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Jul 23, 2007 11:27 AM

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.


                                    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.


                                        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


                                              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.


                                                  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.