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Fixed Price...not really


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I'm in grumpy old man mood at the moment, so excuse me if I get something off my chest.

Why do so many restaurants these days claim to offer their dinner menu at a fixed price and then proceed to populate it with supplements? Okay, maybe I can just about accept this where maybe one main course contains particularly expensive ingredients, but when half the choices carry an extra charge, it starts to border on chicanery.

I assume the practice is becoming prevalent in order to persuade customers that they are getting a good deal with one defined price for two or three courses, but in reality the final bill comes to rather more than they expected.

If you want to charge lots of supplements then you should really price the menu alc. As a regular diner I appreciate that the restaurant business is risky, with high levels of failure, but I do think that this type of behaviour is disappointing, to put it mildly.

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Yes quite agree. I had a "prix fixe" menu the other day when more than half of the main course options carried a supplement.

I kept thinking of the recorded message when I'm on hold to BT - "We are experiencing unusually high call volumes at the moment", this after I'd been calling them regularly for 3 weeks.

If you're experiencing "unusually" high call volumes for more than a week, it ceases to be unusual. Likewise, if you have to charge a supplement for more than half of your fixed-price menu, it ceases to be a fixed-price menu. It becomes a la carte.

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The Hibiscus menu is a case in point.

Three courses are £49.50. While the cost of the ingredients must be less than a tenth of that, I don't mind that as I'm paying for a clever chef to do clever things to them. However, I do mind that the langoustine ravioli and the sausage roll come with surcharges of £7.50 and £12.50 respectively.

So do these dishes involve extra labour that's getting charged to me pro-rata? Or are the supplements to cover the cost of the ingredients? And if it's the latter, is it charged at cost price or at a 90% markup?

Restaurateurs: here's how you should be working it. Stick a high-value item on the fixed price which involves lobster, truffle or whatever, even if it means taking a lower profit margin for that dish. However, make a small quantity that's guaranteed to run out midway through service. That way, the late evening diners will get the impression of good value, which will help encourage repeat custom in the earlier timeslots. It's basically an early bird deal by stealth.

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oh yes, customers are very understanding when key menu items are sold out!

when i had the pub we didn't do a prix fixe but did an early bird the only supplement we had was for steak, it gave more choice and kept everyone happy, including the supplement they were still getting 2 courses cheaper than the steak alone on ALC prices.

i do agree if there's too many supplements it makes a prix fixe a joke, not as bothered on an ALC depending on what the supplements are for, and how many there are.

you don't win friends with salad

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we do eight or nine choices a course with one supplement per course. sometimes we won't have the supplement on the most expensive dish, for example we may have scallops on the starter which we will supplement but we would have a less popular but more costly starter (brains or sweetbreads). So people are happy to pay the supplement for scallops because we give a good portion and this easily supplements other ingredients. We would do it on the main with venison and brill, the supplement being on the venison.

i do agree about supplements, the Fat Duck three course is a case in point, i am sure i looked on the website once and there were more main courses with supplements than without, that is just ridiculous. Maybe they just want to steer everyone towards tasting. Monsieur Max used to have more supplements than not, silly ones aswell like £2.50 and £3.

why don't we bash cover charges while we are at it, esentially supplement on bread. Rowley Leigh is doing it, it has put me off going.

Matt Christmas.

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The Hibiscus menu is a case in point.

Three courses are £49.50. While the cost of the ingredients must be less than a tenth of that, I don't mind that as I'm paying for a clever chef to do clever things to them. However, I do mind that the langoustine ravioli and the sausage roll come with surcharges of £7.50 and £12.50 respectively.

So do these dishes involve extra labour that's getting charged to me pro-rata? Or are the supplements to cover the cost of the ingredients? And if it's the latter, is it charged at cost price or at a 90% markup?

No you are not being charged for the extra labour, the chefs are expected to absorb this into the normal day. You are being charged for the ingredients as they are both extremely expensive and i am sure Claude is buying some of the best available

Some dishes on my menu are more complex to produce and some less so, when the menu has a lot of labour intensive dishes on it we work harder and longer but try to reduce this with good planning (guessing).

Most decent kitchens work a dish at around 70% gross profit, for example my target is 72.5%. I cant see that at £49.50 for three corses Hibiscus are doing 90%. It would mean that it was costing him about a fiver to put three courses, bread, butter, appetiser etc on the plate. The supplements allow the guest to make the decision as to whether they want those expensive items. I think when you put it into context even with the supplement it is still reasonable compared to other restaurants of a similar quality.

I do agree though that more than one or two supplemnts are too much on a menu.

The quest for perfection will lead you to role models that will last you for life (Nico Ladenis)

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