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Yet another stupid question about plate splitting fees ...

ipsedixit Jan 19, 2013 06:00 PM

What do people think about a plate splitting fee when two people order an entree with the intention of splitting it and eating it as an appetizer, and then still ordering two entrees?

I understand the general rationale of plate splitting fees when two people order one thing, split it, without ordering more, because it's essentially the restaurant servicing two people for the price of one.

But isn't, ostensibly, the price and labor for two appetizers roughly equivalent (maybe even less) than one entree?

I'm ambivalent about this, but my companion had a bit of a conniption ...

Curious as to what people think.

  1. w
    wyogal Apr 10, 2013 03:18 PM

    They have a plate splitting policy, stated on the menu. You asked for it, you got it, and you pay the price as stated. You didn't "share" a plate, you had one entree plated on two separate plates. I don't understand what is so difficult to understand about this. The scenario as you described it, leaves no room for doubt.

    1. c
      coffeesnob3 Apr 10, 2013 02:50 PM

      At my restaurant we charge a plate splitting fee if the guests are, indeed, getting two separate plates, garnishes etc. The extra work in plating two, as well as the extra product involved is the reason why. A real half order of french fries, for example, would look skimpy on the plate, so we go the extra mile to make it look good, while still giving you a pretty good value. (No one should have to fight over the only pickle.)

      If you just ask for a side plate, or an extra plate, that's a whole other thing - no fee, no worries.

      If money is really that tight, I'd rather you save the extra cash for the tip - just ask for a side plate.

      1. pinehurst Apr 10, 2013 12:29 PM

        I have encountered a similar phenomenon. Our former favorite "red sauce" Italian place serves a dish called an Italian platter. Two meatballs, a homemade sausage, eggplant parm, chicken parm, pasta of your choice.

        When H and I eat there, we split an appetizer, the antipasto salad. They load it up with nice greens, olives, pepperoncini, tomatoes, prosciutto, so it's filling, and very good. We liked to order the platter, because we could split it and still have leftovers for lunch the next day. I like the eggplant with some pasta; H likes the chicken parm/meatball.

        Recently, they added a 3.50 per person plate splitting fee. Yes, we read it and asked...so, 7.00 for the two of us, and 10.50 if we brought our nephew. WTH?

        So we drive a little further to where we can split for free. The place is good, but not worth the extra 7.00 to us.

        Long story short...to me, plate splitting fees are fees, no matter if they're splitting an app or an entree.

        1. Fowler Apr 10, 2013 12:08 PM

          I am rather frugal but would not fret about a split plate fee in this scenario. And no, two appetizers are not necessarily "roughly equivalent (maybe even less) than one entree".

          1. Kris in Beijing Apr 10, 2013 11:12 AM

            As a "cultural comparison" -- in a Chinese restaurant on the mainland, if you see a shrinkwrapped set, usually including saucer, tea cup, silverware, Asian spoon, napkin -- you will know that you'll be charged for every one you open.

            And here's some math for margin comparisons-- usually the fee is 2¥. Dishes typically run 8¥-30¥ and a table of four would order 6-7 dishes. So, total around 200¥ , 4% of the bill. In a land where you don't tip, not a bad trade, even if we usually tried to avoid using the set packs.

            However, everyone ALWAYS carries their own TP, there is't a charge for the chopsticks, and sodas are served as a chilled can plus a straw.

            1. m
              moxiegirl57 Apr 2, 2013 06:20 AM

              I've been reading all of your replys and have to give mine too now. My family has a small family restaurant in BC. We serve burgers, fish and chips, schnitzel dinners stuff like that. We ARE NOT fine dining in any way. We have a $1.50 split plate charge. And customers will freak out at me about it. They ONLY time customers get charged this fee is when two people come in both order water (or lemon water which yes cost us money even though we would never charge a person for it) and order for example a 2piece order of fish and chips and a extra plate. We have 1 piece order on the menu too, but the two piece is only a couple dollars more. They don't order appy's, or drinks, or desserts. So we make hardly anything off of them. We still have to throw away their placemat, napkin, straw. we still have to wash their utensils and glass and plate. They still want ketchup, extra tarter sauce stuff like that. This is when the fee applies. We are not being petty or cheap! If they had ordered drinks or a salad or something more then we wouldn't charge. This happens I kid you not at least 5 times every day that I have people come in and do this. The food is very good here, and we have lots of customers, but stuff like this still hurts the small family businesses. We are not a franchise. I just think people need to see the owners side too sometimes. And again we only charge $1.50 extra. I have had people swear at me and refuse to come back because we are ripping them off.

              2 Replies
              1. re: moxiegirl57
                p
                Palladium Apr 2, 2013 06:52 AM

                Have you thought about a minimum per person order, then?

                Make it (the price of a 2-piece fish and chips order + 1.50)/2.

                Sometimes I go out to eat but aren't very hungry, or I know I'm going to have a big meal later. I really cannot be arsed estimating and calculating the margin on various starters and mains and wondering if I can look like less of a cheapskate if I also order a drink, and if I don't feel like an alcoholic drink, then maybe the profit isn't big enough if I just order a soft drink? What if I order a dessert instead, but take that to-go, would that be better or worse, blah blah blah. I'd just end up not going out to eat as much.

                1. re: moxiegirl57
                  rockandroller1 Apr 10, 2013 11:38 AM

                  In my mind, there are two reasons people are doing this so much there.

                  1. The portion sizes are huge, and people are trying to eat less by splitting. The advent of huge entrees ala Cheesecake Factory is when split plates started to become more popular (and the fees to follow). Unless you are dishing up sides as big as a baby's head, with a two piece (assuming normal pieces of fish) entree, it's probably not #1.

                  2. The economy. People are struggling to get the money to go out. I know "if you can't afford to go out, stay in," but even poor people want to go out somewhere once and awhile, and if they like the ambience and staff and food at your place, they would rather enjoy that than McDonald's or something. They want to dine at your place and are just struggling financially. What if you started a version of a "value" menu and if people asked to split, suggest that "if they're looking for something on the smaller side" (i.e. not pointing out they are being cheap) they could look there. You are not making a huge profit off people who come in and order water and two of the least expensive things on the menu anyway, but you are generating good will instead of generating bad will by charging them a "fee." Better to serve them a $3 2nd item than force them to pay (or get mad and leave about) a split plate charge, I'm thinking.

                  Just an idea.

                2. a
                  akq Jan 20, 2013 08:41 PM

                  The charge might have been automatically entered when the server entered the "split plate" instruction on the ticket so the kitchen would know to do it.

                  I understand the rationale behind plate splitting fees to be the extra cost to make both "half portions" look good, which includes different platting, often a larger portion so that each half looks reasonable, extra sides/garnish, etc. If that's what the fee is for, I guess it makes sense for any split plate, even if you're ordering entrees as well. For pasta, they might have made a larger portion of pasta or put extra pieces of whatever is with the pasta so the portions don't look skimpy (i.e. if a regular portion would have had 3 shrimp, they might have put an extra shrimp on so each plate has two, rather than cutting one in half).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: akq
                    shaogo Jan 25, 2013 06:37 AM

                    akq you're right on target.

                    The dude and I call ourselves the "kings of doggy bags" 'cause if we're at a place that's new to us and recommended we like to try the dishes that our friends find special. Sometimes we end up ordering three apps and three entrees -- and dessert. We were charged plate-split fees several times. There was one manager who came over after our order was taken (The Water Club in NY) and he said that the owners (and, he sighed, the computer system) require that splitting fees be applied but he had the power to comp -- and he did. By the time he got through comping booze and dessert, it was six times the plate fees that'd been charged so we didn't care. I believe Water Club is still re-building after Sandy. I suggest you support them if in town, when they re-open.

                  2. m
                    mwhitmore Jan 20, 2013 07:22 PM

                    If the plate splitting fee is clearly indicated on the menu, that is a contract. It can only be negotiated before the order is taken, not when the bill is presented. Since I do not enjoy negotiating during my meal, I make the decision, and order accordingly. I note that when a menu item is listed for both a first course and a main course, the cost of an app is always more than half of the cost of a main.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: mwhitmore
                      ipsedixit Jan 20, 2013 07:25 PM

                      Who said anything about negotiating it?

                      1. re: ipsedixit
                        m
                        mwhitmore Jan 23, 2013 10:39 AM

                        Well, you didn't. So guess I did. I might well ask: "We are both having main dishes, but might like to split a pasta for the first course. Does the plate splitting fee apply?' Giving the server the opportunity to say 'Of course not!' or "I'm afraid it applies to all split plates'. No confrontation, but no surprises either. P.S. Sorry for the double post, I am such a computer klutz.

                        1. re: mwhitmore
                          ipsedixit Jan 23, 2013 10:50 AM

                          Actually, it went something like this for us.

                          A: "Do you see any apps that interest you?"
                          B: "No."
                          A: "What do you think about splitting that ragu as an app?"
                          B: "Sure, that sounds good"
                          ....

                          Server: "What are we having tonight?"
                          A: "Well, we'd like to start off with the ragu, but split it as an app."
                          Server: "That sounds great, but we do have a plate splitting fee."
                          A: "Oh, really? hmm."
                          B: "I guess that's fine."
                          ....

                          A: "I can't believe they would charge us a plate splitting fee"
                          B: "Yeah, it's a bit chintzy, but it is what it is ... I'd rather pay more for a good app, than less for a bad one."

                          That's how it went down. No scene. It just me (person B) and my companion (person A) discussing it amongst ourselves.

                          1. re: ipsedixit
                            dave_c Apr 10, 2013 11:54 AM

                            I can see the plate splitting fee being appropriate in this example.

                            Also, the waiter was smart enough to mention the fee during your order instead of putting a mysterious charge on your bill.

                    2. j
                      julesrules Jan 20, 2013 07:20 AM

                      Did they actually split the plate for you, make it look nice etc?
                      If yes, I think the fee was reasonable, if perhaps a little petty.
                      If not, I think they were in the wrong. If you had ordered two apps at roughly half the mains' price, and switched plates halfway through, would they have charged you a sharing fee? I hope not....
                      I think sometimes one person makes a bad decision about enforcing a policy in a grey area situation, and unfortunately it can reflect badly on the whole restaurant. If I went back at all, I'd probably order less in the end (no app at all!). I'm not particularly interested in debating small charges with servers - I guess I'm in the "make it right in the first place" school. My bill should be correct and fair in the first place, not a source of debate or negotiation.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: julesrules
                        ipsedixit Jan 20, 2013 10:18 AM

                        The entree in question was plated separately, and yes it did "look nice".

                        The entree was a pasta dish (a ragu), which made splitting it logistically a bit easier than say if we had decided to split a salmon entree.

                        I don't feel strongly about this either way, and I think one reason that this particular restaurant did it was to make sure people didn't just split entrees at the expense of the appetizers, which I think have higher margins.

                        1. re: ipsedixit
                          m
                          mwhitmore Jan 20, 2013 07:43 PM

                          If the plate sharing price is clearly indicated on the menu, that is a contract. It can be negotiated only before the order is placed, not when the bill is presented. Since I do not enjoy negotiating during a meal, I make a decision, and order accordingly. That said, pasta may be a special case. As all CHs know, pasta is never served as a second course in Italy. And yet idiot foreigners (or simply people who have different preferences) persist in ordering pasta as a 'main course', screwing up the classic 'pranza' (sequence of courses). And sharing a large pasta, followed by two 'second' dishes, should be encouraged, especially compared to ordering two app-sized pastas. So I share your discontent.

                      2. c
                        cleobeach Jan 20, 2013 06:15 AM

                        In the scenario the OP describes, If the price of the split entree eaten as the appetizer was equal to or more than two appetizers, I would point it out to the server and ask for the charge to be removed. if they declined, I wouldn't make a fuss but probably not return.

                        1. LMAshton Jan 20, 2013 04:13 AM

                          I wouldn't throw a fit, but I wouldn't return to that restaurant. Neither would my husband.

                          1. monfrancisco Jan 19, 2013 07:10 PM

                            That if I needed one, you'd be the lawyer I'd hire. I also think your companion needs to take a pill.

                            1. olyolyy Jan 19, 2013 06:54 PM

                              It's a little too opportunistic to be in good taste, in my opinion. Sometimes they split an app or salad on two plates and give a larger portion/gussy it up, so I respect a split plate fee in that event. But if a place charges an extra fee because two people share one plate of fried calamari it's a bit unscrupulous.

                              1. b
                                Bigjim68 Jan 19, 2013 06:39 PM

                                If I was ordering two full dinners and a entree for astarter to split and I was charged extra, I would be the man who never returned.

                                1. j
                                  jlhinwa Jan 19, 2013 06:24 PM

                                  I think if each party is still getting an entree, then it is a little cheesy to charge under the scenario you have described. I wouldn't have a fit about it, but it wouldn't make me feel great about the restaurant that insisted on enforcing the policy.

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