Upselling wine, posing leftovers as “specials,” and microwaving entrées? We all love going out to eat. But does it come at a cost? Much of the restaurant experience is smoke and mirrors, according to the book "Restaurant Babylon" by Imaogen Edwards-Jones. Learn how restaurants might be scamming you.
Know what you’re really paying for when the check comes.
The goal of any restaurant is to make money. When the kitchen is closed, the doors are locked, and the guests are gone, it’s the general manager’s job to tally up the numbers. Where do those numbers come from? From your pocket, of course.
Granted, not all restaurants intend to rip you off. But there are certain precautions that you can take to ensure that you’re getting your money’s worth.
These are 10 insider tricks to look for the next time you’re dining out.
(All of these claims are sourced to the book “Restaurant Babylon,” by Imogen Edwards-Jones)
1. Upselling Wine
You’re probably already know that a glass of wine ordered at a restaurant costs about the same as a bottle of wine that you can purchase at a store. But it turns out that restaurants also strategize how they list their wine options on their menus.
It’s common for people to want to order the second cheapest bottle of wine on the menu, instead of going for the least expensive wine. Knowing this, restaurants tend to inflate the price of that bottle in order to make the most profit.
2. Repurposing Wine
What if you order a bottle of wine but you don’t finish it?
According to this source, the restaurant may repurpose that bottle by corking it back up and using it to sell to other guests as a glass pour option.
3. The “Specials” That Aren’t Really Special
When a restaurant advertises a “special” on their menu, it’s often because they’re desperate to finish off an ingredient or they want to sell-out of a dish made up of leftovers, instead of throwing it away, letting it go bad, and losing that profit.
It's also common for some restaurants to microwave your meal if it's been sitting out too long.
4. Appetizers and Sides: Inexpensive to Restaurants, Can Cost You More
Appetizers and side dishes can often cost just pennies to restaurants, but it’s unlikely that you’d pay pennies for them while dining there. Likewise, restaurants will often upcharge vegetarian options.
5. Restaurants Keep Notes About Clients
It’s not uncommon for restaurants to keep a database of information about their guests. This information goes beyond just your name and phone number. If you’re a rude customer, the restaurant will keep a note of it. If you’re a big tipper, the restaurants will keep a note of that, too. Etc.
6. They Seat You Different Places on Purpose
Following up with their notes about different clients, a host or hostess may seat you in a particular spot, determined by the restaurants' perception of you—or they may not seat you at all. The rule of thumb goes a bit like this: pretty people in the front, less alluring people in the back, and rude people or bad tippers will often be told an excuse and won’t be sat at all.
7. The Water You Ordered is Probably Tap Water
It’s becoming more common for restaurants to charge you for water. Unless you see the water you ordered come from a bottle, it’s probably just tap water that the server filled into a pretty jug.
8. Many People Fiddle With Your Food
Not only does the chef touch the food you ordered, (this is to be expected), but it’s not uncommon for both the server and the food-runner to also touch your food. The presentation of the food is important to many restaurants, so they’ll fiddle with your dish until it looks good enough. What’s more important to you: the presentation or having nobody touch your food?
9. The Chef Might Eat From Your Dish
To ensure that your food tastes sublime, a chef might eat a bit off of your dish before the food-runner serves it to you. If you’re a germaphobe, you might be turned off by this bit of information.
10. If You Ask for Substitutions, You Might Get Charged
If you order something off of the menu but you want to make changes, the waiter will generally be amiable about the request. But before the waiter relays this information to the kitchen, make sure to double check with him or her about whether this request comes at a fee. Sometimes you might not realize that you’ve been charged until after the bill comes.
Why don’t you just cook at home?
You can have a delicious, home-cooked meal that’s beyond restaurant quality if you order a meal kit through us. With over 1,000 recipes, it’s more than likely that we have the flavors that you’re craving.