Restaurants compelled to broaden charges to stay afloat

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As the old saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. That statement is becoming increasingly true as less people are going out to eat and restaurants are struggling to make ends meet.

Call 12 for Action found some restaurants dishing out new charges, and customers may soon have to cough up cash for things such as water or condiments.

Costs for food, utilities and electricity have jumped this year, leaving restaurant owners juggling shrinking profit margins and customer expectations.

“I’ll have people who come in and they’ll drink water, have a taco, and six baskets of chips and salsa,” said restaurant owner Jacob Concannon. “When we tried to charge people after the third basket they were offended. Where do you draw the line?”

A growing number of eateries are now drawing the line at water, bread, condiments, and some are even charging to split plates.

“This isn’t a way to gouge the consumer and make more money, it’s typically a way to keep a thin profit margin and keep your doors open,” explained Technomic Vice President Darren Tristano.

Despite the necessity of the changes, will they be a turnoff for diners?

“Consumers typically feel disrespected if they are not communicated with certain fees that they are going to be paying,” Tristano said. “For example, water is provided for at the table, but they are charged for it later, I think they’re going to feel like they were nickel and dimed.”

Dining out has dropped 11% in the last decade, and restaurants that want to keep their doors open will be thinking of more ways to make a profit.

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