Times are tough. Inflation is at a 40-year high. Restaurants continue to face budget-busting challenges from the pandemic and labor crisis. But that’s not all. As I write this sentence, food prices have increased by 18%, a number that may be even higher as you read.

Here’s the weird thing. You may look at the menu for your favorite restaurant and see a few price hikes, but nothing that seems anywhere near 18%.

What’s up? Are restauranteurs morphing into benevolent philanthropists? Uh, that would be a negative, although according to OpenTable data, as a group, restaurateurs say they got into the business because they want to take care of people.

That being said, the answer, my friends, is blowing through the bill. While nothing that follows has become standardized, it helps paint a picture of what is most certainly coming to restaurants near you.

FORGET FREE REFILLS

Bottomless sodas will soon be something for our kids’ I-remember-when collection to tell their kids. Soft drinks and coffee are not a massive expense for a restaurant, but they are not free, either. Finding enough staff to perform beverage refills will make the practice a thing of the past.

SPREAD THE PAIN

Even though pasta, for example, costs the restaurant about the same as it did months ago, you may see big jumps for pasta dishes. The price of some foods — steak, for example — have gone through the roof, so a restauranteur may shift some of that cost increase to other menu items to keep customers happy.

CHARGING FOR EVERYTHING

We’re hearing about restaurants charging for add-ons such as condiments, coffee cream, ranch and more. Don’t be surprised to see a slew of 50-cent or $1.00 charges on the bill for previously complimentary items.

CARE TO SHARE

More restaurants are adding a share fee or split charge (which should be disclosed on the menu, but don’t count on it). If you prefer to share an entree, you can ask for an extra plate, but get ready to be charged $5 or more for the privilege.

RESERVATION DEPOSIT

It’s happened to me a couple of times: I make a reservation, and then discover the restaurant requires a credit card and charges a no-show fee. I can see how no-shows affect a restaurant negatively. Still, it rubs me the wrong way to be charge for canceling far in advance (in some cases, up to three days).

GRATUITIES NO LONGER OPTIONAL

This one really gets my goat. With apologies to service personnel everywhere, a gratuity is not an entitlement. It is a reward for service rendered beyond what is expected. A gratuity should be a customer’s decision. And we should get ready to kiss that concept goodbye as more and more restaurants are automatically adding 18% gratuity to the bill, with a nudge to “please add more if you like.”

In the face of this kind of thing, I console myself that the whole activity of eating out is optional. It’s my choice, and if I choose to dine out, I’d better plan that it comes at a much higher cost than ever before.

NEW FEES

I first saw this on a restaurant bill in 2020: COVID-19 Recovery Fee: 8%. What? Really? Another was somewhat gentler: Showing Love to Our Staff Fee: 7%. Another place calls it their Back-of-the-House Appreciation Fee: 6%. Or how about this one: Obamacare (Affordable Care Act): 20 cents. See how a restaurant can pass inflation to the customer in small bits here and there, hoping to make it unnoticeable? Between April 2021 and April 2022, the total number of restaurants in the United States adding service fees to guest checks increased by 36.4%, according to the Wall Street Journal.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

How can we slash the high cost of dining out? This is easy: Cook at home. Instead of seeing restaurant meals as routine, save dining out for special occasions.

Agree/Disagree with the author(s)? Let them know in the comments below and be heard by 10’s of thousands of CDN readers each day!

Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

Share
Published by
Mary Hunt

Recent Posts

Cuba’s Bustling Black Markets Hold an Important Economic Lesson

Black Markets have always been regarded as networks where buyers and sellers transact goods and…

8 hours ago

I Demand Reparations for Italians

My paternal ancestors migrated to America from Italy at the turn of the twentieth century.…

8 hours ago

Oregon Judge Refuses To Let Restrictive Gun Control Law Take Effect

A recently passed Oregon gun law will not take effect Thursday, following a high court…

8 hours ago

CRONIES: Biden To Spend Billions Of Taxpayer Dollars Bailing Out Union

President Joe Biden is set to announce a roughly $36 billion bailout for union pension…

11 hours ago

George Soros Preps For 2024 Election With Massive Donations To Dem Super PAC

Billionaire and Democratic mega-donor George Soros poured $50 million into a Democratic super PAC this…

12 hours ago

Dems’ Star Witness In SCOTUS Hearing Deemed ‘Not Credible’ By SCOTUS

The Rev. Robert Schenck will testify during the House Justiciary Committee Hearing on Thursday regarding…

12 hours ago