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The Specials of the Day

Is it disruptive to you to be interrupted in your table conversation to be told the specials? And isn't it more 'special' to find a supplemental list of the day's particular offering?

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  1. I get told the specials when I'm placing my order so it's no more disruptive than pausing my conversation to actually order. I prefer a written list- it's more convenient.

    1. Usually the specials are given when the menu has been handed to me, so I don't usually find it disruptive.

      But yes, I prefer written form vs. an audible.

      11 Replies
        1. re: coll

          That should be a given, IMO. It takes the restaurant so little extra time to price things out on the specials sheet....Just DO IT. :-)

          1. re: LindaWhit

            My main peeve is that I hate when I have already decided on an item on the regular menu and then they hand me a curveball when they come to take the order.

            Or at the very least put up a chalk board, despite the fact that they are so hard to read usually. At least you get the clue that something else might be available, before you prematurely commit.

            1. re: coll

              Or you could ask when first seated if there are specials this evening. Then you know to be on the lookout for them.

              1. re: ttoommyy

                Nah, that's their job, as far as I'm concerned. I'm usually too busy blabbing and settling in.

                1. re: coll

                  Ok. Fair enough. We're all different. When the host or hostess seats us and we are exchanging pleasantries, the 5 seconds it takes to ask, "are there specials this evening?" is no problem for me.

                  1. re: ttoommyy

                    I'm a little ditzy when it comes to remembering things. A man (or woman) has to know their limitations!

                  1. re: ttoommyy

                    I always ask first, because I'm eager to try something that's not on the regular menu. I'd hate to miss some wonderful dish that's just made one day only.

              2. re: coll

                Ah, the mystery prices on "specials." I hate that, as I am often hosting the table. If the regular mains are, say US $50, I do not want to find out that some "special" turned out to be US $150, without some mention of that. Let us know, as not everyone is a Regional President for Barclay's Bank, and will gladly expense $600,000 in food and wines, for a single meal.

                Same goes for the situation, where I order two wines, in the US $175-250 range, only to find out that the restaurant is out. Such happens. Then, the sommelier comes over with a rec, to replace those wines. "OK, that sounds good," only to find out that that rec. was US $450/btl. That is not cool. My price-points were established, off of the wine list already.

                OK, "rant mode" turned off.


            2. No more disruptive than interrupting the table conversation to take the order.

              That said, I want a printed specials menu, not a memorized oral presentation, and that printed page had better include prices, or I'll be igoring it.

              The oral specials presentation is merely a sales gimmick/tool that benefits only the restauarnt/server, not the diner.

              1 Reply
              1. re: bagelman01

                In my experience the oral recitation of specials is too often done by a server who doesn't have all the details/ingredients committed to memory....and never a price attached. The written specials option should--if done well--take care of both.

              2. I have never had the specials been told to me at any other time thenwhen the server hands me menu..or by the hostess when we are first seated.... but yes I rather have a written specail menu

                2 Replies
                1. No, it's not disruptive at all to me. When I eat out in a public place I assume there will be interruptions. It's inevitable.

                  1. While I prefer written specials it doesn't bother me if they are spoken. I don't find it disruptive.

                    15 Replies
                    1. re: foodieX2

                      But what if there are several choices for each course, foodie? Having 6-8 things recited, and then taking time to look at the regular menu while chatting with my dining companions - I usually forget what the special apps and/or entrees are if recited.

                      Or maybe it's just that my brain cells have died off faster than others for the reason I usually forget the verbal specials. :-)

                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        If there are 6-8 specials, that sends up a red flag to me and I'm ordering off the menu. 2 or 3 specials are really specials (the market fish, the soup that evening and maybe a seasonal dish or two at the most). 6-8 says to me the kitchen is trying to get rid of stuff that didn't sell the last couple of nights and I'm just smiling and tuning them out halfway through.

                        1. re: ttoommyy

                          I meant several choices for apps, entrees, and desserts. Sometimes all are recited at the same time. Even if there are two specials for each course, that's a total of 6.

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            Got it.
                            But dessert? Not sure I've ever been to a restaurant that told me the dessert specials at the beginning of the meal.

                            1. re: ttoommyy

                              Twice for me. One of them (can't recall what it was) had to be started by the pastry chef when the apps were brought out. Took that long to put it together and bake, IIRC.

                              1. re: ttoommyy

                                Souffles are usually announced and orders are taken at the beginning... since they take 45-60 minutes to prepare...so I'm told.

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  Yes, I know that. But how many restsurants actually serve souffles in the kinds of restaurants where the server interrupts table conversation to announce the specials? To me, the two do not equate. I would expect a souffle to be served in a higher end restaurant where specials are discreetly announced during the greeting and initial menu distribution.

                                  1. re: ttoommyy

                                    I agree with what you are saying, but I also see it going both ways. I think the belief that the table is being interrupted is exaggerated. If a server is supposed to refrain from approaching a table....based on the belief s/he may interrupt a conservation and be deemed as bad service......the table may never get served, as someone can always be talking at the table. How does a server possibly know what is being discussed. e.g., the events of the day, or queries about the menu.

                                    I've seen comments on these boards criticizing service if they are seated more than two minutes without someone stopping at the table to drop off a menu, a glass of water or a basket of bread.

                                    When a server approaches my table....usually everyone pauses and allows the server to take care of their business. It's not disruptive, nor interference with the table's conversation. They simply have a job to do.

                                    1. re: fourunder

                                      I like to give them three minutes before I freak out.

                                      1. re: fourunder

                                        " I think the belief that the table is being interrupted is exaggerated."

                                        I agree with you 100%.

                              2. re: ttoommyy

                                Yes. That sounds like my local market. When they have a "special" on the "Cajun Blackened Salmon," I suspect that we are dealing with salmon that came in last week, but did not sell.

                                One to three "specials" can work for me. More, and then I run away. I might miss a great one, but there is fear in my heart.


                              3. re: LindaWhit

                                Good point, which is why I much prefer a list, LOL. However most of the places we go to that recite their specials are pretty minimum. Last time we went out eat at our favorite "better" place there were two starter specials and one entree special. I can't think of any place recently that has had more than 4. If its a place I haven't eaten at before I do prefer to hear the specials after perusing the main menu though.

                                I am also guilty of being a chatter-er myself, the servers are probably happy when *I* shut up.

                                1. re: foodieX2

                                  OK, whenever we *do* meet and go out to dinner, we'll warn our waitperson that we talk. A lot. And it's best to give us larger gaps in between his/her table checks. ;-)

                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    We have got get something on calendar! Does your Tapas place put up with talkers?? LOL

                                    1. re: foodieX2

                                      LOL! Umm, I'm usually sitting there with friends for upwards of 3 hours. I think they'll deal with talkers. ;-)

                            2. Where I am, specials are invariably announced along with being given the menu - or you're invited to look at the specials board on the wall (more casual places). No disruption at all.

                              If a place doesnt want to interrupt its customers, then don't irritate me with the "is everything OK?" visit. Yes, it is - and if it isnt, then I'll call you well before you ever get near to coming back. Mercifully, most places I go have sufficient confidence in their business that they have no need of the check-back.

                              Oh, and in fancy places, don't take the wine bottle and the jug of water away. Leave them on the table - I have sufficient strength to pick them up and pour. That means I get a top-up when I want it, not when you want it.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Harters

                                It's a not-so-subtle upsell, and it burns my butt. Even some of the pleasantest wait folks I've known do that as a habit - or rather, as a restaurant policy - and I have been known to turn a bit sharp with them about it.

                                I know that specials tend to be what didn't sell last night, and sometimes that's okay. I was tickled to go to a "French bistro" place we like despite its pretensions on a Thursday night and be offered a special of rabbit ragù with pappardelle, since I know that Lapin à la Moutarde is the constant special on Wednesdays. As I'd expected, the leftovers were both cheaper and better than the original dish!

                              2. It's not particularly disruptive, but I prefer to read about the specials as opposed to hearing them.

                                1. I personally have no preference, nor do I find it disruptive for the server to come to the table to recite the specials. It's part of the dining experience......if you are so intent on having uninterpreted conversation then perhaps it's better you stay home where you have complete control of your environment.

                                  I do find having the specials in writing nice, you generally have a description and you can reflect on them as many times as you need to decide. I do find having the specials read to you to be nice, you can ask questions of the server and get his/her opinion on items.

                                  Either way I have no preference.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: jrvedivici

                                    Usually when they recite, I always have to ask them to repeat at least one thing. That's just me, but still, a waste of everyone's time.

                                    1. re: coll

                                      It's a waste of time to have someone take about 8 seconds to repeat one item? In the course of the day as we converse with friends, family and coworkers, we are always asking others to repeat one thing or another either for clarification or because we did not hear them. It's just part of speaking with one another. I personally do not see it as a waste of time.

                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                        I'm speaking of wasting the time of the servers, actually. I've spent a lot of time in their shoes and hate to make their job any harder. If it gets too complicated, I'll skip it rather than ask for a rerun.

                                        1. re: coll

                                          I think by definition it's a servers job to waste their time serving us. It's no different than asking for more bread, refill the water or if you want cheese with your pasta. That's their job, in a restaurant where the specials are given orally, answering questions, repeating them, explaining them are all a part of their "service". The better they do, the better they should be compensated / tipped. I don't think you should ever think of asking questions or to repeat things as wasting their time(s).

                                          I grew up in the business and still have my hands involved here and there.....I'm a HUGE proponent of spoken special rather than written. I think it offers an opportunity for you to "bond" with your server, as well as an opportunity for you to see the level of knowledge of your server regarding the items they are describing.

                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                            Well if the entire menu was spoken then that's another story ;-)

                                            Usually the specials are recited without much emotion, actually if they wax eloquent about one as their favorite, I'd probably try it. But that's few and far between.

                                          2. re: coll

                                            I waited tables for years and in the restaurants where we had spoken specials I always assumed I would have to repeat myself. It was never a big deal for me. But I guess we all look at this situation from different viewpoints and all of our arguments/conclusions/opinions are valid. It's all good.

                                    2. I'd much prefer it in writing especially as the list grows in number of items or in description of the items. I hate to ask the server to repeat but, often times, it's necessary for one reason or another.

                                      1. Printed special's are rarely specials instead they are items that the restaurant may be featuring for the week.

                                        The reason better restaurants will orally tell you the list is because they should be running out of them throughout the evening. Customer surveys have told owner/operators that to present a menu, even a special menu, and then tell the customer they are out of a dish they have already decided on creates a big disappointment in the customers mind.

                                        18 Replies
                                        1. re: RetiredChef

                                          That issue can be addressed by having the server give out a specials menu while informing the patrons of the items that are sold out or almost sold out. Since regular menu items could get sold out as well, giving the sold-out information early seems like an important step regardless of what kind of menu it refers to.

                                          In general, I have found that a hurried server rattling off a bunch of specials is not a very effective form of communication. By the time I start looking at the menu in earnest, I have probably forgotten what half of them were and their prices (if they were even mentioned). As a result, I rarely order items that weren't written down on some form of menu.

                                          1. re: RetiredChef

                                            My in-city club avoids this problem by having insert slots in the menus for specials (approx 3x5 size). as specials sell out, the Maitre D removes the cards from menus before they are handed to newly seated guests.

                                            Even some of the Greek Diners in our area use this method for daily lunch or dinner specials. 86 the dish, host/ess pulls the cards from the menus.

                                            Problem solved

                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                              Ha! After reading your first paragraph I thought to myself, sounds like a diner menu.

                                              I have never encountered this outside of a diner though.

                                              1. re: jrvedivici

                                                Same here. It's a diner staple practice in New Jersey.

                                                1. re: jrvedivici

                                                  I've never seen a diner remove a specials index card for one menu.....let alone 50-100 on any given service when something was 86d.....I would be happy if they wiped down a few when they got slimy....but this rarely happens. As for Diner's having specials....those business card specials in those inserts are the same every day. The closest thing to a special I have ever seen is a featured item on a specific day, e.g., fish on Fridays

                                                  1. re: fourunder

                                                    different diners, different practices. I can pretty much predict which special index cards will be in the menu on which day of the week, but they vary day to day. For example, Thursday is always corned beef and cabbage. We only frequent 2 of the many diners in our area, and they do pull 86d specials. and they are the two best run, cleanest and profitable diners in the area.
                                                    If a diner handed me a slimy menu, it would be the last time I graced their presence.

                                                  2. re: jrvedivici

                                                    My in-city club is the only place I have enountered this besides diners, but the system works. I was in court today, and ate at the club for lunch. I arrived at 1:25 and sat at a table with three other attorneys who had arrived just after 1PM (the judge in the case I was attending to ran long). Two of the attorneys were eating a special that I did not see in the menu. Then again, there were 2 empty slots in the menu where specials could be inserted.

                                                2. re: RetiredChef

                                                  Thank you for your comments they are valuable and speak to a issue that the restaurant industry has been struggling over since before you and I were born. Many different techniques have been tried, however restaurant surveys still tell us that customers get irritated when you say Special X is sold out on a printed menu. (Why is it on the menu, What's wrong with this place - why didn't they order more, this is what I came for, etc. etc.) Modern surveys have shown that people will actual 'want' a sold-out item more than if it wasn't sold out so in fact this may even increase customer dissatisfaction more. So while you suggestion might sound as a no-brainer to you many restaurants won't do it due to the unfavorable comments they get from customers.

                                                  Secondly if the waist staff is hurried at your first interaction something is wrong, especially if they are the ones who are telling you the specials. This is the time to make the first "great" impression and if they blow this by being hurried or speaking to quickly they have lost the "great" service game before it has even begun.

                                                  Finally, not remembering is an issue and something that I don't have an answer for. I can only tell people that I listen to the specials and I know almost immediately if I would be interested in it or not, If I am I make a point to remember it if I am not I flush it immediately.


                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                      Thank you Four. (Just trying to balance the conversation)

                                                      1. re: jrvedivici

                                                        Finally, not remembering is an issue and something that I don't have an answer for......

                                                        You can't make this up...

                                                        1. re: fourunder

                                                          Ummmm, You need to work on your comedic skill a little bit.

                                                          It would have been funny if I had said:

                                                          Finally, not remembering is an issue and "I used to have and answer for that but I've forgot what it was.

                                                          Keep trying, but don't quit your day job. ;)


                                                      2. re: fourunder

                                                        That's strange the reply bubble clearly showed up under nocharge's dialogue box. However if you read the thread in context it shouldn't be too hard, for most people, to figure out whom I was referring to.


                                                      3. re: RetiredChef

                                                        I have no doubt that having a sold-out item on a printed menu is a negative for the restaurant. On the other hand, not communicating the specials in an effective manner is probably a negative, too, and that's generally been my experience. I think part of my problem with remembering orally specified specials by the time I'm about to start making decisions is the context in which they were described. You have just sat down at your table, you are looking around taking in the environment while making conversation with your dining companions, you are thinking about what pre-dinner cocktail to order while glancing at the menu. In other words, you haven't really relaxed yet. And in the middle of all the stuff that is going on in your brain, you have a server showing up rattling off a bunch of specials. I often see servers using written notes when reciting the specials to make sure they get everything right. If servers can't remember the stuff they are reciting all evening, how is a patron supposed to remember the information when the time comes to make a decision about what to order?

                                                        I guess there is something to be said for the central chalk-board approach, where you can easily delete stuff, although it's obviously not right for every type of restaurant.

                                                        1. re: nocharge

                                                          What I am trying to show is that there are negatives to ALL approaches. The central chalkboard works for some but others just miss it or have vision or reading problems. BTW, while I like the chalkboard approach it is usually considered one of the least like by patrons.

                                                          Bottom line is, there is no easy answer - you are damned if you do and damned if you don't.


                                                          1. re: RetiredChef

                                                            Perhaps if restaurants imitated boxing matches they could have bikini clad women in high heels strolling the restaurant holding up the specials chalkboard like they do in between rounds at a boxing match.

                                                            1. re: Motosport

                                                              That is a good suggestion, it will at least get the men to pay attention.

                                                      4. Ever wonder why the there is only one "Special" sheet on a table of 4 or 6?? Everyone is passing it around to check out the specials. It's usually just one copy machine piece of paper.

                                                        1. At our local Turkish restaurant the special is on a chalk board. It's always Lamb Shank!! Every day all the time!! Lamb Shank!!

                                                          4 Replies
                                                            1. re: coll

                                                              I love making a big show of looking at the special board and asking about the LAMB SHANK!!

                                                              1. re: Motosport

                                                                They probably call you "Mr Lamb Shank" behind your back!

                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                  Better than to be called "Lamb Skank"!

                                                          1. if the restaurant serves food i like, reasonably large portion sizes, and has what i consider to be reasonable prices, that is enough to keep me happy.
                                                            however they want to handle the communication of specials is ok with me as long as the price/quality/quantity issues are acceptable.

                                                            1. An iPad menu
                                                              would solve the problem of
                                                              notecards, chalkboards, and rote waitstaff repetition,
                                                              and as they should be almost instantly updatable,
                                                              would also alleviate the 86'ed-but-I-wanted-THAT issue.

                                                              [now, awaiting my stoning via the chisel-carriers]

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                                                They certainly could solve the problem in theory provided a sufficiently sophisticated high-tech restaurant infrastructure that tracks 86'ed dishes and makes that information available to the iPads in real time. However, such an infrastructure may be an over-engineered solution for many restaurants that have more immediate concerns for their survival than how the specials are presented to their customers.

                                                                1. This is a good question.

                                                                  Often, the "Specials," are read from a notepad, or obviously just memorized.

                                                                  As we do enjoy conversation (often our guests have flown across an ocean, to see and dine with us), and I do not like being interrupted, to have a list read to me.

                                                                  However, and with that said, we will often ask if there are any specials, or additions to the menu. That is when we wish to hear about those.

                                                                  At a truly fine-dining restaurant, things are not done, "by the numbers," say at 5 mins. after offering the menus, I must stop everything, and recite the specials. A good server will watch the table, and pick a good time to approach. If, after that 5 mins., no one has picked up the menus, then it's probably time to concentrate on my wine order, and not break in with "Everyone hush - here are the specials."

                                                                  Also, when I have asked for the wine list, it is highly unlikely that I will have an order instantly. I need to read, plus also speak to my guests. A good server will give me a moment, and especially with a longer wine list. Also, it might not be worth the effort to send the sommelier immediately to my table, unless I have asked for assistance. I know my way around some of the best wine lists on Earth, but if I do not dine there with regularity, might need a moment to make my decisions. Now, I might need help, at some point, but not when I have just been handed a 300 page wine list. Give me a moment, and I will have my orders lined up.

                                                                  Great service should be seamless, and never "by the numbers." Some diners want instant orders and dishes, while others actually need to speak a moment, with a guest - not everyone texts to their fellow diners.

                                                                  I think that all servers, who actually aspire to greatness, should dine at Restaurant Daniel in NYC. They should take copious notes on how service should go, and not listen to anyone, who tells them to interrupt the diners, or urge them along. There is a right way to do it, and many wrong ways. Ascribe to the former, even if the server is working at a lesser restaurant.

                                                                  Back to the thrust of this thread, I would much prefer to have a single-page addendum to my menu - if the server can write it down, then a Laserjet can do a half-sheet print out, to be added. Unless the kitchen starts running out, there should be no need to have a recitation of those specials - just print them out, before the doors open.


                                                                  1. I WISH someone would interrupt and tell us the specials. Usually the server gives us the menu and goes away and we wonder what the specials are, then hear other guests having the specials being described to them, but for some reason they skip telling us about it. (Yes, I know the solution is to ask.)
                                                                    The same thing happens at the favorite local bar and grill - everyone else gets the free bowl of popcorn to start, but we always have to ask for it. sigh.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: occula

                                                                      I always deduct for this type of "selective service" at tip time.