Recently, a woman ordered hot water with honey and lemon to drink and then produced her own tea bag, thereby cutting the cost of a drink off her meal. Who pays for the lemon, honey and hot water? Should there be a charge? This was pretty extreme, and she was obviously abusing the system, but what about straws and lemons for water. The restaurant has to purchase these items; should that charge be passed on to the customer?
According to this New York Post article, as more restaurants feel the pinch of the recession, they are charging for items which were previously free or they are no longer offering complimentary items such as bread, or in some cases, water.
I have worked in restaurants which charged for every. single. extra. The servers spent more time adding extras to tickets and explaining charges to irritated customers, than they did serving them. I felt it was cheap and the restaurant owners were nickel and diming people right out of the restaurant. Most people when confronted with extra charges take it out on the only person they can: their server.
I tell people right up front when they order if there will be an extra charge. I feel it is honest and it allows customers to decide whether or not they really want the item. Some people agree to pay the extra; some get offended that everything isn’t free. Most of the other servers do not inform customers of the additional charge and then there’s hell to pay at the register.
I think there is a real thin line between what should be complimentary with a meal and abusing the system. A lemon with water is acceptable, a bowl of lemons should be added to the ticket. I don’t want to spend all of my time adjusting tickets if someone asks for an extra portion of ranch, but if you ask me to heat the bread pudding from the salad bar and give you cream with it, it’s called a dessert and it’s two bucks.