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What Constitutes a Split or Shared Order?

I always assumed that a split or a shared order meant when two (or more) people at the table elect to order one entree instead of two. And (based on that assumed definition) I'm not going to quibble with being charged some sort of a fee for that - I understand some of the logic behind a restaurant's decision to charge that sum.

But last night (we were out of town) we went to a mid-to-low-range pizza/pasta place. It was clearly stated on the menu that there was a charge for split orders. No problem. There were two of us - we ordered an appetizer (to share - always have assumed that appetizers are for sharing), a sausage sandwich (also to share), and a large pizza (also to share) - also a caraft of wine and a soda. To my count that's an app. and two entrees, plus the wine and soda, for two adults - a decent order.

We were brought two plates for the appetizer (in addition to the serving platter) - when the sandwich arrived we asked for an extra plate (since the app. plates had been removed) - then the pizza arrived with a stack (7!) of plates.

Food was fine (though not 'Hound-worthy) and service was prompt and friendly. But then the bill arrived and we were charge $7.50 for "sharing." When we asked our server about the charge, we were told that it was because we'd asked for an extra plate for the sandwich. I was pretty livid, but my dining companion (who's a lot more cool-headed) asked to speak to the manager - long-story short, the extra fee was removed from the bill but we were told that it's the owner's policy to charge extra for any extra "service items." (Which doesn't explain the stack of plates for the pizza, which I assume have to be washed before being used again for service.) Anyway, the fee was removed, the server got a 20% tip (we had no problems with the service), and the manager said something to the effect that she'd speak to the owner's about changing the policy but that, in the meantime, we'd know better for next time. There won't be a next time for us.

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  1. That just seems wrong - I'd have been livid too.

    I go the by the same assumption you make - a split order is when two or more parties share a single entree, and require service items and service for two while only spending as much as one diner.

    I suppose by the strictist of technicalities, you did split the sub -- but it shouldn't have been an issue to bring another plate for it when they were already bringing you excess plates for the pizza.

    1. It sounds like their bad - seeing that order I would have assumed that one person was ordering the sandwich and the other the pizza, so they should have delivered the pizza and the sandwich at the same time and then plates wouldn't have been an issue! I would have been livid too...

      2 Replies
      1. re: Kajikit

        Agree completely. Also, is it me, or is 7.50 a bit steep for a pizza joint?!

        1. re: enbell

          7.50 split charge is way steep, in my experience. even at the expensive places we eat here (50+ per person), I've never seen a split charge higher then 5 dollars, and 2 to 3 is normal.

          Of course, this is the Midwest, where reasonable is our middle name.

      2. I always figure that if the number of diners at the table is equal to the number of entrees ordered, then there shouldn't be a split charge even if there are extra plates involved. Also, things like pizza are meant to be shared imho, unless you're at a slice place.

        It gets a little stickier with kids - I know very small children often don't eat enough to warrant getting them an entire meal. But once they're past about the age of 4 or 5, they should get a meal of their own (even if it is just an appetizer) rather than just sharing with a parent.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jnstarla

          Even if the number of people at the table exceeds the number of entrees ordered, if the majority are kids at the table, I really believe the split plate charges ought to be overlooked. That scenario is different than a couple adults trying to 'beat the system."

        2. I always thought sharing charges were unfair. If a solo diner comes in, do they charge him for two? If two ppl only order cheap appets, do they charge entree prices?

          In your case it would be cheaper to order a half boloney sandwich than pay sharing charge of $7.50.

          1. OK - I wonder if this is a trend now (I was the one who posted the other "sharing fee" post). I've never had an issue with a "split order fee." To me, that means the kitchen will split the one order into two, probably with similar garnishments on both plates. It doesn't mean charging a patron for tasting each other's meals when they've both ordered an entree! I'll post in a couple of days regarding my other thread once I speak with the manager. While checking out the restaurant's comments on yelp, it sounds like the manager doesn't care about feedback, but I'm still going to call him.

            1 Reply
            1. re: boltnut55

              "I'll post in a couple of days regarding my other thread once I speak with the manager. While checking out the restaurant's comments on yelp, it sounds like the manager doesn't care about feedback, but I'm still going to call him."
              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
              Thanks boltnut - was wondering if you had spoken to the manager in your other thread. Perhaps speak to the owner of the restaurant as well, if you can figure out who it is?

            2. To me there is a world of difference between a "split plate charge" which requires the kitchen and server to do slightly more work and requires a change from the norm for the restaurant. If one entree is split and comes out on two plates, each looking nice, then a charge in that instance is fair. $7.50 sounds ludicrously high for the kind of place you describe, but that's quibbling over a price point and is something that is fair game: the restaurant can set its fees how it likes and we can all choose to dine elsewhere.

              This "sharing" fee is absurd. If the server is doing the same work, the kitchen is doing the same work and all that's happened is there's an extra person sitting at the table, what's the fee for? I gather some will argue that the extra dishes or some such nonsense adds to the bill. Fine, then put a $2 minimum or what have you for anyone who sits down at the table on the bill and, again, we can all choose to dine elsewhere. To charge more for your food simply because more than one person is going to eat it...no logic there.

              1. $7.50 for an extra plate to share a sandwich? That's freaking absurd. I wouldn't go back, and I'd be telling all my friends about it, too. Bad business policy.

                1 Reply
                1. re: amyzan

                  Just a curious side note...anyone know the origin of this charge, or its rationale from the management's point of view?

                2. i too would be livid and would never return

                  1. Happy Split Order Story

                    My friend and I wanted to split a dinner item at one of my favorite places. We also ordered an appetizer or salad, don't really recall. Anyways, when the waiter brought us our main courses on 2 seperate plates, it looked like 2 full plates. Both of us still could not finish our meals. For only $6 more, we both had a big dinner at less than 1/2 the price. BTW...we have ordered this item without splitting and it is large, but the split was still at least 2/3 the size of the whole and that was 2/3 on each of our plates!

                    1. Agree with all opinions posted above.
                      But - it seems to be central (mentioned by jnstarla) that this is pizza! Sharing is inherent!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: laurendlewis

                        I don''t know about that ... back in my frat days, I used to put away 22" sausage, anchovy, and onion pizzas all by myself at a single sitting. :-)

                        1. re: laurendlewis

                          Yes, I agree that sharing is or ought to be expected when you're ordering pizza. Yes, I have when younger and hungrier eaten some all by myself, but in my experience the normal thing to do is to order one or two that will be shared by everyone at the table - and I have NEVER paid any sort of "sharing fee," nor would I! That is simply wrong.

                          1. re: laurendlewis

                            Any pizzeria that charges a split fee to share a pizza will soon be an ex-Pizza place.

                          2. About "Spilt Order" Charges, from a restaurant perspective.

                            ccbweb's first paragraph mostly covers it- Say you want a Caesar Salad split- what's most likely going to happen is that you are going to get slightly *more* stuff on 2 plates than you would have gotten on the one. For instance, when I was the salad chick, a Caesar Salad was usually 8 large Romaine leaves, dressed, and plated with shaved Parm and a white anchovy. A split might be 5 large leaves (or 4 large and 1 smaller), some parm and an anchovy, since 4 leaves just looked so, well, skimpy, and cutting an anchovy in half is ridiculously cheap, even if boqurones are pricey. So, a split fee of $1.50 went towards the additional lettuce and anchovy.

                            Same story if it came from the hot line- splitting an order often can mean that you get exactly half of the regular order, but in my experience, it means getting a bit more, including the time to dress the plate properly, and garnishes, etc.

                            As far as a fee for bringing an extra plate- pshaw- that's just mean.

                            19 Replies
                            1. re: cheesemonger

                              I can't speak to the origin, but I second what cheesemonger says.
                              I also believe that the idea behind a split fee is to recoup some of the losses on say, a table of four who orders ice waters with extra lemons and extra sweet and low ( to make their own lemonade), two or three or four baskets of bread, then splits two entrees between the four of them and asks for the extra bread to be wrapped up--the table that spends very, very little, while taking up valuable real estate and running servers around.

                              (please note that I am guessing this is part of the reason. I am not arguing for it as a personal philosophy or saying that any restaurant should or should not have such a thing)

                              1. re: nc213

                                The food costs are generally insignificant (extra bread, lemons, etc.). An extra plate or table setting is trivial to set out. But the service time and effort required are significant, especially if the restaurant is crowded.

                                Partial-paying customers usually expect the same level of service and attention as full-paying customers. They can complain as just loudly, too. Yet, they will give a smaller tip because of the split dish/es and purchase less. They are a losing proposition for restaurants, so a split charge may be used to discourage such behavior.

                                1. re: raytamsgv

                                  "Partial-paying customers usually expect the same level of service and attention as full-paying customers. They can complain as just loudly, too. Yet, they will give a smaller tip because of the split dish/es and purchase less. They are a losing proposition for restaurants, so a split charge may be used to discourage such behavior."

                                  And THIS is why I wish the restaurant I work at had a split plate charge. And didn't allow Entertainment coupons, but that is another story entirely...

                                  1. re: jnstarla

                                    I'm curious about the idea of a "partial paying customer." I guess it must refer to someone who is using a coupon or entertainment card (which I can see jnstaria's point, as a server, that just stinks because there's virtually no way its going to go well) and so is paying less than the full menu price at the end of a meal. It shouldn't, though, refer to a diner who comes in and orders an appetizer and a soft drink and that's it. There shouldn't be some sort of expectation about a minimum amount of food and drink to be ordered when one goes to a restaurant.

                                    One of the things that a restaurant I used to work at did, which I thought was excellent, was to include the gratuity on any check on which a coupon or discount card was used. It was printed on the menu right along with the "for parties of 6 or more" and was the same amount (at the time, 16%) of the pretax total before the discount was applied. The customer still saved money with the discount but the server was assured their normal tip and that gave good incentive to provide the same level of service as always. Because, at that place, if a customer actually spoke to the manager about the tip being included, we'd always knock the tip off and let the customer leave what they wished.

                                    A split plate charge for actually splitting the plate should always be accepted by a customer as long as its listed on the menu.

                                    1. re: ccbweb

                                      Sorry I wasn't clear in my original post: "partial paying" was supposed to refer to parties that split the dish. Each person would pay for a part of the dish.

                                      In case of coupons, tips are normally paid on the pre-discounted amount, so it shouldn't affect the server (in theory). The financial loss should be borne by the restaurant owners and considered promotional/advertising.

                                    2. re: jnstarla

                                      I think the answer to the question of split vs share is this:
                                      (and mind you I post at great risk of incurring flourgirl's mighty wrath)
                                      to share is when you order the food, as is and people share it. I do not believe in charging for this. Some do. But it should NEVER EVER apply to sharing a large pizza. That is just stupid behavior on the part of the restaurant and you are rightly angry.

                                      A split plate is when you ask that the plate be split and portioned onto two separate plates. This requires some more work in the kitchen and- this is key- a good restaurant will often give more food so that each plate is well presented and doen't look skimpy. For example an item that normally has 5 ravioli will do 6 so each person has the same amount. This merits a small fee, but I do think the price they charged is outrageous.

                                      Also, if a table of 2 is sharing plates while eating multiple courses (basically so they can taste more without ordering a stupid amount of food) I waive the fee because I want to encourage guests to try as many things as possible.

                                      Some restaurant managers get to caught up in the letter of the law, not the spirit...and some simply cannot deviate from company policy. Best to avoid places that don't value your business... too many other places would be happy to have your patronage and charge you reasonable prices.

                                    3. re: raytamsgv

                                      When I was new here, I bought the local newspaper's coupon booklet. I didn't buy it the next year because of a couple horrible experiences using them. As a result, I don't try new restaurants as often, but it's not worth the humiliation of waiters whispering just loud enough for you to hear that they think you're a cheapskate. I had one waitress show my little booklet to the entire staff, walking around the dining room from one person to another, where I am sure other diners overheard that I was a coupon using customer.

                                      Honestly, I just wish restaurants would pay their waitstaff a decent wage and reflect the expense in the food. I wouldn't mind paying an extra 20% for restaurant food, and could still leave the waiter a little something if the service was outstanding. I know I'm dreaming.

                                      1. re: amyzan

                                        They shouldn't have advertised in a coupon book if they have a problem with people using a coupon. Same with gift certificates.

                                        I have been in restaurants where my wife and I split an app, in one case it was foie gras, and the app was individually plated beautifully. No problem with the slit fee as it took twice the time to prepare. I didn't know there were going to present the dish this way. Very nice. Too often split fees are to make up for the lower fares that that table will produce which is IMO not really fair. There is very little expense for an additional plate from the kitchen or in service by the wait staff. One problem that is becoming too common is that portions are huge. That is one reason why more people are splitting these days. Who needs to take home half a meal. What a waste. Restaurant food is often not very appetizing the next day when you see the large amounts of fat that has congealed.

                                        Paying waiters a living wage is a pipe dream but one that I wish would happen.

                                      2. re: raytamsgv

                                        "Partial-paying customers usually expect the same level of service and attention as full-paying customers. They can complain as just loudly, too. Yet, they will give a smaller tip because of the split dish/es and purchase less. They are a losing proposition for restaurants, so a split charge may be used to discourage such behavior."

                                        What is partial paying about paying 100% of the bill? The resto can always say, "I'm sorry we do not split orders." I have heard this often. And yes all custo deserve the SAME level of service. It's disappointing to hear that the service is different if you order 4-filets versus 4-chix. :-((. As it has been stated on other threads, do you think it may be a sefl-fulfilling prophesy that they complain because the service is worse?

                                        If the splitters are a losing proposition change the pricing policy or do not allow it.

                                        1. re: jfood

                                          See my clarification above regarding "partial-paying". It was a poor choice of words.

                                          1. re: raytamsgv

                                            OK.

                                            To my question, why would someone in this position not "expect the same level of service and attention as full-paying customers"?

                                            1. re: jfood

                                              Actually, they should expect the same level of service and attention. What I'm saying is that from the restaurant's and server's perspective, they must do more work without earning more money. Most restaurants would rather not do it.

                                              1. re: raytamsgv

                                                If this is the resto's perspective, then they need to re-think it. Why would they risk losing a possible repeat customer? They are the bread & butter.
                                                And sadly I find that once the server determines we are a "cheap" table ... service declines.

                                                We all cant be big spenders.

                                                1. re: tom porc

                                                  Ugh, I hate that. I used to work at Nordstrom in the Fashion Jewelry department about 20 years ago, and the least expensive item were these semi-precious bracelets for $4. A family came by, bought it, and asked that it be giftwrapped. I picked a nice box, put a bow on it, and attached a gift card... just like I would if someone bought $100 earrings. That took the same amount of time too, time that I could have helped a big spender, but to me it didn't matter. A few days later, they came in with another bunch of friends and loudly exclaimed to them that I was the nice clerk who helped them with the beautiful gift, mentioned how it was only $4 but I still wrapped it for them, etc. Ya know, I never saw them again, but I bet they still remember. :-) Another customer of mine was a young boy about 12 -14 who came in to ask for the price of a Gucci watch. I knew how much was it, but I took the time to pull it out, explained the positive qualities about it, and handed it to him to look at. He left, but within a hour or so, he came back and bought it from me. You just never know how the customer is going to act.

                                                  Darn, we should all be treated like big spenders. :-) And your $1 return fee on the other thread gave me my laugh of the day.

                                                  1. re: boltnut55

                                                    former nordie here too, totally get it!

                                                    1. re: boltnut55

                                                      I hear you, and totally understand... but a server isn't getting an hourly wage. They're working entirely on tips. Now... if there was some reason you had to believe that NOT wrapping the box so nicely would earn you MORE money from more affluent customers you may have acted differently.

                                                      You were treated badly, and there is no excuse for that.
                                                      But it seems like people are very quick to pile on against food service industry people. Is it wrong to prejudge people based on how much you think they may tip you? Absolutely!

                                                      Is someone who spends all day serving people who treat them with disdain and tip poorly likely to learn to prejudge people who may appear to fall in a certain demographic? Certainly.

                                                      It seems like the attitude these days it very "hate the sinner, love the sin". Everyone loves dining out, everyone hates restaurant employees.

                                                      Decent wages, benefits and civil treatment would go a long way to correcting some, but not all of the bad attitudes people encounter with service personal.

                                                      Again. I am not defending these behaviors. But a little compassion would go a long, long way. It is a self perpetuating cycle.
                                                      Servers perceive that certain people tip poorly.
                                                      They give people in that demo bad service.
                                                      So they get tipped poorly by that demo, reenforcing the belief.

                                                      Sometimes, when I am getting bad service from a server and I know it is because I am a woman dining alone.. I just try to connect with them on a human level for a minute. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

                                                      Strangely, it often works and my service improves from that very minute.

                                                      1. re: lebelage

                                                        I understand it can be frustrating for food servers. However, prejudging or profiling is not in anyone's best interests. A pleasant personality is attractive and I would hope is contagious.

                                                      2. re: boltnut55

                                                        Yes, we should :)

                                                        Btw, my first look of the Pacific Ocean was at Pacifica. We passed all these men wearing cowboy hats. I thought I made a wrong turn somewhere :o)

                                          2. re: nc213

                                            Jfood can't get there NC. Nice theory but why penalize the paying custos and let the lemon-water crowd go scott free?

                                        2. Jfood thinks there is a difference in splitting an order and sharing an order. The former is performed in the kitchen and the latter is performed at the table. There is a big difference between the two. Rare is the food presented in a split order not be greater than a single entrée. The kitchen delivers more food and performs more tasks, so Jfood has no problem with a split fee for this service.

                                          On the other side of the coin, when a resto delivers a single plate of food and an extra dish and the custom “slides” some of the food from one plate to the other, a share fee seems unreasonable, but if properly documented on the menu, that’s the policy and the custo should order accordingly. If the server assists in the sliding of food at the table then this is an added service and the server’s tip should increase.

                                          The latter seems to be the case in the OP’s description of the sandwich. There really should not have been a fee in this case and the manager did a good job in removingthe charge and the custo did a good jobin not dingingthe tip.

                                          But let’s place a slightly different scenario on the table. If the resto charges $9 for a full sandwich and $5 for a half and the custos order a full sandwich (which is usually cut in half) and an extra plate, should it be charged the $9 for the whole or 2 * $5 = $10 for the two halves? Good business sense would indicate charge the custom $9, serve a good sandwich and you will have a return custom, charge the 2 * $5 and ill-will will be created and you will probably lose that custom and several of the custo’s friends.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: jfood

                                            "But let’s place a slightly different scenario on the table. If the resto charges $9 for a full sandwich and $5 for a half and the custos order a full sandwich (which is usually cut in half) and an extra plate, should it be charged the $9 for the whole or 2 * $5 = $10 for the two halves? Good business sense would indicate charge the custom $9, serve a good sandwich and you will have a return custom, charge the 2 * $5 and ill-will will be created and you will probably lose that custom and several of the custo’s friends."

                                            I will definitely agree with your assessment in the last sentence because that ill will WILL happen. When you have a business, there will be a portion of the customers that will help you make the money (order freely, order expensive wine), and then the rest... well, maybe they will spread the good word about the value you get and the great customer service that will bring you more of the customers who help you make the money. Birds of a feather don't always flock together - spending habits are unique to the person (how they are brought up, how often they eat out, etc.), so my friends may differ from mine (and they do). I do the good will stuff, and they go to spend the money.

                                            1. re: boltnut55

                                              B55

                                              Posted similar response on your thread and like many are anxiously awaiting the response from the resto.