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Jun 26, 2010 02:23 PM

Restaurants Running Out of Food

Has anyone been to a restaurant and found out they had run out of an item you really wanted before you got there? Do you ever encounter restaurants that close early because they sell out? Is this more prevalent in certain types of restaurants or parts of the country?

Bigray in Ok

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  1. It's happened to me, usually with daily specials. I don't get too upset over it, but I do make a mental note to get there earlier if I really wanted the special. I know a lot of BBQ restaurants that close when the meat is gone, so you have to get there early. And when I was an itamae, we ran out of some items pretty much every night, but that's how you knew we had fresh stuff regularly.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ricepad

      We went to McCormick and Schmick's some years ago specifically for their Lobster Dinner (it was a special). They had run out, but since we had our hearts set on it, they asked us if we wanted to wait while someone made a special run to get more!!! It was worth it to us, we appreciated that they went the "extra mile", and it was one of the best lobster dinners we've ever had.

    2. Been to restaurants where this has happened, and I've also worked at restaurants where this happens.

      We often run out of our daily special, if it's a good one and servers are romancing it properly, sometimes it will go 2 hours into dinner service. We only prep so much and rather than trying to make more when we run out (which would screw up service, taking someone off the line), we just 86 it. No biggie. An email is sent out which would pop up on the pos screen for servers to read so they find out about it right away.

      When we run out of other things it;s usually just a case of having a rather bizzare run on something, like maybe over 2 days, we sell way more oysters than normal, so we are out for half a night. It's wierd, but sometimes some menu items are just strangely popular, in a way that we can't anticipate. We don't want to have way too much of any item on hand at any given time, cause that would result in more spoilage and higher food costs, which is bad for the bottom line.

      If it happens a lot at a restaurant that you frequent though, it could indicate whoever is ordering food isn't doing a good job with estimates.

      1. Happens sometimes with sushi restaurants, which is totally understandable. In fact, restaurants that offer fresh seafood generally speaking have more of this kind of problem than others, like a hamburger place or a pizza restaurant.

        Phenomenon is also keen to bakeries, for obvious reasons.

        3 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit

          Actually Ipsedixit - I remember when a local burger joint did just that. Ran out of hamburgers during the lunch rush. Patrons were left with the options of sides, grilled chicken sandwiches or fried fish. I thot it was quite funny at the time.

          1. re: JerryMe

            That happened to me at a Burger King, of all places- they ran out of burgers.

          2. re: ipsedixit

            The better seafood restaurants here do like to buy 'off the boat' when they can, and it's pretty common for them to run out of catch of the day for highly regulated species like truly local red snapper or for species where their presence in local waters can be somewhat hit or miss like cobia.

          3. I think there are times when I find it acceptable and others that I don't. A normal menu item or daily special that has had a solid run, I don't mind unless the special is still up on a board. An item that has appeared in a print ad and is gone within a short time I find unacceptable. Sort of like when a store advertises something and only has three in stock. It may bring in more customers for a day but hurts return business. Deception is not good restaurant practice.

            Years ago while bar hopping on St. Patrick's Day I was told that this place had great clam chowder. I asked for some and was told that they had none left and the owner offered me some chicken noodle soup. The disappointment must have shown on my face because he said, "no, it's really good, try it". I was hungry so I agreed. It turned out to be the best chicken noodle soup I have ever had. I learned a valuable lesson that day.

            1 Reply
            1. re: SanityRemoved

              It's happened to me fairly often. Ususally (since I eat a lot of Chinese when I am dining out) It involves items that 1. is made in house and 2. requires a lot (in the sense of days, or even weeks or months) of previous prep time. In my case the dish it happens most often with is anything involving Chinese bacon (which is usually made in house here if it is offered). Most of the time, I just shrug it off, move on to another resturaunt that day and come back another to try my luck again. There are only two situation where being out has actually made me annoyed or mad. Once was a case where I was informed that a place could not make me and order of Xiamen Mai Fun, becuse they had run out of rice noodles. this wouln't have bothered me so much except that 1 (this was in Chinatown (where a package of rice noodles is only a minute or two's walk away) 2. I was the first customer of the the day (which means that no one had bothered to check inventory after closing time, or during the 2 hours the kitchen staff was in before the place was open (I saw them go in)) and 3. it took them almost an hour between when I placed my order and when they finally got the message they were out back to me.
              The other situation that get's me mad is when a resturaunt is perpetually out of an item (i.e. don't serve it, or can't obtain it anymore) but make no effort to remove it from the print menu. I can understand if it's there for that run of the menu, but Ive seen places that have re-printed they're menus five or six times each time making major design revisions that would effect the template (i.e. it's not a case of just putting in an re-order for "more of the same") and no one bothers to take the listing off.

            2. Understandably it happens with specials. It isnt the running out that pisses me off, it's the not crossing it off the specials board when they know they've run out.

              Happened last week. Mrs H had decided what to eat - starter balancing out the main on the board. Main had run out, so it was not just a matter of her then having decide what would replace that but, also, what she would then have to start (in the end she decided just to have the main - so the restaurant lost money for want of a chalk line through the item on the board).