Restaurants Nickel and Diming (or More) Patrons

We’ve all seen the obligatory “tip” some restaurants charge for large parties (which could be as small as 8 people, and the tip is often 18% or higher).

We’ve seen the charge for splitting an entree (okay, they have to put out two settings, etc.).

We once even got charged for “extra spicy” when we emphasized we wanted a dish labeled “spicy” to actually be spicy!

But now I’m starting to see a charge for splitting the bill ("$1 Charged to All Cards Splitting a Bill"). (I’m not sure what happens if you ask for separate checks up front.)

And one restaurant near us said any party of more than 8 has to order off the banquet menu (at $40/person, possibly twice what dinner would otherwise cost).

Are other people seeing these? And what other “sneaky” charges do you see?

The only item you mention that’s unfamiliar to me is the bill-splitting charge, which I’ve never seen. The 18% tip for large parties has been around as long as I can remember. Large parties require more service and more kitchen coordination, and they stay at the table longer. Plate sharing often involves providing extra side dishes, in addition to extra flatware. The banquet menu thing is also not uncommon, although it’s not as ubiquitous as the other two.

Some of these are obviously rleated to American dining practices, so may not easily chime with contributors from other countries.

For example, a discretionary service charge is often levied in the UK, in place of old fashioned cash tips - not just for larger parties but for everyone. Speaking of large parties, it wouldnt be that uncommon for smaller places to to require large parties to pre-order, or order off a restricted menu.

I’ve certainly not see a charge for splitting a plate of food but then splitting a plate would be uncommon in the UK. So uncommon, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it or heard anyone ask (except occasionally with a dessert). Splitting the bill is also uncommon - folk just usually contribute their share to one person, who pays.

Have to say, I cannot recall seeing a charge anywhere in Europe that seemed inappropriate or different from the usual customs of that country. That said, I think “free” bread is on its way out - I do see a small but increasing number of places that now show it as a chargeable menu item. I’ve no problem whatsoever with that - I usually eat it because it’s been given to me, rather than because I needed some carb at the beginning of the meal.

Not so much sneaky charges but clever menu formats- the menu will list something like “seasonal market salad, $10” which as an entree salad in nyc is actually rather reasonable. Then, in smaller print underneath it will say “add chicken $5, add salmon $8, add tofu/steak/whatever…” so the initially rather reasonable salad suddenly isn’t much of a deal. And when ordered without an extra it’s not much of a meal.

The set menu or limited menu options for large groups is common here to the point where it’s unusual to have a large group able to order a la carte- or even get a reservation without a requirement for a semi private or private room.

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My gripe is vegetable and side dishes.

In times gone by a few restaurants listed side dishes or vegetables it inferred the main dish was just the item listed and you needed to order the veggies. But this was quite uncommon most dishes were served “complete”.

But now I see two tricks. The obvious one is that more and more places are splitting out vegetables etc so you need when they were once included. But I also now find some list them but still include them with the mains so at times I double order…!

I know I could ask but…

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An extra charge for splitting a bill is likely related to the extra time it takes for the server to go through the routine to do it, especially if there are a large number of ‘splits’ involved, AND the fact that the restaurant pays a separate transaction fee if credit or debit cards are used. If it’s a pricey place, my opinion is that it’s tacky as a percentage of the bill, but at a low-priced place it can be more if a burden on profit.

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In similar vein, I have a gripe about places that have a fixed price menu and then have supplements for particular dishes. If you can’t sell it at the price of the menu, don’t put it on the menu.

Interesting. I’ve seen the additional costs for meat/fish on a salad but that seems reasonable to me as I wouldn’t expect a “seasonal market salad” to come with a protein on top at the included price. HB egg, maybe but that’s about it.


Starting to notice occasional small charges for takeaway containers (50 cents each) if you are dining in and overorder (leftover situation) here in Vancouver.

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Charging for leftovers? One would think the price of a take home container would be figured into the overall pricing. What’s next, bring your own tupperware?

This charge I can understand. We don’t go crazy, but usually if we need to we may split a bill into two cards. But I have heard single people in table of multiple people each put in a credit card. Considering its load of extra work for the server, its actually not too unreasonable. better way to approach this is ‘can only split it into two’ or ‘no splitting’. or just have people carry cash to pay one another, but some people don’t carry cash any more.

8 is not small. I have seen any parties larger than 5 its obligatory tip.

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I usually carry cash and if I’m out with one particular friend I’m fine with giving her the cash and letting her pay the bill on her card. But only because I know she tips well; others I don’t trust to pay and leave a good tip. In general though I prefer tipping in cash so servers don’t get stiffed paying the restaurant’s transaction fee.

Yeah. I have seen some of these.

Obligatory tip – definitely have seen it. I kind of understand and kind of don’t understand. Often we are told that the tip has to be obligated because there are more works for a large party of 6 or above. Yet, I would be surprise that the work for a party of 6 is more works than 6 parties of one person. Based on my understanding is that “more works” is not true, but rather longer table time. 6 parties of 1 people almost always eat and leave much faster than a party of 6.

Splitting entree fee – I have seen that. I get it. These days people love to go out to eat a little from multiple restaurants. It is great expensive, but this means customers spending even less while requiring the same amount of attention. I am cool with this

Extra spicy fee – never heard of it. It doesn’t make sense unless the spice is very expensive. If that is the case, then the request for mild should give you a price discount.

Splitting bill charge – I get that. It can be a lot of works. If it is just splitting down the middle, then it is easy, but some people want itemization, and that is quiet a bit of works.

Large Party require a different menu – Not familiar with this. I guess you can always try to beat their own games by having two parties of smaller size.

I have heard of that, but never personally experience it. I have talked to restaurant owners about it and I don’t get the logic. Sure, if someone ordered too much and ask for takeaway, then there is the extra takeaway container cost. I get that. However, if someone order too much, that also means they are spending more and you are earning more, not to mention more tip too.

That last thing. In California (at least) it’s illegal for the employer to take any portion of their card processing fees from the server’ stops. I worked at a place that said they were going to do that until they checked the law.

Or it is a mean to encourage people to eat more vegetables and less meat and stay healthier.

I often do bring my own containers when I go to Asian food courts on crawls, as we tend to over order to try more, and the takeaway containers are pretty terrible in any case. I always have them in my car but will have to start popping a few in my purse when I go in to sit down places, I guess.

Yes, the limited menu for large parties makes it MUCH easier for the kitchen to get everything out in a timely manner without slowing down the rest of service. If you have 8 entrees on the menu and a party of 16 orders 2 of each, that’s a lot of pans on the stove at once. But if you can get them to order 4 each of 4 items instead, it is much more efficient. If they were 4 parties of 4 instead of 1 party of 16, it wouldn’t matter if the tables were served 5 minutes apart. But getting everything on the table for a large party at the same time either shuts down the kitchen to other orders or needs to be streamlined.

That said, 8 is a low number to require a special menu for. 12, 15, 20+, sure, but you ought to be able to handle an 8-top!


It’s like the tossed salad places here where the sign says “$5.95 for a small tossed salad” which is a plastic bowl of lettuce, then each additional ingredient is another fee; so initially it sounds like a good price yet that is not what you end up paying.
Much like the entree that does not come with side dishes and then all side dishes are $8-$11 so that adds up.
At least in nyc the restaurants are way more interested in your wallet than your health :wink: and as an aside i feel like the more “healthy” a dish is the more expensive it is (classic example would be my local neighborhood chinese spot charges $2 more for steamed vegetables and tofu than for the same size dish listed as stir fried vegetables and tofu. And yes they also charge separately for rice ($1.50 small white, $3 small brown)

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