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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. What the community thought a few years ago (and likely still thinks):


      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.

            1. Unless it's a comp, ask. I'm offended when they don't tell me. I figure that's a management decision trickling down. What? Business is slow and I should pay more?


              2 Replies
              1. re: scotty27

                I cannot remember the last time I heard a waiter volunteer the price of a special in an upscale Manhattan restaurant. That said, I would have no problem asking.

                1. re: erica

                  At Lupa, the servers tell you the cost of the specials without being asked. And in my experience, the prices have been in line with the standard menu items.

                  170 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012

              2. If they haven't told me the price, and it sounds good, I ask.

                1. I think they should tell you , and it should be a regulation that they do. I have heard of people being charged as much as 150% over the average cost of an entree.In NY, I do not recall being told the price of a special. Ever.I think maybe in some other places, but am not sure. I agree it is the same concept of a retail store being required to list the price of the items. What can we do to change this?

                  1. i think they should absolutely mention the price when describing the special. if they say it, it doesn't make the diner feel awkward.

                    1. A Singaporean friend shared this little gem of a story when I was visiting there a few weeks back.

                      A diner had taken four former classmates visiting from Hong Kong to a resort in Singapore. After playing in the casino, they went to a restaurant at the resort for lunch. The fish they tried to order from the menu was unavailable, so when the waiter suggested an off-menu white sultan fish instead, they went with his recommendation, without asking for the price or giving the price much thought.

                      When they got the bill, they were shocked by the US $875 tab for the fish (at some $220 per pound).

                      The restaurant offered only a 15% discount from that price when the diner complained.

                      A spokesperson for the resort, asked to comment, said that, "It is not always appropriate to state menu prices to high-end customers who have come to expect certain discretion, especially when they entertain high-level guests." "This is a practice shared by most high-end restaurants.” He also said that the resort's restaurant staff are trained to check prices with customers who may not be familiar with the restaurant's menu and to offer information to those who ask.


                      1. When I am a guest, I am always uncomfortable ordering the special when the price is not announced. I try to be a thoughtful guest and would not dream of ordering the most expensive menu item, accidently or on purpose. No matter how delicious the special sounds, I will pass unless the price is mentioned.

                        As host, I will always ask, whether I am interested or not. This way, my guests are never put in the position of not knowing.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Sherri

                          "I will pass unless the price is mentioned."

                          That's actually my blanket policy, unless something sounds extremely tempting, in which case, I will ask the price.

                          "As host, I will always ask, whether I am interested or not. This way, my guests are never put in the position of not knowing."

                          That's so gracious of you.