August 8th, 2013
11:00 AM ET
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Details.com editor James Oliver Cury tackles controversial food-and-drink-themed etiquette issues.

Which industry has the most egregious surcharges? Airlines have added some surprisingly sneaky fees over the years and were recently in the news again for considering charging extra for overweight people. One airline, Ryanair, seems to take pride in its fees and even contemplated adding a cost to use the bathroom. Not that hotels have been kind; $8 water bottles and $40 parking spots are as common as charging for Wi-Fi. But restaurants and bars, in my estimation, have developed the most crafty ways to squeeze profit out of that which was once - and should still be - gratis.

I made a list of every “extra” charge I’ve ever heard of (16 examples came to mind and I’m sure there are more) and separated them into two categories: those that seem warranted (like charging for shaved truffles on an entrée) and those that seem brazenly unnecessary and unfair (like charging extra for ketchup).

Below is my definitive list of potential offenses with reasoned assessments of the fairness quotient of each, based purely on personal opinion.

Extra Charges I Just Don't Get

Steak sauce/butters
The first time I ate at Dylan Prime Steakhouse in New York I was floored to see that a meal - which could easily cost more than $100 a person - might also include a $3 extra charge for a sauce or special butter. That’s like charging extra for sprinkling Parmesan on your pizza. Or having salt on the table. The eatery has seen troubled times recently so there’s no telling if the menu will retain the practice.

Ketchup
Yes, some fast food joints charge extra for a packet of ketchup. I came face to face with this practice at a McDonald’s in London back in 1988. The cost: 5p (pence) - about a nickel - per packet. The idea has since crossed the pond, where U.S. franchise owners decide how they’ll dole out condiments (in packets, via spigots with paper containers, for a fee or not.). The current cost stateside seems to be 25 cents for a handful of packets. And though it might cut down on waste, it seems random; why aren’t there similar surcharges for mustard and mayo?

Splitting a dish/extra side dish
If an entrée costs $15 and you use your fork to give your spouse several bites, no one charges you extra. Ask if you can officially split the dish and you may get hit with a surcharge of between $2 and $5 or more, a penalty that feels like it’s designed to discourage sharing (which is weird because don’t we go to restaurants to share a meal with others?) That said, if the request requires time and effort from a server to literally divide the dish and garnishes, then a separate fee seems warranted. If just a side plate is requested, it ought to be free (please don’t suggest that the effort of washing the extra plate necessitates the fee).

Splitting the check
I was a waiter once. I know it takes more time to process two, three, even four credit cards. But there’s no good reason to charge extra - or forbid - the practice. Credit-card processing fees should not be the customers’ concern.

Cocktail neat/on the rocks
Some bars tack on an extra buck or two claiming that the pour is different: You get 2 ounces in a neat rocks glass and 1.5 ounces if you order on the rocks. Or vice versa, depending on the place (see this description of a recent bourbon order). Can’t the bartender find some glasses that render these pouring differences less marked or just suck up the difference…or figure it all evens out eventually anyway? Or just charge more in general for the cocktail? Why complicate things?

Food waste/not finishing what's on the plate
Buffets are magnets for gluttons because you can pile on as much food as the plate will hold - and sometimes come back for seconds. But there’s a cost: Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs and tons of food typically remains on the plate at the end of the meal. To combat this effect, some restaurants have suggested applying a fee, as reported about the $32 waste fee posted by the management at The Kylin Buffet Chinese restaurant in England. A noble idea, perhaps, but restaurants are not government institutions (“Take all you want but eat all you take” as they say in the army), and honestly, there are a million reasons why someone wouldn’t finish every morsel. Someone wants to monetize this? See also Hachikyo, a seafood restaurant in Japan that requires customers who do not finish their bowl of tsukko meshi (rice topped with salmon roe) to make a donation.

Non-bottled (sometimes filtered) tap water
Millennium restaurant in San Francisco had its heart in the right place: They were dedicated to organic food production, small farms, sustainable agriculture, recycling and composting. In fact, they were so environmentally-friendly that they took the extreme measure of banning bottled water altogether, offering instead a delicious glass from their Natural Tap Water Filtration System. Unfortunately, they also stopped offering tap water. So, water cost $1 for what’s basically filtered tap water. Bobo, in New York, was also taken to task for what is effectively water gouging with a conscience. Even a few McDonald’s (them again?) got in on the action. I say: Allow the public to have a free glass of water, if only so boozers can work in a little hydration without penalty.

Sliced bagels
In New York there’s an 8% tax on “altered” bagels: Sliced, toasted or served with schmear. Why the distinction? The cutting and spreading, though a minimal culinary effort to be sure, technically makes it a prepared meal. Sold unaltered, it is a tax-exempt food item. Seems like there’s a hole in this law to me.

Extra Charges I Understand

Gourmet ingredients
You want freshly shaved black truffles on your butter-poached lobster? That’ll be an additional $12 at Michael’s on the Hill in Vermont (fair price it seems to me). Caviar on the side? Of course you gotta pay extra for that. Nothing fishy there. These are gourmet ingredients, so unless the menu hides the fact that there’s a surcharge, these are warranted. (Years ago, I once ordered a “special” soup at a Chinese restaurant - I don’t recall if it was turtle or sharkfin, neither of which I’d order today - and the server neglected to mention that it cost $40. I’ve been wary of unfamiliar delicacies ever since.)

Bread and butter/chips and salsa
Historically, Americans in the latter part of the 20th century are accustomed to seeing certain side dishes served for free before a meal. Most consumers simply won’t go back to an establishment if they’re charged for something they used to get (or can get elsewhere) for free. But really, why are these dishes free? The ingredients cost money - and they fill you up, so you may order less. And yet it caused quite a stir when the Post reported that Chelsea restaurant Company charged “$3 for bread and another $2 for butter” a few years back. To be contrarian, The New York Times’ Frank Bruni argued for the extra fees. Personally, I wouldn’t choose to go back to a place that charged me for bread, but that doesn’t mean I can’t see the argument for this policy.

No-shows
You made a reservation, the restaurant is holding your table, and you never show up and don’t even call? Seems fair to charge a penalty so selfish barbarians don’t abuse the privilege, especially in cities like New York where aggressive diners have been known to make reservations at three venues for the same time and day - to hold the spots - and only show up at one at the last minute. (It’s easy for restaurateurs to charge your credit card if you book through online reservation sites). The Wall Street Journal chronicled the practice a year ago; rates range from $50 (OpenTable’s fee) to $225 (the full price of the prix fixe at Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare).

Certain substitutions
I have no idea if the fries really cost more or less than a salad at any given restaurant, but if a dish normally comes with one side dish and you’d like a different one, you should be notified about the price difference and understand that some of the fee goes to the extra effort of making the chef (or server) plate something in an unfamiliar way. Not all menus are designed to mix and match - much to the chagrin of vegetarians, allergy sufferers, the lactose-intolerant and gluten avoiders.

Eating at prime time
Famed New York dining institution Le Cirque once toyed with the idea of “formalizing a prime-time price increase,” according to CBS. The idea is simple: Everyone wants to eat between 6 and 8 p.m. - not at 5:30 or 10:30 p.m. Charging more for access during the dinner rush is not unlike nightclubs that charge more after midnight when the dance floor is packed and they don’t need bodies to fill the space anymore. Frankly, I’m surprised no one charges for premium seating (bigger tables, far from the bathrooms, etc.) in New York restaurants...yet.

Tips for large groups
You just had a steak dinner with six buddies. The bill comes and there’s an extra 20% at the bottom. Does that count as an extra fee? No. Is it fair? Yes - as long as the gratuity does not exceed 20%. Admittedly there are two potential downsides to this practice: First, if the service sucks, you’re forced to pay this healthy tip anyway. Second, and far worse, some bills hide this automatically added fee, which leads the occasional diner to pay an unintended second tip on top.

Corkage
If you’re bringing your own wine to a restaurant and thus not paying for a bottle from their list (would you ever dare to bring your own food?), then it makes sense that management would charge an extra charge fee (to discourage the practice and to make up some of the lost revenue). It’s the amount that can be galling. $20? Fine. $75 to $100? Too rich for my blood. But if you’re dining at places like Per Se or French Laundry, what do you expect? Call first and ask about the policy to be sure.

Access to the room with live music
If a band is playing, of course, it’s ok to charge extra for those customers who want to be closer to the music. Helsinki Hudson, for example, requires separate reservations depending on whether you’re eating at the restaurant or inside the club - even though both are under the same roof. Sometimes, though, I wish venues would pay me to continue to endure listening.

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soundoff (820 Responses)
  1. Rhemis

    My tips are proportional to any ridiculous "extra costs". The higher the cost the lower the tip. I don't believe in tips to begin with, because a server deserves a full pay, they are not bums on the street relying on random cash, and should not be the reason that a restaurant my go bankrupt if they got at least minimum wage.

    June 27, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
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    December 3, 2013 at 2:23 pm |
  3. Restaurant India

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    September 16, 2013 at 5:27 am |
  4. Eileen

    Millenium restaurant no longer charges $1 for water, the article you sited was from 2009.

    "In a concerted effort to reduce recycling waste, combat high fuel charges & offer our guests an uncompromisingly high quality of drinking water, we now serve water through a Natura Tap Water Filtration System and no longer offer imported bottled mineral water. Please enjoy complimentary carbon & UV filtered water served chilled, room temperature or sparkling."

    http://www.millenniumrestaurant.com/menus/index.html

    August 20, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
  5. dlwteacher

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/13/business/barrage-of-fees-starts-to-follow-fliers-to-the-hotel.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1376509660-gBAWCJneQWHiHxikLqOpKw

    This link is a NY TImes story about hotels adding numerous fees for travelers. When I travel for business, I prefer to have the charges added in- internet particularly. Some hotels charge for this but provide it free for "members" as an incentive to have you in their database. I am including this as a parallel to the discussion. It is a revenue opportunity for the hotels who say the rate would be higher if they were to include everything- this way, the guest chooses what services they wish to purchase. Maybe, but – what next? Charging for the pillow? The beverage straw? Coaster?

    August 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm |
  6. Jim

    As long as customers continue to pay these ridiculous inflated fees I am sure restaurants will continue to charge them. The only way customers are going to get rid of them is to refuse to pay them and tell the restaurants that as long as they charge these fees that they have lost your business. If enough of us do this, only then will they quit charging them.

    August 14, 2013 at 8:24 am |
  7. Bill

    If a surcharge is clearly posted in advance, I have no problem with it being charged. I can decide whether to accept the charge by my choice of place to eat.

    August 12, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
  8. erik

    I totally agree with restaurants charging for no shows. If I am unable to make a reservation I call to cancel. They always seem to be really happy that I called so they did not hold the table.

    August 12, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • Woodrow

      How much would they charge? How would a person not be able to dispute the charge on the CC?

      Better to blacklist the person if they don't call. They can't place a reservation again.

      August 13, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
  9. Patty O'Heater

    You just had a steak dinner with six buddies. The bill comes and there’s an extra 20% at the bottom. Does that count as an extra fee? No. Is it fair? Yes – as long as the gratuity does not exceed 20%.
    Are you kidding? A 20% hike for a table of 6? That's daylight robbery and cannot be justified in any rational manner. It is more beneficial and cost-effective for the restaurant to have 6 diners at once than 6 individuals. Nobody is charged 20% extra for buying 6 beers/loaves/tomatoes/cars or whatever at one time.

    August 12, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • Paul

      Gratuity included is a weed out policy to keep poors down. Sad reality, deal with it.

      August 12, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Bill

      If the service is poor enough, nearly all restaurants will remove the autograt if you complain.

      Then again, if you're b!tching because you're stingy, that's another matter...

      August 12, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
  10. Will

    I certainly understand a split plate fee when the dish is divided and plated in the kitchen, but charging for a small dish so I can hand someone at the same table a taste of my food? Would they prefer I just use my bread plate?

    I was with workmates at an upscale asian bistro in LA, and someone asked about my tom yum shrimp soup. She had never even heard of it, and thought the ingredients sounded strange but intriguing. I asked the server for a small cup so I could give her a taste. No, I wasn't going to just spoon some into her mouth or pass my bowl to her - there were three people seated between us and I didn't know her well enough to share utensils. She liked it so much that she ordered a bowl for herself. We had already paid the bill before we noticed that there was a $2 charge for the extra sharing dish. Really? They didn't loose a dime on this split; the extra cup resulted in an additional full-sized bowl being ordered. We were annoyed, but not enough to complain.

    August 12, 2013 at 4:05 am |
    • Bill

      Silly stuff like that comes out of any tip I leave.

      As the waiter/waitress didn't have enough common sense to remove it when they got the extra sale, that's completely on them.

      August 12, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
      • mary tercor

        i guess you would rather the waiter pay for your extras. sorry bill i dont owe you jack sh_t

        September 8, 2013 at 11:11 pm |
  11. jason

    I think that your wrong when you said that the business should pay the credit card fees. I think that it should be an extra fee if I want to use my credit card. Most businesses just add that into the plate cost. What about the person that pays with cash. It is a convenience for me to use a card instead of cash.

    August 12, 2013 at 2:27 am |
    • Bill

      They can charge an extra fee if it is clearly posted and the total is no more than $10. Otherwise, they have to eat it.

      August 12, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
  12. Stan

    This is really sloppy journalism and seems more like cranky editorializing. There are too many mistakes to point out, but not understanding the tax code in NYC is a good start. UN-manipulated food (e.g. a loaf of bread, a bagel) is a grocery item and is not taxed. Once its been altered, its a restaurant item. Its pretty simple.
    There are plenty of interesting, provocative pieces you could write about the restaurant business. This is not one of them.

    August 12, 2013 at 2:22 am |
    • Ar U Gaetu

      So, 6 sliced bagels from Panera gets more tax than 6 sliced bagels in the grocery store's bread aisle. Does this apply to a loaf of bread, too? What about bakeries, am I being taxed by the state if they slice my rye bread? When did greed and insanity become the norm?

      August 12, 2013 at 6:31 am |
  13. Poldo

    You should come to eat in Italy. There's a 1 or 2 euro service charge per person and waitresses are paid a salary so tipping is not expected. You can split dishes in restaurants and no one will think you're one step up from homeless. Bread is included in the service charge. Lots of places will actually round down your bill, rather than up. Lots of places will give you a free drink at the end of your meal if you're friendly.

    August 12, 2013 at 12:38 am |
    • Ben

      Ha! We juste returned from a month in Europe with 2 weeks of Italy. I was somewhat pi$$ed with that place. We were charged 2 euros per person at some restaurant. We didn't know there was such charge nor was it written anywhere until we got the bill... then the waiter showed showed it to us – it was written in Italian in fineprint on the menu. Then he said "This is normal for every restaurant in Italy".... it was our first time since we had been in Italy (almost 2 weeks). Then in Rome, another restaurant charged us also 2 euros per person but it included two entrées and a glass of sparkling wine each. BEWARE IN VENICE: a coffee in Place St-Marc will cost you 35 euros and you are billed in advance. Sitting down at a table in Place St-Marc will cost you 15 euros per person as "cover charge". Also in Venice, they will refuse that you split a pizza or eat a pizza on the street (because on the street, the view is nicer than inside therefore they keep the nice tables for people who spend more). We had 4 drinks (a beer, a strawberry diquiry, a fresh orange juice and a lemon slushy) in Sorrento and the bill was 25.50 Euros.

      August 12, 2013 at 6:44 am |
      • Poldo

        The 'coperto' IS in every restaurant/trattoria/pizzeria in Italy! Not sure how you missed that. Piazza San Marco is the most expensive piazza in Italy and, yeah, Venice is the most beautiful, amazing but rip-off tourist trap I know about. Never been to Sorrento but you got stiffed there too. Sorry, man, hope it didn't put you off Italy for good.

        A pizza and a beer for two where I live in Genoa would cost you from $20-$40 depending on the pizza. 10 years ago it would've been around $12-15. Times change. Peace.

        August 12, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
        • Alicia

          Americans won't read a thing until it conveniences them, so I am not at all surprised that they missed this. Before anyone else jumps down my throat, I am an American, just stating the truth.

          I would do anything to live it Italy. I love it there.

          September 4, 2013 at 11:16 am |
        • American@Alicia

          Delta is ready when you are...

          September 4, 2013 at 11:19 am |
  14. Dave

    "...you should be notified about the price difference and understand that some of the fee goes to the extra effort of making the chef (or server) plate something in an unfamiliar way."

    The author of this article is woefully ignorant to how restaurants operate. The idea that the charge goes into a cook or waiter's pocket shows that this individual either never worked in a restaurant or is purposefully misleading the reader to fit their agenda.

    August 11, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
    • Paul

      Dave could not agree more. I feel dumber for reading this article, but fortunately I have enough common sense to disregard this gibberish. The writer sounds like a fresh college grad who just swallowed a big pill, i.e. he took a date to a big city dinner and "golly that's expensive." The writer, being used to ordering from a cashier and paying before his meal, is like a new born deer trying to walk on ice. Out of his element, he fights his confused fears with a keyboard.

      August 11, 2013 at 11:03 pm |
    • yennieb

      ... or, you fail at reading comprehension. The author is in no way saying that the extra fee actually goes into the chef's pocket. He's merely saying that since it requires extra effort *by* the chef, the restaurant is justified in charging an extra fee.

      August 12, 2013 at 12:33 am |
      • Paul

        The fee is not charge because of the extra two seconds of plating. Its charged because a table has a dollar value attached to it. At a non churn and burn style restaurant, each table is expensive real estate. If you are too cheap to order something with out the surcharge you are costing the restaurant money by occupying that space. The charge recoups a partial amount of the loss with the charge. If patrons do not like it and choose not to come back, the charge is killing two birds with one stone.

        Its not a reading comprehension issue for me, its the writer's lack of common sense on why a charge may be applied.

        August 12, 2013 at 10:03 am |
        • yennieb

          Paul, I was replying to Dave who said: "The idea that the charge goes into a cook or waiter's pocket shows that this individual either never worked in a restaurant or is purposefully misleading the reader to fit their agenda."

          What you said is true about why the fee exists, but Dave was accusing the author of an idiotic thing... that he didn't say.

          August 12, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
      • Dave

        You and I obviously disagree on the intent of the author's writing, yennieb. But, if you want to insult me by saying that I "fail at reading comprehension," because you have a different point-of-view, then I could retort by saying that I would be happy to wage my doctorate degree against whatever level of education you have. Now, I sound petty, and haven't helped our conversation. See how much lower the bar becomes when you insult someone?

        August 12, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
        • yennieb

          Dave, I was defending the author who you insulted by calling "woefully ignorant" and/or "purposefully misleading the reader". Your example was: "The idea that the charge goes into a cook or waiter's pocket". His exact words: "some of the fee goes to the extra effort of making the chef (or server) plate something in an unfamiliar way". It's a stretch at best to infer from that that the author believes the fee ends up in anyone's pocket other than the owner. Occam's razor here: it's a slightly ambiguous sentence, not a complete lack of common sense or hidden agenda.

          I'm sorry if I offended your doctorate-level intelligence. Turns out we're both highly educated, but in this particular instance you set the tone and then cried "insulting" when it came back at you. I guess you figured everyone should be civil, except when insulting the author.

          August 12, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
      • Dave

        As I said before, you and I disagree on intent.

        “some of the fee goes to the extra effort of making the chef (or server) plate something in an unfamiliar way."

        Earlier in the article, he also writes, “if the request requires time and effort from a server to literally divide the dish and garnishes, then a separate fee seems warranted.”

        Yes, the commentary is on two different topics (substitutions vs. split plates), but together in context, it is not a stretch to infer that he intimates that the fees for these types of occurrences are in some way remitted to the parties responsible for actually handling the servicing of the request.

        No offense taken, but to suggest that because you and I disagree must mean that I fail at reading comprehension doesn’t help your argument, and it’s sadly typical of today’s discourse.

        By the way, “not a complete lack of common sense,” was not what I was inferring. I am not insulting him, but pointing out that it does not sound like he knows what he is writing about. And reading some of the other comments, it appears that other readers feel the same way.

        August 13, 2013 at 12:52 am |
  15. Nik

    You DO get more liquor in a rocks pour. Get your facts straight.

    August 11, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
    • Paul

      Is the writer under 21? A rocks or a neat pour is different than a single. This is basic stuff, as in the writer may still be hitting up AYCD nights at the local college dive.

      The extra plate charge makes sense too. Its not the time or service, its the fact that a table or booth is being under utilized. Restaurants operate on thin margins and the have to serve X customers a night to break-even. Cheap people splitting dishes to save money is a waste of the table and the servers time. I see people do it all the time, but can not figure out how they have reached this point of their life with such poor restaurant etiquette. McDonalds, Arbys, Chick-fila-A, etc all have dine in areas and you do not even have to tip. If you can not afford it, do not eat out. Additionally, you could save up for a special occasion and order like an adult.

      August 11, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
      • Thinking things through

        Some people do split meals not because they are cheap, but because they can't eat the entire portion themselves, and it's better than throwing half the meal into the trash can, or stuffing it down after there's no longer any space or appetite for it. Yes, you could take half of it home with you, but some items really do not do well re-heated. That being said, I do understand why restaurants charge a fee for that extra plate.

        August 14, 2013 at 6:15 am |
  16. NorCalMojo

    The more I read the Eatocracy column, the less I want to eat out.

    August 11, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
    • Paul

      NorCal,
      If you read this article and feel that way, you are type of customer the restaurants want to avoid. Please learn to cook yourself and do not waste others time. Food is an experience and should be enjoyed. Its not a matter of how fast and cheaply can I eat as the writer suggests you should strive for. Sit down, order a nice wine, and meal and enjoy the service. I can not believe that CNN greenlighted someone that does not enjoy food to write a column regarding food.

      August 11, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
      • NorCalMojo

        My thoughts exactly.

        As a low skill waiter, you may want to avoid customers like me, but I promise your bosses know my money is as green as anyone else's.

        Good luck in your "career".

        August 11, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
        • yesitstom

          As a boss it's been my experience that people that whine and complain about every little thing aren't worth the effort to serve. They choose the cheapest meal, not one they might actually enjoy, order water when they really want a nice wine, are very demanding of the servers time and leave them little or no tip. Then they get on Yelp and complain about the horrible meal they just had. I think people go into just about any situation with a preconceived notion as to what the experience is going to be like and then proceed to make it so. It becomes a self-fulling prophecy...

          August 12, 2013 at 12:40 am |
        • Paul

          NorCal,
          As a poor, your money maybe green but it certainly is not long. Please eat at an establishment you are comfortable in. McDonalds, In-and-Out, Carl's Junior. You can refill your drinks as much as you want and NO TIPPING.

          August 12, 2013 at 10:07 am |
        • Paul

          http://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en/full_menu_explorer.html

          August 12, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  17. raincoaster

    The donation if you don't finish your food at a buffet actually sounds like a great idea, presuming that the management will excempt you if you don't finish because: you went into labour, you became ill, you won an Academy Award and had forgotten the date and had to dash to get up and collect it.

    August 11, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
    • Thinking things through

      ... or if the item you thought you'd like really tastes "off". I left behind the shrimp at one of those places precisely because I didn't want to get ill.

      August 14, 2013 at 6:17 am |
  18. J-Money

    typical liberal....always wanting free handouts.

    August 11, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
    • Sassafras

      Typical bagger. Always anxious to insert your skewed view of the world thru your politics in subjects that aren't the least bit political. That said, it should comfort you to know that some of the fattest people I've ever seen come out of all you can eat buffets for 5.98 in cheap red state restaurants where they can just pile it on for pennies on the dollar.

      August 12, 2013 at 1:19 am |
      • Chaz

        Bagger? Ha ha...that's SO funny! Did you come up with that yourself? Hilarious. It'll grind the Conservative movement to a halt!

        As for this column, I can see both sides. Sort of nit-picky on some stuff, on others, good points are made. We're not all going to see our own restaurant experiences the same.

        August 12, 2013 at 1:49 am |
      • Chaz

        You did forget to mention the Blue State welfare recipients that we Red Staters pay for dining out at Red Lobster on tax money.

        Gotta love those free hand outs...you just forget to mention them is all...

        August 12, 2013 at 1:51 am |
        • Mark

          actually chaz , you should do your homework if you are going tomake everything a political argument . There is a higher percentage of people recieving federal aid in almost ALL of the red states than in the blue states. OH and before you go and start saying that too many people are on welfare : in 2012 only 4.1% of americans were on welfare . So that is less than 5 out of a hundred . 38.8% of those people are white ,39.8 are black 15.7, are hispanic (white, black and mixed ), only 2.4 % are asian and the rest are other . Also 40 states pay more to be on welfare than to have an $8.00 per hour job . That is because unlike minimum wage jobs welfare is designed on a "living wage " . Minimum wage jobs are NOT designed to be jobs one could survive on . source : http://www.statisticbrain.com/welfare-statistics/ Really, this is NOT the place to air your blue/red opinions .

          August 19, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
  19. mark

    If you don't understand a rocks charge, even though you understand that a rocks pour is larger than a standard mixed drink pour, then you don't understand math. Why would they charge you more for two hamburgers than they would for one? Can't they just make it easier on me? I hate when non-industry folks write about their "informed" opinions on drinking and dining. Just an FYI: all size soft drinks at McDonalds are the same price! You've found your new spot! Time to do a trend piece on it.

    August 11, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • Jace

      The point the article is bringing up is that it's nickel and dime. The difference in cost is not same same as burgers. The notion of such is ridiculous on your part... If you're that worried about the cost of a few ounces then raise the cost of the drink entirely. Make it universal and stop complicating things. People hate being nickel and dimed for stupid small idiotic reasons.

      August 11, 2013 at 6:38 pm |
      • GetReal

        So you don't think that you should pay more for 4 of something than you would for 3 of something?

        August 11, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
      • Alex

        When I pay for gas I get what I paied for if I want more gas im required to pay for it

        August 11, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
      • Brian B

        Sorry, but you're very incorrect. Every half ounce of liquor costs a lot more than you imagine, considering every expense that goes into running a restaurant/bar. Especially in NYC. You're not paying for the food or liquor, you're paying for the real estate. Welcome to New York City.

        Complaining about a dollar or two more for a half ounce of liquor, or that Red Bull mixer, or whatever, is missing the point and 9.5 times out of 10, you (generalizing) take it out on the service folk.

        If you don't like the prices and you can't afford to properly tip on top of those prices, you shouldn't be eating/drinking at said place. Simple.

        August 11, 2013 at 11:46 pm |
        • Paul

          This article did a great job of confusing the half wits. Basic stuff on the liquor pours. If you get MORE of something, you pay MORE money. The writer should have his feet caned for dumbing down the already mentally challenged.

          August 12, 2013 at 10:11 am |
        • gremlinus

          Pretty much. If you're worried about the extra surcharges, many of which are designed to keep away people who want extras but don't want to pay for it, you shouldn't be there. And the plate fee is to keep a table from losing money when people who don't want to get two of them expensive dishes but lock up a table for an hour or more.

          August 12, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • GetReal

      So true. By that logic, why not just charge the same for all menu items? It will work out in the end.

      August 11, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
  20. derek

    If this ever becomes the norm I will stop going to restaurants and will just eat street food.

    August 11, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • billy

      It will probably be less expensive if you learn to cook and stay home...

      August 11, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
  21. J

    I ordered a fish filet sandwich at McDonalds and asked for the tarter sauce on the side, because my daughter never tried it and wasn't sure if she would like it. The lady charged my extra (even though it is free with the sandwich) because of the miniscule cup she had to use for the sauce.

    August 11, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  22. And the Raven Said...

    The worst is charging to use the restroom on a flight. If one is on a tight budget, and already maxed out with the other ridiculous add-on fees for air travel, they would avoid hydration during a flight. And they would refrain from using the restroom when the call comes. Both are very unhealthy practices that could lead to dehydration and UTIs. Not to mention that getting up and walking to the restroom can help prevent blood clots from inactivity. But I hope the airline is able to earn a few dollars by putting health at risk.

    August 11, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • bob

      funny enough, but the airline isnt forcing you to fly anywhere. if you cant afford to pay the fee maybe you should stay home. in all likelihood you CAN afford the price of admission nut just dont want to pay it. thats YOUR fault, not the airlines.
      do people take responsibility for ANYTHING they do or dont do these days?

      August 11, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
      • billy

        No they don't, hence the idle bickering and nit picking over business decisions... If you want it your way, open your own business...

        August 11, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
      • Teapot

        Or maybe they just are getting fed up with degraded service for an ever increasing cost?

        August 11, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
        • bob

          only the ignorant and those who want service but dont want to pay for it.

          the price of an airline ticket today is far lower than the price was 20 or 30 years ago adjusted for inflation and little higher real dollars, despite huge increases in fuel cost.

          want service? you can get great service and plenty of room on an airplane. it's called first class. some first class 'seats' are private cabins these days with beds and your choice gourmet meal selections. but you have to PAY for it.

          todays consume wants to go to a low fair finder web site, get the lowest price ticket they can find, then complains they arent getting first class service.

          August 11, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
  23. JVG

    I found one item interesting – charging for bread. Many restaurants do it abroad and they are missing the boat. I worked my way through college as a waitress and was told the secret of the bread at each restaurant. Money is made in a restaurant through serving drinks not food. Soda is pure profit and as mentioned, a glass of wine in a restaurant is the same cost as a bottle in a store (at 4 to 5 servings for bottle..you do the math). So why serve bread for free? Because it's how a restaurant makes a profit. When you sit down you order a drink. You then eat the bread which is highly salted. The more bread you eat, the more you will drink. If you are served a drink when you are seated and then eat the bread, you will usually order one or sometimes two extra drinks BEFORE the actual meal arrives. That one serving of bread has netted a very large profit made on drinks. Food may bring customers in to a restaurant, but the drinks keep the establishment solvent. If a restaurant denies it, they are not telling you the truth.

    August 11, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
  24. JG

    An interesting and thoughtful article, thank you. I've a comment on the corkage fee. There are very good reasons to bring in your own wine. Basically, the restaurant makes a huge profit on something it didn't make, and whose quality it can only harm by improper storage. Many customers know very well what taste they like with their food. They may have special varieties or wineries they like. Having a customer bring a familiar taste with them to the table is certain to improve the customer's perception of the food quality.

    If a customer has a sophisticated palate, the chances are good they have better taste than the restaurant does, or that the restaurant buyer has. The very best deals in a restaurant's wine are likely to be gone, and what's left grossly overpriced. If I was having a special dinner? I'd absolutely bring my own wine. It might very well end up being cheaper and better.

    August 11, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
    • Geo

      Wine is almost always the lowest markup at restaurants. You may think a 4 to 1 markup sounds high, but 25% cost is ot a great margin running a business. t is not as if the markup is all profit for the restaurant. They pay rent, salaries, electric bill, insurance, etc. It costs money to run a restaurant. Their margins are actually typically very slim. Look how many restaurants come and go. It is a tough business. When you go out to a restaurant, you might get the same wine at a higher price, but you are not at home. You go out for the experiance. That experiance has value, and it is not free.

      August 12, 2013 at 6:31 am |
  25. pete

    I clicked on the article for the one about the buffet "waste charge". It was a story on the UK Mail website about 3 people who had to pay a fee at a buffet for having a little bit left on their plate. A bunch of British fools in the comment section were actually defending a chinese food buffet's $32(£20) waste surcharge, and the buffet for 3 people already cost about $30(£18) before the charge. The charge for leaving food on your plate there is actually more than it costs to get into the buffet! The chinese buffet near me costs $7 a person, that's $21 for 3 people, with no "waste" charge. The family of three ended up paying $60(£38) for three people at this place, compared to where I live in the US where it would only be $21(£13.5) for the same thing.

    The British people who were commenting defending this are crazy. They must be used to getting ripped off. Keep that idiocy on the other side of the pond, and speaking of British idiocy, take back Pierce Morgan too.

    August 11, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • Thomas

      There is an important distinction between the two restaurants. Any Chinese restaurant that charges $7 per person for an all-you-can-eat buffet is serving absolute garbage. Fast-food Chinese at best. It'll be soaking in sugary glazes, deep fried and no Cantonese authenticity. Essentially, the American version of Chinese food. A place that offers true Chinese dishes (particularly as a buffet) will charge SIGNIFICANTLY more than $7 and if food is wasted, they will try to discourage it by charging for it. Food that gets taken but not eaten means the kitchen staff has to work that much harder to keep the buffet stocked and go through that much more inventory for nothing.

      August 11, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
    • Pete L.

      Damn straight. Piers Morgan is a sorry excuse for a "journalist"-maybe that flies in the U.K., but his polemics are best left to the other side (the Brit side) of the pond.

      August 11, 2013 at 2:32 pm |
    • Jim P.

      "They must be used to getting ripped off."
      They are, have you seen their income tax rates and their sales tax? (Called V.A.T.) Somewhere above 18% I think on almost *any* transaction.

      Chinese buffets seems to be the most tight-fisted out there. I used to go to one where the owner would follow you and glare if you went back twice and he'd start slicing the roast beef so thin you could see daylight through it. The comedian John Pinnet (sp?) does a hysterical routine on this sort of thing.

      August 11, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
      • brokenpinata

        Don't forget, the royals have a new mouth to feed, so their money has to come from somewhere.

        August 11, 2013 at 9:21 pm |
  26. billy

    What so many people are failing to see is that the business is set up by the business' owner and they provide a service to the people the business' owner feels is needed. If you do not like the cost, the provisions, the ambiance, the people, then please save yourself the drama and disappointment and do not go there. This is a very high failure rate industry because of the varying types of businesses. Some last only a few short lived months and others will lavish us for decades, this doesn't mean they do everything for you. This means they attend to the guests, employees, and neighborhood as best they can. They try to make a difference within the business' owners boundaries. These boundaries should exist because the business owner is taking the risk of opening their vision, desire, hearts to you. You should appreciate the fact someone cared enough to try their best to provide you with what they felt would be the best night out you've had. And, frankly, if you didn't have the best night, if it bothers you so much that you paid $3 more for an extra plate with a slightly larger portion on the plate so that it may sate you, if it bothers you to pay more for a little stronger pour in that glass because you didn't want to have ice, if it bothers you to pay for a sauce that some minimum wage soul spent time and effort to make so that it may brighten that one little spot in your heart, then you have missed the point. People do not get into this business for the money, they do it for the love and enjoyment of having someone leave with a smile on their face.

    August 11, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • Jim P.

      To quote a serious restaurateur (Uncle) Jack Degel: "Your restaurant is one of thousands, there may be another right across the street, people can go *anywhere* they want. You had better go out of your way to make the customer King or you won't have a business next year."

      Nickel and dining them the moment they walk in the door will assure you are in another line of work eventually. If I spend $100/person on a meal, I certainly do not expect to be charged for a couple of rolls and butter or a glass of water or an extra (empty) plate and will definitely go elsewhere the next time.

      August 11, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
      • billy

        And at the end you do understand, "(you) will definitely go elsewhere the next time."... That is exactly what you should do... To quote a successful business man, I know of, he goes by the name of Bill Cosby, "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone." Just as there are thousands of restaurants bidding for your business, there are millions of people who want to eat our food. Remember that next time you feel your opinion is more important than the person who worked to create what you are purchasing.

        August 11, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
        • Todd

          The restaurant industry is glutted with options for the consumer, and restaurants (especially non-chain establishments) have a skyscraping failure rate.

          If you're going to open a business in that particular industry, you better be willing to put customer wants above yours – or you'll be closed fast.

          August 11, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
        • bob

          well... without customers a restaurant will quickly cease to exist. without a particular restaurant – no biggie for the customers, they just go elsewhere.

          August 11, 2013 at 8:03 pm |
        • billy

          I'm sorry, but not everything can be at "happy hour" prices... pay for what you want and stop complaining about costs you don't know about or care to properly investigate.

          August 12, 2013 at 1:47 am |
  27. Eric Schulman

    What about anchovies and Caesar salad. My understanding is that an authentic, traditional Caesar salad comes with anchovies – the real stuff, not homogenized in a dressing. I love anchovies, and without them, a Caesar salad is NOT a Caesar salad. And yet, if I'm ordering a Caesar salad and I ask if the restaurant has anchovies, for some reason the staff assumes that I am asking because I don't like anchovies. If they do have anchovies, I am often charged extra, which irritates me no end.

    August 11, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • Geo

      No matter how much that irritates you, it will never change. Maybe you should get over it. When I was young and I complained about things, my Mom would often say "if that is the worst thing you have to deal with today, that is a pretty good day".

      August 12, 2013 at 6:38 am |
  28. Gator

    So what about the restaurant that didn't have biscuits and gravy on the menu by itself, but did include it with a more expensive item. I didn't have the budget for the more expensive item so I asked the waitress if they had biscuits and gravy only. They did and she quoted me the price which wasn't out of line. Being a little bit hungry, I asked if I could get an extra biscuit, expecting a bump in the price but not specifically asking. Big mistake; when I got my bill, it was for two separate orders at full price for each. All I got was an extra biscuit under the gravy, which is all I wanted, but this??? The restaurant wouldn't adjust the bill, so I sent an email explaining (and complaining) to the franchise. I even complimented the restaurant service, cleanliness, and atmosphere. The Egg and I management never gave me the courtesy of a reply, much less an adjustment. I will never voluntarily patronize another Egg and I. I keep the bill framed on the wall to remind me, and to let me tell the story to whoever asks about it. If you agree that I was gouged, please consider going to another restaurant the next time you dine out.

    August 11, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • Thomas

      Do you mean that the restaurant dared to charge you twice the single rate for ordering two of something? Shocking!

      August 11, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
      • Jim P.

        The order seems to read Biscuits (note the plural) and gravy. Plus one extra biscuit does not equal two orders of biscuits (note the plural again) and gravy. If they charge for two orders of something, they da** well better bring me *two* full orders of the item or they are ripping me off. A surcharge for the extra biscuit yes, but not doubling the charge without doubling the order.

        August 11, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
      • Gator

        Go back and read my comment. It wasn't 2 full orders that I got.

        August 11, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
  29. Scott

    I'm all for the extra charges. I vote for a place with my wallet based on my sense of contentedness after eating. If I am not happy, then I won't return and my money will go elsewhere from then on. Good article. However, can we please refrain from calling the restrooms or washrooms – "BATHROOMS"? It has been my experience that there are no BATHS in aircraft or in restaurants. They are restrooms or washrooms....not bathrooms.

    August 11, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Brian

      And calling then restrooms or washrooms instead of bathrooms is better? Folks don't go there for rest any more than for a bath, and while they may wash up afterwards, it is usually not the primary purpose.

      "I'm going to the bathroom" is a common euphemism for what really goes on there, so bathroom is just fine.

      August 12, 2013 at 12:02 am |
  30. PSN

    Ugh. If it's not the servers crying about tips, it's management crying about overhead. Why go into business if you don't want to treat customers well? Or, I don't know, learn to run a business that doesn't hurt the customer. That's always a good idea.

    August 11, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • Penel9

      Dining out should be enjoyable, shouldn't it? This thread makes it sound so awful my stomach hurts after reading some of it. But having read, I think the common denominators of concern are lack of mutual respect, courtesy, the easy feel of hospitality and plain old manners. Can you tell I'm Southern? As a diner/consumer, I'm about half dead/broke from being "nickel and dimed" from about every angle/profession @ every angle anyone could possibly come up with to make an extra nickel, dime or to make ends meet. I love good food, appreciate good people & service & atmosphere & professionalism and happily show it (gratuity) when I see it. It's not that complicated. Restaurants are businesses and like all other businesses these days, I'm so tired of the drain, hidden and upfront fees and all.

      August 11, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
  31. NorCalMojo

    So to sum it up, if you're going to trendy restaurants, expect to be ripped off.

    Someone has to pay for the newfound sense of entitlement of waiters and dishwashers.

    August 11, 2013 at 9:18 am |
  32. coriolanus

    No-shows being charged? Sure, but only after a 30-min lateness delay. Traffic being what it is, fair is fair.
    A fee for not finishing what's on your plate? Sure, but you must also allow me to pour the excess food down the owner's shirt first.

    August 11, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • cadet

      Glad the restaurants in my area don't require a credit card just to make a reservation.

      August 11, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Godot42

      No, sorry. No charge for a no-show. That's just part of the cost of a restaurant doing business. They can fill their tables with walk-in customers. When I make a reservation, that's not a contract. If I don't show, I didn't get anything, so I'm not paying for anything. If that hurts the restaurant, too bad. That's part of the business. The idea they could charge for such a thing is not only arrogant, it's offensive, and borderline criminal.

      August 11, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
      • Woodrow

        Agreed. I doubt many restaurants would leave a table vacant for the entire time that I would have been dining. I think it's better to put a limit on the reservation time to encourage people to be on time. For higher-end – 30 min past and your name's off the list. For lower-end, you have to be there when your name's called or you're passed over.

        August 12, 2013 at 1:41 am |
      • dlwteacher

        Try making a hotel reservation and not showing up. You paid to have a table and it was there for you. Others may have called and were told that nothing was available at that time and so, they went elsewhere. You cannot assume that the table was easily filled. It took a wait to determine that you were a No Show. It is common courtesy to call and cancel if you are not going to show up. If you fail to do so, you will be charged for the loss. This happened because people were making multiple reservations for the same night and not bothering to cancel. Not criminal, legal.

        August 12, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
      • mary tercor

        a reservation is much like an appointment, if you fail to show for a doctors appointment you are charged . IF i have to hold a tables for a no show why should i lose money for your inconsideration. yes i could get walk ins but no turnover on the tables.

        September 6, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
  33. tarlcabot

    In Australia – corkage is only $2 at most....NYC such a rip off and your food is not that great, though you try to make out that it's the bomb. Ligone street in Melbourne walks all over "Little Italy" and the rest of the eateries sprinkled in the CBD are FAR better as well, plus won't break the bank.

    Even in the suburbs, Hampton, VIC as an example – food there rivals what you yanks are pushing in NYC.

    August 11, 2013 at 4:49 am |
    • Jt_flyer

      Sounds like you should stay in Australia where you're happiest and avoid NY.

      August 11, 2013 at 6:49 am |
      • Jauque

        Yep. I love how the ret of the world feels the need to "be better than" just about anything in the US. Although I have no love for NYC.

        August 11, 2013 at 7:19 am |
      • NorCalMojo

        Good advice. I'll take it.

        August 11, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • Jim P.

      Yeah, but you guys put beetroot on anything on a plate that doesn't jump out of the way. :)

      August 11, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • Eric

      NYC is the most overrated place on earth. Big money != Good quality, service, etc. People from NY seem to believe the more dollars attached to the same item the better it is. Which is why they pay more for everything than anyone else in the world. Fools.

      August 11, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  34. Mike

    So if you think it's ok to charge for no shows...like doctor offices do, then shouldn't I be compensated when I make a reservation but still have to wait 15 minutes...or longer...to be seated?

    August 11, 2013 at 4:34 am |
    • Bick Bizzled

      Compare apples and bananas much? Your parents taught you nothing.

      August 11, 2013 at 5:04 am |
      • Godot42

        It's not apples and bananas. He's making a direct comparison, which you'd know if your parents taught YOU anything. If a reservation is going to be treated like a contract, then both sides are liable. If I'm going to get charged for being late, I should get a discount if I arrive on time and get seated late. Get a clue.

        August 11, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
        • Brittany

          Haha, so wait, let me get this straight, you want to be rewarded for doing what you are supposed to do? Should we also give you an extra tip for every stop sign you don't run?

          August 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
        • bob

          brittney,
          reading comprehension isnt your strong point, is it?
          the poster isnt asking to be rewarded for doing what he is supposed to be doing. he is saying if he DOES what he is supposed to do, and the establishment FAILS to do the same, then there should be a penalty in his favor, just as there would be a penalty in the establishments favor if he failed to hold up his end of the agreement. it's treating the two parties exactly the same. dont do what you agree to and you pay for it.

          August 11, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Jauque

      Silliness, as most of those establishments fill the seats without so much as a pause. Attempting to equate the important of a meal with anything else is silly. If you have more than one no-show no longer book a seat.

      August 11, 2013 at 7:24 am |
    • dlwteacher

      You often ARE compensated with a complimentary drink, appetizer, or dessert. How quickly we forget.......

      August 12, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
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