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Should a waiter tell you how much a special costs?


This message is on the NY board. It is a very interesting issue. Some people do not hesitate to ask. Some are embarassed, especialy when out with others. In some cultures it may be rude to ask. I think that restaurants are selling products, and have the same requirements as other retail establishments. You do not have to as the salesperson in nordstrom for the price of the shoes. Does this vary by state?Does anyone have any ideas about changing this practice?

  1. I don't understand why they don't reveal the prices automatically. But I have no problem asking if it would affect my decision to choose the special.

    1 Reply
    1. Unless they are paying for my meal they darn better tell me how much it costs. If not I always ask. For some reason the Specials always are higher then the regular menu even if it is the same main ingredient with a different twist.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Mother of four

        I've been leary of this practice on no pricing since the mid seventies. I was probably just 17, and took my gal to Little Italy in Manhattan. Drinking age was 18 back then, so I 'maturely' ordered a bottle of Chianti. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the sharp waiter served us Ruffino Reserva Ducale. Five times more expensive than any wine I'd ever had. We both ordered entree specials. The bill came---heart attack for me. The entree specials were about $6 or $7 bucks higher than the most expensive entree. Plus the expensive wine! I had to leave my gal there, drive back through the Holland tunnel to Jersey, grab money from my folks, and go back into Manhattan. A little bit of a fast move on "the kids from Joisey". Prices should always be communicated.

        1. re: chefdaddyo

          That's a great story, and says a lot about the world some of us used to know (no credit cards, no ATMS, 18 year old drinking age) and trying to impress that date in "authentic" Little Italy! I have to say, in Manhattan, most upper tier restaurants these days that I've been to rarely announce prices for specials...I realize that a lot of readers will consider it a NYC snob thing, but asking how much a special costs in certain places relegates you to tourist status...I'm not saying I like it, but I think that's how the servers treat diners who do ask--again, only in certain kind of places...

          1. re: penthouse pup

            When the prices of specials aren't communicated, I feel put in a "damned if I do and damned if I don't" situation. Do I announce myself as a rube by being so gosh as to ask, or do I risk sticker shock when I get the bill? There have been occasions, depending on where I am and who I'm with, when I have felt so uncomfortable about this that I just chose to not go with the special.

      2. Believe it or not it is now a law in Nassau county that prices of specials must be posted where everyone can see. I have read about it twice in Newsday. Unfortunately when I mention it at restaurants no one seems to have heard of it. I actually show waiters the article

        I make it a point to ask the price of specials if I am interested. Do you go into a department store and buy anything without knowing the price? I think you're a rube if you don't.

        1. I'd like to hope that a place told you the price of the specials - although it's rare that they do in my experience. For example, we were at a place last night - there were seven specials and only the price of one was mentioned ( to draw attention to the fact that it was particularly expensive). Otherwise, if I needed to know the price, I'd just ask. As it was, I didnt need to know and just ordered one of them.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Harters

            Yeah, pup, one more thing to add to that story. That restaurant is one of the few still in business in Little Italy. But they got me again, about ten years later. I ordered some sort of seafood brochette from the menu, written in Italian. I received a skewer of giant chunks of eel (on the bone) with a couple of shrimp. Couldn't choke down the eel, as much as I tried. Caveat emptor at it's finest!

          2. Yes, if you're interested and ask. ~~ Personally I think "specials" should be typed and inserted into the menu...I do not listen to that "special" dribble/diatribe of servers...If asked would I like to hear the "specials" of the evening, I simply say No thank you! If they began the crap without asking, I ignore them ~~ I've never bought a special unless it was printed out or posted in the restaurant.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Uncle Bob

              I agree Uncle Bob. I don't try to decide my choice of entree while a motor mouth waitperson fires of a rapid list of specials, with prices or no. I like to peruse the menu while I make my choice.

            2. Prices for specials should not be a secret. And you shouldn't be afraid to ask for the price.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jjbourgeois

                I'm not afraid to ask the price, I just feel like I shouldn't have to. If you want me to consider ordering the special, then give me the price ... if you don't, then I will not consider ordering the special.

              2. My take on this...

                The specials should be in the the range of the normal menu items; if one item is _really_ above the normal prices, then it should be stated; other than that, I'd say, 50/50 ...

                People should not be embarassed to ask for the prices and waiters should not change their relationship with the customer if one asks for a price.


                1. If a waiter doesn't announce the price for a special, I'll usually ask. Something along the lines of "sounds delicious, and may I ask what's the price." The only time I get peeved is when the waiter doesn't know the price and has to go find out.

                  One restaurant that we frequent lists their specials on an addition to the menu. The menu will say "lamb riblets" and no price or description. Whenever we ask about a special item, the waiter will describe the dish and annouce the price.

                  1. Very difficult to get past the vague feeling that they are trying to hustle the customer. I've never had a restaurant owner give me a good reason why they don't automatically give the prices, even guys who are otherwise guest-friendly.

                    1. I never ask and I never order the special if they don't indicate how much it costs, ever since I got hosed (at an Italian restaurant in Montreal) where the "special" was $20 more than the most expensive item on the menu.

                      1. I have a friend that thought the lobster special sounded good so she ordered it. When the bill came here special ended up costing $80.00.

                        1. I can usually accept it if the price is in-line with everything else on the menu although I believe the server should tell you the price or it should be on a separate board/insert. The same for the "Market Price" MP item. I remember very vividly 33 years ago in a New York restaurant, my father saying to me "...get the 3 pound (MP) lobster. How much could it possibly be?" When the tab came I really thought he was going to drop dead in front of me at the table. So... beware of the "special" and be more wary of the MP item (especially the lobster).

                          24 Replies
                          1. re: bobbert

                            I guess if the price of the special follows prices on the regular menu maybe the server is okay if they do not tell you. In my friends case, the entrees were in the $30.00 range so if a lobster special is $80.00 the server really should say, "I just want to warn you......."

                            1. re: Alica

                              the server really should say, "I just want to warn you......."

                              I think customers would take that statement as negative and condescending.

                              1. re: monku

                                "I think customers would take that statement as negative and condescending."

                                As a customer, I wouldn't take it as condescending, necessarily, but if I were his boss, I would have to say something to him about "warning" customers.

                                1. re: Jay F

                                  You are right, but how can they tactfully let a person know? I love the restaurants that have their specials printed so all you have to do is read it.

                                  1. re: Alica

                                    I like it when specials are on a separate page, too.

                                    I get so lost _listening_ to specials, in fact, I prefer _not_ to hear prices at first. How much something costs can be such essential information, finding it out can distract me from hearing the first part of the next special.

                                    If I hear some ingredients I like, I ask the waiter to repeat the entire special, then the price if he hasn't included it. I have no problem asking the price. I like specials. Fish and seafood are among my favorite things, and they're often "specials." I like to know as much as I can about them. I frequently order them.

                                    As far as being tactful goes, I think all the waiter needs to do is announce the price without editorializing.

                                2. re: monku

                                  "the server really should say, "I just want to warn you......." "

                                  "I think customers would take that statement as negative and condescending."

                                  If the price of the special is 3 times more than the price of the entree then the server can condescend to me all day long. I want to know what I'm going to be paying. My skin is thick enough to endure that knowledge.

                              2. re: bobbert

                                "Market Price" is a license to steal.
                                You can ask what that price is, but do they really weigh your lobster ?
                                You said you ordered a 3 pound lobster, but how do you know it wasn't a 2 1/2 pound lobster?

                                1. re: monku

                                  How do you know you are getting prime beef and not choice? How do you know you are getting premium vodka and not rail swill or that you are getting organic vegetables and not frozen from the supermarket?

                                  If you really don't trust a restaurant to give you what you ordered you should probably go somewhere else.

                                  1. re: reatard

                                    It's caveat emptor.
                                    I'm pretty sure I could tell the difference between a prime and choice steak by looks and taste. .
                                    As far as "looking" at a lobster and knowing if it was 2 1/2 or 3 pounds, no.

                                    1. re: monku

                                      I was on a cruise ship and went to the steakhouse where you pay an extra $20 to eat. They bring out a platter of uncooked steaks and you choose the "type" you want (not the steak you want, but the "type" of steak). I ordered what "appeared" to be the a well marbled "prime" rib eye steak. After a few bites from the steak I called the manager over and pointed out the steak I got wasn't the steak that was represented. I told him to bring me a steak representative of the one on the presentation platter. He told me another steak would be exactly as I was served and then told me there would be no $20 charge for my meal.
                                      Was he being nice or did he realize I couldn't be fooled.

                                      1. re: monku

                                        Well, Mrs Bagelman can tell wether the lobster is 2.5 pounds or 3 by looking, even making adjustments for heavier hard shell winter lobsters and new shell summer lobsters.
                                        There is a significant difference in the size of the tail meat in a 2/5 and 3 pounder.
                                        Mrs. B won't eat any lobsters under 3 pounds (not worth the effort) and she has no problem identifying the size, whether as lifted from the tank, or as served at the table.

                                        I might not easilly discern the difference between an 8 ounce steak and a 10 ounce steak after cooking, eventhough the 10 ounce started 25% heavier. But the 20% addition from a 2.5 pound lobster to a 3 pounder is quite noticeable.

                                        Unfortunately, many restaurants fudge weights (polite way to say cheat) and talk about a size range.

                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                          Unfortunately, many restaurants fudge weights (polite way to say cheat) and talk about a size range.
                                          That's my point.

                                          1. re: monku

                                            I guess I really don't expect all of the "3 lb lobsters" in the tank to weigh in at exactly 3 lbs. The same for steaks. Chefs are pretty good at cutting 6 or 8 oz portions of fish but a lot of this stuff is a guess. A "MP" priced item really should be sold according to the "market" ie, by the pound in the case of a lobster. Otherwise, the customer pays, let's say, $60 for a 3 lb lobster ($20 per lb) while the next guy pays $60 for his 2 1/2 pound "3 pound lobster" ($24 per lb) which begs the question: what the hell is market price?

                                      2. re: reatard

                                        Sure, if you don't trust a place you shouldn't patronize them.
                                        One poster mentioned a farmers market where a vendor doesn't show their prices. They can charge you whatever they want depending on whether they like you or not and they probably do.

                                      3. re: monku

                                        In Northern New Jersey, there was a multiple restaurant operator that featured a 24 ounce Rib Eye Steak as his feature item. When I first started going there, the steak was a true 24 ounce cut for $11.95, and almost 2 inches thick. Over the years as wholesale prices went up, so did the menu price, which I believe is approximately $22-23 today....but the steak is probably 20 ounces at most now, 1.25 inches thick. Many restaurants, pubs and taverns copy the steak on their menus claiming 24 ounces too. Most of these steaks in these places are around 16 ounces, with a high end of 18 ounces....cut at just over an inch thick. The farce is using pre-cooked weight as a disclaimer.

                                        1. re: fourunder

                                          well you have to use pre-cooking weight, don't you?

                                          1. re: thew

                                            What's exactly your point? I've cut enough steaks to know the difference between a 24 ounce steak and and a 16-18 ounce steak......I know from experience a steak needs to be closer to 2 inches, than 1 inch, to be near 24 ounces.

                                            If it's supposed to be 24 ounces....it's okay in your world to be anything less?

                                            1. re: fourunder

                                              They must be using the "pre-cut" weight method.

                                              1. re: monku

                                                They must be cooking in the swimming pool ala George Costanza......

                                              2. re: fourunder

                                                four>>>that really depends on the cut. 24 ounces of Filet Mignon would have to be quite a bit thicker than a 24 ounce Porterhouse.

                                                That said: I have found that a 24 ounce Porterhouse cooked rare shouldn'y lose more than 10 of weight in cooking. The more well done the more weight loss.

                                                Also dry aged steaks lose less weight in cooking than 'fresh' moisture laden beef.

                                                As I wrote above, I might have a problem differentiating by sight a 10 ounce and 8 ounce steak after cooking, but 24 ounce vs. 16 ounce is a no brainer.

                                                1. re: bagelman01

                                                  I don't think the difference between a 16 oz. and 24 oz. steak is noticeable to the average customer.

                                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                                    I like the way they do it at Bern's where the weight is AFTER cooking. A 14 ounce NY Strip there is about as much as I can eat, while at other places it isn't that big of a steak.

                                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                                      You missed where I indicated the feature item, and copied by others, is a 24 ounce RibEye

                                                      1. re: fourunder

                                                        Sounds suspiciously like Arthur's Tavern.

                                          2. damned if you do and damned if you dont apparently.

                                            some people here say getting the price is tacky. others say not giving the price is the restaurant trying to screw you. some people are ashamed to ask questions, for reasons i cannot fathom.

                                            i think more information is better than less information. i have never been ashamed to ask someone how much of my money they want. why would i? i also do not feel a restaurant is out to screw the customer - almost all restaurants rely on repeat business and word of mouth - one that screws customers as a business plan will not remain in business.

                                            asking how much something costs does not make a rube, does not mean you cannot afford it, does not make you a cheap bastard. it makes you an informed consumer.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: thew

                                              occasionally you are a breath of fresh air, this is one.

                                              1. re: thew

                                                but it doesn't get to the point of WHY it is up to the guest to ask about the price. all other dishes presumably have their price printed (or handwritten beautifully on a black board) in plain sight for the customer.

                                                there is NO reason whatsoever to not mention how much a special will cost.

                                                (and no, i'm not one to be 'ashamed' to ask. i just don't feel like i should have to... special = special rules? not in my book)

                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                  why? probably because someone in charge felt, like many here, that saying the price was tacky. i dunno. as i said, i'm all for the prices being upfront.

                                                  1. re: thew

                                                    but how is naming the price of the special any tackier than giving the prices for every other dish on the menu?

                                                    i know you are not personally responsible for this, but it just baffles.

                                              2. I'd rather look gauche and ask than actually be a fool and not ask. At most restaurants, the price of the special is much higher than the average item on the menu. Although cost doesn't matter much to me when I eat out, I still want to know if that foie gras is a reasonable value. I'm not one of these people who is afraid of being taken advantage of, but I think it's sleazy and not very polite not to tell your customers how much they can expect to pay. Although I prefer to think of dining out as an experience, it is, after all, a business transaction.

                                                1. With my friends or my husband, I have no qualms asking. However, what about if you are on a date and you know that your behavior is being analyzed by the person you're with? I'm not even suggesting that this always falls on the man. Unless my date himself had ordered something very expensive, I would not order the lobster special. While my mom still gives me flak about this, it's just the way I am. I never asked the waiter the price of the specials because it would have left my date with many questions, especially "Why is she concerned about the price if I'm paying?" A funny aside- on my 2nd date with my hubby, we went to the Met which has a "suggested price". Normally, I only give what I feel like but I didn't say so because I didn't want to seem cheap, especially since he was paying full price for both of us. Months later we were talking about it for some reason, and he let it be known that he paid full price so HE wouldn't seem cheap! :}

                                                  1. If they don't mention the price then I don't order it. I'm not going to go to the trouble of asking the price, it's their job to provide it.

                                                    If they want to be jerks about it and not tell me the price, I just order from the menu.

                                                    25 Replies
                                                    1. re: redfish62

                                                      so you, and all the others who responded in a like manner, would prefer to forgo a delicious sounding dish - perhaps even the most appealing thing on the menu, rather than ask an 8 word question?

                                                      i find that fascinating.

                                                      1. re: thew

                                                        It's more like, if they don't mention the prices with the first special, I stop paying attention. The exception would be if one of the other specials has an ingredient which catches my subconscious, in which case, I will ask for a repeat of its description, along with its price.

                                                        There's a vendor at my local farmer's market who does not post prices. He's the only vendor who doesn't, and I never bother looking at his produce. Ever. I see no difference between him and restaurants that don't announce the prices on their specials.

                                                        1. re: dump123456789

                                                          i dont see the point of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.

                                                          1. re: thew

                                                            How is that "cutting off one's nose" or "spiting one's face" ? Has not paying attention while the waiter prattles off all those oh-so-mysteriously priced specials hurt me in some way I haven't been aware of ? (That idiom refers to harming oneself, not simply missing a pleasure.)

                                                            Any salesperson (which is what the waiter is in that scenario) must make the product sound interesting enough in order to sell it. If they leave out the wrong details, they may fail to make the product sound interesting enough for me to pursue it.

                                                            As it so happens, one of those details is price. It's the same whether the salesman is trying to sell me a house, a car, a sofa or an entree. If the salesman keeps rattling off details without mentioning price, all the items for sale will blur together without distinction, causing me to disengage from the sale.

                                                            I don't consider that a loss for me, because there will certainly be something equally satisfying on the regular menu. If the specials are the only thing worth eating at the place, I probably wouldn't eat there at all anyway. (I don't have time to think about every pleasure I might be missing, when I have plenty of pleasures available already.)

                                                            One other thing: it's well known that most people absorb significantly less information auditorily than visually. So, if the specials list is only spoken, there must be a structure and a hook to that information that allows it to be absorbed. Starting or ending each description with a price is a good hook.

                                                          2. re: dump123456789

                                                            Yeah that's how it goes with me too, if the waiter doesn't give the price of the first special I just tune him/her out and go back to perusing the menu.

                                                          3. re: thew

                                                            Yes. But the special is not usually the most appealing thing and I never go to a restaurant unless the regular menu appeals so it's no great loss for me. I just don't feel I should ask something that should clearly be mentioned.

                                                            1. re: hsk

                                                              but sometimes it is the best thing.

                                                              i mean asking takes literally a second. speaking only for myself, the benefit/reward ration seems to work out that it's worth that one second :"excuse me, how much was it for the ____?", to have that dish, if it's what sounds best to me.

                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                i bet you it would take more than a literal second. unless you're a speed talker.

                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                  depends how polite you care to be - "excuse me, how much for the lobster special" timed out at about 1.7 seconds.
                                                                  while "how much was that?" came in under a second
                                                                  using the stopwatch on my iphone

                                                                2. re: thew

                                                                  "but sometimes it is the best thing"

                                                                  And most of the time, it's not. And in the meantime, I would have to give the waiter my attention for an extended period of time I find better spent on assessing the regular menu, the one where information like price is not deliberately omitted.

                                                                  1. re: dump123456789

                                                                    it isn't rocket science. if the special is food x, and you love food x ask. if youre not in the mood for food x don't ask.

                                                                    i don;t see where denying myself pleasure because of something minor like that virtuously sticking to some principle. to me it seems fairly petty.

                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                      Some people's thought processes are just so different from mine. Never the twain shall meet the water under the bridge.

                                                                      1. re: thew

                                                                        There's no principle involved. It's more like the waiter is boring me.

                                                                        1. re: dump123456789

                                                                          Following up my own post:

                                                                          Next time a waiter starts the recitation of specials, if I ask "please list the price of each item after you describe it - it helps to keep my attention", do you think s/he would do it ? Because that seems like a win-win.

                                                                    2. re: thew

                                                                      Yes, but sometimes asking is not worth the awkwardness when you are with company, like a date. Or sometimes you get so frustrated with the silliness of not giving the price in the first place, you just tune the specials out as others have already explained on this thread. If I'm going to be resentful or feeling awkward for asking, any pleasure gained from a delicious dish is already compromised. Good food is only part of the dining experience.

                                                                      1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                                                        i'm just saying i don;t get why asking would make one feel resentful, or even awkward. i don;t see it. i'm not saying you don't - i'm saying i cannot fathom it.

                                                                    3. re: hsk

                                                                      >>>>I just don't feel I should ask something that should clearly be mentioned.<<<<

                                                                      Indeed. Why be happy (try something you didn't know you liked, and love it) when you can be right? My father was like that.

                                                                        1. re: Jay F

                                                                          I try and love lots of stuff I didn't know I liked. It just usually comes with the price attached to it already.

                                                                          Do you feel compelled to try every last thing you didn't know you liked ? I assume the answer is no, since I can't imagine anyone having that much time. So, there must be some filters you use to decide what to try and what not to try. For many of us, knowing the price beforehand is one of the filters.

                                                                          1. re: Jay F

                                                                            Sure. I go out for dinner to be happy, not resentful because I got a special that sounded great but was also extra-specially priced. As others have said the menu has prices and has appealing items why bother with unpriced not so special specials?

                                                                            BTW I've had lots of things off the menu that I tried for the first time and loved, I doesn't have to be a special.

                                                                            1. re: hsk

                                                                              they are not unpriced. they clearly have a price. just ask

                                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                                Did you really think hsk meant "has no price" when s/he said "unpriced" ?

                                                                                1. re: dump123456789

                                                                                  no i didn't. i'm sure hsk meant "a price i don't know but for some unfathomable reason i will not ask" by unpriced

                                                                    4. Special or not I almost always asks questions about the preparation (technique), ingredients, seasonings, or price to help me decide between one thing or the other, and make an informed wine decision. I am not embarrassed nor shy to ask because I would be the one having to pay for a unexceptional meal. It is the individual restaurants protocol weather they announce the prices or not. For goodness sake speak up, ask your questions, be informed! Maybe it's easier for me since I'm a chef myself? I will certainly not pay for a dish not worth it's price.

                                                                      1. In a word, yes.

                                                                        That being said, I've absolutely no qualms about asking in most situations; however if I am in one where I feel it might make others feel awkward, I simply forgo ordering a special.

                                                                        1. Unless one is a known regular at the restaurant in question, wherein the waitstaff knows that you know what the specials tend to run, then I think the prices should definitely be supplied without one having to ask. This is particularly crucial when the specials are much higher in price than the regular menu. It's a somewhat unfortunate fact that many upper-scale dining spots price the specials at least $10-$15 higher than regular menu prices, which can be a bit of a surprise when the check shows up.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Breezychow

                                                                            That's exactly what I find at higher end restaurants - the special isn't a couple of dollars more - it's at least $10 more than the average menu item. And sometimes that price difference is all I need to know to make my decision (is the surf and turf @$45 worth it to me, or is the ribeye for $30 what I really want tonight?).

                                                                          2. Times when I wish special prices were posted or stated is when I am taking a guest out for a meal, and the specials are extraordinarily priced above most menu items. On occasion, I'm pretty sure my guest would be mortified to know the price of the special that they ordered (e.g. it just didn't cross their mind that the special with truffles, foie and lobster might run far above par!)

                                                                            On the other hand, it would also mean that the people who take advantage of kindness aren't able to hide behind the guise of ignorance.

                                                                            (As a side note, when times have been really tight, I simply make food for folks and/or figure out another way to show appreciation.)

                                                                            1. I just experienced a reverse of the typical situation last night.

                                                                              There was a prix fixe for $32, no part of which was on the regular menu. The main drew me in, but the appetizer and dessert were more iffy. I asked if I could order the parts alone and if so, how much they would cost. It turns out the prix fixe would have cost more than the three parts separately. So, asking the price of the special actually cost me less and allowed me to choose an appetizer and dessert I preferred.

                                                                              1. There were two identical threads on this topic. This was my post on the now-locked thread.

                                                                                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. As a waiter in NYC i always tell my guests the price of a special. Its the polite thing to do as they guests pay my bills.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: kennethjr

                                                                                    And here on Lawn Guyland in Nassau/Suffolk, it's legally required.

                                                                                  2. I wonder if it is the owner of the restaurant that tells wait staff not to volunteer prices or if it is left to the discretion of the waiter. I too have not ordered a special because the price was not given and I was with someone who was treating me. I wonder how this stupid practice of secret pricing got started. It needs to stop.

                                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: sparkareno

                                                                                      No question but that it's house policy in many, perhaps most, places that do it. I wonder about the possibility of someone (preferably of the gender opposite that of the server, and quite attractive) giving a warm smile and cooking, "Tell me why you don't give the prices of those wonderful-sounding specials?"

                                                                                      1. re: lemons

                                                                                        That's a wonderfully creative idea - lol!!

                                                                                        1. re: Breezychow

                                                                                          I dunno. I think there is something offputting about hearing a server rattle off dollar figures—places too much focus on the cost of the experience, which cuts into the ambience for me. It's not about rubes vs. sophisticates; it's about the delicacy and nuance that go along with fostering a lovely dining experience. There should be other ways to communicate pertinent information than turning the server-diner interaction into an auction.

                                                                                          Somehow, printed dollar figures seem more understated than spoken ones.

                                                                                          In my perfect world, specials would be right in line with the pricing of the rest of the menu (up to $5 more than the top-priced entree is not going to kill me; if I can't afford the top-priced entree, I probably won't be dining at that restaurant), and the server would not read out the prices.

                                                                                          Barring that (or for specials that are much higher than regular items—a white truffle supplement, a specially sourced lobster), the description and prices of the specials would be written out onto an inserted supplement.

                                                                                          I must not dine at restaurants where I suspect the owners are trying to gouge customers with crouching boondoggles, hidden ripoffs!

                                                                                          1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                                                                                            Maybe it's a regional thing, but here in the big-city Midwest, I hear lots of complaints about no prices, and absolutely none about the indelicacy of mentioning them. Perhaps it's the practical old German habits of our locals. Myself, I am fortunate enough that the $$$ are not so short these days, but once upon a time I was (as I have noted in another thread) so poor I was on welfare. The old habits of thrift have not entirely left me entirely, and I am just loath to buy something without knowing how much I'm paying for it. If someone else is buying, it's up to them, but if it's my money, it's my decision.

                                                                                            Agreed that written would be nice and in this day and age much easier to do and should be the rule, not the exception.

                                                                                            1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                                                                                              Your post will be appropriate when the "isn't it tacky when the waiter mentions the price of the special" thread too.

                                                                                              1. re: Jolyon Helterman

                                                                                                "I think there is something offputting about hearing a server rattle off dollar figures—places too much focus on the cost of the experience, which cuts into the ambience for me."

                                                                                                It takes less time for the waiter to say "for $28" when describing the arctic char, than for the diner to ask at the end of the spiel "how much is the arctic char ?" and for the waiter to respond "it's $28". So, making the diner ask for the prices of the specials actually puts way more focus on the cost of the experience, than just having the waiter mentioning them in passing. Unless, your intention is to not order any specials, and simply listen to the waiter's beautiful descriptions.

                                                                                                In my perfect world, the description and prices of all items would be on paper, and I wouldn't care if there were some really high priced items on there. Presenting the information orally with prices is a distant second, and presenting it orally without prices is a dismal third.

                                                                                                By the way, do you eat at any mid-range or higher Chinese places ? Because many of them have very moderate prices ($10-$15) on the majority of their menu, and then some really extravagant prices ($100-$150) on their delicacies. (This is in reference to your comment about not dining at places where you couldn't afford the top-priced entrees.)

                                                                                                1. re: dump123456789

                                                                                                  you are correct, it does take less time. about 2 seconds less. 2 seconds. 6 words from you, 2 from the waiter. i guess im lucky to live in a world where 2 seconds and 8 words will not change my life for the worse

                                                                                                  1. re: thew

                                                                                                    And I could save even more time by not paying attention to the waiter at all.

                                                                                                    It appears that you feel compelled to listen to the waiter. I don't. There are lots of people who talk at me (not to me) for their sake and not mine - eg. the barkers outside restaurants in tourist areas, the sample people at Costco, the religious people in public areas. I am in the habit of ignoring them. That habit also extends to waiters who list specials without prices. I don't think this changes my life for the worse either, and in fact, allows me to focus my attention on what I want to focus my attention on, not on what someone else wants me to focus my attention on.

                                                                                                    Now, if while the waiter is prattling on, the words "foie gras", "truffles" or "duck confit" come up in the spiel, then my attention goes back to the waiter, and then (as I said the day before yesterday) I will ask for a repeat of the details, as well as for the price.

                                                                                                    If those words don't come up, then the waiter did a lousy sales job by not mentioning the prices upfront, resulting in my tuning her/him out.

                                                                                          2. re: sparkareno

                                                                                            I would imagine it's related to the old "Ladies Menu" that didn't have any prices. Haven't seen one of those in 20 years.....

                                                                                            If the ladies aren't supposed to know how much the menu items cost, then you can't have the waitor go blurting them out at tableside.

                                                                                          3. All comes down you have to ask.
                                                                                            Isn't it similar to the waiter asking "do you want a baked potatoe with that?", at an a la carte steakhouse? Maybe most people don't ask if there's an extra charge or the know it will cost extra?

                                                                                            1. I am often surprised at how often businesses try to get away without telling you the price of things...I think they expect people don't want to ask so they'd rather just screw you. How come alcoholic beverage prices are often not posted on menus at casual dining places? How many times have I asked for a piece of bread with my soup and find out I get charged a dollar for it? How come prices are often not posted on online menus? Everyone is out for a buck and the less the customer knows about prices, it seems, the better for them.

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: observor

                                                                                                As far as prices for alcoholic beverages, you might need a whole dedicated menu. Bread and butter might be a side order. Restaurant I worked at had a 3 page list for the employees of side orders a customer might ask for and that still didn't cover everything. Some restaurants I go to consider salsa an extra charge...isn't salsa a condiment? No, they charged me 75 cents for a side of salsa for my eggs at some fancy hotel.
                                                                                                Some places don't list prices for on-line menus because they might change and some restaurants don't post prices because they know it might scare some people away.

                                                                                                1. re: observor

                                                                                                  I used to go to a restaurant for lunch that had a soup lunch special. It was a bowl of soup served with either seven grain bread or a bran muffin. If neither was specified, the waiter would just bring bread. I once asked for the muffin, since I wasn't very hungry and figured I'd take it for breakfast the next day. When the bill came I was charged an additional $2 for the muffin!! I pointed it out to the waiter and he just shrugged.

                                                                                                2. I think it's the courteous thing to do, especially for us penny-pinchers who go to restaurants with strict budgets in mind. I don't make much money, and going to a nice restaurant is a treat for me, so if I don't know the prices on the specials, I'm going to ask and then order something I know I can afford (along with tax and a REAL tip).

                                                                                                  1. I think that if the "special" is not written and left at the table then a price should be given. Irrespective of the verbiage chosen, "and tonight the lobster price is..." It is just the correct thing to do if the restaurant has chosen to ignore so many people's request for the written specials. IMO

                                                                                                    Next step would be the price of the special as it compares to the other entrees. If it is within the goal posts (minus any outliers) then I do not have an issue. But if it outside the upper level then I want to know.

                                                                                                    Last point. If I think the restaurant-server are trying to pull a fast one I will do two things. I will ding the tip and I will tell the MOD on the way out that the practice is sleezy, not something I agree with and would probably never return. I am too old to start asking prices, wondering whose fault it is, I just want to have a meal and not be taken advantage of. This is my down time, my relaxation moments and being on-guard is not what I desire at that time.

                                                                                                    It is not the customer's responsibility to ask...the other prices are on the menu, the special deserve equal treatment.

                                                                                                    9 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                                                      do you really see them not stating the prices as them trying to pull a fast one? it's just a stylistic choice - i'm sure a holdover from days when it would have been seen as gauche - when one host was usually paying for the table, etc. as i stated above -restaurants are in the service business, a place that set out to screw it's clients would not last long

                                                                                                      1. re: thew

                                                                                                        Yup, I do.

                                                                                                        I agree that back in the old days with the "host" menu with prices and then the others without, that was SOP and perfectly acceptable. And at an event that has the prices only on the "host/ess" menu today I would not expect the prices of any oral special being stated.

                                                                                                        But they have all the prices on the menu, they have not written the special and left at the table and with today's technology that is silly. Then they have not stated the prices in the oral presentations. I see no other rational reason for the 2-prong lack of required information.

                                                                                                        I think this is an agree to disagree sorta issue.

                                                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                                                          i guess so. as i said elsewhere - i just can't wrap my head around it

                                                                                                          1. re: thew

                                                                                                            yup, totally understand.

                                                                                                            Likewise I just can't get my head wrapped around why a resaurant even allows this gray area to exist. So easy to solve with a printer (which they probably have) and 5 minutes of typing.

                                                                                                            Now back to the ice storm...not the movie (which by the way had the best teenage cast ever).

                                                                                                            1. re: thew

                                                                                                              Have you never been out with someone who didn't ask the price of an item and later got hit with an unexpectedly high upcharge ? Because that kind of thing tends to make you wary of unspoken prices.

                                                                                                              1. re: dump123456789

                                                                                                                i'm not wary, because if i want to know i ask.

                                                                                                                1. re: thew

                                                                                                                  Let me be more specific. A more precise wording is "aware of the potential behind unspoken prices".

                                                                                                                  By asking, you prevent the potential from being actualized, but it doesn't prevent the potential from being there.

                                                                                                                  1. re: dump123456789

                                                                                                                    hell - i can walk into a grocery and not look at the prices. i can buy pants and not check the prices. i can buy a house and not check the prices. i can order off a menu and not look at the prices.

                                                                                                                    but i don't - i check

                                                                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                                                                      So, you shop regularly at groceries that don't list their prices on the shelves, and at real estate offices that don't list their prices on their ads ?

                                                                                                                      You're making an apples-to-oranges comparison to attempt to make your point.

                                                                                                      2. There is absolutely no excuse for not printing specials out with prices and descriptions and giving a copy to every single customer. There just isn't.

                                                                                                        1. Of course you should ask, with your head held high and while making eye contact. New York is the city of deal-making, so the least you can do is ask the seller what his price is. Then maybe you can bid him down. Or walk.

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: JoyceHanson

                                                                                                            "Good evening, sir. The specials tonight are a blah blah blah lobster with blah and blah and blah, a yadda yadda yadda pheasant with et cetera et cetera et cetera, and a so-on-and-so-forth elk with this-that-and-the-other."

                                                                                                            "How much is the pheasant ?"


                                                                                                            "Would you take $18 for that ?"

                                                                                                            "Excuse me ?"

                                                                                                            "How about $24 for the lobster ? No, make that $21."

                                                                                                            "Ahem ..."

                                                                                                            "I'll give you $23 for the elk, but that's as low as I'm willing to go."

                                                                                                            "Sir ! Our prices are NOT up for negotiation !"

                                                                                                            "Then why didn't you just save us both the time and tell me what they were up front then ?"

                                                                                                            1. re: dump123456789

                                                                                                              I sincerely hope no one has ever done this to a server who is only doing his/her job.

                                                                                                          2. I frequent restaurants that are run by professionals. Professional kitchen staff and PROFESSIONAL servers. And, by the way, professional does not go hand in hand with expensive. Of course, the server should tell you the price of the "special". And, for your information, in a professional establishment "specials" will be as good as anything else on the menu! Bottom line...if they don't tell you the price of the specials...you picked the wrong restaurant!

                                                                                                            1. If I am treating someone and have to ask the price of the specials it might send a signal to my guest to order something cheap. If someone is treating me and I ask the prices it appears that I am concerned with what they are spending on me. Even if going dutch, it gives the appearance of ordering by price rather than what the dish is. The truth is that the price does factor in my decision making. I might want the filet special but not enough to pay (or have someone else pay) $45 for it. If I know that, I might be just as happy with the t-bone at $28.
                                                                                                              Even after reading all the these posts, I have yet to see what I think is a valid and sensible explanation for NOT telling the prices. Anyone?

                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: sparkareno

                                                                                                                There is NEVER a valid reason for not telling the price. You would not go to a grocery store, car dealeship, fast food outlet, record store or any place else and purchase without knowing the price.

                                                                                                                1. re: sparkareno

                                                                                                                  Sparkareno makes the best point why people would not ask the price. Back (way back) in my single dating days, I would never had asked the price and, for that matter would have hoped my date didn't order the mystery priced special. If there are one or two nightly specials the server should say something like "...and our blah, blah, special is blah, blah, for $26". I've been to many places with a half dozen or more specials. In those situations, no excuse for not having an insert or board with prices. Like others have said, to listen to a server drone on about 6 specials, even with prices is a tremendous waste of everyones time and, on a busy night can easily put the FOH in the weeds.

                                                                                                                2. Folks, this thread is getting angry and mean-spirited, and while we'v removed some of those posts, we think pretty much everything that can be said on this topic has already been said, so we're going to lock it, as well.