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Charged for things you thought were comp?

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A recent thread reminded me of the time at Joe's Crab Shack where a server came by the table shortly after we were seated and before we were ready to order, and asked if we'd like a basket of hush puppies. We said sure, thinking this was comparable to the bread that's often served with a meal. You guessed it: when the check arrived, there was a charge. Just one more thing to hate about this substandard chain. Anyone have other cautionary tales to share?

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  1. LOL that's why I almost always ask, "is that included?" when the waiter offers me anything in addition to my meal. Hasn't happened to me recently, but mostly happens with drinks when I assume the free refill.

    1. I seem to recall it happening one time with salad at a chain steak place but can't remember which one unfortunately. We had placed our order and answered lots of questions so were not really paying attention to the salad question. The server said "Would you like a tossed salad or a caesar salad with your meal?" We assumed it came with the steak. It didn't. Oh well.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Hooda_Guest

        Sounds like Outback. Their sides will double the bill in a hurry.

        1. re: yayadave

          It very well could have been and we were all at fault. We had not paid enough attention to the menu and she was rather vague about it. She wanted to sell a couple of salads-mission accomplished!

      2. it's all about add ons, if the server words the question cleverly you could think it is comped. It is different to ask, would you like to order an side salad, or what dressing would you like on your side salad?

        Isn't it about expectation? If a server says would you like coffee with your dessert you wouldnt for one moment expect the coffee to be free. It's also about reading the menu carefully, if the header says comes with side salad and choice of potatoes then you know that a side of brocolli is not going to be comped.

        This is a similar problem to the price of specials, ask and you will get your answer. Don't assume!

        1 Reply
        1. re: smartie

          As an ex-waiter, I can tell you this is exactly the technique we were trained to use at the chain steak house where I worked. Management was always after us to raise the "average cheque" per customer, and although salad bar, bread, and baked potato were included with the meal, sauteed mushrooms or the vegetable of the day were extra. So, after we'd taken the entree details, we were told to ask first "Do you want butter, sour cream or both on your baked potato?", and THEN ask "And would you like sauteed mushrooms or (vegetable)?" Now, it clearly stated on the menu that these were extra, but by this time, most people had closed their menus and it was surprising how many simply went along. Sneaky, yes, but I would only see a customer twice in my lifetime at most, whereas I had to see my manager every day.

        2. Jfood's basic rule of thumb:

          - if the server says "would you like?" it will show up on the bill. "would you like" usually means "would you pay"

          If it is comped, first the server will say something to the effect..."the chef would like you to try..." or "that comes with..."

          when in doubt just ask. better than not asking, assuming it's comped and then seeingthe bill.

          6 Replies
          1. re: jfood

            Yeah, now that you mention it most places just bring the bread without asking, so the fact that the server said something should have been a red flag that this wasn't a version of the complimentary bread custom. I must say it still wouldn't occur to me to ask if I'm going to be charged when a server just sets a basket of bread on the table, though.

            1. re: Emm

              If a server sets something down without asking, I agree, I'd not only think it is included as a part of dining there, but I'd say something should a charge show up later. Have to be careful about bottled water as the one major exception to this....some places have bottles already on the table and some places have servers come over bottle in hand....they're not included unless you specifically know otherwise (The French Laundry, I think, now includes bottled water as a part of the meal).

              In this case, though, you just got stuck in a good sales tactic (good in the moment in that they sold some hushpuppies....bad in that you're left with a bad feel for the whole thing and rightly so, really).

            2. re: jfood

              You're so right, jfood. TT always asks because things like bread, olives, and even chips and salsa in some places are charged for.

              Some sneaky restaurants will give you the first round of something free, but then charge for extra's; but you of course don't know this as you happily much through your third basket of chips. Grrrrr!


              1. re: TexasToast

                Especially after you've gotten a buzz on.

                Another revelation thanks to this site.

              2. re: jfood

                Point well taken, but "would you like" is highly intonation-dependent. Hard to do on the keyboard, but "would you like a BAKED POTATO or FRIES" is worlds different than "would you like a baked potato(?) or fries(?)" The first implies that the customer needs to choose between two options, one of which is included in the meal. The second implies that the customer may add an item that is not included.

                As you noted below (in the "asterisk menu") post, many meals come with a choice of sides. Ordering at one of my regular haunts can take on aspects of defending a doctoral dissertation. Green salad or ceasar? If green, what kind of dressing? Minestrone soup or clam chowder? Baked potato, fries, or mashed? And all this stuff is included with the meal.

                Ultimately, it is up to the customer and the server to work together to avoid miscommunication. And occasionally even the best-intentioned people misunderstand each other. Stuff happens.

                What's offensive to me is when a restaurant tries to upsell its custmers using misleading techniques. And there are a few restaurants, mostly chains in my experience, that appear to do just that. I don't know how the OP's server at Joe's Crab Shack was trained, but you can bet your bottom dollar some marketing hack back at the corporate HQ has done studies to figure out how to maximize the number of customers who order hush puppies at the beginning of the meal. And the best way to do that is to have a good percentage of the customers believe it's a comp item.

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  Well, after this thread on comps and the one on the price of specials, you can bet my antennae will waaaaay be up on both items.

                  Chips, hush puppies, baskets of bread, sheesh, is nothing sacred?

              3. Incidentally, my rule of thumb is, if I like the sound of it, it's best to assume I have to pay for it.

                I'll admit; I'm a SINK (single income no kids) so I have a bit more disposable income than most, but the only time when I give pause to an up-sell is when someone mentions TRUFFLES. Other than that, charge me / don't charge me, I like what I like and if I really do like it or think it's of good value, I'll come back for repeat business.

                That's something any manager would want.

                19 Replies
                1. re: SauceSupreme

                  Repeating myself, but in a Vermont restaurant with a big crowd, the first baskets of bread were included in the meal. When more bread was brought, there was a $6. charge (I believe) for each succeeding basket of bread.

                  1. re: dolores

                    i could see some sleazy practice like that in a touristy area
                    but i'd think someting like that would kill a resto that depended
                    on a local reputation and repeat business.

                    if i was sure of my facts [100% sure the price wasnt disclosed, 100%
                    sure it was $6 charge for bread], i'd certainly drop the name of the resto.

                    1. re: psb

                      As a server, I have the same story as the person above. I tried hard to say the word "ADD" as a clue/to be fair. You are definitely pressured to upsell small extras to get your check average up, as I've mentioned before, but I tried to use the word "add" to make it clear it was not included. It's very tricky for the customer. For example, at the steak place where I worked, *some* entrees came with both a salad and a side, and some just came with a side, and if you add a salad it's extra. I think it's unreasonable to expect the customer to read the fine print on every section and remember that if they get this it comes with 2 things but if they get that it comes with 1. So if customer 1 ordered something that came with 2 things I'd just ask what kind of side and what kind of dressing would they like on their salad. If customer 2 ordered something that didn't come with a salad, I'd say, "would you like to add a salad with that?" In general, I hated the upselling all the time and tried instead to judge when I thought it might work/be accepted instead of pushing it on every single table, which is probably why my check averages weren't #1 in the store.

                      1. re: rockandroller1

                        I wonder why a restaurant presumes that I would pay for something that wasn't included if they didn't indicate it? Of course it's 'caveat emptor' out there, but if the print on the menu doesn't SAY 'all entrees come with salad or pasta (red sauce) or salad and starch, then of COURSE I'd ask. Sadly, I also now assume that when a server asks 'would you like to add', that there's a charge for the 'add-on'. The worst offenders are the thousand dollars for a filet mignon steak places that don't include a salad or a potato for that price. Obviously, I try to stay away from them. However, if they DID manage to pull a fast one on me, they surely wouldn't get me to pay for it and it would be the last time I'd go there.

                        I applaud you, rockandroller1, for indicating that you hate the 'upselling' -- what a disgusting concept. I still can't get over the low wages that servers are paid, just can't.

                        As to the restaurant in Vermont, I was one of a large group and so didn't see the check. It was last year and so I can be absolutely sure that the price was $6. I also know that I didn't pay attention when I saw the menu, so I'm not sure it was disclosed. Given that it was remarked upon by the person who chose to do the tabulating, I would imagine it wasn't revealed. If not part of a group, I would have made a scene, of course.

                        Interestingly, I'll be going back this year. If I can, I'll try to swing the choice to this restaurant again, just to verify the facts.

                        1. re: dolores

                          1. in the case of the $6 bread, i dont think i'd call that upselling
                          but a deceptive practice, since there is such a strong norm that
                          bread is free. you arent so much being pressured into spending
                          more than you were planing, but you didnt realize what you were
                          spending. so there was no pressure and no decision/consent.

                          2. ms. dolores: i'm sure your read of the situation is accurate but
                          i only added the "if i were sure" disclaimers because you yourself
                          added the "i believe". i certainly understand how things unfold
                          differently with larger groups.

                          it's amazing what some of the "teflons" in tourist areas can get away with.
                          i seem to remember an $8 cannoli in fisherman's wharf. "take the gun,
                          leave the cannoli."

                          1. re: psb

                            You're right, psb, and I just had a 'doh' moment. In a bit, I will call the place and ask them.

                            Just as, on topic, I found out that Mexican Corner in New Rochelle charges for their chips. The salsa is free but they charge for the chips. I called them and was told, quite happily, that oh yes, it's $1.50 for the small and $2.25 for the large portion. For CHIPS?

                            Amazing. Meanwhile, down the block is Little Mexican Cafe, whom I also called and who does not, rightfully so, charge for chips.

                            Don't these places KNOW that there are now internet foodie sites? Sheesh.

                            1. re: dolores

                              Okie doke, psb, I just called. They -- Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland VT -- said that it's noted on the menu that 'all breads are made on the premises' and that there is NO gratis bread. All bread baskets are four dollars each.

                              Good to know, if the group goes back, since NO one was paying attention last year.

                              If it were just me, of course, I wouldn't go back.

                              1. re: dolores

                                We have a couple of places that try that w/chips and salsa. Or it's free if you order guac,queso. I think part of it is to put a little heat on the customer in front of his date. Add hipster arrogance to it and I'm less likely to return as a first choice. Funny thing is the smaller and less expensive the restaurant is the more likely that it's free. Tip: If it ain't free don't ask. I can read a menu.

                            2. re: dolores

                              I actually think a really good server can read people at the table to see if there's a good opportunity to offer an extra in that it might be something the person might enjoy. If you get really good at reading people, a skill which I consider myself to have, you get good at feeling out who might actually *enjoy* their steak a little more with onions or mushrooms or both (for example, I am one, and I often forget to ask or am not clear that's available, so in this case when it's offered, I always take it, knowing it's extra) or a loaded baked potato instead of plain - especially if I know the restaurant's potato is otherwise rather bland and uninspiring and that loaded it's pretty good - for example, they use real bacon for bacon bits, etc., then I would suggest it to someone who seems like they come a lot and enjoy the food at the restaurant. But your elderly or families with small children are just not expecting these kinds of extra charges and I for one loathed having to offer them routinely for fear of retribution either via a mgr for a low(er) check average or via a secret shopper report, where you'd be dinged for not offering an upsell at each strategic point.

                            3. re: rockandroller1

                              Ahhh but you have integrity. At the end of the day, a lot more valuable than the extra $...:-}

                          2. re: dolores

                            I've worked in a place where this was the policy. However, there had been so many problems with customers who assumed free bread was free unlimited bread that servers were instructed to emphasize that the extra basket would have to be paid for, BEFORE they brought it.

                            1. re: mordacity

                              Wow, I find that astounding, mordacity. It reminds me of a very good restaurant that obviously fell on hard times and started charging for their potato with an entree. Previously it had been included. The last time I went there, I became upset at this new policy and got my potato for free. Yes, it was the principle.

                              Shortly thereafter, they closed.

                              Now, would it NOT have been smarter to raise the price of the entree to include the sudden extra cost of that potato?

                              Just as the Mexican restaurant in another thread could have raised the price of their meals to include the chips they charge for.

                              Just as the Vermont restaurant I talked about could have raised the price of their entrees to include their 'made-in-house' bread.

                              Yes, I would pay the increased prices if I liked the restaurants. It appalls me that restaurants aren't smart enough to do as I stated. I don't get it.

                              1. re: dolores

                                Because charging for the bread or chips or potato individually allows people who'd rather not have them choose not to pay the higher price for the "included" item they didn't want to begin with.

                                My only concern is that the restaurant is clear about it's policies and do what it sounds like the restaurant in mordacity's example eventually learned to do: make clear that there is a charge.

                                1. re: ccbweb

                                  Have you seen the price of steaks at steak houses where the potato is extra?

                                  Sounds good, but I doubt that's the idea. Hasn't bread been included with a meal since the dawn of man? Suddenly it's an 'extra'?

                                  Again, nah, it's greed behind it.

                                  1. re: dolores

                                    And it's not "greed" for the customer who doesn't want to pay for something? Restaurants are businesses. They're designed to make money. To the extent that that's greedy, sure, it's all about greed.

                                    Of course, one could argue that increasing the prices for everyone who walks in the door so that they can continue to "include" something for some diners is also about greed. As is increasing the prices to account for increased prices from their suppliers.

                                    Bread is often included, but it's not cheap and costs the restaurants that serve it, especially if it's good quality bread, a fair bit of money. If one chooses to charge for it rather than increase the other prices, that's a fine option. You have your's too, don't eat there. That's why I say that as long as the policy is made known, it's fine with me.

                                    1. re: ccbweb

                                      Not pay for something eaten or not pay for something that was formerly free? There is a difference. Of course, if I ordered something I would pay for it. If I didn't know there was a charge for it, since the policy had been changed and wasn't noted, I would argue about it. If it were noted, I wouldn't order it.

                                      If a restaurant that I frequented suddenly started charging for bread -- now which restaurant is that hard up? -- no, I wouldn't go back.


                                      1. re: dolores

                                        Fair enough. I agree about something that is charged for but not noted....you didn't get the chance to agree to buy it at that point and you'd rightly ask about that when you saw the bill.

                                        I disagree about the suddenly charging for things, but that's a point of difference that's got nothing to do with anything but for the fact that we disagree :)

                                2. re: dolores

                                  Raising the overall cost of meals to defray the cost of formerly free extras. Hmmm....

                                  As I read through this, I recall the sweep of Atkins across the nation. Granted, these people are typically not your nickel-and-dimers; once a friend goes Atkins on me, I can no longer afford to feed them. We do movies or music instead. But they can be sanctimonious. "I don't eat bread or potatoes. Can't you take them off my bill? Maybe just give me an extra side of bacon instead." Those who crunch numbers will know that home-smoked thick-cut bacon will be more expensive for the restaurant to produce than a baked potato or 2 slices of bread.

                                  I also recall many waiter rants regarding people who eat lots of the freebies: bread, chips etc. and then order the cheapest thing on the menu ... to share with their companion. Having a limit on free bread/chip refills may limit that kind of grazing.

                                  Thirdly, things that are on the table aren't even necessarily free. We've heard lots about the bottled water rant. In Europe, you may be charged for the bread you eat from the basket which was waiting for you on the table.

                                  Finally, and I know this argument fits in elsewhere. It can get very tricky to walk the tasteful fine line between upselling with no disclosure and saying "Honey, the refill on your soda is going to set you back another 1.89; are you sure that you want that?" Rockandroller certainly has a classy approach for which she should be applauded using the word "add" when new charges will appear on a bill. Some people would say that it isn't explicit enough, while others would say that it is a tiresome reminder that "Yes, we'll agree to pay more for the blue cheese dressing."

                                  1. re: dolores

                                    Here's one reason: I'm diabetic. I try to avoid starches (bread, potatoes, rice) as they raise my blood sugar dramatically. So, I don't want to pay extra to have bread/potatoes/rice added to my meal, when I'm not going to eat them. I'd rather pay for a salad or vegetables. And, with an estimated 1 in 10 North Americans suffering from diabetes, I have a lot of company.

                                    However, I do agree that this doesn't release restaurants from their obligation to be clear about what's added, and what's included (especially when the fine is print is so fine, and the lighting is so bad).

                            2. I would never have assumed that was comped. Ever. Other than tap water or ordinary bread that is brought without ordering, never assume anything is comped - always ask in detail.

                              1. If they set something in front of me that I have not asked for, I figure it's free, and it usually is. But I really appreciate it when our server chimes in with an "that will be extra" or something to that effect, when we ask for more of something, such as sauce for our spaghetti. When I'm in doubt I simply say "Does that come with the meal?"

                                1. seems a little strange to jfood after reading through all the posts. it now appears that you have to read all the fine print onthe menu. with allergies, med-rare burgers, raw fish, etc. it takes longer to read the warnings than the offerings. now jfood has to be concerned that the resto is including this and charging for that and if jfood does not read that entrees with 2 asterisks you receive a potato but no veggie, 3 asterisks you receive veggie and no potato, 4 asterisks you receive no coke, pepsi.

                                  and jfood is looking for a nice relaxing meal with loved ones. jfood is sooooo glad he has not encountered many of these asterisk-menus, but he is finding more upselling. It saddens jfood.

                                  The dance of the resto, soon coming to a theatre near you.


                                  1. One example stands out in my mind: Brazilian Steakhouses. Everything is paraded around and given out on the pretense that it is included in the meal.... then they bring out the desserts on the trays just as they would a steak and there goes $7!

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: Lixer

                                      I started the thread and I'm glad it's generated such discussion. Someone commented on expensive, upscale steak houses. At such restaurants I wouldn't be surprised to find an ala carte menu. In my experience, it's been clear that every single item I order is listed at a separate price.

                                      I guess it's custom we're really talking about here. Given that bread is so seldom charged for (and I'd expect good-quality, unlimited, free portions at that pricey steak house), I think it would behoove any restaurant that does charge for it to have a HUGE note on the menu that diners absolutely can't miss. Then if they order it anyway, it would behoove the server to remind them of the menu price. I'd be okay with that, but the rest of the prices better reflect that fact that there's no complimentary bread!

                                      1. re: Emm

                                        Hah! Good points, Emm. You can bet if the Vermont group goes back to the $4. a pop bread basket place, that I'll be opening my big mouth.

                                        Thing is, they are fond of the hops, so after a few and maybe a few more, no one will care about the bread charges.

                                        1. re: dolores

                                          Just happened to us at Brunch this past weekend. Coffee, one mimosa or one bloody mary were all free. Those that didn't want alcohol ordered a coke and we were surprised by the charge. We assumed it would have been free, but we didn't ask.

                                        2. re: Emm

                                          Yes, the US custom is that tap water (actually, that's by law in almost every state if not every state) and non-menu-item breads are not separately charged. Any restaurant that charges without notification for those gets a nice loud departure.

                                          1. re: Karl S

                                            But alot of time, and this is something I found a lot in London, servers will just ask if you want water and bring out a bottle if you say yes. You have to specifically say "tap water" and even then, that makes you sound cheap, but TT would rather appear cheap than charged $7.50 for a bottle of water.


                                            1. re: TexasToast

                                              That's why I said US custom. Customs vary outside the US. Buyer beware.

                                              And, in the US, if bottled water is brought, you should refuse it unless you are prepared to pay for it, and ask for tap water. They must have potable water available because they cannot be licensed to cook without it! If they say no tap is available, then ask how they can serve food made with undrinkable water....

                                      2. Happens at all types of places.
                                        When hubby popped the question, he took me to the Mansion on Turtle Creek (very reputable place in Dallas). We ate. He got down on one knee. I said yes. Tears ensue. Our waitor comes by and says, "Congratulations, may I bring you a couple of glasses of champagne?" We say yes.
                                        I assumed these were complementary. We had spent a lot on dinner, we were staying the night there, and we just got engaged. It was only a year later that hubby told me we were charged $23 a glass. A drop in the bucket for that occasion, but I thought it was a bit tacky to charge us.

                                        48 Replies
                                          1. re: rockandroller1

                                            Sorry, but I just don't see how it was tacky to charge you. You were celebrating, you should pay for your drinks. If you want free stuff for special ocassions I'm sure your local chain will be happy to give you a free dessert on your birthday.

                                            1. re: Rick

                                              You kinda emphasize my point. If the corner Chili's will give a free dessert on a birthday, then it seems reasonable the Mansion (which at the time was the finest restaurant in Dallas) would offer a gesture to commemorate the occasion with something.
                                              The Mansion is a wonderful place and we were treated with wonderful service during our entire stay at the hotel. I think that made it seem even more out of place for me. No biggie.

                                              1. re: Honey Bee

                                                Unfortunately, what a large chain with large margins does is not parallel to a fine dining establishment in this way and I would hope it would not be in many respects.

                                              2. re: Rick

                                                I think that comping you champagne would be a lovely gesture, but the imp on my shoulder starts thinking. If this is a high-end romantic restaurant (I'm from out of the area and unfamiliar with the place) then how often does that happen there? Every night? Twice a night on Saturdays? Are they obligated to give free champagne to 10% of their customers because it's a special night for them? Most people probably don't go to high-end restaurants "just because" but rather to commemorate an important event. 25th anniverary, engagement, cancer in remission, etc. are all incredibly special nights and highly worthy of celebrations. I wonder how much champagne they would sell if they gave it away to people with something worth celebrating.

                                                1. re: thinks too much

                                                  The problem wasn't that the restaurant charged for the champagne, the problem is the way it was offered. Whether the wine was on the house was not at all clear. And, as RR1 indicated, asking whether it was a comp would take a lot away from the moment.

                                                  The server could easily have avoided this problem. For example, offering congratulations and a list of champagnes--with prices--would leave no doubt in anyone's mind as to who was paying.

                                                  On the other hand, some restaurants keep a couple of bottles of cheap bubbly on ice for the specific purpose of giving away a glass or two when the occasion warrants it. And they still sell plenty of wine--sparkling and still--to their customers, whether they're celebrating or not.

                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                    agree completely! Their personal big moment was taken advantage of. Being in the midst of the moment it would be quite easy to assume anyone who witnessed it would likewise be caught up. The server/restaurant could have handled it much, much better.

                                                    1. re: meatn3

                                                      Absolutely, meatn3. My late lamented Harrald's (the restaurant, not the man, long life Harrald) used to ask when taking the reservation if it was a special occasion, remember without asking again after dinner, and marking it with a chocolate mousse on the house.

                                                      Now THAT was a classy restaurant.

                                                    2. re: alanbarnes

                                                      I agree. If I want to pay for drinks....I will order drinks.

                                              3. re: Honey Bee

                                                I would not have assumed that was complimentary at all. Tacky yes, but not at all surprised. Restaurants are often tacky - expect it.

                                                1. re: Honey Bee

                                                  Jfood's with R&R1 on this one, that's dispicable, and from the Mansion? They should be ashamed of themselves.

                                                  The way it was offered is they were looking to give you a gift not a green weenie.


                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    Sorry jfood, this is afirst, but I have to disagree with you. There's a big difference between

                                                    "Congratulations, may I bring you a couple of glasses of champagne?"


                                                    "Congratulations, may I bring you a couple of glasses of champagne on us?"


                                                    "Congratulations, allow us to bring you a couple of glasses of champagne"

                                                    I would fully expect to pay for the former, but in the latter two cases, it's clear (or at least arguable) that the champagne is on the house.


                                                    1. re: TexasToast

                                                      No biggie TT, but in each of the three you illustrated jfood would have expected it comped. The waiter absolutely took advantage of the situation.

                                                      Let's change just a little. Someone, seated in a resto that charges for water, starts to cough on some food (you know goes down the wrong pipe). The waiter comes up and states any of your scenarios substituting water for champagne. In your first case, "Are you OK, may I bring you a glass of water?" And then charges for it. Should the table be charged?

                                                      Jfood still thinks that at a resto of the caliber of the Mansion, this was a dispicable ambulance-chasing move.


                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                        I agree. The implication was of a freebie. If a diner there, I would have inferred that it was on the house.

                                                        And if they had not charged, think of the free positive publicity they would have gotten, instead of the reverse.

                                                        How can restaurants 'be' so dumb?

                                                        1. re: dolores

                                                          If there was no deception contemplated then the server should have stated,

                                                          "would you like to order a couple of glasses of champagne to celebrate this wonderful occasion?"


                                                        2. re: jfood

                                                          That's completely different, jfood. Now we're in the NM Cookie recipe territory.


                                                          1. re: TexasToast

                                                            A few years ago, I might have agreed with you, TexasToast.

                                                            Now, in the age of non-free water and non-free bread, I'd as much want the waiter to have posed it as jfood said as I now will be on the alert for specials that have no prices.

                                                            An exaggeration, perhaps, but at that time in history (how many years ago?), the champagne SHOULD have been free. Not now, perhaps, but I'm picturing myself as Butters from South Park in restaurants from now on.

                                                            Whenever a waiter asks me 'would you like?', I'll be jumping out of my seat in agitation until I ascertain if I'm being charged.

                                                            I never thought dining would become so much like work.

                                                            1. re: dolores

                                                              I love that this is generating so many interesting comments!

                                                              FYI, Dolores, the story took place in 1998. At the time, I was 23 and I wonder how that also influenced the situation. Perhaps he was trying to inflate the bill to potentially increase his tip? Maybe he was afraid that, at such a young age, we may not tip generously?
                                                              Little did the server know that my husband (then boyfriend) and I had waited tables all through college and are very concious of tipping practices.

                                                              Again, for me it all comes down to customer service. Jfood, it sounds like you have been to the Mansion before and I think that helps bring the story home.

                                                              1. re: Honey Bee

                                                                I am too, Honey Bee. And I was serious about now being on the alert about 'is there a charge for it?'! Thanks to this thread.

                                                                HB, the Mansion sounds like Harrald's. Top notch and we reserved it for special occasions.

                                                                I agree, it is all about customer service. Even all these posts, I still maintain that a restaurant does 'not' have to obviously charge for water or bread, they can add a dollar to the cost of each entree. If they can't figure that out, they should close.

                                                                1. re: dolores

                                                                  I re-read this after our weekend jaunt up to Amish country where we ate lunch in a buffet restaurant. Was shocked to see couple next to us request doggie bag for their leftovers AND stuff the yummy bread and rolls into the box. Don't agree with charging, but can see why owners would want to do this. Do agree, tack a little extra onto entrees to cover this.

                                                                  1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                                                    In South Fl where I had my restaurant, all kinds of things went into the doggie bag boxes, certainly the bread and butter, pizza crusts (honest), salad dressing pots and salts and pepper pots (yes!), sweet n lows and sugar packets (they don't want to BUY them!!).

                                                                    One evening a customer had the smallest amount of eggplant parm left and asked for a doggie bag. I deliberately set out to find the smallest container we had, and found a 2 oz plastic dressing cup with lid and put it in there. Then I returned to their table and graciously presented him with his doggie bag. he was acutely embarrassed and luckily saw the funny side.

                                                                    1. re: smartie

                                                                      jfood can only guess that you smiled when the custo asked for a quart sized container of sauce for his doggie? :-))


                                                                      1. re: smartie

                                                                        Now TT has been known to take things from restaurants, but it's only stuff that was paid for. One time, we couldn't eat some spiced-nuts (not free ones), and they didn't have a box so TT wrapped them in a paper napkin and took them home.

                                                                        TT does not approve of stealing the cutlery or the sugar pots. Individually wrapped butter and cheese that you ordered but didn't eat? Sure, why not. Same thing with those little sachets of jam or ketchup hotels and other places leave out. After all, many extablishments charge for breakfast so you technically did pay for it. Just make sure you don't take 52 of them.


                                                                        1. re: Emm

                                                                          Really, we often take home a bite size piece of meat for our cats, which we actually put aside just for that reason. If someone questioned us, we would be somewhat annoyed, as it belongs to us to do as we wish.
                                                                          On the other hand, I used to manage a restaurant that had a nice sized shrimp lunch platter for $3.99, andwe just broke even on it. We counted on the guests ordering a soda or glass of wine. But countless people would say "Bring me an extra dish of lemons, so I can make lemonade with the sugar on the table and my glass of water". They weren't embarrassed at all either. They also were the ones that left a quarter for a tip, but we never said a thing, that was our policy.

                                                                          1. re: coll

                                                                            Absolutely, coll. At some of the prices at some of the restaurants, who can fault a customer for taking home anything that is eaten, partially or otherwise?

                                                                            On the people lacking manners to the extent that they're making lemonade at their table, I imagine there is nothing anyone can do to enlighten them. They are probably the same ones who think I want to hear about their latest shopping bargains via their uber loud cellphone calls taken during my dinner.

                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                              known as Boca Lemonade in these parts of South Fl

                                                                              1. re: smartie

                                                                                Let's not forget the $1.99 breakfast special with unlimited coffee. My uncle-in-law introduced me to this after an 8-some at t he par 3 golf course. i have never seen 7 grown men drink so much coffee in 45 minutes. I was waiting for their bladders to explode. Then they each left a $0.25 tip for a server who basically catered to their coffee-cheapness.

                                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                                  only in Florida!!

                                                                                  like the customers who get a soda refill then ask for a styrofoam cup to take it home! Just so cheap.

                                                                            2. re: smartie

                                                                              I am just curious-what is the issue with taking home bread if it has already been placed on your table (as long as it isn't a buffet.) Technically speaking, once the bread is on my table, it isn't supposed to be reused, right? Yeah yeah I know it happens but it probably shouldn't.

                                                                              1. re: Hooda_Guest

                                                                                i thinkthe point is ordering a basket of bread with the dessert with the sole intention of taking it home.


                                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                                  While I can believe there are people boorish enough to do that, I don't want to see a charge for bread because some people are clods.

                                                                                  1. re: dolores


                                                                                    But if the resto has a charge for bread per basket you would not be charged but the boor would. would you rather having everyone pay extra for the people who take home or would you want only the boars to?


                                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                                      Again, I want the charge put in 'overhead'. I don't want to see a charge at all.

                                                                                      How many clods are there out there?

                                                                                      But no matter to me. If any of my favorite restaurants start to charge for bread, I'll let them know how I feel, and never go there again.

                                                                                      1. re: dolores

                                                                                        As i tell my kids, pick your battles.

                                                                                        Do you really want to put a line in the sand over a $2 basket of bread at the expense of a great meal? I would definitely tell the owner of the displeasure of the charge as feedback but i am not sure i would put a resto in a DNR category.

                                                                                        just a thought.

                                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                                          Sorry, yes jfood, this is a deal breaker for me.

                                                                                          I WILL, as much as I hate it, pay for parking for outstanding food.

                                                                                          But I won't pay for water or pay for bread or pay for a container to take home my leftovers or otherwise do anything I am not currently doing when I dine out.

                                                                                          Dining out is a big part of my entertainment, and I am happy with the status quo.

                                                                                          I again go back to the potato story. IF a restaurant isn't smart enough, solvent enough, or decent enough to up the price of an entree to cover the cost of: water, bread or containers, then they shouldn't be in business.

                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                            I have been in plenty of Mexican food restaurants that say the first bowl of chips is free and further bowls are $2.00 or whatever. I have yet to ever actually be charged for that second bowl of chips however. Could other restaurants not put this same warning on the menu concerning bread for the occasional abusive customer? It would not necessarily mean every customer would get charged for extra bread but it would make it easier to charge if need be.

                                                                                            1. re: Hooda_Guest

                                                                                              touchdown hooda. that's an interesting suggestion that hopefully resto may need to put in place for the boors.

                                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                                So I as a not-boor (making two cups of coffee from one, this is a first that I've heard here!) would have to refrain from asking for more chips if I have leftover salsa to accomodate the boors in society?

                                                                                                Nope. Deal breaker. I wouldn't go back to that restaurant. Simple.

                                                                                    2. re: Hooda_Guest

                                                                                      We go to an Italian restaurant that serves very good, small loaves of sourdough bread. We always end up taking half of the entree home, and when they bring us our to go boxes they graciously ask if we would like a fresh loaf of bread to take with us. Now, that's service!

                                                                                      1. re: danhole

                                                                                        We used to dine at a local Italian restaurant (now gone), where they brought a basket of really good bread and that olive-oil dip that everyone does now, and they'd leave the basket of bread throughout dinner. Huge entrees, we always took half of them home, but when they brought the carry-out container, they told us that they really weren't supposed to let us take any of the bread with the left-overs. HUH? They can't re-use it, it's been sitting on our table all dinner long, and our hands have TOUCHED it for heaven's sake! And it wasn't like we requested MORE bread, it was the basket brought to nibble on when we sat down.
                                                                                        So, after the first visit, on subsequent visits we just emptied the basket, wrapped it in their lovely cloth napkins, and carried it out in the wife's purse.
                                                                                        Come to think of it, that's probably what drove them out of business - losing those napkins and all that half-stale waste bread.

                                                                                        1. re: podunkboy

                                                                                          So how many of their napkins did you end up with?

                                                                                          1. re: psb

                                                                                            Oh, only 3 or so. They didn't stay in business that long...

                                                                                        2. re: danhole

                                                                                          TT hears Macaroni Grill does the same thing.


                                                                                2. re: Honey Bee

                                                                                  Chef Dean and jfood were pretty good friends in the mid-80's when jfood stayed at the Mansion every pther week on biz (still has his autographed cookbook). He would not ave approved of this in the old days.


                                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                                    I wonder if the Ritz would allow a waiter pull a stunt like that at Fearing's new gig?


                                                                                    1. re: TexasToast

                                                                                      I wonder if the restaurants that are now charging for bread will be upset when patrons take all the leftover bread with them?

                                                                                      As the patrons are now entitled to do.

                                                                                      How ridiculous.

                                                                                    2. re: jfood

                                                                                      Thanks jfood, that makes me feel better. I like to think that Chef would not have approved!
                                                                                      I still enjoy his cooking. Going to Dallas this weekend, and have Saturday reservations at Fearings. Lets hope the TX OU game doesn't go into overtime!

                                                                      2. I don't see this as being different from "welcome to Joe's - would you like a Coke?" I'm sure you wouldn't assume the coke was free.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                          It is so interesting to hear how others think about the situation!

                                                                          I guess it comes down to my own personal opnions about customer service and how I treat guests/customers. For me, dropping almost $1200 (room and dinner) + once-in-a-lifetime occasion= something with my complements. In the situation, I would never dream of charging my guests for such a thing.

                                                                          Again, no big deal. It certainly did not impact the evening at all and we happily forked over the $46 for champagne. It is just that my husband and I both thought it a little odd. We are not the type to ever expect anything for free. Money is not the issue for us, but customer service is very important. And we expected a place of that caliber to have better "manners".

                                                                        2. About 10-11 years ago we were on vacation in the Outer Banks and stopped at a beach resto near a pier for lunch with the kids. The waiter brought (without asking) a basket of fried tortilla chips to our table along with salsa. Our kids were little and hungry and immediate grabbed a couple simultaneous to my husband asking if they were complimentary. The waiter gave a Snidley Whiplash kind of smile and replied NO. We sent them away to the cries of our children and left immediately. The strangest part of this is that as we were leaving, the same waiter set the same basket of chips and salsa (not kidding) on another customer's table and started his spiel again. What a disgusting place, not just to jack up customer's food bills, but to re-use food!!!

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                                                            In most (all?) American jurisdictions, that's illegal. Not saying it doesn't happen, but 're-serving food' is illegal.

                                                                          2. I had that happen once. Our waiter arrived with a dish and informed us that apparently, the kitchen had mixed up the order and made seafood tempura instead of veggie. Did we want to nibble on it while we waited for the dish we'd ordered? Sure, we said.

                                                                            When the bill arrived at the end of the night, there it was (in addition to the veggie tempura we later received). This was a friend's birthday meal, so we paid rather than kick up a fuss.

                                                                            In my mind, the dish should've been comped since it was a) their mixup and b) would've been tossed out if we had turned it down. That said, I learned my lesson and now always always ask if something is in the house if I'm offered something I didn't ask for.

                                                                            1. What's apparently coming:
                                                                              "Would the gentleman like some freshly ground black pepper?"
                                                                              "Is it...complementary?"
                                                                              "Of course not. It is $3.95 -- NOTHING is complementary at Chez MarkUp!"
                                                                              I've become quite frugal when dining out -- I scrutinize the menu, even sending the waiter away with "I need a couple minutes", so at least I KNOW what's going to result in an additional charge. Call me cheap (and I've been called worse), but once those "additional charges" and the resulting gratuity start adding up, it can put a damper on a happy evening for those of us on a dining budget.

                                                                              1. This post really touches a nerve for me! In reading these, I see "sneaky" and
                                                                                "deceptive" repeatedly mentioned. It seems like no one can be trusted anymore and this grieves me! Why do we have to work so hard to protect ourselves? I happen to believe that businesses should clearly disclose what is included and what not.

                                                                                Still, I struggle to find a good conclusiion. How about when first encountering the wait person to clearly state to them that you would like them to be clear about what is included and what is extra? It's a shame to have to do this, but I think this could work.

                                                                                1. Ri-Ra, the small chain of Irish pubs: Ordered the hot spinach/artichoke dip appetizer, it comes with a tiny loaf of bread on which to spread it. Fresh and house-baked, but otherwise there's nothing special about it, it's a basic French-type loaf. And as much as we tried to efficiently use the bread to hold the dip, half the dip remained when we finished the loaf.

                                                                                  "Could we get some more bread for the dip, please?"

                                                                                  IIRC, it was another $2 when the check came.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: tubman

                                                                                    TT used to eat Ranch ® dressing with the free bread at an unnamed establishment and not once was TT charged "extra" for the copious amounts of Ranch ® consumed!


                                                                                  2. I've been thinking about this thread a lot. I can't think of other businesses where you'd think something was going to be "comped." My favorite examples are always dry cleaners, auto shops or electronics stores. "Would you like some speaker wire with your stereo?" No one is going to automatically think that's included. Now, I get that many restaurants have included things like bread in their meals without a separate charge for it. But there is also an expectation on the part of the customer that they're going to get something without paying a separate charge for it. In fact, reading through many threads right now, one can see that many people hunt for things they can get "comped." When something isn't comped, customers seem annoyed. I think part of this whole issue may well be that as customers we need to stop looking for something for nothing and accept that restaurants are businesses.

                                                                                    For the restaurants, they need to recognize the history of "included" items and make it very clear when those items carry a separate charge. As long as all of the charges and policies are spelled out on the menu and/or signs on the door, the customer can make an informed choice about whether to dine there.

                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                      i very much agree with the second paragraph about restos recognizing certain
                                                                                      norms and while they are free to depart from them, it's obnoxious to take
                                                                                      advantage of them. domestic air carrier may change the cattle class free in flight
                                                                                      meal and dispense with meal service, but it would be obnoxious to say
                                                                                      "as a public safety measure we will not allow you to bring your sandwich on board"
                                                                                      and you must buy one of our $10 sandwich. i thought domestic carriers who
                                                                                      charged for headphones were obnoxious ... because their are taking advatage
                                                                                      of their jacks not being compatible with "regular" headphones.

                                                                                      however in re: the earlier comment, the difference between a high end/boutique
                                                                                      stereo store and a employee name tag + dress code type place is they dont
                                                                                      nickle and dime you when it comes to (cheep) stereo wire, plugs, spades and
                                                                                      other <$1.00 parts (i bought a nice but modest stereo from a place that has some
                                                                                      pretty fancy stuff, and yes, so lower end stereo wire just to do some testing was
                                                                                      free ... it would have been "de classe" [no pun inteded, http://www.classeaudio.com/
                                                                                      ]to itemize this stuff and would have changed the experience).

                                                                                      1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                        Water and bread have been 'comped' since the dawn of restaurants. Well, for my lifetime at least.

                                                                                        There's no good basis for them to start charging, none. They have lots of options -- don't get in the business to begin with, go be a Walmart greeter if they can't afford to run a restaurant, or bump up the price of their wine or entrees to cover their painfully exorbitant water or bread.

                                                                                        I am so going to be on the lookout from now on for restaurants that will dare to charge me for water or bread or take-home containers.

                                                                                        1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                          As far as other businesses, you don't think about things being comped because it is either clearly marked, as in a price tag, or it is figured into the total cost. I have a small graphics business, and often have to "store" files for customers on the computer so that it doesn't have to be totally re-done every time they have a change. Some places charge a "storing" fee. Some let you know that your files will only be kept for so many days and then tossed. I have chosen to just add a little bit to the price. So am I comping them? It costs me money to save gigabytes worth of information for my customers, but I don't charge a separate charge for the amount of electricity it takes to do the job, or the amount of time it takes to do their invoices. It is all in the final cost, and is very fair. Lawyers will charge you for every piece of paper, paper clip, etc. they use. That is what these restaurants are turning into. It would be much smarter for them to just increase the entree price a bit to cover the cost of bread or whatever. Anyway, if you really look at it, the profit they make from the mark-up on iced tea alone should cover the cost of a loaf of bread. And don't even get me started about the mark-up on beer, wine and liquor. You should get free bread with every drink purchase!

                                                                                          1. re: danhole

                                                                                            "It would be much smarter for them to just increase the entree price a bit to cover the cost of bread or whatever. Anyway, if you really look at it, the profit they make from the mark-up on iced tea alone should cover the cost of a loaf of bread. And don't even get me started about the mark-up on beer, wine and liquor. You should get free bread with every drink purchase!"

                                                                                            Exactly, danhole. That's what I've been saying in so many posts now.

                                                                                            I like Manhattans and I've had a Manhattan for $5.50 in some states and paid $9.00 - $11.00 in New York. Obscene markup. Of course. Did I pay it? Yes. If I asked for a container to take it home (making a point, I know you can't take it home) would I be charged for the container since they were already hosing me on the markup for the liquor?

                                                                                            Exactly, danhole. You get my point perfectly.

                                                                                            1. re: dolores

                                                                                              My DH used to sell frozen drink machines, and when he told me how much it cost them to put the mixes, and liquor in there I was outraged at what they were charging us for the same product! That's like me buying a cookie for $1.00 and selling it to you for $7.00. But we go and order the stuff anyway, so toss us a bone and give us a darn potato, or some bread for mercy's sake!

                                                                                        2. It took me some time to process what bothered me on some of the responses and one finally struck home (and no flaming intended),

                                                                                          "the profit they make from the mark-up on iced tea alone should cover the cost of a loaf of bread. And don't even get me started about the mark-up on beer, wine and liquor. You should get free bread with every drink purchase"

                                                                                          The striking words are "you should get free bread". Wow, deserve to get free, quite a statement. Could you imagine the threads entitled "They took away the cashews at the bar and gave me a lousy slice of bread." .

                                                                                          If people do not like the cost of iced tea, wine, liquor or anything else, then do not order it. The idea that everyone should supplement the big bread eaters is downright lunacy. Do I want every entree at my table to go up by a couple of bucks so the table in the corner can eat 5 baskets of bread. Count me out.

                                                                                          Personally I am glad there are tremendous mark-ups on liquor, since I am not a drinker and the boozers keep the price of the food low. Thank you guys. And free bread with a martini, thanks for the giggle. You want something to go with that drink, all you have to do is order it. Last I checked that's what a resto does, charges you to eat and drink.

                                                                                          Others have stated that they are already paying exhorbitant prices for everything and "deserve" freebies. Wake up, NO ONE DESERVES FREEBIES. But these are the same people who tell the MOD that their entire table should be comped for something since the resto ran out of sauteed squash and were served sauteed zucchini, instead. What about an offset to the profits this nightmare produces.

                                                                                          Where does this sense of entitlement come from? I just can't understand it. I agree that traditionally bread has been included as a show of appreciation from the resto, and people are used to it, but come on people, a resto is in the business of making money seving something that either (a) you can make at home and decided not to, or (b) cannot make at home. And for that luxury you are paying someone to perform tasks.

                                                                                          I can buy a lawnmower for a few hunderd dollars, yet I pay someone to cut my lawn more than the cost of a lawnmower on an annual basis. It's a decision I made.
                                                                                          I know that some poor kid in Asia is making $0.45 an hour to make the shirt I just purchased for $60, do I call Mr. Lauren and tell him to throw in a belt because the shirt price is exhobitant. Remember two pairs of pants with every suit. Sorta went away.

                                                                                          And frankly to those of you who would boycott restos who institute per basket bread charges, that's fine with me as well. It's already difficult enough to get a reso at many restos and this will reduce the demand. And then when these same people show up, all guzzied up in their sense of entitlement, they are probably major PIA's and create a scene that makes the rest of us enjoy the resto less.

                                                                                          Maybe this is more than my 2-cents


                                                                                          10 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                            'Personally I am glad there are tremendous mark-ups on liquor, since I am not a drinker and the boozers keep the price of the food low. Thank you guys.'

                                                                                            Really jfood? So whatever I don't eat should be marked up to account for my free water and free bread and free take-out containers.

                                                                                            Now jfood, that wasn't nice.

                                                                                            If we don't like the cost of anything, don't order it? Oh really? So a restaurant has the right to price me out of buying their food and coming to their restaurant?

                                                                                            Now jfood, that wasn't nice.

                                                                                            Yup, I'm the one who will boycott a restaurant who institutes a per basket bread charge or a charge for water or a charge for takeout containers. Guzzied up in their sense of entitlement, so that's me huh? So I'm probably a major PIA? So I make a scene?

                                                                                            Now jfood, that wasn't nice.

                                                                                            Is jfood having a bad day?

                                                                                            My, this thread certainly has struck a nerve hasn't it? I hope there are restaurant owners reading and that they will think twice before they charge for bread or water or takeout containers.

                                                                                            1. re: dolores

                                                                                              Just to pick one point...yes, a restaurant has the right to price you out of buying their food and going to their restaurant. They can set whatever prices they wish. They might go out of business or, like The French Laundry, they might do very very well for themselves.

                                                                                              There's no inalienable right to restaurant food that one can afford easily.

                                                                                              1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                                Doesn't sound too smart to me. So what is the aim of a restaurant then? To get rich at all costs, pun intended?

                                                                                                Servers don't get rich working at restaurants, that's been an eyeopener on these threads. Okay, so if there isn't a server's union to demand better pay, there isn't much I can do about it.

                                                                                                Some people are happy paying whatever prices are charged, no matter how exorbitant, thinking those of us who won't are under the impression that we're 'entitled'. Okay, I can accept that.

                                                                                                So a restaurant is not a service business. It's not to make a customer happy. That one I have some trouble with, but okay.

                                                                                                So what is the purpose of a restaurant then?

                                                                                                Again, I don't find it smart that a restaurant is greedy and looks to rob its customers blind. I will happily do without it in my life and it will gladly do without me.

                                                                                                Interesting thread.

                                                                                                1. re: dolores

                                                                                                  Anyone looking to get rich in the restaurant business is looking in the wrong place. Certainly there are a handful of people who do, but the majority of restaurants struggle along, lose money and close. You're certainly right about servers (not to mention kitchen staff) getting hosed in many cases (again, in a few instances, servers at the really high end places might be doing fairly well overall...but those are the exceptions).

                                                                                                  I wouldn't say that you feel "entitled" because you don't want to pay beyond a certain price point for certain food/service. I certainly won't pay beyond a certain price point for some food/service. That's our right as consumers...to choose to say "no thanks." Restaurants are, indeed, a service industry business, but that doesn't mean make the customer happy at all costs. They'd just as surely go out of business as if they charge prices that are far too high for what they deliver.

                                                                                                  I also do, honestly, bristle at the idea that restaurants are trying to "rob" their customers. Certainly there are going to be some restaurants with owners or managers who do try to find ways to suck more money out of their customers in underhanded ways...but those, I think, are the exception by a large percentage. Those that do try to do this, I agree, everyone should stop going and they'll go away quickly.

                                                                                                  The vast majority of restaurants try to set reasonable charges so that they'll have good, steady, repeat business. They're loathe to raise prices until they absolutely have to because of the rising cost of ingredients and overhead. When they do raise prices, they're going to lose some customers because of it. We disagree on this point, but I have a hard time defining a container charge as trying to "rob" the customer. It may well be a tactical mistake in that raising menu prices might actually be more acceptable to customers and so there might be a better way to factor the cost in and not have to eat that cost on the part of the restaurant.

                                                                                                  What is the purpose of a restaurant? It seems to me that, to do well, it's purpose should be to offer a fair trade to the customer. Charge a price such that the restaurant owner can pay their employees a reasonable amount and have enough money to live comfortably while providing the customer with food and service of a quality that they're happy to pay the amount in question. That's pretty much it. If the restaurant charges too much for the food/service they actually deliver...they'll go out of business because no one will come (at least not twice). If they charge too little, they'll go out of business because everyone will come and they'll lose money on the deal. Finding that sweet spot where it's all in balance is a real trick.

                                                                                                  1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                                    'It seems to me that, to do well, it's purpose should be to offer a fair trade to the customer. Charge a price such that the restaurant owner can pay their employees a reasonable amount and have enough money to live comfortably while providing the customer with food and service of a quality that they're happy to pay the amount in question. That's pretty much it.'

                                                                                                    Then somehow we've been saying the same thing. I'm in complete agreement with you, and I don't even CARE if it's a fair trade. I understand that when I buy an article of clothing today or a piece of electronics, that the markup is a gazillion percent. But I buy it anyway, if I want it.

                                                                                                    By the same token, if I FIND a restaurant -- many of my red sauce places are this -- where the people greet me nicely when I enter, seat me where I want to be seated, bring me a drink shortly after I order it, bring my appetizer before I've finished my drink, bring bread with my appetizer or salad, bring my entree AFTER I've finished my appetizer or salad, stop by occasionally to ask how things are going, SMILE if at all possible, give me two napkins (yes, I like to have two napkins so kill me), bring my dessert while I'm still drinking my coffee, don't rush me inordinately if the place isn't stacked to the rafters with people waiting, bring me the check when I ask for it, ask how my meal was, and then send me off on my way with a sincere good night, I'll pay their prices and be happy to be a frequent patron. No, I haven't found more than a few places like this in Westchester.

                                                                                                    Is THAT too much to ask? Now, in the process, I won't be upset if the prices of specials aren't shared, really I won't. I will be very, VERY upset if I find a charge for water or bread on the bill, or suddenly see a note on the menu that bread and water are no longer free. If I ask to take my entree home, don't tell me there's a charge for the takeout container. Before I get there, raise your prices on the appetizer and entree to offset your new costs for water and bread.

                                                                                                    Honestly, if I could bottle Matt who was THE perfect waiter, and whose PERFECT waitership (is that a word) I told him I would wax poetic on these boards about -- I would love to do so. I'd then bring him in that bottle to instruct all the restaurants where I've been greeted with a scowl, or finished my drink before my appetizer got there, to be asked if I wanted another, or ignored, or as in my nemesis, had my entree slapped down while my salad fork was still in my mouth, or my coffee was cold by the time my dessert got there. The funny part of it all was that the restaurant in Cape May was mobbed and Matt managed to pull it ALL off with a smile, and even had time to chat with me.

                                                                                                    At any rate, all of the above isn't rocket science and I don't think I am asking too much.

                                                                                              2. re: dolores

                                                                                                Cute response D. And I truly mean it. But we do disagree on this one.

                                                                                                Let's take your questions sequentially:

                                                                                                1 - Never said it should be marked up but i find that there is almost zero price sensitivity to booze and wine. Almost like wearingthe Scarlet Letter to order a single malt or a bottle of wine. So economically i'm tickled pink when others pay these ridiculous prices to help the resto keep food prices low. But I am usually an unwitting participant because my dinner companions always drink and we always split the bill evenly. So I pay for the buzz while remaining buzzless.
                                                                                                2 - Absolutely. every business has the right to set their price points. If it prices, you, me or Aunt Matilda out of purchasing the product, c'est la vie. I think Marx (Karl, not Groucho) tried unsuccessfully to espouse the counter to this theory a few decades ago.
                                                                                                3 - (a) If you want to boycott, go right ahead, as i said more tables for the rest of us; (b) Never said it was you, sorry if you took it personally, just trying to divert the speeding train.
                                                                                                4 - Pretty good day so far, lousy night of poker last night tho, not very focussed.
                                                                                                5 - Yeah, the nerves have been exposed on both sides and a new thread was just started by a resto owner. I may avoid altogether and watch Top Chef tonight, missed it last night betting on loosing hands.

                                                                                                Likewise i am looking forward to the first relaxing meal of the week with mrs jfood so at 3pm i am slowly approaching warp speed to heaven.

                                                                                                No biggie, just differing opinions.

                                                                                                Ciao baby.

                                                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                                                  Thanks, jfood. As Richard Dawson used to say, good answer.

                                                                                              3. re: jfood

                                                                                                Bravo, jfood. I have been reading this thread (and others like it) with astonishment, for the same reasons you have cited. Thank you.

                                                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                                                  First, I agree that some customers' "sense of entitlement" has reached epic proportions. But a portion of that sense of entitlement arises in large part from decades of standard practices that were initiated, not by the customers, but by restaurants.

                                                                                                  I seriously doubt that the first complementary basket of bread served to a table was put there because the customers demanded free bread. Rather, the owner probably realized that it would enhance their customers' experience, and therefore their satisfaction with the meal, and therefore their likelihood to return and give more of their money to said owner, if a basket of warm bread showed up shortly after the party was seated.

                                                                                                  Fast-forward to the present. The vast majority of sit-down restaurants bring out bread (or chips, or fried wonton skins, or whatever) at the very beginning of the meal. And those items are always (or nearly always) complementary. Customers have come to expect that these items are free because the restaurant owners have conditioned them to expect just that.

                                                                                                  Does that mean that the customer has an inalienable right to complementary bread? Certainly not. Does a restaurant have a right to take steps to curtail abuses by customers with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement and an underdeveloped sense of what's appropriate? Absolutely.

                                                                                                  I don't think anybody here is claiming that every restaurant has an obligation to provide unlimited quantities of free bread to every customer who walks in the door. The problem arises when a restaurant provides something that's typically complementary without making it clear that the customer is going to have to pay for it.

                                                                                                  Maybe no one deserves freebies, but there are some things that it's certainly reasonable to expect are free. How about tap water? Wouldn't you feel misled if you ordered a glass of iced tap water at a sit-down restaurant, then found a $2.50 charge for it on your bill?

                                                                                                  On the other hand, if a server brings out a "water list" showing Evian at $x, San Pellegrino at $y, and local tap water at $z, you might be taken aback that tap water isn't free, but you certainly wouldn't feel misled. Similarly, a bread list with a choice of wonderful artisanal loaves--and their prices--might be a deviation from standard practices, but at least the customer is being made aware that charges will apply.

                                                                                                  Back to an earlier comment, it's the job of the server's job to communicate to the customer what can be expected during the course of the meal. And it's the customer's job to ask any questions necessary to clarify any misunderstanding. Breakdowns in these communications one of the primary reasons for hard feelings.

                                                                                                  Most restaurant owners have a hard enough time turning a decent profit without having to deal with unreasonable requests for free stuff from customers. But owners who have decided that customer abuses require them to make up the shortfall by charging for bread should make it abundantly clear what they are doing (and, if they want to preserve goodwill, why they are doing it) in order to avoid misunderstandings, hard feelings, and lost business.

                                                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                    Very good post Alan. I do NOT feel "entitled" to get free bread, or whatever else they are passing out, but I suppose I am "conditioned" by the restaurants that do give it to you free. Now, if I sat down, opened the menu and saw bread, chips, hush puppies, etc., on the appetizer list, then I would clearly know that I would be charged for them. If I sat down and a server asked if I wanted some stuffed mushrooms (or some other common appetizer), I would look at them like they were crazy to offer that, and then proceed to ask if they were complimentary. If they said no, then I would also say no (not that I would eat those anyway) and then the problem would be solved. Lack of communication is the root of this problem, no doubt.

                                                                                                2. About 8 years ago, I ate lunch at Cipriani's on Fifth Ave with a few friends. We enjoyed a really nice time, and at the end of our meal we were asked if we wanted dessert. We politely refused, but the waiters kept saying, "oh, please have the cake...it's our pleasure". And then they brought a piece of chocolate cake w/ 3 forks. O.K, if you insist, we figured and we ate it.
                                                                                                  When we got the bill, they charged us $10 for the cake. You can bet that I made a stink and made the manager take it off right away!!

                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: MRS

                                                                                                    As you should have. But TT and Co were dining out over the weekend when the manager stopped by and asked us to try some wine. TT didn't want wine, but it was explained that the restaurant wanted to get customer feedback on this wine to see if it's something they should stock. TT tried it, didn't like it, and told them so.

                                                                                                    Guess whether it appeared on the bill. Go on, guess!


                                                                                                    1. re: TexasToast

                                                                                                      I guess that you were charged. That sounds like yet another angle to get the customer to order wine. "Angle" meaning "lie" of course.

                                                                                                      1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                        Nope! Surprisingly, we weren't charged (but I did wonder, especially after reading this post).

                                                                                                        Granted, this would have been a better story if we had been, but . . .


                                                                                                  2. This whole thread makes me think about being charged for things that I have always assumed were standards. I grew up in Italy, bread and grissini and water were always there, and never charged for them. So, when I go out somewhere around here in Canada, I ask for bread when we sit down if we are at a resturant that is of a higher standard. i have yet to be charged for it, but right now am wondering when it will start.

                                                                                                    I have one memory that i remember from about three months ago. Sitting at an Italian resto on King St. in Toronto before going to the theater. we ordered pasta, no apps, i asked for some bread and a glass of wine each. My gf and I are sitting talking, having a little bread and oil when a served just dropped a small plate with four pieces of square pizza on the table, and said they were compliments of the chef. I was very surprised, esp. since they were vegetarian, and we hadn't said anything about being vegetarians. But then I realized he dropped them off at about 5 other tables along with ours. It was very nice, and def. makes me return to a place like that, even if I never receive another "compliments of the chef" dish, and it wasn't an amazing resturant.