to come up with a new menu tag. instead the crew will recycle an old special which is already written up. everything is a bit more last-year, a bit less innovative, a bit more stale. i'd rather try and focus on a server's shpiel for 20 seconds than cramp a chef's style. i despise the chain restaurants' fake "specials," and i think that spontaneous, true daily specials are rare and should be celebrated rather than constrained in excess verbiage. it appears i am in the minority, that's okay.

                                                                the verbal recitation of menu items has been very common for hundreds of years in every type of eating establishment. it is/was established restaurant tradition, and happens to be one of the finer points of service which i very much appreciate when it's done well by a server-- also, increasingly, it's done very poorly, which may be part of why customers would rather have a printed specials menu, or perhaps we should just text the specials to a terminal placed at each table. traditionally (increasingly obsolete), your server would approach the table and state the soup of the day, the fish of the day, the special(s), before taking the table's orders. i thought it was nice. i also liked having chairs pulled out for me, wine presentations, having crumbs swept off of the tablecloth between courses. times change.

                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                  OK right foot eases off the gas, left foot pushes in the clutch, bring the shift into the middle and then left and down into second gear; ease off the clutch and slow the train down.

                                                                  jfood is not advocating a separate person to write the menu, but if the server can pick up a pen and a piece of paper then the chef can dictate what s/he wants it to say. and to the other thread jfood finds most of those posts a dispicable display of self-righteous importance.

                                                                  Jfood is not asking for a recipe-like description, but how about "sauteed rabbit with root vegetables - $26" or "Penne with shrimp in garlic oil - $22". Don't exactly need a PhD in the Classics to write that on an index card. Then the customer can ask the server when s/he sees the card as a memory jogger. But sometimes, physical limitations do not allow people to hear the server (i.e. jfood's deafness).

                                                                  C'meon Souppy, with all the talent and persuasion powers you have, jfood is sure you can sweet talk one of your staff to write a couple of index cards for those over-demanding customers that want to taste those brilliant one-off dishes.

                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                    Jfood: ditto & thank you. We were not exhibiting any "marketing savvy", simply a little common sense and life experience.

                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                      I almost always agree with soupkitten as well... I think it is because we have both been on either side of table service. Unless you have walked a mile in a waiters shoes, you cannot judge. We have walked a marathon. :)

                                            2. I have to say it really bothers me when low end places start cleaning the floors while the restaurant is still's great that they're clean...but i don't want the superstrong bleach smell invading my nose as i eat.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: im_nomad

                                                or spraying chlorine solution on nearby tables.

                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                  Lobby your local health department. Surfaces are required to be cleaned with sterilizing agents for your safety.

                                                  1. re: hannaone

                                                    the spray mist goes everywhere! there are better ways to clean that don't drift beyond the cleaned table -- e.g., a paper towel with infusion of cleaner.