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Plate sharing fee- why?

This was brought up on my local board. Why would a restaurant charge $5 or more for people to share something? I'm sure there's a reason, but I just don't get it. How do you feel about this?

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  1. My guess is (a) to cover marginal extra cost of plating and washing extra plate and (b) making up for lost revenue for two people ordering only one dish. It's not something I see often in Manhattan, but it is also something I don't think I often see people doing here. In the Midwest, I've observed that it seems to be more commonplace.

    1. Pretty common practice, I have no problem with it.

      1. I don't like "sharing fees" as the cost of bringing out an extra plate doesn't seem to necessitate a $5 fee and any restaurant that is being that cheap is not a place I want to frequent.

        Now a "splitting fee" where the kitchen actually splits the dish and does extra sauce/garnish etc... that I am okay with.

        13 Replies
        1. re: jturtle

          I really do not hink it has much to do with covering the cost of an extra plate as much as it is used to discourage cheap diners who try to split an entree instead of ordering their own.

          1. re: swsidejim

            I've experienced this a lot with my father and stepmother - now that they are in their 70s, they simply eat less than they used to. In a lot of restaurants (in the Midwest) the splitting fee seems to include giving them the same amount of "sides" while splitting the protein component in half.

            1. re: swsidejim

              To me that's an entirely illogical idea, though, since the restaurant would not charge such a fee were each diner to order only an appetizer and forgo an entree altogether. (I'm not arguing that you're incorrect in your take on the reason for the policy, just about the logic underpinning the policy itself).

              As jturtle notes, a "Split Plate Charge" is entirely reasonable to me because that requires work on the part of the kitchen and staff.

              1. re: ccbweb

                No, it's perfectly logical. Appetizers are already upcharged out the wazoo.

              2. re: swsidejim

                Sometimes it's not being cheap, it's wanting to be healthy.

                1. re: slacker

                  Perhaps, but in my experience with entree splitters, they were typically the more frugal individuals I know.

                  1. re: swsidejim

                    But sometimes the portions are so darn big that unless you're a body builder, the entrée should really be two entrees.
                    My husband, daughter and I usually get around the fee by ordering either two appetizers and one entrée, or the other way around. We don't ask for an extra plate, and we just eat "Chinese-style" ie: everyone ends up with part of every dish.
                    We usually order wine and a dessert or two, and we're very good tippers (unless the service has been particularly poor).
                    I agree that the practice is to discourage customers from ordering less than one entrée per person. I don't agree with it unless the splitting creates additional trouble for the staff ("We'd like to split the burger, but can you put cheddar on one half and swiss on the other?" etc.)
                    I remember having to wait on this mother and daughter who would order an entrée to split, but would always insist on an extra large salad "since we are splitting" at no extra charge. They were horrible tippers, and I never gave them more salad than the one meal was allotted.

                  2. re: slacker

                    I need to lose 45 lbs., but we like to eat out from time to time. Getting a meal that is 3,000 calories for myself and getting one that is 1700 calories for my 10 year old is not good at all. That's why I tend to order my meal and share it with her. I don't do split plate because we don't know what she wants to eat and how much of it.

                    We all get tempted when the plate is in front of us, and if I can avoid the extra calories by just sharing, I truly enjoy and relax much more. Otherwise, I'm stressing over where to draw the line and stop eating and what to do when I get to that line and my eating partner is not yet 1/2 way done. Yes, sometimes I do ask for that box with my meal if my child's not with me, but not all the time. I want to dine like a "normal" person sometimes!

                    1. re: boltnut55

                      i've successfully lost 30 lbs and kept it off while eating out at least one meal a day.
                      what you do is GET A TO-GO box to put the extra food in.
                      put the excess amount of food in the box at the BEGINNING of the meal.
                      it sounds like the restaurant to which you are referring is serving good food and more than reasonable quantity at a good price, you should be willing to pay the overhead that they are incurring 24 hrs a day 7 days a week.
                      other diners and the restaurant ownership should not be expected to subsidize you.

                      how would you feel if they just halved their portion sizes? if that wouldn't bother you, i'm sure they would be willing to accommodate you. PROBLEM SOLVED

                2. re: jturtle

                  Ok the splitting fee I understand. Maybe b/c I don't see it that often around here. My husband & I always share each other's entrees, and I always had this silly thought of the waiter catching us doing so and say "I'm sorry, that'll be $5 more" lol

                  1. re: lawgirl3278

                    If you each order an entree then you wouldn't be splitting (one single entree).

                  2. re: jturtle

                    <<any restaurant that is being that cheap is not a place I want to frequent.>>

                    and the restaurant owner can legitimately feel,
                    "any patron that is being that cheap that they don't care that i'm still paying for all the overhead associated with the seat AND taking on additional inventory risk, and they don't care that the server will be likely to be tipped less than s/he would if a normal patron who bought a full meal would tip, is not a patron that i want to have frequenting my restaurant."

                    many restaurants owners would be thinking "GOOD RIDDANCE" as you walked away.

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      I agree with this. A good relationship in any instance is a two-way street.

                      Also- let's be real, a restaurant will likely not get much praise by saying "No splitting plates," even if they really don't want that, namely (I'd assume) for financial reasons. It's much more diplomatic to discourage it through charging a fee.

                  3. When I was in the restaurant industry, split plates were often charged because the dish being split usually had a slight increase in the amount of food served, but that was for some restaurants. Others are simply there to make more money since they're losing it when 2 people order 1 entree. Pretty simple economics.

                    1. I can see a nominal charge - $3.00-$6.00 if they are truly splitting, replating and giving more sides. My husband and I share and occasionally will just pass the plate back and forth. Many times we only order one entree and a couple of apps - portions are just too large and otherwise it would be too expensive to eat out as much as we'd like.

                      33 Replies
                      1. re: leahinsc

                        maybe the restaurant owner feels that his rent is just too high to accommodate people splitting dishes.

                        again, whether it is too expensive for you to eat out as much as you like should NOT be the restaurant's problem.
                        the restaurant has to make sure that the space for which they are paying rent 24/7 is productive (i.e. generates revenue) during the peak business hours.
                        just ask them to halve the portion size and your "problem" of the portions being too large would be solved.
                        another 'idea' is for you to get a to-go box and bring some food home.

                        everyone loves a bargain, but truly, it is not owed to you.
                        when you buy a meal out, you are paying for the food, the service, AND THE RENT.
                        it astonishes me that you seem to believe that restaurant rent is free or that your lifestyle should be subsidized by others. . .

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          Would you feel differently if two diners ordered two entrees but wished to split each of the entrees between the two of them?

                          Plate sharing fee appropriate?

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            no, no fee in that case because they are ordering enough for the restaurant to recoup their overhead.
                            the fee, should not really be for THE PLATE.
                            the fee is for the overhead.

                            1. re: westsidegal

                              What about the extra time and effort to split the plates?

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                the time and effort to split the plates, in an expensive town like ours, pales in comparison to rent costs and equipment costs.

                                folks don't seem to realize that in our town, at least, restaurants normally rent their space on a triple net basis. this means that if the air conditioner or any other item in the restaurant, such as the plumbing, breaks down, the RESTAURANT needs to repair or replace it, not the landlord.
                                if real estate taxes go up, normally the restaurant owner needs to divvy up, not the landlord.
                                also, the restaurant owner is on the hook for buying and maintaining all the expensive capital equipment in the restaurant; ice maker, grill, etc.
                                when people split plates, none of these expenses go down, only the revenue goes down.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  Why wouldn't you just pass plates back and forth. It seem incredib;y high maintenece to need them split.

                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                ipse, in all my restaurant experience, i've NEVER seen ANY restaurant charge a splitting fee if two diners ordered two entrees.
                                i know that the fee is often called/named a "splitting" fee, but the way i've seen it actually being executed is more of a "taking up space in my restaurant without ordering enough food to justify it" fee.

                                1. re: westsidegal

                                  Re "taking up space" - sorry but if a single person comes into a restaurant, they will likely be taking up a table, not a single seat. Thus, the aforementioned "rent charges" associated with that table is being used up by that single person. If that single person were to invite someone else to share his meal - and the restaurant was amicable and friendly about it - it leads to a better restaurant experience and a likely long term return for the business.

                                  1. re: Sintra

                                    you clearly have not signed a 10 year triple net restaurant lease with a personal guarantee.
                                    trust me, you analysis of what you feel will or won't lead to a long term return for the business will change from what it is now.

                                    1. re: westsidegal

                                      So wsg, do you think it's ok for restaurants to deny service to solo diners? I don't, and as I've said elsewhere in this thread, I've dined solo at some of the best restaurants in the US and abroad while traveling on business. I've never been denied service, and have never been treated poorly. Indeed, I'm almost always treated very well. I however order and tip appropriately, and although I by no means hurry, I don't dawdle excessively.

                                      1. re: josephnl

                                        <<order and tip appropriately>>
                                        THIS is the issue.
                                        i eat solo
                                        i eat together

                                        have never had a problem BECAUSE i, too, order and tip appropriately.

                                        the issue is NOT solo vs together

                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                          So...if restaurants do not place a surcharge on a solo diner, why should they charge extra if two folks wish to split an entree (and only ask for an extra plate, not for it to be divided in the kitchen which is clearly extra work)? The "taking up space for two, but ordering for one" argument would seem to apply equally in both situations. Indeed on those very few occasions when I've split an entree with another, we've typically had separate starters, drinks, etc.

                                          1. re: josephnl

                                            As I said back in April:

                                            "Because space is only one component of the equation. The other key factor is time.

                                            As a solo diner lets say you spent $50 in the hour you stayed in the restaurant. But the two top order only totals $50, but because they are talking, catching up, shooting the breeze etc they spend two hours at the table. So as a solo diner the table turns over $50 an hour but the two top that splits only yields $25 and hour."

                                            1. re: PhilD

                                              Yes, I agree that a party of two will likely spend longer eating than a solo diner. Nevertheless, even if a party of two shares an entree, with drinks, starters, etc. they will likely spend more than a solo. I guess at most nicer restaurants, splitting generally occurs in the kitchen, and I'm sort of ok with a charge for that.

                                              Another thought...if American restaurants wouldn't serve such ridiculously large portions, patrons would be less likely to want to split entrees!

                                                1. re: josephnl

                                                  on the other side,
                                                  <<.if American restaurants wouldn't serve such ridiculously large portions>>

                                                  when i request that my date take me to a specific restaurant and the food that arrives is not portioned generously enoughto SATISFY him, he feels used. he doesn't want to have to order two entrees to feel full.

                                                  this means that when i select restaurants for our dates, i will ONLY select ones that have generous portion size.
                                                  (i would NEVER take him to Paiche, which has good food and is close, but has small portions)

                                                  those in the restaurant business, those people whose job and investment is tied up with this sort of issue/decision, stand a better chance of gauging the "best" portion size for their restaurant's clientele than the average person who is traveling through. cerainly they should be able to make a better judgement than folks on a message board.

                                2. re: westsidegal

                                  The issue is that not all meals are able to be made into smaller portions. I've been to restaurants that have smaller portions of some dishes but not others, presumably because it's either impossible or results in too much waste to change the size of the meal. If the meal is a set size because it includes a quarter chicken or another piece of meat that isn't easily downsized, the restaurant is going to have to throw the excess away. Furthermore, there are a lot of dishes you really do have to eat right away because they're not good in takeout portions.

                                  When you go to a restaurant there is no contract to order a certain amount. Every business has the same building expenses you mention. Should I not buy items in a retail store on sale because it doesn't subsidize the rent?

                                  1. re: queencru

                                    many retalil stores will ship out items that need to be substantially reduced rather than 'spend' their high overhead trying to sell them.

                                    for instance, you are not going to find extreme discounts at nordstroms. they will ship the stuff that hasn't sold to nordstrom's rack where the overhead is lower or to a third party discounter. if you want the nordstroms shopping experience, you must pay enough to justify the nordstroms overhead.

                                    if yo want a chicken dinner at Grill on the Alley in beverly hills, you should be paying the Beverly Hills overhead costs. if you don't want to pay their overhead, you can go to Dino's, which is located far from beverly hills and get a half chicken dinner for about $5 or so; but don't think it's your due to be served terrific food in a lovely restaurant by talented waitstaff in beverly hills if you are only willing to pay Dino's prices.
                                    the fact that the system can be gamed doesn't make it right, it just says something about you.

                                    also, the extra food wouldn't need to be thrown away. in most restaurant kitchens there are low-paid people who do the dishwashing, etc. who are glad to be given such food.
                                    when was the last time you worked in a restaurant kitchen?
                                    food that has been delivered to the tables always gets thrown away--the food that has never left the kitchen doesn't get thrown away.

                                  2. re: westsidegal

                                    "again, whether it is too expensive for you to eat out as much as you like should NOT be the restaurant's problem."

                                    Totally agree, but in the same vein, if any patron only wants a salad for dinner that should not be the customer's problem, unless there are specific minimums that are spelled out.

                                    Now there is the level of consideration that should be included. Is it correct for a patron to only order a salad at dinner, maybe, maybe not.

                                    If you take this argument to it's extreme. Please place on the menu the profit per dish plus the required profit per patron. Then jfood can mix and match to achieve the required ROI for his stay. If jfood just wants a salad maybe he needs to take a piece of cheesecake to-go, or maybe he can barter a glass of wine with Table 2 who is already over their contributed value and he notices an empty glass. "Hey look guys, I gotta buy a glass of wine to meet the minimum and it's $10. You're already over the minimum and you look like you can use another glass. so how about we split the cost and you get it. win-win"

                                    Can't wait to see this business model. May be a great idea but placing into reality will lead to tremendous gaming of the system.

                                    www.ctbites.co

                                    1. re: jfood

                                      what you are talking about is how the current system's openness to being gamed can't be fixed.
                                      it doesn't mean that gaming the system is the ethical thing to do.
                                      for most independent restaurants someone has put their personal assets at risk when they sign the lease. it doesn't take much to realize that gaming this system hurts well-meaning people who trust that their client base won't try to use them.

                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                        likewise telling a customer he HAS TO buy something can alienate many as well. Always two sides to the discussion.

                                        www.ctbites.com

                                        1. re: jfood

                                          where did i say anything about telling a customer anything?
                                          still, if you have a bunch of customers gaming you, it behooves you to try to fix the problem.

                                          one way to do this that is already being done in many restaurants is to substantially raise the prices of the apps and salads. that way, the customer can order whatever s/he wants and will still be supporting the overhead.
                                          another tack that is being used by many restaurants, often in conjunction with raising the prices of the apps and salads is to offer prix fix menus with the total cost of the three courses being adequate to support the restaurant's overhead.
                                          also, some restaurants are offering 'bar menus' that provide lower costs for some items for those customers who are willing to forego being seated in the main dining room.
                                          at several sushi bars in my town the ONLY way you are allowed to order is OMAKASE (chef's choice), at others, if you want to sit at the sushi bar you must order omakase--they will only let you order a la carte if you sit at a table. these sushi restaurants, correctly, will not let you take up the prime seats during the prime hours and order natto or kampyo (sp?) for the whole evening.

                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                            If you have a bunch of customers "gaming" you, it's probably the restaurant that has the problem, not the customers. If everyone coming in is ordering apps or splitting dishes, then perhaps there is a problem with the size of the dishes or the price range is not in line with what the neighborhood will support. If it's only one or two people who want smaller portions in a given (busy) day, then it probably isn't going to hurt the restaurant that much if those people order just a salad and an app.

                                            1. re: queencru

                                              the problem is that the folks who like to game the system may decide that YOUR restaurant is their favorite place, and will show up and take up space on a regular basis crowding out the good customers.

                                              to some people, this is a 'game to be won' and they play it repetitively.
                                              the chains are the most likely to mount a good defense to this group.
                                              the indies, out of sheer politeness and good-heartedness, often fall prey to this group.

                                              i am not talking about someone who does this on occasion, i am talking about couples that do this every day almost as sport.
                                              when such a couple decides to take up residence at your best table during the best hours, you are in trouble. you have got to figure out a way to dislodge such folks from your establishment; pricing changes and split fees are some of the tools at your disposal, but if you want to stay in business you MUST try to get them to move on.

                                              you are right about one thing: the presence of this group of users certainly is the 'restaurant's problem.' the restaurants that are likely to suffer the most from this problem are the ones that offer the BEST price/quantity/quality ratios and the ones who are owned by the nicest, fairest, most agreeable, people. how sad is that?

                                            2. re: westsidegal

                                              never said you did...sorry for the confusion.

                                              but having a requirement to meet the fixed + variable charges of the resaurant is a nice to have at each and every table is the point.

                                              and all the examples you use are great alternatives to offer value to the customer and profits to the restaurant. jfood applauds the ingenuity of the restaurant owners who think out of the box

                                              www.ctbites.com

                                              1. re: jfood

                                                it's sad that this group of predators has such an effect.
                                                it's sad that the restaurant owners need to 'think out of the box' to defend themselves from this group.
                                                i don't think that changing the price of a salad from $8 to $12 is 'offering value' to the customer, it is just a defense against the gamers.

                                                changing your sunday brunch menu so that the ONLY way anyone can order is to have a three course prix fix including a beverage doesn't "add value" to the customer, it just protects the restaurant from folks who want to take up that beautiful table in their high-end restaurant that has a view overlooking the boats in the marina and who only want to order coffee and pastry.

                                                since i eat out so often, i'm a regular at several restaurants. all of the places on my rotation would never charge me a split fee, or a corkage fee, or any other extra fees, because they know that i don't game them. i don't take their best tables at the busiest times of day and open my computer up to work nor do i game their price structure even though i certainly could.

                                                my obvious respect for their business causes me to get treated better than many of the other customers that arrive. i understand and support the simple truth that this is their BUSINESS and that they have put themselves at substantial personal financial risk to open this business. i don't need to be MANAGED in order to behave with integrity, and, as a result, the normal rules that they had to institute to defend against the predators don't apply to me.

                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                  Well. one thing jfood would strongly disagree with you on is this continued characterization of customers as "predators" and "gaming the system."

                                                  jfood has much more faith in the integrity of mankind in dealing with all businesses, including restaurants. The latter is not a special or a protected species in the business spectrum.

                                                  www.ctbites.com

                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    I'm with you there. Yes there are probably a very few people who attempt to game the system, but I would imagine they are few and far between. I can't imagine many restaurants have huge groups of these people taking up space on a regular basis. I also don't understand why anyone would choose to operate a business with the idea that every customer is out to get him/her.

                                                    1. re: queencru

                                                      who said that EVERY customer is 'out to get' the restaurant?

                                                      whether it is a few people or many people who attempt to game the restaurant, they have an effect on the bottom line.

                                                      the repetitive nature of even a small group of these folks can mean 'death by a thousand cuts' to a restaurant. the worst part is that they displace good customers and that they gravitate to the restaurants that offer the best deals and who therefore are least able to sustain the losses.

                                                    2. re: jfood

                                                      jfood has more money than a lot of customers, methinks.

                                              2. re: jfood

                                                you must do something to either get these free -loaders out of your establishment or to get them to pay their way.
                                                instituting prix fix meals is one way to tell a customer that s/he 'HAS TO' buy something and this approach typically works quite well.

                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                  the MBA approach would be to fire the bad customers.
                                                  To seat them in the worst table, and do escalatingly horrid things to them.

                                                  1. re: Chowrin

                                                    i've seen that done at family owned restaurants that have no MBAs in the entire family tree. this, to one extent or another, is a pretty widespread problem at almost all levels of restaurant.

                                                    there is a reason that even some fast food chains are reducing their seating capacities (anybody want some cheap tables and chairs?)

                                                    too much is at stake to let a specific group of customers bring your restaurant ( and your entire family) down.
                                                    there are MANY ways to get rid of lousy customers and have them think that THEY are walking out on YOU.

                                      2. In restaurants that serve large portions, I'd like to split a plate sometimes. I simply don't want to eat all that food. It's not being cheap, just healthy. It's annoying for a restaurant that wants to serve the fatting-of-America portions, and then charge you for wanting to stay healthy.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: slacker

                                          if that is really your beef, you could solve it by simply telling the server to halve your portion:
                                          not so hard, really.
                                          i do it all the time.
                                          every single restaurant is willing to accommodate this request.

                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                            really? you actually ask people to cut the portion size?

                                                1. re: Chowrin

                                                  No! My partner & I do not enjoy the same foods, so we rarely share. Neither of us like to overeat, so unless we are ordering something that does well taking home, we often ask for smaller portions, and are always obliged.

                                              1. re: Chowrin

                                                Chowrin: yes, when i travel or if i am going out afterwards i ask for reduced portion size.

                                                i do not want nor expect ANY REDUCTION IN PRICE.

                                                you want a reduction in price? go to a cheap restaurant (i.e. Dino's with the $5 half chicken). you want a lovely meal in a lovely environment? expect to pay the going rate.

                                                this is not rocket science.

                                          2. I think the OP means when 2 people only order one entree as opposed to a couple ordering an entree each then asking for an extra plate so that there can share some of each other's meal.

                                            It is not just about giving one meal to a diner and a spare plate to the other person. There is the laundry, the silverware, the plate, the glass of water, ice, lemon slices, sweet n lows etc. Plus the server does extra running around for the diner who is only sharing! trust me they are usually the most demanding of tables.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: smartie

                                              plus the RENT and overhead of the seat that is being paid for 24/7 and is being occupied during the prime dining hours.

                                            2. We are often plate splitters. We're not big leftover eaters. Often, too, we're often out of town when splitting. We like to have a few apps or salad and dessert and in order to not have leftovers we spilt.

                                              I understand the concept of the plate sharing fee and often try to avoid it, buy ordering an app for my meal.

                                              That being said, we also enjoy our cocktails and wine, so this isn't an issue of being "frugal". In fact, I've seen the split plate charge on the menu, but then it's not charged after the server sees that it's not about money, it's about tasting more and no waste.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: geg5150

                                                I no longer have a restaurant but we used the plate sharing charge with discretion. Regulars were not charged, nor were those ordering wine etc and a dessert at the end, time of day etc. During quiet times we wouldn't charge either.

                                                1. re: smartie

                                                  this is the Sensible Thing to Do.

                                                2. re: geg5150

                                                  if the diners actually order enough to justify the overhead of the table, normally restaurants are willing to overlook the fee.
                                                  restaurants pay rent that must be recouped.
                                                  in your case, you were willing to order enough to justify your table's overhead and the restaurant was fine with that.

                                                  1. re: geg5150

                                                    We do this too. We are vegetarians and often there is only one veg entree on the menu (and it probably sucks) so we definitely don't want to order two of the same thing. I like to taste a variety of things and order more apps/salad/dessert. Plus, we definitely pile on the wine and cocktails. In the end we always spend more than we would have ordering two separate entrees and we are rarely charged for a shared plate even if the charge is listed on the menu. I understand the charge but it definitely ruffles my feathers.

                                                  2. In my experience the main part of the entree is split but the side items given are the same size as if the entree was ordered on its own.

                                                    1. I've waitroned in places where that fee was passed on to the server. Most patrons don't realize the server is doing just as much work (if not more with a nod to smarties observation) but generally only being tipped based on one main dish. If the server gets it I'm 100% for it. If the restaurant is increasing the side portions, fine, but I have seldom seen that happen from the back of the house without prompting from a server.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: meatn3

                                                        We've occasionally had the experience of discussing what we will order- possibly share a salad or an appetizer-not with the server there, but within earshot and they've just brought out two split plates without any additional charge. Think that's a nice touch. I might not expect that for an entree, however.

                                                      2. such fees seem entirely reasonable to me.
                                                        the restaurant incurs overhead on every seat.
                                                        the fee is a way to discourage people from taking up space and not ordering enough to justify the space they are taking up.
                                                        this is ESPECIALLY fair, in my opinion, when people are splitting dishes during high-volume times of the day or evening. if you are taking up a table at lunch hour or on a saturday night and are not ordering enough to justify the overhead, the restaurant can't reasonably expect to recoup the loss later on in the day or evening.
                                                        their rent/overhead costs must be recouped during very limited time periods.

                                                        it is not a perfect system, but it is reasonable in my eyes.

                                                        if you want to split plates, and the splitting charge bothers you, you can take the food to-go and split it among your entire circle of friends if you like.

                                                        as a matter of fact, there is a restaurant in santa monica that offers diners a terrific bargain price if they will take their food to-go at lunchtime. the restaurant is located across the street from a large office complex and the table space is at a premium during lunch hour. it is the way that the restaurant will give the customers 'a break' for not taking up table space during that very precious time slot.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                                          In my system, where I find service to be especially accomodating, it makes me feel warm and happy. I leave a 25% rather than 20% tip, and I say very nice things about it to my friends, on boards like this, zagat, etc.

                                                          1. re: junescook

                                                            i do the same.
                                                            at the restaurants on my regular rotation, my 'normal' tip is 25%.
                                                            because i eat out so often, it directly benefits ME to make sure that the restaurants that offer great price/quality/quantity ratios along with good service stay in business.

                                                          2. re: westsidegal

                                                            Here, the trend is the opposite and I see more and more restaurants implementing a separate surcharge for to-go orders.

                                                            1. re: PinkLynx

                                                              maybe the kitchen is operating at close to capacity? in that case, too many to go orders will negatively impact the flow of food to the seated customers.

                                                          3. My husband and I frequently split entrees, and have no problem with a charge for doing so. In our experience, the protein is halved, but the sides are not, so it's fair.

                                                            1. While I don't totally disagree with a business charging a fee (it's their business, not mine)....I don't agree 100% with the justification that the person is taking up space in the restaurant and should be charged based on that alone. For example...if 1 person goes into a restaurant to eat, they will sit at a table that will accomodate at least 2 people. In all of my years no restaurant that WOULD charge a plate fee is going to sit a stranger in that spot to fill up the empty space so whats the difference if this solo diner becomes a couple. The 2nd person is merely sitting in a spot that would have otherwise been empty and the business will most likely still get more money in the form of beverages and/or appetizers and/or desserts.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: westcoasttekkie

                                                                <<.if 1 person goes into a restaurant to eat, they will sit at a table that will accomodate at least 2 >>

                                                                actually, now, some of the best restaurants in town will no longer do that.
                                                                communal tables are now to be found at many high end restaurants; if you are dining alone, you can expect to be seated at a communal table or to be offered a seat at the bar.

                                                                i certainly see these as entirely REASONABLE steps to cover their rent, labor, and overhead.

                                                                1. re: westsidegal

                                                                  I'm now retired, but when working, I traveled extensively both within the U.S. and internationally. Enjoying good food, I always researched the restaurant scene in advance. I have had countless solo dinners at some of the finest restaurants in the world, and have rarely been either denied a solo reservation or been treated less well than if dining with a companion. Indeed, when dining alone, I have often thought that I was treated especially well. Of course in these circumstances, I have tipped extremely generously and always been made to feel that I was welcome to return at any time. So...how is this different from my dining with someone else, and if we choose not to overeat, ask to share several plates?

                                                                  1. re: josephnl

                                                                    Because space is only one component of the equation. The other key factor is time.

                                                                    As a solo diner lets say you spent $50 in the hour you stayed in the restaurant. But the two top order only totals $50, but because they are talking, catching up, shooting the breeze etc they spend two hours at the table. So as a solo diner the table turns over $50 an hour but the two top that splits only yields $25 and hour.

                                                                    I think its a reusable strategy - if you are taking the space you should be expected to pay for it by ordering sufficient food. The alternative I have seen is minimum order values per table, especially in popular places with great locations.

                                                              2. because the food costs of a meal make up less than half it's cost to the restaurant.

                                                                the splitting charge is to cover the non-food costs that the restaurant incurs.

                                                                how do i feel about it?
                                                                i feel that it is an ENTIRELY REASONABLE thing to do.
                                                                if you don't like it, take the food "to-go" and go home and split it there.

                                                                1. i resent them. nobody charges me if i sit in the restaurant and order an ice water while my companion eats an entree. nobody charges me for ordering only coffee or a soda, or even if i order only a green salad or something. i think split plate fees are silly. might as well have a cover charge or "seating fee".

                                                                  this doesn't hold true if the "split plate" includes extra food, or is significantly more work for the kitchen. but in the case where we order a pasta and it's either put on two plates not one, or we just get an extra plate and divide it up ourselves, well, there you are. if i go to a bar and order a glass of sparkling water, nobody charges me extra because of the lost profit on an alcoholic drink...

                                                                  24 Replies
                                                                  1. re: chartreauxx

                                                                    I feel freaking guilty if I sit in a restaurant and don't order anything except an icewater.
                                                                    Don't you?

                                                                    I think a seating fee is entirely appropriate.

                                                                    1. re: Chowrin

                                                                      no, i don't (obviously, this does vary a little depending on the restaurant - going to the diner up the block and having just water or coffee is different than a 4-star restaurant to me for some reason). in general though, if nobody at my table ordered anything, i would feel badly. but aside from that it's not like i'm damaging the restaurant's profits; whoever i'm with would still have occupied the table and required a server's attention. i'm not eating food and not paying for it, or requiring anything extra of staff that my paying (or paying-more) companion wouldn't already be requiring of them. i do personally make a point of dropping a little $, for the server's sake and to be polite, but i don't see why i should feel badly. if a seating fee is tolerated by the clientele of a restaurant, that's their choice. personally, i'd probably avoid someplace doing that just on principle.

                                                                      1. re: Chowrin

                                                                        I wouldn't go into a restaurant ALONE and just order a glass of water... but if I'm with my husband and he wants to eat and I don't, why should I feel bad about it? If I'm not hungry or not feeling well, I just want a nice comforting bowl of soup... and I refuse to feel 'bad' about it any more than I feel 'bad' about the fact that we don't drink and we won't order dessert or carby food because my husband is a diabetic and shouldn't eat them. The restaurant is there to serve US, not the other way round. (and they should probably be glad that we don't sit around eating three courses or drinking because we're usually in and out inside of 45 minutes - if their service is prompt it only takes 30!)

                                                                          1. re: Kajikit

                                                                            I believe the restaurant exists to make a profit for the owners. It does this by providing a service for its customers in a way that ensures they maximise their profits.

                                                                            Are people really saying they expect free sparkling water, coffee and soda if they are not ordering food when sitting with a friend? (two posts above say that).

                                                                            A table ordering three course meals, with lots of drinks is probably very profitable and their ideal customer even if they stay longer, I suspect the quick diners who order very little and occupies a table for 45 mins is a marginal proposition, and the business would prefer to lose them.

                                                                            Many businesses do look at their customer demographics and find they only make money from a sub-set of these customers. If they simply eliminate the unprofitable it really increases their profit even if they don't replace them. It's often better to have fewer profitable customers than lots of customers, many of whom are marginal propositions.

                                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                                              But to play the devil's advocate, clients like Kajikit although perhaps not wanting a full meal one evening, if treated well might return many times and eat well, bring guests, and make excellent referrals. This certainly is not likely to happen if she's treated poorly. Similarly, I've dined solo many times when traveling on business, and when treated well (as is almost always the case), I've done what I can to make it worthwhile for the establishment...through direct referrals, blog postings, etc. It's called good will, and in most instances treating all customers well pays off in the long run.

                                                                              1. re: josephnl

                                                                                Depends on the restaurant demographics and it's customer base. If it's popular will customers who want to eat it makes sense to discourage low value (loss making) customers. It actually makes the business healthier.

                                                                                Of course if it's a marginal business, or has a limited demographic it makes sense to encourage more customers. But care needs to be taken, it could be a marginal business because it doesn't segment and actively discard customers.

                                                                                Restaurant owners tend to be able to spot the diner they need to "invest in" as opposed to the low spending loss making customers they want to discourage.

                                                                                Remember recommendations and referrals are only of value if those customers spend enough money. Too many "It's a great place, you can order one dish to share and they give you lots of free stuff" can kill the profitability.

                                                                                Also this isn't about solo diners, they often over order (to get variety or they are on expenses) and thus can be high value. It's about two people who want to share one dish.

                                                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                                                  I guess that the key point is, and I'm paraphrasing your words, that smart and successful restauranteurs have the smarts to "spot the diners they need to invest in".

                                                                                  When traveling on business and dining solo (and thus very limited in what I could reasonably expense, usually no more than $40-50 in these situations), I would often dine at the finest restaurants in the area, and pick up the difference personally. In almost every situation, I as a solo diner was treated exceptionally well, but of course ordered appropriately, and tipped very generously.

                                                                                  1. re: josephnl

                                                                                    Exactly this +100

                                                                                    I once had a 2pax come in, a very young guy and girl. Obviously his first date and he was trying to impress the young lady. I could see his angst as he tried to work out how to afford this fine dining meal.
                                                                                    I cut him heaps of slack and made it work well within his budget (although he had never told me how much $$ he wanted to spend).

                                                                                    At the end of the meal, as I was processing his check, he handed me a $20 tip (very rare in oz to even tip at all).
                                                                                    I handed it back to him and said "buy her some flowers"
                                                                                    This was ten years ago, and the couple still come back, even now he has a great paying job and can afford the most expensive meals around.

                                                                                    Sometimes, as a hospo professional, you need to have something that warms your heart. It can be cold out there.

                                                                                      1. re: sdigioia

                                                                                        Thanks, it warmed my cockles at the time. For some main reasons.

                                                                                        1) I love my work, it's part of me. Seeing people enjoy themselves and have a great time, with me being a part of it makes me feel good. To me, this is why I am in hospitality.

                                                                                        2) I have been that boy, wanting to impress my new partner and being hopeless at it. A good waiter would have been a diamond to me, at that time.

                                                                                        3) as mentioned above, elsewhere, it's not always about profit. A good restaurant knows that today they make nothing on that diner, but tomorrow they may just make a killing.

                                                                                        That being said, and again agreeing with upward posts, a good waitron can tell a cheapskate diner a mile away. Doesn't mean you treat them any differently - your personal reputation and that of the venue is at stake if you do.
                                                                                        You just smile and move on.

                                                                                      2. re: cronker

                                                                                        that is a far different scenario than the campers, gamers, and other entitled folks that frequently show up in nice restaurants without expecting to pay for the privilege.

                                                                                      3. re: josephnl

                                                                                        <<but of course ordered appropriately, and tipped very generously.>>

                                                                                        THESE are the key words.
                                                                                        well-behaved folks who order appropriately and tip generously are normally treated extremely well in return.

                                                                                    1. re: josephnl

                                                                                      josephni,
                                                                                      trust me, the way you behave in a restaurant is in no way equivalent to kajikat.

                                                                                      far more often than not, cheap diners who split plates are not the ones that <<return many times and eat well, bring guests, and make excellent referrals>>. zebras don't change their stripes. it is FOLLY to imagine that, as a group, they will.

                                                                                      normally cheap diners who split plates only refer other cheap diners who want to split plates while taking up prime time space.

                                                                                      past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior when it comes to restaurant patrons.

                                                                                      also, in the restaurant business, treating campers, cheap diners, and their ilk well does NOT AT ALL pay off in the long run. in the long run, those sorts of customers will bankrupt you. the nicer you are to them; the faster you will be visiting bankruptcy court.

                                                                                    2. re: PhilD

                                                                                      There are restaurants that exist solely to make a profit for the owners. Franchises and chains for example.

                                                                                      But I'd wager most independent restaurants are owned by people who love food and the restaurant business. Yes, they have to profit to stay in business, but it isn't their raison d'etre. They're there to provide their customers with an amazing product, to gainfully employ a team of people and enrich their lives, and to have a career that they enjoy.

                                                                                      1. re: hal2010

                                                                                        i would like to take whatever drug you're taking, hal2010. not only than, i want to market it.

                                                                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                          If every business on Earth was focused on profit above all else we'd have a planet full of bankers. There's more to life than extracting the maximum profit you can out of everything.

                                                                                          1. re: hal2010

                                                                                            True, but not when your profit margins are so low you can't pay yourself! Restaurant owners need to pay for their personal lives as well. If that means an extra $5 on a meal that someone is trying to save $6 on by splitting a large portion who are any of us to say that it's wrong? Honestly I find it offensive!

                                                                                            1. re: LexiFirefly

                                                                                              I'm not arguing whether a plate-splitting fee is unjustified. I'm questioning whether the prime objective of any business has to be profit above all else.

                                                                                              On the plate splitting issue, if portions were reasonable it wouldn't be an issue. On a recent trip to the US my wife and I found ourselves ordering 2 apps each or a few apps and one entree at each meal because the mains were enough for two.

                                                                                              1. re: hal2010

                                                                                                Couldn't agree more. I don't often split entrees with my partner because we enjoy different goods, nevertheless we each typically leave pretty close to half of our portions on the plate. If restaurants in the US served reasonable portions, folks would share less and perhaps obesity would be less widespread!

                                                                                                1. re: hal2010

                                                                                                  In the case of ordering multiple apps and one main I personally would not charge a plate splitting fee. It's when people come in only order one main and water is where I would personally. I think the bottom line is as others have pointed out servers and managers need to use their best judgement, I agree that it's not always a black and white issue and there are times when a judgement call has yo be made.

                                                                                              2. re: hal2010

                                                                                                hal2010: profit to a business is like food to a person.

                                                                                                yes, it is nicer when you don't have to spend every second thinking about how to get enough food.

                                                                                                once you DO have enough food, you can use your remaining wherewithal to do many other things that give you satisfaction.
                                                                                                but, until you have enough food, all the rest is bullshit.

                                                                                            2. re: hal2010

                                                                                              I disagree - all restaurant owners need to focus on profit*.

                                                                                              They may have different profit motives from the sentimental enthusiast who simply wants to pay the way and deliver quality thru to the corporate investor who just wants a margin and is unsentimental.

                                                                                              The restaurant business has (I believe) a 80% plus failure rate within the first couple of years and so if the owner doesn't have profit at the front of their mind then they are doomed. Even the big chains trial their concepts very carefully before they get national roll outs to ensure they make money - places like Plano near Dallas I am told are prime trial markets.

                                                                                              * It is often thought that El Bulli was a loss making labour of love for Ferran Adria. But those who think this miss the other sides of his restaurant, product, consulting business. Whilst the flagship restaurant lost money it supported the profitable El Bulli brand. And we now see this in the multitude of enterprises canalising on the brand run by the Adria brothers.

                                                                                      2. re: chartreauxx

                                                                                        If you are ordering a seperate soup or salad or appetizer then a plate charge should not apply. But if you are sharing the soup or salad and the entree than a plate charge is appropriate. I own a restaurant and keep my prices very reasonable but there comes a point that you are not making the required profit on the entree and that is why a nominal 2 to 3 dollar charge is required. If 2 people share the entree they are both using utensils, condiments, bread and crackers etc. As far as just getting a water. Water is not free to the restaurant we give it to you free but it still costs the business. You also have to wash the extra dishes etc. If two people order waters and a 16 dollar entree to share the 2 dollar plate fee will cover the loss of profit on all the used or eaten extras by the sharer,

                                                                                      3. Because people will come into a restaurant split a bowl of soup, drink water and keep a table for an hour.

                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: HoosierFoodie

                                                                                          HoosierFoodie: you forgot to mention that those people split the soup and sit there for an hour during PEAK hours, Also, they may require several refills of their glasses of water and several refills of the bread basket and butter that accompanies the soup.

                                                                                          Also, that sort of party tips a percentage on the ONE bowl of soup.
                                                                                          Basically, the server, has a two top in his/her station being taken up by two squatters during prime time. If the server is REALLY unlucky, they have more than one table of squatters.

                                                                                          It's important that management find a way to eject such customers.

                                                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                            WSG:

                                                                                            How do you feel about a party of four, ordering three dinners at what is essentially a "family style" dinner restaurant? They order three dinners (entrees). Yet, they expect to have the full complement of bread/salad/soup/banchan..... whatever... so all four diners will leave satisfied that they got their money worth, after repeated refills.

                                                                                            Do you feel this is acceptable?

                                                                                            If management charges a non-eating (customer?) for the "extras", may we construe that this is the management way to "eject" these free loading customers?

                                                                                            1. re: FoodTrippin

                                                                                              i feel that every restaurant owner/manager needs to devise rules and institute policies that allow it to make enough money off of the capacity it has.

                                                                                              the form of those rules and policies will differ from place to place AND the way that they are enforced will necessarily differ from place to place.

                                                                                              the owners and often the managers have a tremendous amount of financial skin in the game.

                                                                                              making up hypothetical, incomplete, scenarios, misses the main point, imho

                                                                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                Well said. Thanks for your response.

                                                                                        2. In general it is a small way to offset the fact that there are two people dining but only one order. The restaurant still must wash the silverware, water glass, clean the napkin, etc.

                                                                                          Many times people forget that a restaurant is like any other business, they are there to make money. Providing a service with no income is not the way to go.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: sdigioia

                                                                                            I once had a situation like this, where two guests were sharing one entree, and nothing else.
                                                                                            On my boss' instructions, I took away everything of the the mis en place for the second guest and treated the ordering guest as a 1 pax.
                                                                                            When the sharing guest asked about her bread roll, water, butter, share plate, cutlery etc, I said
                                                                                            "But I thought you were sharing?"

                                                                                            Worked.

                                                                                          2. A restauranteur I know explained it this way: I don't want two people coming, splitting a salad and entree, drinking water and asking for more bread 3+ times.

                                                                                            Restaurants, believe it or not, are a business and businesses need to profit. A splitting fee keeps examples like the above from clogging up the restaurant with the most "frugal" customers.

                                                                                            I get the older people don't eat as much or I don't want that much food. As someone else said here, take the rest home. Give it to a homeless person on the way to your car/hotel/whatever.

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: HoosierFoodie

                                                                                              It's not just "older people" who don't want/need the huge portions that have become standard in many American restaurants! Next time you go out to eat observe how many obese people are downing the thousands of calories put before them in the typical restaurant in the USA.

                                                                                              I am fully sympathetic to the restauranteur who doesn't want 2 people coming in and splitting a salad and an entree... Nevertheless, if portions were smaller (and either the quality higher or the price slightly lower to adjust for this), I think fewer persons would want to split entrees. Another smart trend that I've noted at some local restaurants in southern CA is to offer entrees in 2 sizes. I seems likely that this will serve 2 purposes, discourage splitting and encourage healthier eating...although it might cut in to the restaurant's profit. A tough call for the restauranteur.

                                                                                              1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                when done correctly, the restaurant's profit doesn't get cut.
                                                                                                this is not rocket science.
                                                                                                pretty simple math suffices.

                                                                                                btw, i've witnessed scenes in such restaurants where the cheap diners wanted to split a "large' portion and got pissed off when they were told that the restaurant would not accommodate them; if they wanted two smaller plates, they needed to order two "small" portions.
                                                                                                (you see, the price of the small portion was more than 50% of the price of the large portion)
                                                                                                all sorts of huffing and puffing and pretending that their FUTURE business would have been valuable to the restaurant as they vacated their table to the great joy of the server and of the manager.

                                                                                            2. For all the reasons given by others, I'm sure there are times and places when the fee is justified. But here's one I question - a friend and I went to lunch recently. We couldn't decide between two different sandwiches, so decided we'd each order one and swap halves. We were told there was a $2 split fee. So we each ordered a sandwich, and when they arrived, I put half of mine on her plate and she gave me half of hers. Everything else was identical, same amount of same salad on each plate. Was that fee justified? I don't think so, but it was certainly easy to avoid and still get what we wanted.

                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: judybird

                                                                                                You did what I would have done. In fact my GF and I so it regularly at our local casual bar/restaurant.

                                                                                                Honestly, I think your server just misinterpreted the restaurant's splitting policy. You weren't splitting one dish - you bought 2 and cut them in half.

                                                                                                1. re: judybird

                                                                                                  my guess is that your server was clueless.

                                                                                                  1. re: judybird

                                                                                                    That's ridiculous I also think your server was confused, if that is policy it is a totally bizarre one.

                                                                                                  2. I'd be pissed off. I always share my food. We don't get extra plates - we just pass the plates around. I know some people think this is rude, but it's the only way to try out all the different foods.