The Shocking Reason Why Restaurants Have Daily Specials

Toni Koraza by Shirota Yuri on Unsplash

I spent 20 minutes choosing a meal today.

And I choose the wrong one. Fried Sour&Sweet Beef Strips were edible, but not something I’d order twice. Spending 20 minutes on the wrong order was frustrating. A 16-page menu with 130 meals in the offer was the obvious problem.

Too many options is not a service. Consumers are confused by too much stuff on display. The idea of having a 40-page restaurant menu with every global cuisine is wonderful, but it has no practical value for guests.

If you try to serve everyone, you might find yourself serving no one. People don’t want to think too long about choosing food. New York restaurants had figured the power of limited choice when the first meal of the day appeared on the menu. New York Guests would order daily specials more than other items on the menu.

“People of the future may suffer not from an absence of choice but from a paralyzing surfeit of it. They may turn out to be victims of that peculiarly super-industrial dilemma: overchoice.”
— Alvin Toffler

Restaurant specials were probably born out of necessity. The shelf-life of certain ingredients was expiring, and marketing-savvy-managers started offering meals of the day. Maximizing food stock is a way to make more money for restaurants.

The customer receives value in return too. My student years had seen a fair share of the global restaurant industry. I was working at the Hard Rock Cafe in Hollywood, VIP Circle at Hollywood Bowl, Ibiza Rocks in Ibiza, Brew Bites in Zagreb, Marriot Hotels, etc. Each gig was at a different capacity, but I’ve served more restaurant menus than I can remember.

Nobody really likes to lose time thinking over the restaurant order. Guests often ask servers for recommendations. Servers earn tips this way and have a way to connect with customers.

The broad selection has a counterproductive effect. Big menus are making customers think too hard. Never make your customers or your audience think much. You’re selling solutions, not more problems. Your consumers are giving you money to free processing space in their heads.

Introducing too many options can create overchoice. Individuals have a difficult time making a decision when faced with too many options. You’re making your customers sweat. And your online business might take a hit in sales and become bland and boring.

Offering every service under the sun only creates more stress for consumers. And consumers pay to remedy stress, not to create a headache. Having one narrow product line is more valuable than 40 options on your page.

The reason why restaurants offer specials is twofold:

1. You don't really want to think too long about what to eat.

2. Restaurants can push the food that is expiring or overbought.

Daily specials are not really special. You're not getting something much better than the next thing on the menu, most of the time.

Restaurant specials are simply a tested-and-tried way to offer a good meal while making sure the excess food doesn't end up in the trash.

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