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Taking a cake to a restaurant for a party? Copacetic?

It's my dad's birthday and we're going to a nicer restaurant. I was going to bring a cake but wasn't sure how appropriate that would be. I've done it before at a lot of other restaurants and I'm happy to pay a cutting fee per head. This place is just a little nicer than the rest, very casual but am I pushing it? Obviously I'll call ahead and ask, but I was curious what everyone's opinion is and if any chef/proprietors would like to comment.

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  1. We've done it a number of times, but always ask the restaurant if it's ok. Hell, for my b-day this year, I went with my wife to the cake shop to pick it up, but wasn't allowed to look at it. Even helped carry it into the restaurant we were going to that evening and brought it to the walk in fridge for storage. But couldn't look at it!

      1. re: enbell

        Thanks... I must have just searched the general chow board.

      2. I've seen it done often. I don't see why it would be a problem - i've never been in a restaurant that sold entire cakes!

        1. Some restaurants prefer to prepare a cake for you. You should call the restaurant. It is often less expensive than buying a cake then paying a cutting fee. The quality if often superior and you don't have to lug a cake around.

          10 Replies
          1. re: maxie

            A "cutting fee"??? I assume you mean a restaurant that would make you pay for the privilege of bringing in a cake???

            I wouldn't patronize such a restaurant. YMMV.

            1. re: ZenSojourner

              The restaurant I worked at charged a plate fee (I think it was $1/person). You're asking the establishment to refrigerate it, present it (often with lit candles) and then cut it and plate and serve it but you don't think they should charge a fee for that? I think it's completely reasonable. Just as it's reasonable to charge a corkage fee if you bring in your own bottle of wine.

              It's perfectly reasonable to bring a cake, provided to ask beforehand and understand a plating fee may be charged.

              1. re: lynnlato

                Who refrigerates a cake? And I do my own presenting. Did the OP ask for any of this service? They did not. If they want such services that's one thing, I suppose. No such statement of intent was made however. And they DID say they were willing to pay a small service fee - certainly not equivalent to paying for an entire cake that most restaurants aren't prepared to even offer.

                1. re: ZenSojourner

                  Not sure what I said that got you're bippies all in a bunch... I'm simply stating what is generally expected of a restaurant when a party brings in a cake. And many cakes require refrigeration so the icing remains intact. Is the OP going to bring his own plates and flatware too? I mentioned a per guest fee of $1 - hardly unreasonable.

                  1. re: ZenSojourner

                    you would want to refridgerate a cake in Fl or maybe anywhere in summer, there are cheesecakes, ice cream cakes and cakes with fresh fruit or cream.

                2. re: ZenSojourner

                  "A "cutting fee"??? I assume you mean a restaurant that would make you pay for the privilege of bringing in a cake???"
                  ~~~~~~~~
                  it's a standard industry practice...in the same vein as a corkage fee for bringing your own wine.

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    I'm surprised that this isn't common knowledge. It certainly is common sense.

                    OP did the proper thing by calling.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      I'd be (pleasantly) surprised if I weren't charged one.

                    2. re: ZenSojourner

                      Yep, indeed, I wouldn't patronize a restaurant where I couldn't bring a bag lunch, a juicebox and a cake and eat at the table for free. [/sarcasm]

                      You're not just paying for the food in the restaurant. You're paying for the fact that you're sitting at a table that they could be using to sell cheesecake to someone else. If you want to bring your own food into a restaurant, call ahead, make sure it's cool, and don't be surprised to pay a cutting fee.

                  2. No, this is not cool. I'm a line cook. What is the point, exactly, of going to a restaurant and bringing your own food?

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: jaykayen

                      Sorry, but bringing a cake in for a special occasion is not the same as "bringing your own food". If a party of 6 or 10 or 20 comes in to your restaurant, orders dinner, and then finishes the celebratory dinner with a cake especially made - perhaps even home made - for the occasion, it should be no skin off their nose.

                      But if the restaurant won't allow it, simply take your business elsewhere. Most places don't get all up in arms over something as simple as this. In fact if I know a restaurant has such a backward policy I'd simply ALWAYS take my business elsewhere.

                      1. re: ZenSojourner

                        Cake cutting fees are pretty common, the equivalent of corkage fees. See this lengthy discussion:

                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/693956

                        1. re: ZenSojourner

                          If the restaurant cuts the cake, using their own serveware (which must be washed and sanitized), plates it on 6,10 or 20 plates (which need to be washed and sanitized) and also distributes with their own forks, (also probably new napkins) which also must be washed and sanitized, then they should be compensated.

                          The party of 6,10 or 20 are taking up more time at a table(You aren't going sing "Happy Birthday", eat the cake and leave 15 minutes later), thus taking up turnover time, not ordering dessert which would bring in a set amount to the restaurant and there is additional cleanup involved.

                          {Oh, don't forget the one, two or ten of the 20 people who would like 'just a half a cup of coffee' to go with the cake. Do you think they should not have to pay for that?}

                          The restaurant is a business. It is there to make money. It is not a charity. If you don't want to pay a plating fee, then meet at home aftewards, cut the cake, have beverages or make a pot or two of coffee and clean up 6,10 or 20 plates, forks, cups and napkins there. Linger comfortably at home all night.

                          1. re: Cathy

                            Should they pay for coffee? Certainly, if they ordered it. Since this is commonly acceptable - COMMONLY - at many restaurants, none of your objections hold any water.

                            New napkins, LOL! For a piece of cake! LOL!

                            1. re: ZenSojourner

                              Umm, what about the plates? I think you're ignoring the main point of these responses to you- the restaurant is going to be expected to provide some service in order to get the cake into the mouths of these guests (like plates), and they should be compensated for it. Do you disagree?

                          2. re: ZenSojourner

                            Bringing in a cake is EXACTLY the same thing as bringing in your own food.

                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                              I disagree because it's not something the restaurant can provide. If I'm going to the cheesecake factory I'm not going to bring a cheesecake and expect them to be cool with that. But if I'm going to a place that only has single portion desserts and it's a special occasion for my family, bringing a cake shouldn't be an issue.

                              1. re: piano boy

                                Many restaurants can provide a cake. What do you think many of those individual desserts are cut from (obviously not talking about creme brulee, etc).

                                1. re: piano boy

                                  Most restaurants don't serve a whole roast pig either, so it would be pretty strange of a diner to bring one in if there is pork belly and bacon on the menu.

                                  I'm not sure how your case is different because it's dessert as opposed to any other course.

                                  1. re: LeoLioness

                                    Well shucks, that's what I was planning on next! A whole roast pig! You think they won't go for it?

                                    Where I come from, and based on most of the comments here, bringing a cake for a bday party to a restaurant is fairly common practice. The original question was related to a fancy restaurant and when it would be less acceptable. I took my gf to 3 michelin star restaurant in Paris for her bday. I didn't bring a cake because I knew they could provide something more spectacular, which they did.

                                    1. re: piano boy

                                      i disagree that most of the comments reflect this as a common practice. i think it's a relatively uncommon practice which can be very awkward if handled incorrectly. in any case it is the restaurant's prerogative to have policy in place regarding outside food of any type, and a restaurant patron should never reasonably expect to be able to bring in anything homemade into a restaurant. that said, many restaurants will bake a whole cake to order or will special order one from a bakery they have an established relationship with-- or if they are okay with a home baked item under their local health code, great. the subject was done to death in the 2 threads cited above, though.

                          3. I wondered how long it would take for this thread to go down hill...

                            The answer to the OP's question is pretty simple - there's no harm in asking, but understand (as it seems you do) that restaurants have many reasons for either charging a cutting fee or for just not allowing it. If you don't like what you hear, then keep calling restaurants until you find one that gives you the answer you want. My guess is that a nice restaurant will be gracious about it. They may charge a cutting fee, but they will probably make the nominal fee worth it in terms of service.

                            It's also worthwhile to consider other options - will your preferred restaurant prepare a whole cake to be cut table side? If so, you can avoid bringing an outside cake altogether. Can you retire to someone's home after dinner to enjoy cake and coffee/tea and a more intimate setting?

                            1. Cake denied due to the fact that I'm making it and they require a receipt from where it was purchased. New health and safety laws.

                              Good suggestions mpjmph. We'll come back to my place and enjoy it. The restaurant would charge $2 per person which is extremely reasonable. Considering their cheapest dessert is $9 which IMO is atrocious (creme brulee costs $0.30 to make).

                              From the restaurant perspective, they lost an easy $18 because we won't be ordering dessert. Not blaming them for the food laws of course.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: piano boy

                                actually they haven't lost an easy $18 they could have risked losing their license or a getting a health dept violation code. That $18 went towards plate and fork washing and extra napkins and the cost of you sitting longer.
                                They gave you the option of bringing in a cake from a bakery with a receipt but you declined that offer, they probably could have made you a birthday cake had you wanted to but it would probably have been expensive compared to making one.

                                1. re: smartie

                                  I'm not criticizing them for following health rules. I was trying to illustrate the point that it's a win-win for both customer and company when you are allowed to bring a cake and an appropriate cake cutting fee is charged.

                                2. re: piano boy

                                  "Creme brulee costs $0.30 to make". A good quality box of pasta costs $2 and can serve six as an app. The point is?

                                  1. re: BubblyOne

                                    Maybe you're not familiar with the way markup works in restaurants BubblyOne.

                                    A decent pasta and sauce will cost between $3-4. Markup in most restaurants is 400% which puts the dish at around $12-16 which is what most places charge.

                                    Try doing the math on the creme brulee and you'll see what my point is.

                                    1. re: piano boy

                                      I dine out to enjoy myself, not do math. I can buy a box of Lipton's tea and make over 100 glasses for $3 and iced tea is usually around $3-$4 a glass (with refills), at least here in the LA area. So I shouldn't order iced tea because of the markup?
                                      Also, I doubt that .30 cent figure. If I order creme brulee, it is at an upscale restaurant and served with some seasonal berries/fruit or some other accompaniment.
                                      I can understand someone feeling a place is over-priced. In that case, I would go elsewhere.

                                  2. re: piano boy

                                    Well, not exactly $18 because they still provided the plates, forks, person to cut and serve and the table for you to enjoy it while they might have been able to serve other patrons. And, as the new health and safety laws go, you know how safe you are in the kitchen but others may not be. Since there are health and safety laws that restaurants have to follow, it would seem that other foods served there would have the same rules.

                                  3. Maybe all this "it's common" vs "never heard of it" is r/t geography and usual price point of the restaurant. At some of our family-owned casual ethnic restaurants that are mid-priced, I am not at all surprised to see it. (I'm thinking the tastier equivalents of something like Olive Garden, for instance.) Ditto some bar and grills that are pretty close to being sports bars. At the fine dining places, the only time I've seen a whole cake is when the pastry chef made one at the request of the party organizer to honor a special day. You're not gonna see it at, oh, say, a Vongerichten restaurant, or Michel Richard or Gary Danko's establishments.

                                    I think both sides are right.