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"How is everything" and how to reply


Now I've been thinking about this problem for a while and have discussed it with others countless times. The dilemma is, when your dining at any restaurant, either fine dining or casual, and the server comes by to ask you "how is everything", I usually just say that everything is good (unless I ordered a black and blue steak and received it well done).

But what are you really supposed to say? and what about if they asked you after you were done your meal? Does your answer change? My parents have often said this dish was too salty or this dish didn't have enough meat but I don't think I could do that (they only do these at more casual Chinese restaurants where they know the chef personally, so its a little more bearable).

As the primary cook at home, I would like to know everything that I did wrong or right so that I could improve my cooking. But do chefs or waiters at restaurants really want to hear the truth? Or are they just asking for the sake of asking?

  1. I always figured they are asking for the sake of asking, and I answer for the sake of answering "Terrific, thanks very much!"

    It's like when some asks "So how have you been doing?" They don't really want to know, it is just a social convention to ask those sorts of questions, and it is a social convention to respond, "Wonderful, how have you been?"

    3 Replies
    1. re: redfish62

      Either that, or they actually want to make sure you're happy. Or to see if you need more sauce, or whatever.

      Funny thing is, if no one checked on you (not *you*, I mean you in the general sense), we'd be hearing all about how it makes people mad when the waiter doesn't check in with them.

    2. I think it is a stupid question.... My reply is.... "The water taste funny" Would you mind changing it out?" ~~

      1. Chinese restaurants are very different. They are more on par with BBQ joints I have been to. You can usually speak more frank in these types of restaurants.

        In typical Italian and French restaurants ... etc, yeah, I agree with you. I almost always say things are fine. They don't really expect me to say "I think you added a bit more oil this time. You should consider cutting down next time". They are not really looking for feedbacks.

        1. i'm usually fairly honest - probably on the nice side of honest, but honest just the same.

          the otehr day i was at a place i go with my kid sometimes, as it is very kid friendly, but also has one of the best beer selections in NYC. the food is never great, but it is usually passable. this time they had a special of steak, collards, and fries.

          the steak was ok, but coldish - they rested it too long. the collards were woefully undercooked, they obviouslly were cooking them as if they were a fast cooking green like spinach.

          she asked how it was. i told her. exactly as i've told you.

          1. They're asking because they want to know if everything you ordered has arrived and is correctly cooked, like if you got your steak and it's to the right temp, and if you need anything else, like more sauce as was stated in another thread, or if your baked potato is rotten in the middle and needs replaced. It's not really to nitpick about the food being too salty or whatever unless it's so salty you can't eat it. If you don't like the food there in a general sense, bringing it up with the server isn't going to accomplish anything. It's really to gauge whether everything is correct and that you've gotten everything you asked for and to see if you need anything else.

            3 Replies
              1. re: rockandroller1

                Yes. This isn't a hard question -- no need to get offended or flustered by "how is everything". Appropriate answers are "fine, thanks" or "I'd like to order another drink, please" or maybe "I ordered a vegetarian dish, but this looks like a steak."

                1. re: Pia

                  or "this is undercooked" or "my carbonara is really an alfredo" or "can you please make my soup hotter" or "this is wonderful" or anything else you care to say. it's your dinner

              2. The "good" restaurants that I go to never ask "how is everything" (nor, in fact, do many not-so-good places). And I do, indeed, regard it as the mark of a "good" restaurant that they are sufficiently confident in their kitchen, their service and their customers' ability to speak up, that they have no need to ask. Just by the by, we recently had a fortnight in Spain - ate out every night; had good faultless service every night; never once were we asked "how is it".

                As such, when I am asked, I usually assume that this simply because it;s whjat they do at that place and they're asking for the sake of asking. So, I respond accordingly with some vague positive remark.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Harters

                  I do not understand why the asking of this question is a sign of a restaurant lacking in quality. It's a customer service question. I expect some sort of check in with me after I've had a chance to try my food. If that check-in comes in the form of "How is everything?" I'm certainly not bothered.

                  1. re: debbiel

                    "I do not understand why the asking of this question is a sign of a restaurant lacking in quality"

                    I see from your profile that you're in America. I always think American restaurants generally have a different style of service than we generally have in Europe. My expectation at a "good" restaurant (and, indeed, many not-so-good) is that they have sufficient confidence in their service that there's no need for a check back - and, as I said, they don't check back.

                2. The intent of the question is to check in on you. After all, it's not good if you have to call a server over to you. I actually dock the tip if it isn't asked.

                  I try to give a honest answer. Although, I chose not to delve into it recently. It was a diner and my burger was overcooked (but still good) and the mac & cheese was awful. The one waitress present did an excellent job and it was obvious that she was busy. So, I didn't want to take up much time. My responses were, "It's... nice" and a simple "Eh" with a shrug. That, and the fact I barely touched the mac while clearing the other plates, said as much as I could.

                  Feedback is worthless if it isn't genuine. Just hope that the person receiving is the type that gets motivated by it and not the defensive type.

                  1. I think that in a med- end resto. or a coffee shop, the question is delivered somewhat perfunctorily, sort of as a way of letting you know your server's somewhere in the general vicinity, and as a damage-control-in-advance method of making sure there's nothing totally wrong. And honestly in a coffee shop, if nothing is totally wrong, I'm relieved and not inclined to make a big fuss. In a mid-level house, I'd be kind but honest (the steak was a little more rare than I prefer, the veg. were a bit overcooked) but again, unless there was something obviously, jarringly and terribly wrong I wouldn't be inclined to ask for a meal replacement. One gets what one sets out to pay for. Caveat: if there was something truly gross at any restaurant, I'd send it back in a heartbeat, However:
                    At a high-end restaurant, I do expect my meal to be as close to perfect as possible. I have not been asked on many occasions, "is everything all right?" because I'm assuming the staff's expectation is that everything is just as it should be, and they know I have a voice in the event that it's NOT just as it should be. I've worked in a ton of restaurants (you know us flighty restaurant people!) and it's been my personal preference to be told immediately by the servers if something is incorrect and just what that something is. That has also been the preference of the chefs I've worked under. If a plate comes back, of course I damn well want to know why so I can correct it or replace it. So my answer would be, in a low/middle rent house, "everything is fine" (unless it totally, totally isn't) will do, but in a higher-end place, if you get asked at all, you should be completely honest, as kindly as possible. On the other side of the coin, if everything at anywhere you patronize is particularly good, PLEASE take the time to let FOH and BOH know.

                    1. For some reason, the one that really annoys me is "How is everything tasting?" For some reason the "How is everything" question has morphed into this. Aside from the grammatical issues with it I simply find it an odd question to ask. If something, besides taste, is wrong do they simply not want to know?!! I just wish they would not script the waitstaff.

                      60 Replies
                      1. re: rjlebed

                        "I just wish they would not script the waitstaff"
                        For me that says it all.... perfectly!! ~~ I don't care what your name is...I don't want to hear (will not listen) to 'tonight's specials"......not interested in your "scripted dribble" ~~~ Take my orders and bring them to me as ordered....Keep the beverage glasses full ~~ If there is something wrong... you want have to ask.....Trust me!!!

                        1. re: Uncle Bob

                          if you're in Europe, you most definitely want to hear the specials (even though they're likely chalked on a blackboard somewhere) -- the daily special is usually what is stellar today -- either really good ingredients, or something the chef feels his kitchen does unusually well.

                          (and there's no refills, so that's a non-issue anyway)

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Posted specials are fine.....Typed and inserted into the menu would be better

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              I've no problem with the blackboards here in Europe - so long as the server tells you one exists. Unlike the place we were at the other day - where the board is not in general sight of the diners. The regulars know it's there but the server didnt bother to mention it to us. Their loss - I'd have had the stuffed mackerel.

                            2. re: Uncle Bob

                              You don't want to hear about specials or changes to the menu? Um, okay. We'll just have them shut up and take your order then. Imagine the cheek of them trying to talk to you!

                              1. re: purple bot

                                Hear them No? Read them? Yes! ~~~ "Have them shut up and take my orders??? ~~ Bravo!! You're catching on!!

                                1. re: Uncle Bob

                                  So long as you accept that you then forfeit the right to whine that they didn't tell you...or to bitterly complain when they are out of what you ordered, but you didn't want to hear about this up front...nor to complain that they didn't tell you ANYTHING.

                                  I don't want a life story, either, but the daily specials are a part of the operation of the restaurant, and therefore something the server DAMN WELL better know and be able to describe in some detail.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    I don't forfeit ANY rights when I walk through the door...Period!!!.. Including the right of not wanting to hear/listen to Specials or any other nonsense.


                                    "I don't want a life story, either, but the daily specials are a part of the operation of the restaurant, and therefore something the server DAMN WELL better know and be able to describe in some detail".


                                    If the patron is interested, and wants to listen.......

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      Insist???? ~ I never insist! ~ I politely decline when asked if I would care to hear about the evening's specials.....No thank you!... Seems to work!.

                                      Complain about specials I didn't care to know about, or to be told about verbally in the first place???? ~~ Ridiculous suggestion!

                                      Being told about a sold out menu item up front?? No complaint! I may express disappointment. ~~ If it was/is a habitual thing ~~ Then I vote with my feet and pocket book!!

                                      Have a nice day now........

                                  2. re: Uncle Bob

                                    News Flash Bob! Servers are no more excited about memorizing, reciting and repeating (Um, they all sound so good - can we hear them again? What was in number four again? Sorry, can you start at the top ONE more time? ) the specials than you are about hearing them.

                                    Personally, I like the specials to be printed on a menu insert.

                                    However, I don't understand why someone who took the time to choose a nice restaurant, and who, I would assume, was looking forward to a delicious dinner, would deny themselves the option of choosing a dish they might really enjoy?

                                    I'd consider it shooting myself in the foot, if the table next to me was raving over a special I wish I'd been told about.

                                    1. re: Whinerdiner

                                      I don't hear Bob saying he doesn't want to be informed about the specials. It seems to me that he is saying he wants that information to come in written form, and sees the "recitation" as part of the "scripting" problem that rjlebed described.

                                      Personally, I agree that I'd like the specials in written form, presented to me when I am considering all of the menu options. I don't like it when I've made my decision based on the information presented in the menu, and then am verbally presented with new options when it's time to order. Printing inserts really is trivial, but a chalkboard is an acceptable solution in a more downscale/homey place. I wouldn't care for a chalkboard in a fine dining restaurant.

                                      1. re: Chris VR

                                        i would prefer to have them written, but i certainly will not refuse to listen to them if that's my only option. my love of food outweighs my minor annoyance at extremely unimportant things.

                                        but then i also think waiters are not just robots to bring me food, either

                                        1. re: Chris VR

                                          then make sure you stay away from Paris and London...

                                          Look, folks, I'm not talking about the peroxide blonde (of either gender) who slides themselves and their swag-encrusted suspenders (steady, Harter: braces in Americanese) into the booth chirping through their wall of teeth, "Hi, I'm Adam, or I'm Brandi (with the heart over the 'i', please) and I'm going to be your bestest pal EVAR tonight. Our special tonight is a hand-minced, hand-formed patty of bovine goodness, lovinly charred over a roaring fire, and blanketed gently with a velvety blanket of cheesy goodness" That sort of hogwash of selling an efffing CHEESEBURGER has prompted me to walk out of more than one establishment.

                                          I'm talking about a a server professionally letting you know, without a script and without false behavior, what the kitchen feels they're doing particularly well tonight.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            I've been to Paris, and I've been to London, thanks. I can navigate the waters and always end up with a meal I enjoy. I process information better visually than I do aurally, but I certainly am able to do it, in Paris, London, the USA or elsewhere.

                                            I suppose my main objection with verbal presentation of specials (other than I don't take it in as well as I do reading it) is that most servers usually offer me the specials when they come to take my order, rather than when I'm seated or when they take my drink order. Since my husband and I usually coordinate our orders because we share, it adds a level of awkwardness to have to re-coordinate that right there and then in front of the server. A printed insert from the restaurant' management telling me what the kitchen feels they're doing particularly well tonight (and how much it will cost, but that's a whole other ball of wax) serves the purpose with none of the drawbacks of verbal presentation.

                                            1. re: Chris VR

                                              really?i usually find the waiters ask if we want to hear the specials fairly early in the process. also - listen to the specials , then ask them to come back in a minute. i promise they will

                                              1. re: Chris VR

                                                I have never had the specials verbally presented at time of order. Never. It has always been at first visit by server or at drink order.

                                                I'll take the specials written or verbally and am somewhat surprised that people are so passionately opposed to verbal delivery. Make that quite surprised.

                                        2. re: Uncle Bob

                                          you're choosing to cripple your options. seems silly to me, but we've discussed this ad nauseum in another thread

                                          1. re: thew

                                            Thanks for your kind concern and comments ~~~~~~

                                            My youngest son, helped off-set his college expenses all the way through his Masters and Doctorate working p/t as a waiter....A robot he is not!!!!! ~~~~~~~

                                            Warmest Regards......

                                            1. re: thew

                                              "you're choosing to cripple your options"

                                              In the same way one cripples one's options by not going into every single restaurant on every single street in town at least once.

                                              1. re: dump123456789

                                                i'd say in a much more direct way. you've chosen the place you want to spend your money on food at. you like the chef. you like the food. but because the freshest, newest idea, most in season, special ingredient dish is not in print you don't even want to know what it is.

                                                1. re: thew

                                                  "you like the food. but because the freshest, newest idea, most in season, special ingredient dish is not in print you don't even want to know what it is"

                                                  If this were always the case (we both know it Is Not) I might be more inclined to try....try to hear the specials in a crowded, oft times noisy restaurant environment. For some folks... it may be challenging......

                                                  Have A great evening!

                                                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                                                    you like the food. but because the freshest, newest idea, most in season, special ingredient dish is not in print you don't even want to know what it is"

                                                    If this were always the case (we both know it Is Not)

                                                    freshest, newest, most in season, is *exactly* what real specials are-- which is why places with menu inserts tend to be places that plan out their so-called "specials" a month or more in advance, based on marketing plans, who in turn encourage and respond to people demanding a nice scannable menu facsimile, and most assuredly not interaction/eye contact with a professional server, they are after all automotons who should not be able to describe a menu preparation, or a wine, or the flavor of a piece of cheese-- gutteral grunts only, please. sadly, no, lots of places don't actually have real specials, but the fact that they have the chain's marketing dept's menu that says "specials" encourages customers to believe that they do. still, some places actually do run real specials, with exactly 3 portions of ultra-fresh fish, or a small batch of morel risotto, because the forager just randomly showed up at the back door at 4pm with five pounds of fresh mushrooms, or the farmer who brings sausages each week thought the chef would like to play with a couple of guinea hens and see what s/he can come up with.

                                                    folks who wouldn't allow a chef the creative freedom to develop a fresh seasonal dish, with accompaniments, in the hours before service, when the ingredients are at their best, are the ones who are insisting on a "scripted" dining experience if they absolutely cannot countenance a plate of food existing without a written menu description. it's simply the best way to experience the cutting edge of a kitchen's skill level and creativity when you order a special, at a place that *actually* does specials, because chances are everything on the plate is a new and developing preparation and more attention to detail is given to the freshest ingredients, and by the chefs-- rather than the line cooks, just repeating the same steak order on autopilot.

                                                    i think the pressure from diners to get rid of real specials in favor of premeditated management-choreographed sysco-marketed "features" of trend, or low-market-price ingredients, complete with menu inserts, is actually quite horrifying, and it's gradually killing any semblance of creativity and innovation in the field. though it's quite clear that the average diner does not care about this (until of course the kitchen's labors come to fruition, & after running a great special, on occasion one or two things get refined into regular menu items, *printed,* and suddenly people want to order them rather than ignore them), the >5% of folks who *do* order specials in small restaurants do care. i think that if more people thought about how development happens in chef-driven (rather than marketing-driven) restaurants, they would be as open to specials as folks in other parts of the world are. not coincidentally, restaurants using the freshest and most seasonal ingredients, which in many cases have been around for 100+ years in europe and elsewhere, don't have any printed menus at all. the customers expect/demand fresh preparations daily and are engaged enough with their terroir to navigate a brief verbally presented or chalkboard menu. sorry that so many folks would turn up their noses, eh, eat in the hotel or find a wendy's i guess, whatever works. . . but development has to happen, in the culinary field as in any other, or stagnation occurs. new dishes and new presentations don't just spring from athena's forehead, whole and developed and suddenly part of the repertoire, sorry to say. & people don't refuse to patronize car companies that make prototype models before releasing the final model, they don't refuse to look at a painting that was preceded by multiple sketches (or indeed to look at the sketches on their own merit), rough drafts naturally precede finished novels and screenplays that wider audiences eventually enjoy-- in the culinary field, people get to *eat* the item while in development, it's called a special for precisely this reason, and it's very exciting for some people to be on the cusp like that, or to experience a fleeting dish just once before it's gone forever. lots of people don't want exciting, they want a burger for $5 cheaper, or the haddock presentation they had last week and loved-- i get that--- but bear in mind that the haddock was at one time a special, and the addictive sauce accompanying the burger developed out of another special from four years ago, and it's part of the package that sets this burger apart from all others.

                                                    "we also have a local morel risotto tonight, for $16," gosh that's taxing to listen to. my evening has been ruined. how dare they. etc. done to death on other threads of course, but for myself, i'll gladly listen to the specials, thanks.

                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                      Uh, there are many places who do true "of-the-day" specials who print out menus for them on-the-spot and on the day. It's not difficult. All you need is a good printer and decent paper stock to produce immediate nice-looking mini-menus.

                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                        I think that most places that have a good printer and decent paper stock do print the specials out. But many restaurants don't have an office on site with a computer, printer and copier.


                                                        I would read your "superlong" posts any day, and I'd eat at your restaurant every day.

                                                        1. re: Whinerdiner

                                                          "I would read your "superlong" posts any day, and I'd eat at your restaurant every day."

                                                          And that's great. Just like there are some students who could hear me ramble for a solid minute and get every detail of what I said even if I did not structure the information. But not many would.

                                                          I got a very "tortured artist" vibe from soupkitten's post, or at least the part I could read before I gave up. It read like an anti-marketing screed. The irony here is that I am also anti-big marketing and anti-big chains (you'll never find me eating at one by my own choice). And I actually am interested in specials, especially the type soupkitten is referring to. So her pigeonholing and stereotyping don't apply to me.

                                                          But the problem is the way the information is presented. A restaurant that refuses to present the information in a way that the diner can absorb is basically saying they don't care if the diners order it or not - like the tortured artist who doesn't care if their work is understood or not during their lifetime. And that's fine.

                                                          The difference is that the tortured artist's work lives on after their death, when it may be rediscovered, whereas the "tortured artist" chef's work goes into the trash (or the staff's stomachs) if it isn't ordered. And all because they find it too restricting being "forced" to present their specials using a medium that helps the diners to understand them.

                                                          Really ? Is it really that important that they not "give in" to the "scourge" of visually presented specials with prices ? I would think it's much more important that their specials are ordered by diners.

                                                          Or maybe they think of the orally presented specials list as a test of diner's ability to pay attention, and the reward is that they get to try the super duper specials of the day. In which case, they are discriminating against those with ADD and auditory learning deficiencies (which includes a large segment of the population).

                                                          1. re: dump123456789

                                                            i have mild ADHD. i have no problem with oral specials, and do not feel discriminated against.

                                                            1. re: dump123456789

                                                              Discrimination? Really? So by that logic is it discriminating against the visually impaired to have a printed menu?

                                                              Edit: And really, all good chefs are "tortured artists". Must be all the standing on your feet in front of a hot stove for eighteen hours a day six days a week.

                                                              1. re: Whinerdiner

                                                                My entire last paragraph that you're responding to was meant with heavy sarcasm. Hence, the use of the phrase "super duper", as well as the "test/reward" proposal.

                                                              2. re: dump123456789

                                                                As a member of the last category of deaf (totally in one ear) I always have the good ear to my fellow diners. Ergo the deaf ear faces outward and towards the server when they recite the specials. I cup my other ear but am not always successful. Do I feel discriminated against? Nope, but I feel less than happy while I strain my neck to turn 100 degrees to get the good ear within proximity of the descriptions. And at times I will ask the server to stop, reposition and start again. And then I will ask questions about some that sound good and I have no problem calling the server over again if someone at the table asks, "what was the fish special?" If it takes 5 recitations and three trips, c'est la vie. They created the situation, not moi.

                                                                To repeat...there is NO EXCUSE for not having a written version of the specials available to the table. If the restaurant cannot afford basic paper and a printer thenI am concerned about what else they may skimp on. Do i believe the start up budget cannot handle that? nope.

                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                  jfood, It's not about start up budget, or affording paper, or about "skimping" on anything. I had my own restaurant for many years. There was simply no place to put an office! Every square inch of space was being used. I paid bills, placed orders, submitted payroll, etc. at 4:00 AM from home. It's not an excuse, it's life. And sometimes it doesn't go the way you decree it.

                                                                  1. re: Whinerdiner

                                                                    Then i would suggest small blackboards with chalk, or small menu things I have at home with erasable pens, or hand-written. I very much applaud your dedication and using every square inch for the food, but again I stand by my position that there is no excuse not to have a written menu. I view it as saying there is no room for dessert plates, it is part of the restaurant's responsibility.

                                                                    1. re: Whinerdiner

                                                                      I am puzzled by that...

                                                                      Surely there was a "Greeting Desk", a little counter, whatever piece of furniture you used to place your Maitre d' or host/hostess, or where you had your "collecting money"/Payment system - behind that or on it behind a low front wall couldn't you place a computer and a small printer? Did you have a computerized reservation system, or did you use pen and paper/ledger for that?

                                                                      In larger restaurants or higher-end restaurants nowadays it would be odd if there were not some form of computerized system in play - some furniture is around that system - surely the computer would or could be a full-featured computer and a printer can be attached to it easily. The printer need only be a compact, single-function but decent printer. It wouldn't even need to be attached all the time, after all I would expect the specials menu would be printed out BEFORE meal service (and guests) arrived or at least very soon after start of service... If there is a bar the computer and printer could be down under the bar on the bartender's side, etc etc. ? An office is not necessary, it seems to me, to format and print out something that does not need to be of glossy, typeset or engraved quality - we are talking about a simple, neat-looking specials menu on plain (but good quality) paper. I am not a restauranteur, I'm just commenting on what seems like reasonable suppositions to me, but what do I know, perhaps it truly is necessary to have a fully equipped office to do this? Just a little perplexed...

                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                        There was a host stand, but no electric outlet. It just wasn't feasible for us to print out specials every day. If I had them the day before, I could do it from home, or eMail it to Staples and pick them up on the way in, but that wasn't always the case. Much the way soupkitten describes, the fish guy or the mushroom man would show up at the back door with a must have.We did try the blackboard/easel thing for a while, but found several problems:

                                                                        1) People like standing in the entrance reading handwritten specials even less than some like hearing them.
                                                                        2) You can't present the board at each table because it's cumbersome. People don't like getting whacked with a blackboard.
                                                                        3) In a busy restaurant, someone will trip over the blackboard stand. If you're close enough to read it, you're close enough to fall over it.

                                                                        In the end, it was never a problem for us. No one ever refused to hear the specials, no one ever seemed pained by the process. Most of our customers were regulars. First timers became new regulars. They would be the ones to ask to hear the specials. If we didn't have any that night, chef would personalize one for them. I never ignored the voice of the customer, but I guess they were just a pretty easygoing bunch.

                                                                        It shouldn't be this vitriolic. It's dinner specials, not politics. I think most of us would agree that we'd rather have printed specials. Although, I always remember that I forgot my glasses the minute I pick up the menu. Having the server tell me the specials is pretty convenient then.

                                                                        1. re: Whinerdiner

                                                                          I see! Thanks for the response and comments.

                                                                      2. re: Whinerdiner

                                                                        I would invite all of you sitting in your cozy places at the table sneering at those who don't print everything for your desire to please go run your own restaurant.

                                                                        There's the whole issue of not wasting paper and resources, by the way. Paper and ink to put a special in every menu twice a day is a LOT of paper and ink, and a LOT of manual labor to cut it apart and stick it in every menu, and then go back and take it all back out again...twice a day.

                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                          If the printing of the specials causes the resources or the business model to fail then there are many more issues that the resurant is facing. And I have suggested that the "specials menu" only needs one per table as an alternative as well.

                                                                          As you can see the vitriol on this subject is pretty high on this thread and I know if my voice of the customer was this strong I would absolutely change to address. But hey, I only need to adjust my business model at the demands of my customers. I just recommend others do the same.

                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                            Nobody said anything about causing the business model to fail...but I believe that you would agree that it is an enormous investment of resources that doesn't result in a large increase in revenues or profits, if any at all...thus something that an awful lot of restaurateurs and entrepreneurs therefore put low on the priority list.

                                                                            This is assuming, by the way, that the special isn't something concocted strictly to pump profit to the bottom line...that we're talking about a independent operation keeping a solid focus on quality rather than price.

                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                              I agree that there are certain areas in all businesses that do not lead to an increase in revenue or profits. But there are loss leaders, break-eveners and high profiters in all business models. There are must do's, might do's and can't do's. totally agree that if you perform an Activity Based Cost model on each restaurant touch point you will see this.

                                                                              But, i totally disagree that the use of a printer, paper and ink is an "enormous" resource. Maybe in the days when monks hand wrote scriptures I would agree, but I type the menu (10 minutes), hit print, change the number of copies, hit enter and grab my water and do the next task. I would say that the soft benefits to customer satisfaction on this activity is extremly high and worth the ten minutes.

                                                                              The alternative is the server needing to recite the specials at each table, then answer quetions, then returning and responding to more questions. My guess that is a five minute use per table. Now assuming the server has 7 tables (purely a guess on my part) and 2 seatings. that is 70 minutes of each server's time. That is ~25% of the servers time playing the role of a paper menu. Sounds silly to me.

                                                                              If the 10 minutes of typing and the paper/ink is worth more than 70 minutes of EACH server's time, then you are correct. But my guess is that the server's time could be better spent with other activities.

                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                paper/ink and a few minutes of typing/printing = minimal investment

                                                                                Verbally teaching the specials to the staff, then having them relay them to every customer that walks in the door, maybe more than once = "enormous investment of resources"

                                                                                Servers and Customers alike have better things to do

                                                                                1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                  It's a pretty rare restaurant (other than the "prescripted" ones that we've already removed from this discussion) that doesn't have at least some sort of debriefing before the evening shift. The first place I ever worked had one, and that was a two-location low-brow pizza joint. And yeah, there were specials from time to time-- not every night, but maybe once a month. And yeah, we had to know them...and yeah, we'd get called up on it if we didn't go through them.

                                                                                  And I'd be pretty willing to bet that the 5 minutes per table results in a LOT higher percentage of diners ordering the special (by promoting interaction between the server and diners, and indicating that the server is not some preprogrammed automaton, but a person who actually wants the diner to enjoy his/her meal and KNOWS the specials by heart)....thus making it a Good Business Decision. (and yeah, crib notes for the server are okay).

                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                    I think the perfect scenario is a printed menu and the server suggestive selling 1-2 of the top choices. The server memorizing and discussing the details of every item on special is archaic and a waste of time.

                                                                                    And yes, even with a printed menu, the staff should be briefed on the specials.

                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                      i could not disagree more. The server can always state, and I expect them to, "the specials are on the insert and the bass is my favorite. Thump, the diners now all look at the especials sheet. That is basic marketing 101. On the return, "do you have any questions on the menu or the specials?" Second week class in marketing 101. If you are comparing a preofessional server with a gum smackin' newbie waitron then that would be a different A vs. B.

                                                                                      i think the orally presented specials are an intrusion (interrupting the flow of discussion), cannot be heard by many (me a perfect example), lead to confusion, usually do not tell the price point (another thread) and is a one shot at grabbing the attention of the customer. the written menu allows for seeing the special and actually comparing to other choices. I cannot tell you how many times the conversation after the presentation is "what was served with the bass?" Ah the heck with it.

                                                                                      there is probably a 4x times more likelihood of me ordering from a written versus a presented specials.

                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                        "i think the orally presented specials are an intrusion"

                                                                                        i couldnt agree more - I cant tell you how many times a server has started talking about a special "The Chilean Sea Bass is a light, clean, freshs fish flown in twice a weekly. It is served with a cilantro lime sauce with a hint of white wine, lowally grown slow roasted plum tomatoes with basil and grilled yellow squash zucchini medley along with a mushroom sage risotto......" and I knew my SO or I werent ordering it as soon as Chilean Sea Bass came out. What a waste of our time!!

                                                                                        1. re: joe777cool

                                                                                          yes, at dinner last night in a very busy noisy restaurant the waitress recited the specials at one end of the long table, then at the other end. I was in the middle and heard none of them.

                                                                                        2. re: jfood

                                                                                          Basic Marketing 101 also tells you that you have to market to *most* people, because tailoring to everyone who walks the earth will bankrupt you overnight.

                                                                                          You're pretty obviously not *most* people...which is admirable, but no matter how passionate they are about food, people who own a restaurant need to turn a profit...and writing a business model to fit an exception is probably not going to help that.

                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                            totally agree. and marketing with biased data is not maximizing profit potential. but if you are comfortable with your business model and you feel you have maximized the profit potential, that's great.

                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                              Here are the numbers as I see them (grossly oversimplified, but I'm sure you'll get the point):

                                                                                              50% are fine with either oral or printed
                                                                                              50% prefer printed to oral
                                                                                              ~0% prefer oral to printed

                                                                                              So if you insist on oral only, you are in fact NOT marketing to most people.

                                                                                              1. re: dump123456789

                                                                                                Probably the most scientifically-phrased version of "shut the hell up" I've ever heard.

                                                                                                It's still rude, even if it sounds scientific.

                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                  That's your personal issue if you choose to perceive it as "shut the hell up".

                                                                                                  Like I said, I'm sure my numbers aren't correct. I'm only going by my impression of the various posts on this subject that have appeared on multiple threads. (I would love to hear your numbers based on research, since it seems like you're actually in the business.)

                                                                                                  The key is that it's like an election: those who have no preference are like those that don't vote. The only thing that matters votewise is whether those who prefer/vote one way outnumber those who prefer/vote the other way, which they clearly do in this case.

                                                                                                  So from the business point of view, how lopsided are the preferences, and is it significant enough to warrant catering to those preferences ? If only 10% preferred written to oral and 5% preferred oral to written, then that might not be a sufficiently significant difference. Same with 40% and 30%. But it seems like it's actually much more lopsided towards written than oral than that, which means that the difference is sufficiently significant to consider addressing, as long as it does not seriously impact other aspects of the business (ie. the hypermarketing in chains that results in lowest common denominator food).

                                                                    2. re: soupkitten

                                                                      re: soupkitten's superlong post

                                                                      It wouldn't be taxing to listen to the specials if the server bothered to say the "for $16" part. I teach, and I know that if I keep talking and spewing facts without structure, repetition or a visual component, I will lose the students' concentration in less than 15 seconds. Why is it so hard for restaurants to realize this incredibly obvious fact when it comes to their listing of specials ? (By the way, it also applies to writing in large paragraphs without breaks.)

                                                                      Also, what's so hard about a blackboard or whiteboard or easel ? They don't require printing, can be easily erased/scratched out when the special runs out, and allow diners the ability to absorb the information at their own pace.

                                                                      Or would learning how to communicate with their customers somehow kill the souls of the great culinary artists ?

                                                                      1. re: dump123456789

                                                                        nothing is hard about a blackboard or easel. but it could easily look out of place and tacky in a well designed high end place

                                                                        1. re: thew

                                                                          I would assume a well designed high end place could afford a printed list of specials (with prices) instead.

                                                                      2. re: soupkitten

                                                                        soupkitten, I think I love you.

                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                          i was thinking the same thing as i read that

                                                                        2. re: soupkitten

                                                                          I'm pretty much on soupkitten's bus with this one.

                                                                          I hate those obviously pre-planned "specials" and the ones where the "special" has been on every night that month. Or, if it's Tuesday night, the "special" must be pork chop.

                                                                          On the other hand, there's a little Italian place near me, no more than 20 covers. Fish is always a "special" depending on what the chef picked up at the fishmonger on his way to work. They tell what they have and how they'll cook it for you.

                                                                          Similarly, I was recently at a place in Tenerife where everything was a special. No menu whatsover. They ask you what you want and they tell you if they have it. If they have, they then discuss with you how you want it cooked. We went twice - first time we just said bring tapas until we tell you to stop; second time we went with the traditional three courses. Both great meals - you put yourself in the chef's hands. You also put yourself in their hands that you are not going to be ripped off - as there's no mention of cost until you come to pay. Place was packed both nights - deservedly.

                                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                                            ^I want to go there, harters. All the time. Wherever it is.

                                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                                              And there is a place in Soup's part of the world that has no servers. The menu is on a blackboard and the chefs cook it and then bring you the dishes themselves to explain the food and the concept. And BTW the food is over the top outstanding, plu very laid back

                                                                  2. re: Uncle Bob

                                                                    I'm with you, I would prefer the waiter not recite the specials. If it's not on the menu or on an easily read board I have no interest in it.

                                                                    This isn't 1947, it takes ten minutes to print out the specials and insert them in menus.

                                                                    1. re: redfish62

                                                                      It actually can take quite a bit longer than that if you have tons of menus, a slower printer, not to mention the time taken to type it up. Not to mention, if something is a feature, you don't always have tons of it, and if we run out, then we have to then tell everyone with an insert they now cannot have what they were just reading about.

                                                                      It's far more efficient for the restaurant to have servers recite the one or two items and then stop when the item is 86'ed.

                                                            2. Replying "Beyond belief" always sends them on their merry way. "How is everything?"

                                                              1. After reading some of the comments on this post it is clear as day that servers have a job that is impossible. People are just too damn particular.

                                                                1. When I ask "how is everything?" as a server, I really, truly want to know.
                                                                  Are you enjoying your meal? Is it to your standard? Do you need anything else to make it better?

                                                                  I generally will check as soon as the food is put down on the table if everything arrived as it should have, and then check back once people have had a chance to try it.

                                                                  If people are deeply engrossed in conversation, or they are all happily devouring the food, I might not ask, but I'll make sure to top up waters and be available if they have something to say. You can generally tell if everything is all right by reading the table. Are they happy? Or does something seem to be amiss.

                                                                  Not every server can read people well though, and when training staff, I prefer that everyone quality check at an appropriate time.

                                                                  Give your server an honest answer and give us the opportunity to make it right! We're not just asking to make conversation, we want you to actually enjoy your meal!

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: upsidedownorchid

                                                                    Great response...Thanks for making it....Especially this:

                                                                    "I generally will check as soon as the food is put down on the table if everything arrived as it should have, and then check back once people have had a chance to try it."

                                                                    Maybe some of the younger, less experienced waiters are just too eager at times.... and ask too soon!

                                                                    1. re: upsidedownorchid

                                                                      It depends on when you ask it. If you ask me soon after I get my food I tend to say "I'll let you know" or "I haven't had a chance to eat it properly yet" or some such. If you hover around me and fuss I would be liable to snap at you.

                                                                      Later on, if the food was disappointing I WILL tend to say so if it was noticeably deficient in some way. if it is just mediocre I'll probably say "It's OK" - which should be a clear sign to you that it did not wow me but I do not want to belabor the point.

                                                                    2. I don't mind "How is everything" at all (in fact nothing the waiter could possibly say would bother me), but the one I find funny is "Are you still working on that?"

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: redfish62

                                                                        I hate when that pops out of my mouth... I try just to ask if I can clear the plate or if they would like anything packed up, but sometimes that awful phrase just spills out!

                                                                      2. I wish waitstaff wouldn't ask this sort of thing. I always say something positive to get the waiter or waitress to go away. Let's suppose I were honest and said: "pretty mediocre, but I knew that going into this meal." Where would that lead?

                                                                        I don't complain about the food in restaurants unless there's a very serious flaw (e.g., a fingernail) or lapse (e.g., dish does not contain ingredients described on menu). It's just not going to help anything. Many restaurants suck. Some choose to suck; others can't help but suck because they lack talent or skill. My telling the waitstaff that the food sucks will not improve matters.

                                                                        If the waiter tells me that the chef is interested in soliciting comments on a particular dish, I'll certainly oblige. But interestingly enough, that's never happened in all my years of dining out.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: sushigirlie

                                                                          Let's suppose I were honest and said: "pretty mediocre, but I knew that going into this meal." Where would that lead?

                                                                          ignoring why you would choose to eat someplace you expected mediocrity from, where would it lead? perhaps to the chef fixing problems he didn't know the dish had. perhaps to waiters improving something in the service. perhaps nothing at all.

                                                                          but not saying anything leads nowhere with 100% certainty

                                                                          1. re: sushigirlie

                                                                            I tend to do the same. When they ask...I say "fine, thank you" probably 99 percent of the time, even if there are minor things that could have/should have been done better. If there is a big flaw (one that interferes with me being able to eat it) then I will say something. Otherwise, I don't care to expend energy on discussing it and I don't care to help them with their quality assurance program. This is especially true when I need to eat out at a place where I know the food is mediocre.

                                                                            It doesn't bother me that they ask though.

                                                                            I might feel differently if I went out to restaurants all the time- or if I was limited in some way. That is not the case, there are too many restaurants and too little time. It is not very often I go to the same restaurant more than twice.

                                                                          2. Pick one:
                                                                            - great thanks, everything's wonderful
                                                                            - just fine thank you
                                                                            - it looks great but you forgot to give me the ketchup/spoon/sauce
                                                                            - can we please have some more water/bread/wine?'
                                                                            - the soup isn't hot enough, can you please warm it up for me?

                                                                            It's not a big deal. If you are missing something or want more of something or aren't happy with something it gives you the opportunity to do something about it before you're finished eating.

                                                                            1. I try to be truthful, but it depends on whether it is just me and mrs j or we are with friends. If the former we both expect the dish as ordered and properly cooked. If not we tell the server and expect a correction. If we are with friends, unless it is a gross faux pas we normally suck it up since the we will make you something else discussion always leads to one person eating after the others are done with their entree. Awkward

                                                                              I do not consider asking the question bad form, or anything close to that.

                                                                              Now the oral presentations are a major bugaboo. I hate them. I do not care how busy the restaurant is. There is no excuse for the oral with no prices presentation. Buy a freakin' printer, have someone type it and either leave with the regular menu or have available as one per table. "We are not a print shop", "we are too focused on the food", "we only have a limited number", all a first grade excuses worse than my dog ate my homework. Man up and do your job.

                                                                              And if someone wants something repeated 1, 2, or 3 times, hey the restaurant created the issue, they have to live with it. I have absolutely no problem asking for multiple repeats if necessary. Heck i read the narrowed-down choices several times before I decide. They made their bed, they need to live with it.

                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                i've never noticed a waiter change my service for the worse because i asked them to repeat details of a special.....

                                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                                  The thing that bugs me is that they will waste plenty of time yacking at me about their specials without naming the prices, during which my mind drifts off, but they won't spend 5 seconds to tell me what dishes are out until AFTER I've decided on them. Now that's information I could have used ages ago.

                                                                                  Next time, I'm just going to say it upfront: "Before you begin, tell me which dishes on the printed menu you're out of, and the prices of any specials you plan to describe".

                                                                                  1. re: dump123456789

                                                                                    When there are daily specials, I think the best way to present them may not be an insert on the menu but a seperate little minature version of the menu on a different placard that can be brought with you to the table. It would be a little more work but then when the specials run out, you can just simply stop bring the placard to the tables as they are being seated. At least thats what they do at the Pub that I frequent. But when specials are read aloud its hard to pay attention, and you just can't read and picture the food the way they can describe it in paper. and the lack of prices drive me crazy!

                                                                                    1. re: dump123456789

                                                                                      To be fair, they may not know that someone at another table has just ordered the last of something until they go to place the order at the kitchen and find that out.

                                                                                      And it's not at all uncommon that when they DO know in advance that they're out of something they'll tell you when they come to take your orders, or even when they hand you the menus. I've also often been told in advance when they're low on something - "there are only two of the lobster specials left so if you'd like one let me know right away and I'll make sure they hold it for you" sort of thing.

                                                                                      1. re: BobB

                                                                                        You're right - it could have been a race for the last of a certain dish, and I just missed out.

                                                                                        I'm talking more about those cases when they come back to take my order, and the minute I say what I want, they say "oh, we're out of that". And then I name something else, and suddenly "oh, we're out of that too". I can't help get the feeling they knew all along what they were out of, but just didn't bother to say. Especially since, in that case, I usually don't have a third choice prepared.

                                                                                  2. Yes, Chefs want to know, Restaurant owners want to know, the rest are chains they don't really care. As a Chef I always walk my dining rooms talking with people, making them feel comfortable so they can give me their feedback. My recommendation is to always let the server know ASAP if there is a problem, no one wins if your not happy with your meal. I send all my meals out of the kitchen with the understanding I did my best to make your meal good, I want you to enjoy it, let me know when it doesn't measure up...................Chef Bill

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Oregonguy

                                                                                      You are wrong about chains. That "How is everything?" or other check back question in a timely manner is required for virtually every sit-down restaurant chain I've ever mystery-shopped, from coffee shop to white linen fine dining at $100 pp. They want to know if they can correct anything that can be corrected and offer an apology, so you will come back. It's considered expected customer service.

                                                                                    2. We've locked this thread, as replies were getting increasingly heated, with the discussion going in circles.