I rarely eat out at restaurants and never at the expensive higher-end ones unless I am the guest of someone else. But on the rare occasions that I do go to such places, I am always amused by the wait staff who recite from memory the ‘specials’. It usually goes by so fast and has so many esoteric details about what the dishes contain and how they are prepared that I almost immediately succumb to information overload and cannot keep track. So I usually just listen politely and then order from the menu. I always thought it would be a lot easier to simply print a single sheet with the day’s specials and hand it out along with the menu than have the wait staff memorize and then repeat the same thing hundreds of times a day. It seems such an obvious thing to do that not doing so must be some kind of affectation, part of the ambiance of expensive restaurants that their customers expect.
One thing I do notice is that the price of the specials is never volunteered and one has to ask for it. I think that the restaurant correctly assumes that the clientele who frequent their places would not like to give the impression to the other members of their party of being so gauche that the price affects their choice of what to eat, though to my mind that is a perfectly reasonable consideration. Diners probably assume that the cost of the specials is in the same range as similar items that are on the menu.
But I was shocked at this report of an upscale restaurant in New York that fleeces unwary customers by charging exorbitant prices for their unpriced specials. Apparently even some of the menu items are unpriced, allowing for overcharging there too.
I was wondering what the options are if an unwary patron is placed in the situation of being charged hundreds of dollars for an entree. Can one challenge the bill? Or once one has ordered and eaten, is one legally liable for whatever price the restaurant charges for an item that was not priced?
I don’t think this kind of business practice is common (or I’d have heard of it before) but it reinforces my decision to always order only from the menu and make sure the price is listed.