Author Topic: Ordering "off menu"  (Read 6513 times)

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lowspark

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #45 on: June 10, 2014, 08:59:28 AM »
What I usually do is either make a tweak to a dish so that it suits my requirements or ask for something that takes an element from a few other dishes, so I know that they have the stuff to make it.  So, for instance, last time we ate out at FancyPlaceThatServesSteaks (I don't eat steaks), I asked for the polenta and vegetables that would normally come with the rib-eye plus the side dish of steamed vegetables, but both on the same plate, then also a piece of garlic bread as well, which was also listed on the menu as a side.  They did it for me, no problems.

This sums up pretty well my thought process when ordering off menu.  I also did this at a place that had "specialty toppings" on their burgers.  I loooved the description for the turkey burger with special sauce, avocado, and a side of fries, but i really wanted a burger.  So I asked if I could have the turkey burger, subbed with a beef patty instead.  They accommodated my request  ;D  and I felt OK asking because I knew they had the ingredients to do it. 

ETA"
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I think you need to be willing to pay extra to order off-menu. Restaurants have worked out their pricing for certain dishes, and if you want it made differently, it may be more expensive. The only time I've ordered 'off-menu' is to ask for half a small milkshake for my kids when they were too small to drink a whole one. And I always offered to pay for the whole small milkshake.

Yes and no.  I've seen it play out in two different ways.  If I wanted to substitute the grilled chicken in my salad with fresh ahi tuna, then yes, I'd completely expect there to be a surcharge.  Most places with spell out these charges anyway, so no big deal. 

However, I was just recently at an Italian restaurant that added a $1 surcharge if you wanted a different pasta to come with your dish.  It didn't affect my order, but it did leave my figuratively scratching my head.  I don't see a huge cost difference between, say, spaghetti and linguine, or even penne.  It just seemed like such a tiny thing that was made a bigger deal by the restaurant for no reason.

I agree with this. I don't like being nickeled & dimed. If something actually costs more, I'm happy to pay more. But adding on surcharges for stuff that should just be included leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

For some reason, this experience stuck in my mind, even though I couldn't tell you now what the name of the restaurant was (I believe it is long gone). It was a place I'd really wanted to try as I'd heard their food was good but the location wasn't convenient so I'd just never gotten around to going. We went with a group of friends and I asked for extra salad dressing. The waiter said ok, but it would cost me fifty cents. Yes, they added 0.50 to my bill. Ooookaaaayyy.... Really? Fifty cents? And for salad dressing?

Yeah, you guessed it, I never went back. I can't have been the only one to ask for more dressing. I'd have been much happier if they'd just charged me the fifty cents in the first place as part of the menu price. But when they nickel and dime me for each item, they lose me.

edgypeanuts

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #46 on: June 10, 2014, 04:26:52 PM »
I frequently have to order off menu as I don't eat meat and many places have very few meatless options.  I will order a pasta dish without the meat, or with mushrooms in place of meat.  Most of the time is it not a issue, but if the waiter complains about my ordering (I have been told- "the kitchen staff doesn't like substitutions") I will point out that I don't eat meat and have few options on their menu.  Some will point out the ONE item without meat- this annoys me, if I am trying to order a sandwich without the meat on it, I probably don't want the salad or I would have just ordered that. 

I agree some of the little charges get almost insulting. One rather nice place (ie not cheap) has no problem charging me full price for my chicken pasta with no meat in it, but then told me they would have to charge me extra to get the Caesar dressing on my side salad (they had Caesar, but it was not a side salad option.)  I said sure, and then was charged $3 extra for a tiny plate of wilted iceberg lettuce and a tablespoon of Caesar dressing.  It would not have annoyed me so much if they had also decreased the cost of the entree, but the combination of the two makes me not want to go back there, even though the entree was good.

CakeEater

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #47 on: June 10, 2014, 05:44:56 PM »
What I usually do is either make a tweak to a dish so that it suits my requirements or ask for something that takes an element from a few other dishes, so I know that they have the stuff to make it.  So, for instance, last time we ate out at FancyPlaceThatServesSteaks (I don't eat steaks), I asked for the polenta and vegetables that would normally come with the rib-eye plus the side dish of steamed vegetables, but both on the same plate, then also a piece of garlic bread as well, which was also listed on the menu as a side.  They did it for me, no problems.

This sums up pretty well my thought process when ordering off menu.  I also did this at a place that had "specialty toppings" on their burgers.  I loooved the description for the turkey burger with special sauce, avocado, and a side of fries, but i really wanted a burger.  So I asked if I could have the turkey burger, subbed with a beef patty instead.  They accommodated my request  ;D  and I felt OK asking because I knew they had the ingredients to do it. 

ETA"
Quote
I think you need to be willing to pay extra to order off-menu. Restaurants have worked out their pricing for certain dishes, and if you want it made differently, it may be more expensive. The only time I've ordered 'off-menu' is to ask for half a small milkshake for my kids when they were too small to drink a whole one. And I always offered to pay for the whole small milkshake.

Yes and no.  I've seen it play out in two different ways.  If I wanted to substitute the grilled chicken in my salad with fresh ahi tuna, then yes, I'd completely expect there to be a surcharge.  Most places with spell out these charges anyway, so no big deal. 

However, I was just recently at an Italian restaurant that added a $1 surcharge if you wanted a different pasta to come with your dish.  It didn't affect my order, but it did leave my figuratively scratching my head.  I don't see a huge cost difference between, say, spaghetti and linguine, or even penne.  It just seemed like such a tiny thing that was made a bigger deal by the restaurant for no reason.

I agree with this. I don't like being nickeled & dimed. If something actually costs more, I'm happy to pay more. But adding on surcharges for stuff that should just be included leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

For some reason, this experience stuck in my mind, even though I couldn't tell you now what the name of the restaurant was (I believe it is long gone). It was a place I'd really wanted to try as I'd heard their food was good but the location wasn't convenient so I'd just never gotten around to going. We went with a group of friends and I asked for extra salad dressing. The waiter said ok, but it would cost me fifty cents. Yes, they added 0.50 to my bill. Ooookaaaayyy.... Really? Fifty cents? And for salad dressing?

Yeah, you guessed it, I never went back. I can't have been the only one to ask for more dressing. I'd have been much happier if they'd just charged me the fifty cents in the first place as part of the menu price. But when they nickel and dime me for each item, they lose me.

But why should asking for extra of anything be included in the price? They couldn't charge you the 50c as part of the menu price, because you asked for more food than was offered in the menu price.

Possibly asking for a different kind of pasta means that the kitchen needs to boil another pot of water to cook a separate kind of pasta so the two kinds don't get mixed up and then they need to clean and put away that pot. Labour, hot water etc all cost money. Why shouldn't a customer be happy to pay extra if they ask for something different, and especially if they ask for something extra.

katycoo

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #48 on: June 10, 2014, 09:40:16 PM »
However, I was just recently at an Italian restaurant that added a $1 surcharge if you wanted a different pasta to come with your dish.  It didn't affect my order, but it did leave my figuratively scratching my head.  I don't see a huge cost difference between, say, spaghetti and linguine, or even penne.  It just seemed like such a tiny thing that was made a bigger deal by the restaurant for no reason.

Its not for no reason.  Its to discourage petty changes.

Say the bolognese comes with spaghetti.  But you want it with penne.  This places the kitchen under a greater burden simply by needing to remember your substitution.  Instead of just yelling out "1 bolognese" to whoever is on that station, they have to specify the particular request.  That person may be making a number of bolognese and now must remember which one he is making with penne and when to time it with the correct other orders for that table.

While there's probably no more expense, there is additional effort required adn the more people who make these changes, the harder it is to keep them all straight.  So despite the pastas all pretty much tasting the same, I think its completely reasonable to expect to pay a small surcharge to accomodate a special request if its that important to you.

blarg314

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #49 on: June 10, 2014, 10:53:36 PM »

I don't mind a modest surcharge for substitutions or special requests. As I see it, the restaurant is telling you that they'll do it if you really want it or need it, but they aren't particularly keen on the practice in general, so they don't want to encourage it. That's better than a strict no substitutions rule, which some places do have.

Because special requests do take more work for the staff, and as katycoo said, it also interrupts the flow in the kitchen.

I'm curious about how the rate of special requests has changed with time. I think there are a lot more special diets these days, for a combination of reasons (fads like low carb, allergies and sensitivities, varying levels of vegetarianism). Special requests are one of those things that tend to be available only if they're not overused - if every customer wants modifications and extras, the management is likely to step in to put some controls on it.


 

Allyson

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #50 on: June 11, 2014, 02:16:36 AM »
I also don't mind a surcharge for a change, as to me the menu price is for the item listed as it is. So long as they *tell me* what it is upfront and don't charge me 3 dollars for sour cream but not say anything. Now I always ask...

I think that ordering off menu and tweaking a dish are different.  When it comes to tweaking, I think "no onions" should really never be a problem. But "No onions, and mushrooms extra cooked but green beans less cooked and Italian instead of ranch only on one half" is frustrating for the staff. Yes, "it's their job" but it's also extra work.

Ordering off menu, as in a different dish, I think can be accepted or not by the staff...I think it's pretty much always fine if it's a dish they had before and don't anymore (though they might say no) especially!

perpetua

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #51 on: June 11, 2014, 03:25:28 AM »

I think that ordering off menu and tweaking a dish are different.  When it comes to tweaking, I think "no onions" should really never be a problem.


Depends on the dish. If you order a bolognese with 'no onions' they're likely not going to be able to accommodate that and I think that's snowflakey to even think they will, because it'd basically entail making a fresh batch from scratch just for you (you general). But a pizza - not so much of an issue.

I'm very intolerant to mushrooms - not full blown allergy, but I guess at some point it could turn into that so I avoid them like the plague. What I do is I ask if a dish has mushrooms in it. If it does, I pass and order something else. But for things like pizza, or a set breakfast, I would ask for them to leave them off altogether or substitute them for something else.


Quote
But "No onions, and mushrooms extra cooked but green beans less cooked and Italian instead of ranch only on one half" is frustrating for the staff. Yes, "it's their job" but it's also extra work.

I don't think something to that degree *is* their job, actually. For me that falls under 'if you don't like how they make it to the degree you're changing it that much, why have it at all?'

lowspark

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #52 on: June 11, 2014, 11:03:58 AM »
What I usually do is either make a tweak to a dish so that it suits my requirements or ask for something that takes an element from a few other dishes, so I know that they have the stuff to make it.  So, for instance, last time we ate out at FancyPlaceThatServesSteaks (I don't eat steaks), I asked for the polenta and vegetables that would normally come with the rib-eye plus the side dish of steamed vegetables, but both on the same plate, then also a piece of garlic bread as well, which was also listed on the menu as a side.  They did it for me, no problems.

This sums up pretty well my thought process when ordering off menu.  I also did this at a place that had "specialty toppings" on their burgers.  I loooved the description for the turkey burger with special sauce, avocado, and a side of fries, but i really wanted a burger.  So I asked if I could have the turkey burger, subbed with a beef patty instead.  They accommodated my request  ;D  and I felt OK asking because I knew they had the ingredients to do it. 

ETA"
Quote
I think you need to be willing to pay extra to order off-menu. Restaurants have worked out their pricing for certain dishes, and if you want it made differently, it may be more expensive. The only time I've ordered 'off-menu' is to ask for half a small milkshake for my kids when they were too small to drink a whole one. And I always offered to pay for the whole small milkshake.

Yes and no.  I've seen it play out in two different ways.  If I wanted to substitute the grilled chicken in my salad with fresh ahi tuna, then yes, I'd completely expect there to be a surcharge.  Most places with spell out these charges anyway, so no big deal. 

However, I was just recently at an Italian restaurant that added a $1 surcharge if you wanted a different pasta to come with your dish.  It didn't affect my order, but it did leave my figuratively scratching my head.  I don't see a huge cost difference between, say, spaghetti and linguine, or even penne.  It just seemed like such a tiny thing that was made a bigger deal by the restaurant for no reason.

I agree with this. I don't like being nickeled & dimed. If something actually costs more, I'm happy to pay more. But adding on surcharges for stuff that should just be included leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

For some reason, this experience stuck in my mind, even though I couldn't tell you now what the name of the restaurant was (I believe it is long gone). It was a place I'd really wanted to try as I'd heard their food was good but the location wasn't convenient so I'd just never gotten around to going. We went with a group of friends and I asked for extra salad dressing. The waiter said ok, but it would cost me fifty cents. Yes, they added 0.50 to my bill. Ooookaaaayyy.... Really? Fifty cents? And for salad dressing?

Yeah, you guessed it, I never went back. I can't have been the only one to ask for more dressing. I'd have been much happier if they'd just charged me the fifty cents in the first place as part of the menu price. But when they nickel and dime me for each item, they lose me.

But why should asking for extra of anything be included in the price? They couldn't charge you the 50c as part of the menu price, because you asked for more food than was offered in the menu price.

Possibly asking for a different kind of pasta means that the kitchen needs to boil another pot of water to cook a separate kind of pasta so the two kinds don't get mixed up and then they need to clean and put away that pot. Labour, hot water etc all cost money. Why shouldn't a customer be happy to pay extra if they ask for something different, and especially if they ask for something extra.

Well, to be honest, if their pricing is so tight that they can't afford to give me extra dressing without tacking on fifty cents to my bill, they probably need to rethink their pricing. If I want shrimp instead of chicken in my salad, sure, there's a real price difference there and I would guess that any restaurant would be obliged to increase the price. But I've never gone to any restaurant that charged me extra for extra dressing. It's sort of like charging extra for extra barbecue sauce or hot sauce in my book. Do steak places charge extra for steak sauce? No, they build into their price even though not everyone asks for it.

It's the whole idea that they can't swing an amount like 50 cents when serving a table of 10 customers on a busy night. I mean yeah, I'll pay the 50 cents. But I gotta wonder if they are cutting corners on everything in order to somehow make a profit. And I gotta wonder why every other restaurant I go to doesn't have any problem giving me the extra dressing with no charge. What's different here?

So ok, maybe you're right. I'm asking for extra food. But you can be darn sure I won't ever ask for it there again because I won't be going back.

Another example, restaurants which sell you a baked potato but charge you extra for sour cream. I haven't run into that in years but I have had it happen to me. It feels like, "oh! You want a steering wheel with that car? That'll be extra."

lowspark

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #53 on: June 11, 2014, 11:11:47 AM »
However, I was just recently at an Italian restaurant that added a $1 surcharge if you wanted a different pasta to come with your dish.  It didn't affect my order, but it did leave my figuratively scratching my head.  I don't see a huge cost difference between, say, spaghetti and linguine, or even penne.  It just seemed like such a tiny thing that was made a bigger deal by the restaurant for no reason.

Its not for no reason.  Its to discourage petty changes.

Say the bolognese comes with spaghetti.  But you want it with penne.  This places the kitchen under a greater burden simply by needing to remember your substitution.  Instead of just yelling out "1 bolognese" to whoever is on that station, they have to specify the particular request.  That person may be making a number of bolognese and now must remember which one he is making with penne and when to time it with the correct other orders for that table.

While there's probably no more expense, there is additional effort required adn the more people who make these changes, the harder it is to keep them all straight.  So despite the pastas all pretty much tasting the same, I think its completely reasonable to expect to pay a small surcharge to accomodate a special request if its that important to you.

I think this post helped me clarify the issue in my own mind. What constitutes a petty change? Well the answer to that is totally dependent on where you are. If I'm at Chez Cheapy then the most minor item is going to be a petty change that they don't want to deal with. If I'm at Chez HighDollar, it's probably going to take a lot more of a change in order for them to decide they need to increase the price.

I usually want to eat Chez InBetween. Where switching out the pasta type or giving me extra dressing doesn't stress them out. And that's usually where I'm eating. So if I think I'm at Chez InBetween based on the atmosphere, prices, etc. and they start behaving like they're Chez Cheapy, I'm not going to be happy.

Again, in the moment, I don't balk, I'm not rude, I pay the extra and enjoy my meal. But don't expect me as a return customer.

Allyson

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #54 on: June 11, 2014, 01:27:10 PM »

I think that ordering off menu and tweaking a dish are different.  When it comes to tweaking, I think "no onions" should really never be a problem.


Depends on the dish. If you order a bolognese with 'no onions' they're likely not going to be able to accommodate that and I think that's snowflakey to even think they will, because it'd basically entail making a fresh batch from scratch just for you (you general). But a pizza - not so much of an issue.

Oh, yeah, definitely true. I was thinking more about whether it's rude or annoying for the customer to order it. I think it's always fine if the restaurant says "sorry, but we can't do that, it's already made and has X item in it".

etiquettenut

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #55 on: June 11, 2014, 01:48:17 PM »
What about saying "I don't know what I want.  Surprise me with something with chicken in it."  SonIL#2 does that in certain restaurants, and always gets the most amazing results.

I'm glad that it has worked for him. He's probably a gracious person who wouldn't take it out on the waitstaff if he didn't like the dish. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who would. That is why, as former waitstaff, I hated stuff like this. I would not appreciate the added burden of trying to come up with something he would like (or putting that on the kitchen) and then worrying about it the whole time. I don't want the pressure of being responsible for another person's decisions.

tinkytinky

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #56 on: June 11, 2014, 02:37:14 PM »
As for the salad dressings, a lot of places just order big jugs of dressing so it isn't a big deal, but there are some that make the dressings fresh every day. And it isn't just the high-end restaurants that do that. We have a pizza parlor here that I remember back in the day, made their locally famous salad dressings in house. If they ran out, they ran out and you couldn't order it until they made more. You could get a salad with different dressing, though most times that didn't happen. I would specifically skip the pizza and even order the salad to go instead of fast food, the dressing was that good. They now have a chain of parlors, and sell the dressing in local grocery stores (and it is pricey).

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KimberlyM

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #57 on: June 11, 2014, 04:54:24 PM »
I went to a really high end place with my mom for dinner once and the menu stated, in several places, ABSOLUTELY NO SUBSTITUTIONS or CHANGES and also had a disclaimer that said something to the effect of "we don't have ketchup, our food doesn't need it, don't even ask". Certainly they have the right to be that way, but even if the food hadn't been too expensive and fussy for my taste (I couldn't identify anything on the menu, it was good, but I still don't know what I ate and it was one of those 3 bite plates for $60) I probably wouldn't have gone back anyway because it just rubbed me wrong.  If I don't like onions, just because you tell me yours are good doesn't mean I'll suddenly like them!


shortstuff

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #58 on: June 11, 2014, 09:26:09 PM »
However, I was just recently at an Italian restaurant that added a $1 surcharge if you wanted a different pasta to come with your dish.  It didn't affect my order, but it did leave my figuratively scratching my head.  I don't see a huge cost difference between, say, spaghetti and linguine, or even penne.  It just seemed like such a tiny thing that was made a bigger deal by the restaurant for no reason.

Its not for no reason.  Its to discourage petty changes.

Say the bolognese comes with spaghetti.  But you want it with penne.  This places the kitchen under a greater burden simply by needing to remember your substitution.  Instead of just yelling out "1 bolognese" to whoever is on that station, they have to specify the particular request.  That person may be making a number of bolognese and now must remember which one he is making with penne and when to time it with the correct other orders for that table.

While there's probably no more expense, there is additional effort required adn the more people who make these changes, the harder it is to keep them all straight.  So despite the pastas all pretty much tasting the same, I think its completely reasonable to expect to pay a small surcharge to accomodate a special request if its that important to you.

Ahhh, this is why I love eHell.  Thanks for providing another perspective on this.  I was obviously thinking of only ingredients.  There is behind the scenes work that goes in to making changes.  I've never worked in a kitchen, so don't know all that goes on.  I wouldn't think it that different from cooking steaks/burgers to temperature, but depending on the place, it can make a big difference. 

MissKoreanna

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Re: Ordering "off menu"
« Reply #59 on: June 12, 2014, 12:28:31 PM »
The "charging $0.50" for a side of ranch (or other dressing/dipping sauce that is additional) is a way to help recoup pricing for that product (either fresh made or premade).  In my time as a server I would see a single table of two go through a cup and a half of ranch for fries, sandwiches, burgers without having ordered any type of salad.  Basically, restaurants that charge this fee are trying to prevent what I call a "lemon loss".  Lemons are a huge loss of revenue because they are used as garnishes, for drinks and meals alike, and most places do not charge for them at all if they are requested additionally.

Ordering off menu is fine if you graciously accept "no".  I was always happy to accommodate requests.  It's part of being in food/beverage hospitality - you're trying to create a fabulous experience for them so they come back!