8 Restaurant Ploys to Watch For
Posted by freddysetiawan on October 13, 2009
As business has continued to drag at many restaurants, some have tried to trim the fat by cutting costs. Savvy consumers may have noticed those green garnishes disappearing from dinner plates. But plenty of other strategies are also being employed. Here’s a look at a few.
The Incredible Shrinking Snack
That bowl of nuts at the bar may be complimentary, but don’t be shy about asking for a refill. Some efficiency consultants say they help bar operators reduce their costs by switching generously sized snack bowls with smaller ones.
The true cost of “freebies” like pre-dinner bread typically get wrapped into a restaurant’s menu prices. Yet certain eateries ask patrons to cough up cash for these items; Company, a New York pizzeria, charges $3 for bread, $2 for butter and a full $4 for mixed olives.
Turning Off the Tap
Sure, everyone knows that waiters try to up-sell bottled water over stuff from the tap. The markup, after all, averages 192 percent. But more restaurants are holding back the tap water, hoping that thirsty patrons will pony up for cocktails or other pricey beverages.
The price of everything from organic bell peppers to beef can swing as wildly as the Dow—and wreak havoc on menu prices. One restaurant chain saw the price of sea scallops soar a few years ago; it responded by swapping the scallops with cod on an otherwise shellfish-laden skewer.
The Sugar Police
A glass of soda typically costs eateries only a dime. But many try to maximize their margins by calibrating their soda machines: 9.5 percent is just enough to flavor the drink, while anything over 12 percent is too sweet. Some professionals even rely on a “refractometer,” which can be held up to the light to display a soda’s sugar level.
Sides on the Side
The good old days when an entrée came with a vegetable and starch may be limited at some establishments. More are splitting apart their meals and offering each side a la carte. That $6 serving of Broccoli with hollandaise, for instance, costs a restaurant just $1.50.
A fixed-price special often sounds like a sweet deal. But while more eateries are offering such bundled deals these days, they typically provide smaller portions—which may leave you feeling a little hungry.
Tea Without the Twist
These days, the average markup for an iced tea runs a whopping 4,400 percent. Just don’t expect you’ll always get a lemon wedge with it. At about 10 cents a slice, the lemon costs about twice what the drink itself does.