What does "no substitutions" mean on a slow food menu.

Most restaurants would probably fail if they had to customize each dish for each single customer. Not enough $ for the work, because most people who want that sort of treatment aren’t willing to pay for it.

I used to manage the kitchen of a fish joint with nearly unlimited customization. Twelve types of seafood, four sizes (2-8oz), seven marinades, with choices of custom bread, tortilla, sides, toppings, etc. It was a fucking nightmare to cook and took experienced line cooks months to learn. Kitchens are about efficiency and consistency, and anything that gets in the way of these two things will negatively impact your ability to turn out a quality product. Occasionally you can find skilled cooks that can handle the difficulty of custom orders, but it’s much simpler and more reliable to simply teach workers one thing and let them repeat it over and over.

There’s probably also an issue of what they stocked up on. Let’s say that onion rings and french fries are normally the same price. But they got a deal on french fries this week from their supplier so they bought extra french fries. And they put some specials on the menu that include french fries. If they let people substitute onion rings for the french fries, they’ll lose the advantage they gained from the sale-priced french fries and they’ll be stuck with a surplus of unused french fries.

It’s not, “we know what’s good for you”. It’s, “this is what we’re offering.” It has nothing to do with snobbishness. It’s about showing some respect for other people’s jobs, and about not being a nudnik.

The restaurant prints a menu. The diners pick something from the menu. The restaurant serves the food. The diners pay. *That’s how the process is supposed to work. *

I was at a place that called itself a bistro/bakery/cafe. I selected a sandwich from the hand written on a chalk board menu. I asked for that sandwich to be made without the red peppers. I was told the sandwiches are already prepared, that she’d be happy to pick most of the peppers off but there would be pepper remnants…

I think that system doesn’t really allow for substitutions.

I wonder if places that put that on the menu use it on an as needed basis, so that if I ask for sliced tomato instead of fries they might say “no problem” but if I ask for ahi tuna instead of turkey in my chef salad they can point to that and say “sorry…policy”

Do people really try and upgrade without expecting to pay? Customers really will never cease to amaze me.

There were plenty of deli customers I served who’d get their orders and pay and add as if it was an afterthought “oh, could I get …” and ask for some thing that would have been charged for on the original order but with a building line it was faster to just hand it over. I suspect most of it was sincere “I forgot I wanted potato salad today” but there were a handful of repeat offenders that probably thought they were beating the system.

In a true fine dining situation I’d trust that the chef knows better, but in a place that offers things I could cook myself if I weren’t lazy I don’t hesitate to ask for that with cheddar instead of swiss.

It means, “Surprise, entitled person, it’s time for a lesson in not always getting your way.”

Yup. And the “entitled person” is sometimes the chef/owner of the restaurant, and not the customer! (and the restaurant closes, due to lack of said customers)

The funny thing is McDonald’s for a long time was known for no substitutions on their burgers. If they even let you customize your burger at all it would take a while longer than a burger with whatever the standard toppings were.

My suspicion is that it’s not a snobbish thing, but rather an inventory thing.

If it’s slow food, the idea in part, is that the food is local, organic, etc… so the restaurant probably develops the menu for that night, and gets just the amount of food they expect, since it’s expensive, perishable, etc…

If they allow customers to come in and substitute, they have to do one of two things: either stock some other slow food alternative ingredient which may or may not be subbed in often enough to make money on it, or serve something that’s not slow food, and may not be at the quality levels they (and their customers) expect.

Multiply this by the entree, appetizer and/or soup, sides and dessert, and you can see the conundrum they’re in- if they bought ingredients for alternatives to all those, it’s likely that they’d end up losing most of that money, and at the minuscule margins that meals are served at, they’d likely lose money overall for the night.

Plus the cooks have to know how to cook the alternatives for everything.

It’s probably easier, more profitable and likely ensures higher quality if they just say “No Substitutions”.

Refusing to do something isn’t entitlement. Entitlement is demanding that others do something for you.

Lots of high end steak joints make you order each side individually, which gets quite pricey. If that’s what you want to do, be prepared to pay for it. My guess is most people aren’t.

Still, most of the places I go to regularly will make exceptions if you ask nicely and are willing to pay an extra charge for the trouble.

this, times infinity.

I doubt the vast majority of people who go to restaurants have a clue what it takes to put together one meal on demand let alone customize it. It’s one of the reasons the US auto industry got it’s ass handed to it in the 70’s. The Japanese figured out it was better to bundle options than to have a car go down the assembly line with pages of options that slow it down. You’re getting cruise control, intermittent wipers, rear window defroster, tachometer, and dual power mirrors whether you want them or not.

OK. I guess I don’t get it. A cook refusing to leave off the 1/2 cup of dressing on my salad (i.e., forcing me to pay for it, even if I don’t eat it) is entitlement? Or not entitlement? Refusing to give me a baked potato (already on the menu, for other entrees) instead of french fries? I don’t think these are outlandish requests, yet I have experienced them.

Whatever it’s called, I’m ditching that particular restaurant from my rotation. I’ve done it before and I’m sure I’ll do it again. If the place closes because enough “entitled customers” decide to shun them, then, oh well. Not my problem.

You can always ask anyway. Restaurants aren’t likely to care if you try to substitute one simple side for another. But they’ll be under constant assaut from people who want to substitute the salad for an expensive appetizer, or trying to replace the main course in a special with a porterhouse steak. It’s just a defensive move by the restaurant allowing them to deny any unreasonable special request. The average restaurant walks a tight line between survival and ruin, and a large factor in that is unreasonable customer requests. Any restaurant would be happy to raise their prices to accomodate special requests, except customers will stop showing up. That’s why there are fewer and fewer one of a kind restaurants, only the chains can manage to survive, and they often do that based on strict portion control with automated ordering systems which makes substitutions even more difficult for the staff to handle.

It’s all a sad state of affairs really. Don’t blame the player, blame the game.

Do you think a baked potato is the same thing as french fries?

Are they refusing to leave the dressing off the salad or refusing to lower the price because you don’t want the dressing? Two different issues, and a different person is entitled in each.

    I tease my husband about being the king of special orders, but he's really not that bad. Generally speaking, his special orders consist of "no cheese" and "dressing on the side"  (because most restaurants use more dressing than he wants) and he has never once had a restaurant refuse either of those requests.Of course, he doesn't expect a discount on the price because the cheese was left off.

You may not realize it, but a baked potato usually costs more than french fries. The fries will come in frozen, and are mass produced out by the farm. There’s virtually no spoilage and the demand is enormous. A restaurant owner will pay more for baked potatos which have to be sorted by size, selected for appearance and lack of blemishes, and then have to be cooked ahead of time unless you want to wait an hour for your meal. Potatoes can go bad, before or after they are cooked, and there can be a lot of loss involved.

You are asking to get something for free. You may as well ask for a steak as a substitution for your hamburger. Go to the grocery store and ask them to substitute one product for a less expensive one because they carry that also and see where it gets you.

And although there are restaurants which allow you to choose from a selection , i.e. " All entrees served with a choice of baked potato, frernch fries, rice…", those restaurants have built the cost of offering the choice into the price of the entree.

Those aren’t “outlandish”, but they may not be worth the restaurant’s time.

Sure, if the salads are all made on the spot, AND the dinner rush is slow enough, the chef can take the time to remember to leave the dressing off. But, if they’re made ahead of time then the chef has to take time to hand-make just your salad. And even if they’re made on the spot, the salad chef has a routine, and when you mess up that routine it slows everything down. Plus it increases the chance of an error, which increases the chance that the restaurant will have to throw away food, which increases the chance that the restaurant will make zero profit on your meal.

The baked potato is an even better example. Potatoes don’t bake in the 10 minutes you expect to wait for your food. They take an hour. If a lot of people sub out the potato for the fries, the restaurant is going to throw away a lot of baked potatoes, which represents them throwing away money.

Now, if you want to be able to custom order anything, you have two options. You can go to Subway, where you watch them make it just the way you want it, or you can go to an extremely high end place where you order every side separately. That’s voting with your dollars. But, if you want a sit-down dinner for $10, you have to put up with no substitutions quite often. And more people care about price and quality than they care about substitutions.

Asking to leave something off isn’t a substitution - it’s an omission. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to ask, with the understanding that the restaurant may have its reasons to refuse.