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Jan 30, 2011 07:33 AM

Should waiters tell you how much a special costs?


[This thread was moved from the Manhattan board. --The Chowhound Team]

How many times have you ordered the special entree or app lovingly described by the waiter in every way except price, only to find out it was 50% more than the average menu listed item? Sure, you can always ask, but that can be awkward. I like the idea of specials being listed, with price, on a card attached tot he menu or on a clearly visible blackboard. I just ate at Chimichurri Grill (609 9th Ave), where the average entree (including steaks) are about $28. Two of us had the rib eye special and were surprised when we got the bill -- $44 each. Is this an opportunity for some consumer friendly regulation or is it my own damn fault? Curious to see what the community thinks....

Chimichurri Grill
606 9th Ave, New York, NY 10036

  1. If I'm interested I'll ask how much it is.
    I learned the hard way like you.

      1. A restaurant that does not price the specials does lead to a trap. If you ask you look cheap, but if the price is out of line and you don't ask, you're a sucker. An ethical waiter (there certainly are plenty out there) will warn you of step-up pricing, but may be under orders not to scare away the customers.

        I recognize two ways out of the trap. Instead of a blunt asking "What does it cost?" try asking "Is there a supplement for that?" We are used to supplements for everything from foie gras to soufles, and you are not actually asking the cost.

        Similarly, if a waiter wants to warn you of a price without implying that you are a price-sensitive cheapo, the waiter could just say "We have a fantastic special at a supplement," and leave it up to you to say something if you wish. Both methods accomplish the result without sounding crass.

        2 Replies
        1. re: therealdoctorlew

          Where are you from?
          I've never heard the term used except maybe on a cruise ship if you want don't want to eat in the alternative restaurants.

          1. re: monku

            Supplement is more commonly used to describe a charge being added to a prix fixe meal. It doesn't make as much sense on an a la carte menu.

            Restaurants should absolutely tell you the price of all specials. I know there are laws requiring grocery stores to put a price on every products, and I wouldnt be surprised if restaurants were supposed to do so as well. But even if so, no one's going to strictly enforce that unless there's a major scam going on.

            No one should feel cheap asking how much a dish costs. The restaurant should be embarrassed for not providing such basic info in the first place. Asking doesnt make the customer cheap, only smart.

            BTW, it's not unusual for a steak for two to be very expensive, even on a per person basis.

        2. Regulation, no. But restaurants should announce the price and if not, its up to you to ask. otherwise you can't complain about the price.

          1. A server should definitely say the price, whether it's a step-up or not. I think there's a way to tastefully present specials without scaring away customers.