I worked as a server in a restaurant for about seven years ranging from the Olive Garden to high-end French and Italian restaurants in the Chicago suburbs. Not long ago, I owned a food takeout business with various specialized food items.
While working at seven different restaurants, I’ve had a lot of split plate requests over the years.
From my experience, these are the reasons restaurants have a split plate charge:
- Each seat is considered potential income: By splitting an entree, it’s a lost meal sold and am opportunity cost for the restaurant. It’s probably the toughest business to run and manage expenses; splitting dishes won’t keep them in business.
- Associated Costs: There are still costs associated with using and cleaning dishes, napkins, and water glasses.
- Disincentive fee: Split plate charges are applied to discourage sharing and incentivize buying a meal
- Restaurants are businesses too: It’s small compensation for the restaurant and the server
- Extra work: Splitting a plate in half slows the kitchen down, especially during a busy lunch or weekend. The cooks spend extra time making sure the portions are similar, and both dishes look the same when cutting the food in half.
Customers should likely tip on the higher end of the range. Even though the patron-only paid for one dish, the server will still treat the table and its patrons like two dishes. For example, the other guest will likely need an extra napkin and utensils, refill their water, more bread, and maybe additional condiments from the kitchen.
I once had a guest bring in her own frozen dinner from the grocery store. She asked me to heat it and plate it for her as she was on a diet. Restauranteurs think if you choose to dine in their restaurant, you should consume their food and their wine.
Split charges are not universal, but common enough. If the restaurant executes on service, food, experience, and value, then the $2-$3 split charge should not deter most diners.
Restaurant Corkage Fee
Most restaurants charge a wine corkage fees like they charge a fee for a split plate charge. Many servers and owners see it as trying to be cheap and avoid letting the restaurant make money on the sale of wine. Some states make restaurant corkage fees illegal.
Some states have laws where it’s illegal to bring your own alcohol into a restaurant, including:
- New Mexico
Please let us know if you agree or disagree with shared plate charges at restaurants? How about wine corking fees?