Yes, it’s hard times for restaurants. Especially the posh ones at the top of the sit-down food chain. Some eateries are adding fatuous charges to diner’s tabs to make ends meet. And diners say the situation is getting ridiculous!
Snapshot of a service travesty
We’re in Caffè Gelateria Serafini, a gelateria in the town Northern Italian town of Lavis. A diner has just requested an extra spoon so she can share her ice cream with her companion. No problem, according to the server.
But when the bill comes, there is a 1 Euro surcharge for the accommodation.
Some observers might just laugh at the absurdity of the situation. Others might (and probably should) be alarmed.
The traveller posted a ‘harsh’ One-Star review TripAdvisor review in response, holding nothing back. You might say, ‘bringing out the knives’ over the spoon: “Bring your own spoon, fork, and knives! They charge you $1 if you need an extra,” the traveler wrote. “If you go as a couple and want to share a dessert well, then you have to rent an extra spoon for $1.”
A commenter to the post added: “…charging 1 euro for an additional teaspoon […] and if I drop my fork, do I pay extra to have another one, or is it included in the surcharge[?]”
Another – in a less agitated frame of mind, mused: “The choice to charge extra for sharing ice cream cups is absurd. It’s ok to make the rules you want in your own home, but [as for] the goodness of your choices, they will be judged by the ‘visitors’.”
Caffè Gelateria Serafini did not respond.
Not an isolated incident
Another resto, Bar Pace in Gera Lario on Lake Como, reportedly charged a couple 2 Euros for cutting their sandwich in half. No surprise, another One-Star review at Trip Advisor resulted. “Unbelievable but true,” the review blared.
This time, the resto did respond, in a statement: “Additional requests have a cost […] We had to use two plates instead of one, and the time to wash them is doubled, and then two placemats. It wasn’t a simple toasted sandwich, there were also French fries inside. It took us time to cut it in two.”
Restaurants use automated dish washers that can wash 10 plates at a time. It takes less than a second to place a plate or spoon in the dish washer tray, and 90 seconds, on average, for the washing cycle to run.
Charging the couple at Bar Pace to cut their sandwich in half is just ludicrous, considering they could have done it themselves – if they were provided with an adequate, standard layout of cutlery in the first place.
And let’s not forget the recent tendency for restaurants to add a service surcharge or a mandatory tip to diners’ tabs. This and forgoing stunts are all just ways of downloading the increasing costs of doing business to the customer, while attempting to conceal what’s really going on.
Rich folks will always be able to afford a luxe meal at a posh sit-down resto. And they probably will be happy to pay the extra charges as a sign of their upper-crust status – a not-too-subtle signal that they don’t need to worry about money. That’s okay for them. But they’re not us. And the rest of us do have to worry about money.
I can’t help wondering if the restos that feel they must charge for extra spoons and cutting sandwiches in half have large enough followings among the rich to make a go of their businesses in the long run. Their former bread-and-butter clientele – the rest of us – are just going to abandon white-tablecloth dining due to untenable costs and stunts like the Italian eateries mentioned above are pulling.
And make no mistake, snooty restaurateurs: Even poor folks are smart enough to see through your protestations that providing the odd extra plate or spoon is going to break you financially. In fact, explanations like the one from Bar Pace make you and your establishments look ridiculous.
That you feel you have to add such laughable charges to diners’ tabs, just to make ends meet, really just points up the possibility that your resto management skills are not up to the challenges posed by today’s economy.
~ Maggie J.