Why do restaurants need specials? Are they really something “special” or just a way for chefs to experiment or use ingredients that may not be so fresh? The most important, should we go for it or skip the special? What are the signs that a special isn’t so special?
The answer is: it depends. While some restaurants, usually upscale or busier, offer really delicious dishes made with fresh ingredients, other restaurants offer special dishes just to help get rid of foods that may not be so fresh. .
To help you better determine if ordering the special is really worth it, we’ve called on the experts to help us spot some warning signs of a suspicious special. From specials that are only offered on certain days to signs that a waiter is just selling it for a bigger tip, here’s seven warning signs you should skip the daily specials, according to chefs.
If you notice that a restaurant that already offers a long list of dishes also offers special dishes, you may want to proceed with caution.
“When it comes to a large menu, the restaurant tends to stock more ingredients because they cannot accurately predict how much of what may be needed in a given time frame,” explains Hemant Bhagwanichef and owner of the next Goa New York in New York.
For this reason, specials may consist of older ingredients that have not been used in regular dishes in time. “A menu overloaded with different dishes shows that the kitchen is carrying excess inventory which leads to stale ingredients,” he adds.
Bhagwani also points out that a red flag can arise when restaurant staff try too hard to push the special at you. If your server is doing this, it may be because the kitchen is trying to sell a special dish that contains ingredients that will spoil soon and they want to get it out of the kitchen quickly.
Another sign to avoid promotions is when its prices are lower than regular menu prices. Restaurants will sometimes do this in hopes that more people will be enticed to order the special, allowing them to get rid of leftovers or older ingredients more quickly.
“When the daily special is cheaper, the restaurant should recognize it as a red flag,” says Bhagwani.
If a restaurant that’s usually open for lunch or dinner offers lunch specials, that may be another sign that it’s trying to consume older, less fresh ingredients.
“A group of cooks in restaurants told me that ‘dish of the day’ or ‘lunch’ is either the food from the start of the week or the food from the last week,” writes a Reddit user. . “The restaurant is trying to get rid of it before it goes bad, and an easy way to do that is at lunch because there aren’t many people going out for lunch. If you’ve seen a special , you’d be more inclined to go ahead and order it to ‘save money’.”
If you notice that the special is something out of the ordinary for the restaurant, you might want to rethink its order. This is because sometimes the daily specials are actually different recipes and dishes that the chefs are just trying out, which can mean they might not be up to scratch yet.
“Honestly, I avoid daily specials because often daily specials are a test dish,” says Nahid Ahmed, chef and founder of Luthun in New York. Ahmed mentions that because of this, there’s a 50/50 chance he really tastes good.
“The chef may not be too confident in this dish and may be testing the waters a bit,” he adds. Ahmed says it’s best to stick to what’s on the regular menu in this case.
Chief Denis Littleprofessional chef for over 40 years and blogger at Ask Chef Dennis, recommends paying attention to daily specials on offer to determine the freshness of ingredients.
“When I created specials, most of the items for the specials were purchased specifically for that purpose and those food purchases usually arrived just before the weekend, which is traditionally a restaurant’s busiest time,” explains Little. “Most of the specials were selling out, but the ones that weren’t were lingering and while the food wasn’t bad, it wasn’t as fresh as when it was bought. This is especially important with seafood and meats. Specials that did not sell out would either continue as specials or new specials or soups.
For this reason, Little advises that the best time to buy specials is Friday and Saturday, as that “would be when the products used would be the freshest”. He also advises avoiding most seafood Tuesday through Thursday unless the restaurant is always busy, as seafood may not be as fresh on those days.
“A restaurant that is slower during the week may not get as many food deliveries and while the main menu always has the freshest choices, the specials may be foods that have been around longer,” he says.
A Reddit user who worked at a restaurant explains that sometimes restaurants make cheap items to put on the “specials” menu just to have specials available. Promotions usually drive more traffic, which means the restaurant could easily make more money. However, these dishes only seem to get you a good deal.
“We had a few low-cost items that went in and out of the ‘specials’ menu, to avoid having an empty ‘specials’ menu,” they write. “They’ve always been inexpensive, easy-to-get ingredients.
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