Cash-Strapped Eateries Serve Up Hidden Fees

Recession-hit eateries turn to subtle billing for help

Check, please!

Unexpected costs are popping up on restaurant bills across the city, and a small survey of local eateries last week revealed that some eateries are slapping price tags on items and services that used to be free, the New York Post reported.

In addition to mandatory service charges, some restaurants are now billing customers for bread, butter and tap water -- fees that aren't always marked on restaurant menus.

While these subtle tactics could help struggling restaurants stay alive in the tough economy, sneaky charges are likely to backfire, experts told the Post.

"Doing this at this time could be ultimately suicidal," Zagat founder Tim Zagat said. "It irritates the customer so much, and the last thing you want to do right now is annoy your customer."

Citysearch restaurant editor Josh Ozersky said that extra charges will promote "ill will and bitterness, which is counterproductive and stupid."

Earlier this year, the Post found that a dozen New York restaurants had been writing mandatory tips into customers' bills, sometimes as high as 20 percent.

According to state law, restaurants are prohibited from charging mandatory service fees exceeding 15 percent. 

Service fees aside, the Post found the following unexpected costs at local eateries:

  • A one-dollar per-person charge for filtered tap water at Bobo, a West Village restaurant.
  • Three dollars for bread and two dollars for butter at Company, in Chelsea.
  • A ten percent charge for take-out at sushi restaurant Nobu Next Door in TriBeCa.
  • An extra charge of $2.50 for cocktails ordered with ice at Morton's on Fifth Avenue.
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