Off the Menu: Restaurant check surcharges may surprise diners –

Restaurant News

Though they’re not a particularly new concept — restaurant check surcharges have been in the news before — the idea of adding an additional amount onto a dining patron’s bill is becoming an increasingly popular way of boosting revenue in the face of rising expenses.

In one sense, dining out prices have never honestly reflected the true cost of enjoying a meal “out.” The practice of tipping is, after all, a menu price surcharge that the house uses to offset part of its wage costs.

More recently surcharges have been tacked onto menu prices to pass along spikes in supplier delivery charges when fuel prices have surged. Other restaurateurs have added supplementary charges to cover wage and benefit mandates, such as minimum wage increases and the provision of health insurance. Banquet operators have long added “service charges” to their bills.

The latest wrinkle in the guest check surcharge story come from San Francisco, where a number of restaurants in that city and elsewhere have banded together to add a 1% surcharge to guest checks, the proceeds from which will be used to support ecologically-friendly farming practices.

The effort, which is being sponsored by Restore California, is designed to raise money to foster climate-friendly agriculture through grants to farmers. Over 100 restaurants in California and elsewhere are participating.

As admirable as this campaign might seem, such surcharges call into question the whole idea of “truth in pricing.” The information on a menu ought to present the true cost to the consumer of a dining experience, not merely a starting point onto which a multiplicity of charges can be tacked.

If restaurant prices need to be increased to cover costs, so be it. Let’s be transparent, however, by having menu prices fully and accurately reflect the true cost of dining out.

The food truck from Cousins Maine Lobster will be at Brew Practitioners, LLC in Florence on Sunday, Feb. 9. The truck will be on site from 1 p.m. until 6 p.m., offering Cousins Maine’s menu of lobster rolls and other deep sea favorites.

Brew Practitioners’ tap room is located at 36 Main Street; their telephone contact is (413) 584-2444.

The Delaney House in Holyoke has announced that they’ll be holding their 14th annual Game Dinner on Friday, February 28. Delaney House Executive Chef Mick Corduff is planning a “wild” menu that will incorporate venison, bison, wild boar, rabbit, peasant, and alligator.

The evening begins at 6:30 p.m.; price per person is $60 not including tax or tip.

The monthly session of “Learn to Drink like a Pro” at the Delaney House is planned for February 17 starting at 6 p.m.

“You’re Bacon Me Crazy” is the evening’s theme, and Two Roads Brewing of Stratford, CT will be the featured beverage brand.

The menu is to be a tribute to bacon, with a first course of brie crostini with bacon jam and a main course of parmesan-encrusted chicken with a creamy bacon sauce.

For dessert a bacon cookie dough OREO ball will be topped with salted caramel sauce; Expressway Cold Brew Coffee Stout will be paired with that cookie dough finale.

Cost to attend the Feb. 17 dinner is $40, not included tax or tip.

Reservations for either event can be made by calling (413) 532-1800.

The Cedar Street Grille in Sturbridge is celebrating the festive seasonal cuisine of New Orleans with a Mardi Gras Tapas Dinner on Feb. 24.

The get-together will feature small plate renditions of Big Easy favorites like seafood gumbo, shrimp etouffee, jambalaya, and more as well as a special regional cocktail, wine, or beer.

The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. and is priced at $52 per person (tax and gratuity additional).

Call Cedar Street Grille at (508) 347-5800 to make reservations or get more details.

Tucker’s Restaurant in Southwick will be the site of a “Richie Mitnick Music Presents” show “The Way it Used to Be,” a tribute to pop singers Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck.

The Feb. 22 evening will feature crooner Joe Saimeri, who will perform romantic, easy-listening favorites like “After the Loving,” “She’s a Lady,” and “Quando.”

Chef Michael Anderson of Tucker’s will be starting the event off with a dinner of chicken Francaise. Salad, sides, and dessert is included; a cash bar will be available.

Tickets for the dinner and performance, which will begin at 5:30 p.m., are $45 per person, with tax and gratuity included. Contact Tucker’s Restaurant at (413) 569-0120 to make reservations.

A game menu is a February tradition at the Student Prince Cafe and Fort Restaurant in Springfield. This year’s month-long celebration of all things wild will feature dishes made with buffalo, boar, ostrich, shark, rabbit, peasant, venison, quail and more.

Highlighting Game Month at the Student Prince are the three Hunter’s Dinners held on February 6, 18, and 27.

Six-course experiences, the dinners will include the likes of elk sausage, game stew and buffalo ribeye; appetizer options are to be crispy duck wings and wild boar hash.

The dinners start at6 p.m. and are priced at $70, not including tax and tip. Reservations may be made online at or by calling (413) 734-7475.

The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge will be presenting its Inaugural Wine and Spirits Fair on Saturday, Feb. 15. Hosted in partnership with Nejaime’s Wine Cellars in Stockbridge, the event will take place from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Inn’s Hitchcock Room, with both local and international producers displaying their beverage wares.

Light bites and tastings of more than 35 different types of wine and spirits will be offered, including wines from the Red Lion’s own extensive cellar collection. A raffle with a variety of prizes will also be part of the experience.

Tickets for the event are $25 per person plus an on-line ticket broker’s fee; attendees get a souvenir Red Lion wine glass.

For more details call the Red Lion Inn at (413) 298-5545.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews locations are offering two limited-time-only burger experiences. Available through April 19, they include the Bacon Curry Burger, a beef patty topped with a jalapeno-curry ketchup, curry-infused red onions, bacon, provolone cheese, fried potato sticks, lettuce and mayonnaise.

The second short-term menu addition is the Zen Chicken Burger, a breast meat sandwich that’s garnished with sweet & sour slaw, bacon, cheddar cheese, avocado, honey-miso sauce, lettuce and pickles.

Both sandwiches come with Red Robin’s unlimited steak fries.

There are Red Robin locations in Holyoke at the Holyoke Crossing shopping center, on Route 20 in North Wilbraham, and on Hazard Avenue in Enfield.

One of the most successful “limited-time-only” offerings that Taco Bell has ever created, Nacho Fries are once again making a return engagement. This latest Nacho Fries reprise includes a new variation – Buffalo Chicken Nacho fries.

Designed to be a meal instead of a side, the menu item presents Nacho fries in a traditional nacho format – they’re served topped with shredded chicken, cheese, sour cream and a newly formulated “Buffalo” sauce.

Buffalo Chicken Nacho Fries are also available in burrito form.

Hugh Robert is a faculty member in Holyoke Community College’s hospitality and culinary arts program and has nearly 45 years of restaurant and educational experience. Please send items of interest to Off the Menu at the Republican, P.O. Box 1329, Springfield, MA 01101; Robert can also be reached at [email protected]

Source: Thanks