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What do you think about restaurants charging for bread and butter at dinner?

JayDK Oct 21, 2013 05:20 PM

Don't want to mention the name because the dinner was swell but they charged $3 for bread and butter.
I ordered escargot and didn't even think about the bread.
The snails came and they were nice but there was no bread served with them to sop up the sauce.
Poo on that.

  1. kaleokahu Oct 21, 2013 05:37 PM

    Hi, Jay:

    I think they might as well charge rental on the tableware while they're at it. Napkin surcharge? Salt and pepper don't buy themselves, ya know...

    PLEASE name names.


    1 Reply
    1. re: kaleokahu
      gingershelley Oct 21, 2013 06:55 PM

      Yup. If your having 'snax N drinks' - you can choose to make my bread be an order.... if I am having dinner? - NOT so much.

      Figure in the price allready for bread, if I am having dinner.

    2. m
      Miri1 Oct 21, 2013 05:43 PM

      I don't like it. My boydriend andvI go out to eat a lot. He works very hard so by the time we arrive at a restaurant for dinner, he's starving. He'slways grateful for the bread and butter and usually asks fr more. We've lways been gives as much as he likes with no charge. Its not that either of us is cheap. We spend quitca bit on our meals. Bt I think its nice and try to find places that offer it. Wecalso like when they offer complimentary appetizers as well. Like pickkes, olives, small salads etc. I don't find that they ruin our appetires at all, and we tend to order more from the menu when bread etc is offered first.

      1. j
        Jeri L Oct 21, 2013 06:43 PM

        But it's SPECIAL bread and/or SPECIAL butter (or oil, or whatever)...TheTom Douglas empire does it, for starters, but it's becoming pretty common.

        1. c
          cheesecake17 Oct 21, 2013 06:45 PM

          If bread it not complimentary, it should be noted on the menu.
          At Zabars in NYC, the menu clearly states that a bread basket is $12, unless entrees are ordered.

          It's nice when bread/butter/olive oil are placed at the table. But when it has no place in the type of food offered, I understand the restaurant charging. (Like at a Chinese or Japanese restaurant)

          3 Replies
          1. re: cheesecake17
            JayDK Oct 21, 2013 06:55 PM

            French "bistro" food for the place in question.

            1. re: JayDK
              gingershelley Oct 21, 2013 07:00 PM

              Well Jay, that is a crime against France (Viva La France!), since the baguette is a national symbol, and no Frenchperson would not eat dinner without crumbs on the table.

              Perhaps a bobo would skip it in a trendy-chic place in the Maraise, but any real french bistro here better bust out the bread. Or, perhaps, all the Frenchie natives who live here are wrecking their food cost with over-consumption of free baked grain?

              Hmmmnn.... give a hint who you are impugning....

              1. re: JayDK
                cheesecake17 Oct 22, 2013 06:48 AM

                I would expect bread.
                But with all the low carb/pales/GF people...maybe it wasn't eaten? Even so...The waiter could ask if you'd like bread or the menu could say "complimentary bread basket upon request"

            2. j
              JayDK Oct 21, 2013 06:57 PM

              From a business perspective I understand,

              For instance, "If we charge 'em for bread and they pay for it, why give it away?"

              1 Reply
              1. re: JayDK
                Bill Hunt Oct 22, 2013 07:46 PM

                Well, I do not think of it as a "give away," but part of my total meal.

                OTOH, with airlines charging for everything, I am not surprised that some restaurants are doing the same.

                I just expect those costs (and they ARE costs) to be factored into my meal.

                I guess that I had better gird my loins, for the next time that I order a few glasses of wine, at the bar, and "snacks" are served - "Oh, you ate 6 peanuts, one pretzel piece, and four cheese crackers... That will be an additional $ 1.75, added to the cost of your wines."

                Suppose that the time is coming?


              2. j
                JayDK Oct 21, 2013 07:16 PM

                The economics of bread and butter.

                I bake a lot and buy from Cash 'n Carry.
                I use the Shepards Grain hi gluten and if memory serves it's far less than 50 cents a pound. This is the popular flour with the baking crowd, sustainable practices, a marketing story to go along with it, i.e. know your farmer. It's nice flour. And it's pretty cheap too.

                Cash 'n Carry also sells butter. About $2.50 per pound. It's produced locally which is hip right now. (Darigold)

                So the economics of bread and butter just don't pan out to justify charging.

                Restaurant economics: They think that bread and butter fills you up so you order less.

                So far from the replies, it would be interesting if each one of us alerted our restaurants that charge for bread and butter about this post, the owners might get the picture.

                2 Replies
                1. re: JayDK
                  dagrassroots Oct 21, 2013 07:30 PM

                  What are the food costs that go into the 15 dollar plate of pasta? There is a lot more to restaurant economics than raw food costs.

                  1. re: dagrassroots
                    JayDK Oct 21, 2013 07:39 PM

                    No doubt that is true.
                    But pasta usually has sauce and for that price it might be handmade right on the premises. This kind of a plate might very well be worth $15.00.
                    Bread and butter - even good bread and butter is a commodity.
                    In fact, I polled a few food banks who say that they have too much bread and don't need anymore. And I'm not talking about wonder bread either but good bread.

                2. tcamp Oct 22, 2013 06:59 AM

                  I don't have a problem being charged for a bread basket, assuming the menu is clearly marked as such.

                  But if you're ordering escargot, where the sauce is a big part of the dish, a slice of bread should come along with it.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: tcamp
                    Steve Oct 23, 2013 06:44 AM

                    Of course you're right.

                    Jaleo (Spanish tapas) in DC hes discontinued their bread service, but will still include it for certain dishes that are saucy and bread is traditionally used to mop up.

                    1. re: tcamp
                      firecooked Oct 23, 2013 10:42 AM

                      I agree. We were at a "small plates" kind of place and had mussels with a wonderful broth but no bread. So we ordered the bread ( $5) which was a nice sourdough loaf ... but was too much, and came with a huge scoop of un-needed butter. A couple of slices of toast would have been nice.

                    2. Tripeler Oct 22, 2013 07:03 AM

                      My reaction was so weird it surprised me.
                      I have no objection to them charging for bread, but the idea of charging for butter seemed really strange to me.
                      I wonder why I reacted like that?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Tripeler
                        ipsedixit Oct 22, 2013 07:46 PM

                        I think unless it's "special butter" or a house churned butter, then regular butter is sort of a condiment in the same way that salt and pepper is.

                        You'd probably be flabbergasted if a restaurant charged you for freshly ground black pepper, right?

                        1. re: ipsedixit
                          Tripeler Oct 23, 2013 07:04 AM

                          My thoughts, exactly. Of course, if it is a special butter and supplied in good quantities, I wouldn't mind paying for it. But ordinary butter, no.

                      2. pinehurst Oct 22, 2013 07:05 AM


                        Long aside:

                        There was a family restaurant near me many moons ago. Upon being seated, diners were brought a large basket of rolls, both savory and sweet. There'd be a couple of small berry scones nestled against three or four sourdough rolls, nestled against a poppy and onion roll and a pumpernickel roll. If diners didn't want the rolls, they would tell the server not to bring them; if diners didn't eat all of them, they had them wrapped (and supplemented happily if they wanted to replace a berry scone) for to-go. Different times, the 80's/90's.

                        They never, ever charged for the rolls. Prices were on the high side for the times and area, and the place was packed.

                        I should also mentioned that meals came with three vegs in addition to a starch...it was nice to have a little dish of squash, a dish of string beans, and a dish of turnip and onion.

                        Different times, like I said--and the place thrived. It closed because the owner retired and his son refused to take over the business.

                        Short answer: I don't like it. Bread and tap water should be available to those who wish to eat/drink it. We don't eat the bread anymore due to H's health, and I still believe the above.

                        1. h
                          Hobbert Oct 22, 2013 07:29 AM

                          If it's just white bread and generic butter, it should be free. If they've actually put a bit if thought into a bread basket and served it with homemade or even just high quality butter, I have no problem paying for it.

                          I appreciate restaurants that ask if you want bread. We rarely do and it's silly to waste bread and butter on us.

                          1. m
                            mwhitmore Oct 22, 2013 07:48 AM

                            This was very common in high-end restaurants decades ago. It was also known as a cover charge. Usually in tiny print at the bottom of the menu, "B&B $1". (No, you were not getting a cheap Benedictine and Brandy!) And no, you couldn't have it removed by sending back the bread. I think they realized how inhospitable this was.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: mwhitmore
                              Bkeats Oct 23, 2013 05:08 AM

                              Whiere do high end restos charge for bread? In NYC, high end places I have been to have never charged separately for bread. Most in fact have multiple choices for breads. There will be even specific bread servers who come to you and ask which type of bread you would like and they come by often.

                              1. re: Bkeats
                                Steve Oct 23, 2013 06:51 AM

                                I can think of a few places in the DC area. It is a trend. I am not optimistic it will be halted, but I am hoping for containment.

                                1. re: Bkeats
                                  Motosport Oct 23, 2013 07:44 AM

                                  Momofuko, Ma Peche

                                  1. re: Bkeats
                                    mwhitmore Oct 24, 2013 08:20 PM

                                    Check out menus from Le and La restaurants from the 50s/60s/early 70s. Pavillon, Cote Basque, Caravelle. And the bread wasn't very good, either.

                                2. Motosport Oct 22, 2013 08:06 AM

                                  Just went to Ma Peche and noticed that. The butter was a fancy goat or VT butter.
                                  It's a common charge in Europe where people will sit for hours and nibble on bread while having coffee or a cocktail.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Motosport
                                    Steve Oct 23, 2013 06:52 AM

                                    In France, I expect bread and butter at an upscale restaurant, but only bread in a casual environment.

                                  2. l
                                    LeoLioness Oct 22, 2013 08:08 AM

                                    I can appreciate that bread and butter is not free for the restaurant, but at the same time, free bread and butter has long been a standard and it's hard to un-ring that bell. I see more restaurants moving to providing bread on request as opposed to just plunking it down on the table, which seems sensible.

                                    I was at a restaurant last night that charges $6 for both mustard and hot sauce, so who knows anymore?

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: LeoLioness
                                      Bill Hunt Oct 22, 2013 07:52 PM

                                      I guess that I could imagine a time, when everything was itemized, and charge for:

                                      Bread $4.00
                                      Butters $6.00
                                      Tap water $1.00 per glass, times 4 at table
                                      Waiter stopped by 3x @ $3.00 each
                                      Napkin $2.00
                                      Food $300
                                      Wine $250
                                      Clearing used plates and utensils $25.00
                                      Validate parking ticket $5.00
                                      Hostess wished you a lovely evening $10.00

                                      That would get my attention, and in a hurry.


                                      1. re: Bill Hunt
                                        ricepad Nov 6, 2013 12:21 PM

                                        What, you wanted ice in that tap water? That'll be another 10 cents per cube.

                                    2. c
                                      cleobeach Oct 22, 2013 08:14 AM

                                      I don't have an issue with paying for bread but I am outraged (being dramatic) that escargot came to the table with no bread! If there ever was a dish that requires bread, it is escargot.

                                      1. Bill Hunt Oct 22, 2013 07:41 PM

                                        I have never encountered a direct, logged charge for such, but then, I expect that the full price of my meal will include those - or at least they should, to pay the overhead.


                                        1. ipsedixit Oct 22, 2013 07:49 PM

                                          This is not that unusual.

                                          As long as the menu or restaurant informs me ahead of time, it's OK.

                                          Just don't automatically give a bread basket without telling me it's not gratis. Just like you better not keep refilling my glass with the bottled sparkling water without first asking ...

                                          1. h
                                            HillJ Oct 23, 2013 06:57 AM

                                            As long as the server or menu say so ahead of time..and if I'm getting charged for bread and/or butter I hope its spectacular!

                                            1. bagelman01 Oct 23, 2013 07:01 AM

                                              I donnd paying for what I eat and as long as I am informed in advance I would accept this.

                                              Your many years when travelling in Europe there was a charge for the bread and butter on the table. In some countries your bill indocated how many rolls you consumed from the basket and you were charged by the roll.

                                              1. Uncle Bob Oct 23, 2013 07:50 AM

                                                It's a trap!!! ~~~ It's a gimmick!! ~~~ It sucks!!!

                                                Figure your food cost...including salt and pepper... Oh, and TP in the restroom for that matter... then put the price on the menu.

                                                1. Karl S Oct 23, 2013 08:39 AM

                                                  It's not customary in the USA. So, as a matter of hospitality (and restaurants are in the hospitality business), it's necessary for restaurants to flag this deviance from customary practice up front, else the restaurants be seen by their customers as operating in bad faith.

                                                  The customary practice is that it's paid for as part of overhead allocated into the prices of specific menu items. Doesn't HAVE to be done that way, but it is very dominant custom, and deviating from custom has risks. I've seen restaurants try this and learn it wasn't worth the bother.

                                                  1. h
                                                    Harters Oct 23, 2013 10:05 AM

                                                    Very common to add a cover charge for bread in Spain - increasingly with restaurants saying that if you don't want bread then tell the server. I sense it's becoming more common in other countries.

                                                    Of course, bread is never complimentary anywhere in the world, although the cost is usually just hidden away in the general menu pricing. I'd be much happier with the Spanish method becoming more commonplace so that customers can make their informed choice.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Harters
                                                      Veggo Oct 23, 2013 10:16 AM

                                                      I am often impressed by complimentary bread baskets - croissants, muffins, varieties of obviously freshly baked warm breads wrapped in a warm linen. Also, the bowls of herbed olive oils. That's a lot of work with love. I would pay to play, never have been asked to.

                                                      1. re: Veggo
                                                        Karl S Oct 23, 2013 10:31 AM

                                                        Well, I'd only pay to play if the markup on other items were reduced accordingly - but that's unlikely to happen. The US practice on bread coexists with other US practices that are less marked elsewhere. And I think, subconsciously, that's what will rudder customer resistance: unless they are specifically shown how this shift would save them money elsewhere, they will assume it's just a money grab, like myriad airline charges. And that's a formula for sowing mistrust, however small but corrosive, between customer and house in a hospitality business.

                                                        1. re: Karl S
                                                          Veggo Oct 23, 2013 11:46 AM

                                                          I know I'm paying for it at the end, but it is part of the pleasure of good service and an occasional nice surprise. OK by me. We'll miss it when it's gone.

                                                    2. b
                                                      bobbert Oct 24, 2013 08:28 AM

                                                      I've been charged 3 times for bread. Ironically, all three places were on the more expensive side (average $50+ pp tab). One place was $1 for an extra biscuit (first one was "free"). This annoys me to no end. When I'm dropping over $100 (pre tip) on dinner for 2 and you hit me up for that extra buck, the rest of the meal better be exceptional for me to return.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: bobbert
                                                        Bill Hunt Oct 24, 2013 07:18 PM


                                                        That would catch my attention too.

                                                        I do not mind paying for what I get, and state that, if making any substitutions to a menu. However, and probably for some deep-seated reason, I would rather that my main course be bumped up by $1.00, than to have that separate charge listed. I know that the total comes out the same, but I hate being "nickeled and dimed" on everything. I see that nearly every day on airlines.

                                                        Just my personal thoughts on the matter.


                                                        PS - Since this thread started, I have tried to recall any separate charges for bread and butter (or maybe olive oil), and other than an order of Naan at an Indian restaurant, cannot think of a single case. Maybe I just missed it?

                                                      2. Kajikit Oct 24, 2013 12:41 PM

                                                        It's a bit of a ripoff to charge for ordinary bread (or pita, or tortilla chips, or the other appropriate 'starchy carb' for the genre of restaurant)... and it's a surefire way to get me NOT to order it unless it's something really special.

                                                        1. s
                                                          salsailsa Oct 24, 2013 12:55 PM

                                                          Bread is filler. It fills people up and then the don't have room for, say dessert. No bread? Maybe they'll order an appetizer while they wait for the mains.

                                                          I agree with those who said that they can't believe your escargot came with no bread. I think certain dishes should come automatically with bread-mussels, salads for example.

                                                          I had a salad recently in a restaurant where I added chicken on top and then asked for some bread. They ended up charging me a stupid amount for the most pathetic bit of bread. My lunch ended up being fairly expensive.

                                                          I think a complementary bread basket is a nice touch but can understand for the above reason plus the rising cost of flour etc why restaurants don't do it.

                                                          1. PotatoHouse Oct 24, 2013 04:56 PM

                                                            I wouldn't go back.

                                                            1. t
                                                              tardigrade Oct 24, 2013 07:53 PM

                                                              It's usual in Italy, but they've had over 2 millenia to figure out how to gouge tourists :). I was a little surprised to hear a server ask if we wanted bread at an up-scale California restaurant, but there wasn't a charge for it. Bottom line for the US: if they want to charge, the menu should indicate this.

                                                              On a related note, a Chinese restaurant near me charges $1/person for tea, while most of their competitors don't. The menu notes this, and the servers ask if you understand there's a charge, but since it's upfront and I want tea I'm fine with that.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: tardigrade
                                                                Bill Hunt Oct 24, 2013 08:02 PM

                                                                I think that noting such on a menu covers the bases.

                                                                It's like an extra order of corn tortillas at a Mexican restaurant. I order those, and expect to pay for them.


                                                              2. c oliver Oct 24, 2013 08:09 PM


                                                                1. Tripeler Nov 7, 2013 06:06 AM

                                                                  Gosh, if the bread is really good, it is likely worth what they charge. I have trouble with the idea of paying separately for butter, but if it is special and delicious, I don't mind.

                                                                  1. p
                                                                    plaidbowtie Nov 7, 2013 08:02 PM

                                                                    Bar Tartine in SF has a lunchtime sandwich counter "pop up" in the normally dinner only (and brunch) dining room. They have a bread and cultured butter plate for $5, I think. I will order it every single time, and it is so, so worth it.

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