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Old 07-10-2019, 06:25 PM
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Whenever a chain resturant has a deep discount food item, do they deliberately skimp on quality?


Yesterday the hot dog chain Wienerschnitzel was having 58 cent chili-dogs in celebration of being around for 58 years, so about half-off normal price. I went in to get some and noticed that while still good it definitely doesn't seem like they put as much chili on the chili-dogs as they normally do, probably to save some money.

Do chains actually do this or was it just my imagination? And if so is this a company-wide policy or is it the individual store owners trying to save some cash? I can't see a company deliberately trying to water down their star product during a promotion but I can definitely see a store-owner doing it just to get the food out there faster.
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Old 07-10-2019, 06:32 PM
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Back in the day, when I was a teenager working fast-food, the owner specifically told us to go lighter on the goodies if the item was on special. Nothing egregious, but just enough that most people wouldn't bitch.

So not so much quality as quantity.

Last edited by silenus; 07-10-2019 at 06:32 PM.
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Old 07-10-2019, 07:03 PM
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IIRC in Kitchen Confidential Anthony Bourdain wrote that you should avoid whatever the special is, because more often than not the "special" is really the item the chef needs to use up quickly because it's about to expire. Although that probably doesn't apply to the Wienerschnitzel thing since that's a nationwide promotion.
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Old 07-10-2019, 07:08 PM
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Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Back in the day, when I was a teenager working fast-food, the owner specifically told us to go lighter on the goodies if the item was on special.
I don't doubt it, but such a policy could backfire: If a special draws in people who aren't already regular customers, you could give them a bad first impression (by skimping on quantity or quality) and make it less likely they'd come back.
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Old 07-10-2019, 08:02 PM
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Applebee's $1 margaritas are fucking ridiculous. I'm not the world's foremost expert on margaritas but .... I don't think what I drank was even worth the dollar I paid.
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Old 07-10-2019, 08:11 PM
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Appleb...
This is all I needed to read to know where you were going.
__________________
It may be because I'm a drooling simpleton with the attention span of a demented gnat, but would you mind explaining everything in words of one syllable. 140 chars max.
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Old 07-10-2019, 10:03 PM
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Originally Posted by WildaBeast View Post
IIRC in Kitchen Confidential Anthony Bourdain wrote that you should avoid whatever the special is, because more often than not the "special" is really the item the chef needs to use up quickly because it's about to expire. Although that probably doesn't apply to the Wienerschnitzel thing since that's a nationwide promotion.
Also doesnt apply because Der Wienerschnitzel doesnt have chefs
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Old 07-10-2019, 10:07 PM
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Applebee's $1 margaritas are fucking ridiculous. I'm not the world's foremost expert on margaritas but .... I don't think what I drank was even worth the dollar I paid.
Cheap margarita mix and cheap tequila. Unit cost is right around 93 cents IIRC. Adding salt to the rim and a lime actually makes it a loss.

But yeah, they're trash. As are all of the other $1 drinks. But they get the college kids and the people that wouldn't know a good drink without the burn of alcohol in the door.
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Old 07-10-2019, 10:13 PM
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I knew a cook in a small local chain, and no, they didnt skimp much. They had a steak dinner special, ordered lost of steaks (so Bourdain is wrong, as usual), that were the same as the normal steaks. Got a quantity deal, sure.

But there was a pretty strict no substitutions, except you have a choice of mashed or baked. Rest of the time, they were more lenient.
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Old 07-10-2019, 10:31 PM
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Even if Bourdain is right, he's wrong. That is, there are often specials on food that doesn't have much shelf life, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't eat it today. The ripe fruit won't keep, but it's good today. Meat can be on sale for all kinds of weird reasons that don't affect the quality. Heck, vegetables are cheaper AND BETTER when they are at the peak of the season.
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Old 07-10-2019, 11:27 PM
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Even if Bourdain is right, he's wrong. That is, there are often specials on food that doesn't have much shelf life, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't eat it today. The ripe fruit won't keep, but it's good today. Meat can be on sale for all kinds of weird reasons that don't affect the quality. Heck, vegetables are cheaper AND BETTER when they are at the peak of the season.
It has been a long time since I read Kitchen Confidential but I don't think he ever said not to order the special because it was no longer good. I think he was trying to say that you shouldn't expect it to be something that the chef has done that makes it "special" but rather that he has a surplus of tuna that he would rather sell than toss out later.

As far as the steak example mentioned above... that is normally a special in the sense that they will have a deal on rib eyes every other Thursday and know to order ahead. The one he was referencing was when the chef takes inventory that morning and decides what to promote.
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Old 07-11-2019, 07:01 AM
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The Burger King taco ($1) in this review looks like they've taken skimping on quality to new levels!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrZzzQxIUvU

Last edited by bobot; 07-11-2019 at 07:01 AM.
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Old 07-11-2019, 07:20 AM
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The Burger King taco ($1) in this review looks like they've taken skimping on quality to new levels!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrZzzQxIUvU
Doesn't look that different from a Jack in the Box taco to me, and those were hands-down our top-selling item back when I worked there.

And ours were two for a dollar.

Last edited by Smapti; 07-11-2019 at 07:21 AM.
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Old 07-11-2019, 07:26 AM
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The one he was referencing was when the chef takes inventory that morning and decides what to promote.
I wonder what percentage of all American restaurants in 2019 this scenario EVER happens in?

05%?

02%?

My guess is even less than that, as you can be damn sure this isn't something that the "chef" at Olive Garden, (or most likely even your friendly neighborhood Mom & Pop Italian joint, depending on where you are located) ever has to worry about.
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Old 07-11-2019, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Asuka View Post
Yesterday the hot dog chain Wienerschnitzel was having 58 cent chili-dogs in celebration of being around for 58 years, so about half-off normal price. I went in to get some and noticed that while still good it definitely doesn't seem like they put as much chili on the chili-dogs as they normally do, probably to save some money.

Do chains actually do this or was it just my imagination? And if so is this a company-wide policy or is it the individual store owners trying to save some cash? I can't see a company deliberately trying to water down their star product during a promotion but I can definitely see a store-owner doing it just to get the food out there faster.
It could be that the particular location you were at was running low on chili - maybe there had been a run on chili dogs earlier in the day? - and was trying to stretch out what they had left.
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Old 07-11-2019, 08:47 AM
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A local pizza chain has "Customer Appreciation Day" where a large pepperoni pizza is ridiculously cheap. They used to do it once or twice a year, but lately it's been once a month. When the special is happening, they just make large pepperoni pies as fast as they can all day.

I bought one the first time they had this offer, but haven't since. A mediocre pizza that's been under the warming light for who knows how long? Nah, I'll go somewhere and pay full price.
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Old 07-11-2019, 09:34 AM
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So, from a store or restaurant's point of view, there are two reasons for sales/specials.

One is to get rid of something: it's almost at sell-by date, someone accidentally ordered too much, they're discontinuing it, they can't sell it at full price (dented, or open-box), or whatever. Idea here is to get as much money as they can for the thing, even if it's not full price. As a customer, you could be getting a deal, or getting what you pay for, depending on the item and your expectations.

Two, is as advertising, to get people into the store/restaurant. Idea here is to accept getting less money than possible, in order to get more business (at that time or in the future). Now, there's not much point in attracting a new customer if they're going to be disappointed or repulsed by what they get, so cheaping out is a bad idea from the store/restaurant's perspective. Of course, nobody should expect the same quality from a $.25 hot dog special as from a $23.00 custom sausage plate at a fine restaurant, but an advertising special probably is an actual deal. If a chain restaurant is offering a special across all their locations, it almost certainly not dumping a little bit of low-quality merchandise, so I wouldn't expect deliberate skimping (though again, what level of quality do you expect at Applebees for non-specials?)

And none of the above applies to liquor, cars, soft drinks or other types of highly-image-dependent products, of course.
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Old 07-11-2019, 10:24 AM
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Doesn't look that different from a Jack in the Box taco to me, and those were hands-down our top-selling item back when I worked there.

And ours were two for a dollar.
There is something about the Jack in the Box taco. It's not really much of a taco, and I dont think hardly anyway sez it tastes good, but when you want something hot & greasy & crunchy & meaty, there it is. About once a month I get a craving and two of them.
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Old 07-11-2019, 10:27 AM
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It has been a long time since I read Kitchen Confidential but I don't think he ever said not to order the special because it was no longer good. I think he was trying to say that you shouldn't expect it to be something that the chef has done that makes it "special" but rather that he has a surplus of tuna that he would rather sell than toss out later.
Also, Kitchen Confidential was written two decades ago. I went to a talk by Bourdain where he talked about a lot in the industry has changed since he wrote it. I know one piece of advice he gave was to not order fish on a certain day because it would be the longest since delivery. He said that doesn't apply anymore since you can get fish delivered any day now.
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Old 07-11-2019, 10:37 AM
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I'm pretty sure the $1 Long Islands at Applebees are watered-down.
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Old 07-11-2019, 12:16 PM
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Despite the condescending tone about Applebee's, I find their steak specials to be a delight. In past years they have had a Wednesday only steak dinner for $9.99 that included a salad that does not come with the usual steak and two sides offering.

Right now they have steak on their Two For $22 menu and it also includes a very nice salad (or other appetizer) for each diner. I just had my third one yesterday. I prefer sirloin steaks anyway so I am not looking for ribeyes, T-bones, etc.

Dennis
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Old 07-11-2019, 01:21 PM
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Why does a place called "Wienerschnitzel" sell hot dogs and not schnitzel?? That's like if Pizza Hut only sold hamburgers, or Chick-Fila was exclusively a seafood joint.
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Old 07-11-2019, 01:26 PM
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Why does a place called "Wienerschnitzel" sell hot dogs and not schnitzel?? That's like if Pizza Hut only sold hamburgers, or Chick-Fila was exclusively a seafood joint.
It would also be Das Wienerschnitzel . But see "Wiener".
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Old 07-11-2019, 01:57 PM
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It has been a long time since I read Kitchen Confidential but I don't think he ever said not to order the special because it was no longer good. I think he was trying to say that you shouldn't expect it to be something that the chef has done that makes it "special" but rather that he has a surplus of tuna that he would rather sell than toss out later.
When Kitchen Confidential was written, high-end restaurants would always have daily specials that would either be on a small additional menu or told to you tableside. Most "good" restaurants don't even really do that anymore. Quality places have mostly moved to having shorter, rotating menus instead of a larger fixed menu with a few "chef's specials." When there ARE specials, it's often a few seasonal items, not a daily thing.

The only times I really see "daily specials" anymore are when I got to chains or old-school supper club type places, and it's pretty much a crapshoot what will be good at any of those places.
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Old 07-11-2019, 03:34 PM
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I wonder what percentage of all American restaurants in 2019 this scenario EVER happens in?

05%?

02%?

My guess is even less than that, as you can be damn sure this isn't something that the "chef" at Olive Garden, (or most likely even your friendly neighborhood Mom & Pop Italian joint, depending on where you are located) ever has to worry about.
I've only worked in regular restaurants that have chefs and it happens. Often there are regular specials like Monday is prime rib or something, but maybe tonight is mahi mahi or orange roughy. I dont know what % of restaurants are like that and not cookie-cutter chains, though.
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Old 07-11-2019, 11:51 PM
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When Kitchen Confidential was written, high-end restaurants would always have daily specials that would either be on a small additional menu or told to you tableside. Most "good" restaurants don't even really do that anymore. Quality places have mostly moved to having shorter, rotating menus instead of a larger fixed menu with a few "chef's specials." When there ARE specials, it's often a few seasonal items, not a daily thing.

The only times I really see "daily specials" anymore are when I got to chains or old-school supper club type places, and it's pretty much a crapshoot what will be good at any of those places.
In a way I would say that the rotating menu has made the "Chef's Special" unnecessary as they can "rotate" the menu to suit and balance their pantry.

I see you are from Chicago... we recently went to Maple and Ash (highly recommended) and next time we go we are planing to get the "I don't give a f@&k" which is the ultimate Chef's Special. The whole table has to order it and you basically put your dinner experience into the chef's care.

I think we have maybe strayed a bit from the OP of chain restaurants offering a deep discount though.
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Old 07-12-2019, 01:28 AM
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In the early 90's, Burger King used to have $1 or $2 Whoppers and they were definitely smaller, Whopper Jr size? A regular price Whopper would fill me up, but I'd need 2-3 of the specially priced ones.
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Old 07-12-2019, 07:48 AM
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I've only worked in regular restaurants that have chefs and it happens. Often there are regular specials like Monday is prime rib or something, but maybe tonight is mahi mahi or orange roughy. I dont know what % of restaurants are like that and not cookie-cutter chains, though.
Specials are still pretty common, in my experience. In fact, the first thing I do when I visit a new restaurant is see if there are any daily specials. I tend to dine at mid-tier (though non-chain) restaurants, not high end, though, but most I visit do have some sort of special. I'm the person who often/usually orders off the specials menu.

I think the comment was more about at what percentage of restaurants are the specials determined by inventory? That I couldn't say. Most places I go to offer specials based on the seasonality of items, from what I can tell, or perhaps the whim of the chef. That said, if there's a prime rib night, the next night might have shepherd's pie (as an example) as a special to use up the prime rib leftovers. I don't see that quite as often, but I have no issue with that. A restaurant should be using as much of its inventory as possible, and if I were a chef and had some extra meat or other ingredients in the back that only had a few days of shelf life left, but were still good, I would absolutely run that as a special to avoid waste. As long as it's not spoiled meat, there's nothing wrong with that.

Last edited by pulykamell; 07-12-2019 at 07:49 AM.
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Old 07-12-2019, 08:28 AM
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Specials are still pretty common, in my experience. In fact, the first thing I do when I visit a new restaurant is see if there are any daily specials. I tend to dine at mid-tier (though non-chain) restaurants, not high end, though, but most I visit do have some sort of special. I'm the person who often/usually orders off the specials menu.
We eat at the same sort of places and I also often order from the specials menu. There are also two restaurants where I'll ask the kitchen for guidance.
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Old 07-13-2019, 01:11 PM
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I also find specials. And not just at high-end places. The local Indian place and one of the Chinese places I go to have specials. The Indian place may just be doing it for variety, I dunno. The Chinese place is definitely selling specials of stuff they got in season or cheap. Like, they sell sauteed pea vines in season on the special menu, and once they had a special on crab because they happen to have gotten a deal on crabs -- probably their supplier was trying to dump the crabs while they were still good, but they WERE still good when I ate them.
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