We Asked A Restaurant Insider: Don't Believe The Myths About Daily Specials

chef adding garnish to restaurant dishes
chef adding garnish to restaurant dishes - PixelPerfectionStock/Shutterstock

Daily specials, love em or hate em, are an integral component of restaurant dining. Some folks go out of their way to enjoy pre-determined menu items at a set price, sometimes during limited hours. That's especially true for casual lunch specials featuring classic "meat and three" plates of protein, veggies, and starches. And it's not just cafes and diners; fine-dining venues also elevate solo dishes as daily specials, assumably encouraging patrons to try something new.

So where's the controversy over this seemingly benign restaurant practice? It lies with the notion that chefs are trying to push out foods that are unpopular or past their prime, disguising them as something exclusive. Warranted or not, myths about daily specials persist. So we sought insight from a restaurant insider and expert: Francesco Balli, Co-founder & CEO of Grove Bay Hospitality Group.

Digging a little deeper into the practice, we found that daily specials are more nuanced than they seem. The overarching goal, according to Balli, is to give customers unique, enticing menu options that complement the venue's regular offerings. "Daily specials allow chefs to showcase their creativity, utilize seasonal ingredients, and experiment with new recipes," he explains. They also help generate excitement and encourage return visits for a constantly fresh dining experience. "Lastly but certainly not least," he continues, "it helps us be honest with economical and sustainable waste by using food efficiently."

Therein lies the premise for daily special naysayers. Are soon-to-be expiring foods playing dress-up at the expense of unsuspecting customers?

Read more: Restaurant Foods That Always Taste Better Than What You Make At Home

Daily Specials Offer More Than Full Bellies

Daily specials board at restaurant
Daily specials board at restaurant - Natalia Bratslavsky/Shutterstock

Daily specials warrant the conversations revolving around them, with more than a few consumers saying you should avoid ordering daily specials altogether because the ingredients are likely post-prime. However, the "expiring food" perspective comes with a major caveat: Daily specials, regardless of motive, address the important issue of minimizing food waste.

Balli acknowledges the debate while embracing the alternative viewpoint. "While some may suggest that daily specials are a way for restaurants to get rid of food, I believe it's more about being economical and sustainable," he says, noting that restaurants strive to reduce food waste by incorporating ingredients that are in peak freshness and may have limited availability. "By featuring these ingredients in daily specials, restaurants can ensure they are utilized efficiently while also offering customers a fresh and innovative dining experience," he explains.

Fresh local ingredients obviously degrade more quickly than preservative-laden prepackaged foods or ones utilizing techniques such as canning or freezing. One of the reasons we love eating out is to enjoy innovative cooking with in-season produce, herbs, and spices. If chefs whip up something special and tasty with ingredients otherwise fated for food waste, cheers to them. As for whether Balli himself considers ordering the daily special at a restaurant -- you bet he does. "It provides an opportunity to try something unique that may not be available on the regular menu. Plus, specials often highlight the chef's creativity and expertise, which can result in a memorable dining experience," he shares.

Read the original article on Tasting Table