By Jim Donovan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — You know what they say, there’s no such thing in life as a free lunch. But what if you went to a restaurant and had to pay extra for condiments or a glass of water? 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan looks at an increasing trend that some say is tough to swallow.
For restaurant owner Jacob Concannon, Taco Tuesdays are busy nights. Customers visit his restaurant for the cheap tacos but also fill up on freebies like chips and salsa. Concannon says, “I’ll have people who come in and they’ll drink water, have a taco and they’ll have six baskets of chips and salsa.”
Rising costs for food, utilities and electricity, leave restaurant owners like Concannon juggling shrinking profits with customer expectations. He says, “When we tried to charge people after the third basket, they were offended. Where do you draw the line?”
An increasing number of restaurants are now drawing the line at water, bread, condiments and other commonly complimentary items. Some fast-food restaurants are charging extra for ketchup and even cups for water. Casual and fine-dining establishments are increasingly charging to split plates.
Darren Tristiano is a restaurant industry expert. He says, “this isn’t a way to gouge the consumer and make more money. It’s typically a way to a keep thin profit margin and to keep your doors open.”
But when does it become a deal-buster for customers? According to Tristiano, “Consumers typically feel disrespected if they are not communicated with certain fees that they are going to be paying. So for example, water is provided for at the table, but they are charged for it later, I think they are going to feel like they were nickel and dimed.”
Dining out has dropped 11 percent in the last decade and don’t be surprised to see more new charges as restaurants that want to keep their doors open will be thinking of more ways to make a profit.