The most common charges on a restaurant bill (and what they mean)

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Dining out is not cheap. There’s a reason some restaurants are booked for special occasions or why eat seated in a restaurant is not a daily practice for most. BBefore enjoying a meal in the world, it is important to take stock of your budget and to be prepare for the amount you will be spend to avoid any surprise or fear of being asked to wash the dishes to cover your tab (don’t worry, no one would ever ask you to do that). So, don’t forget to consider these common additional chargesand dare not complain if any of these signs on your dinner bill.

What are the typical charges added to restaurant bills?

  • Automatic gratuity. In most restaurants, groups of 8 or more receive an automatic tip of 18% on the bill. Jhis is one to watch just so that you don’t tack unnecessarily on additional 20% if it is beyond what you budget for (although we will always advocate tipping as much as possible). Instead, you can take note of tip percentage and nail on extra money to make sure your server gets 20% (or more). In any case, never complain about these fees; a server’s hourly wage isn’t what sustains it, and tipping should be a necessity every time you dine out, whether it’s listed directly on the bill or not.
  • Corkage. If you bring your own bottle of wine to a BYOB restaurant, you’ll likely see a corkage fee added to your bill. It’s to cover the service concerned-even when BYO wine is not purchased of restaurant, a waiter is always the one who opens the bottle, keeps it cool if necessary, and refills your glasses while you enjoy your meal. According to Online, corkage fees can range from $5 to $100 depending on the establishment, so check in advance if it’s worth it. Otherwise, you might find spending $20 to drink a $7.99 bottle of rosé that you could have enjoyed just as well at home.
  • Cake fee. Yes, it’s a game about “corkage fee”. If Iit’s someone’s birthday and you want to bring a cake from home to celebrate in the restaurant, be prepared to pay. Introduced as a way to combat guests bringing desserts outside, this fee has been known to reach $25 (although this particular case has been heavily criticized). More recently, I spotted the charge on the menu of an Italian restaurant at $1.50 per person. If these fees bother you, it’s easy to avoid them. Don’t bring cake, and you won’t have to worry.
  • Extra service. This kind of ambiguously-named fee has been popping up more and more over the past two years as a way to support employees through the pandemic. Sometimes referred to as a “COVID surcharge”, these appear in the 5% range and in most cases the the charge can be removed if you request it. But before you bother anyone about it, keep in mind that the the money is going towards personal protective equipment, cleaning products and even employee health insurance. Worth leaving it there and support workers in the restaurant industry as best we can.
  • Split Plate Fee. You and your date decide to share an entree and tell the waiter. He goes out on two separate plates (handy!) but then you realize $5 charge at the end of your meal. Read the fine print on a menu to see if the restaurant charges for splitting to avoid any surprises. Better yet, just choose to share something and not mention it to your server – you probably won’t be charged for choosing other people’s plates.

The key is to always double-check a menu—or call ahead!—for any mention of additional charges to help make decisions throughout the meal and avoid sticker shock at checkout. And as always, don’t forget to tip even on top of extra charge! Every little bit helps restaurant workers make ends meet.


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