Hidden Costs in Restaurants

Aside from exploring a new place, another huge reason why I enjoy going on vacation is not having to cook! I dread cooking the way some people dread cleaning, exercising or budgeting. Going on vacation gives me an excuse to eat out at restaurants and not feel guilty about it.  I don’t have to meal plan, grocery shop, cook or clean up afterwards!

Hidden costs in restaurants

To cut down on costs, we took full advantage of the free breakfast that was included at both of the hotels we stayed at. We also went grocery shopping at the local convenience store to pick up snacks, water and beer to store in our bar fridge. We didn’t always eat at sit down restaurants. There were a few times we ate at fast food souvlaki places. One time we got take-out from a souvlaki place and just ate it right on the beach.

It had been awhile since I had been back to Europe. One thing I had forgotten is that a lot of the times they give bread before your meal and we ate it thinking nothing much about it, only to find out that we had been charged a few Euros for it. I had not even bothered to ask if there was an extra cost because I was so used to eating free bread in North American restaurants.

There were only a few restaurants that had actually asked us if we wanted bread. By then, we knew we would be charged for it, so we politely declined.  There was one instance in which we had been given a basket of bread, ate none of it, yet we still got charged for it.  When the waiter returned, we inquired about this. He was kind enough to take it off the bill. We figured they always give bread, hoping that someone will end up eating it, so it would be an easy way to make extra money.

Another hidden cost was water. We were only given the option of bottled water in Santorini because they said the tap water is very salty. So that was another 2-3 Euros. Before you even ordered your meal you could have easily spent 4-6 Euros. However, once we returned to Athens tap water was available. It was one of those things you had to specify or else you would end up having to pay for it.

Restaurants in North America are no stranger to hidden costs. Servers always tell you about ways to upgrade or modify your meal, but rarely tell you about the extra cost. Not all substitution costs are found in the menu.  Sometimes you get hit with paying more if you ask for a side of a certain condiment. In my opinion, non-alcoholic drink refills should always be free.

What’s even more annoying that hidden costs at restaurants? Hidden prices on menus!

Nowadays, most restaurants chain or not, have their own website with the menu online.  I absolutely hate it when there is no price next to a description of a dish. Once I know which restaurant I’m going to, I like to check out the menu ahead of time so I have an idea of what type of dishes they serve and what kind of prices go along with those dishes. I have a rough budget of how much I’m willing to spend when I go out to eat, however not knowing what the price of dishes are until I’m at the restaurant can throw a small wrench in my budget.

Sometimes I’ll end up eating a different dish because the one I had my eye on cost way more than I expected. I’ve noticed that it tends to be the higher end restaurants (which I rarely eat at) that don’t show the menu prices. I guess they assume if you’re going to eat there, you should be able to afford it regardless of what the price is.

Fair enough, but I’m sure there are some frugal high rollers out there who would appreciate knowing the costs ahead of time.

Have you ever been charged extra in restaurants for items you felt should have been free?

8 thoughts on “Hidden Costs in Restaurants

  1. Interesting how they would put the bread there and if you eat it you get charged. What if you didn’t eat it? Does the bread go to the next table then … ewwe! We’ve had charges on our bill before and they simply take it off no questions asked. I’ve never really had them slip something in on purpose or without letting us know first that we were being charged for it.

  2. Recently on our honeymoon, we bought water at a restaurant too. Most were good about asking if we wanted sparkling (the more expensive water) or regular bottled water. But in a few cases, they just brought the sparkling and had it opened and poured in our glasses before we realized what had happened.

  3. I can’t really think of anything off hand. I know that if I go to some place though like a tapas place, if you order something like the hummus it comes with a few things of pita bread, but not nearly enough for the amount of hummus, so you have to order more. Kind of lame in my opinion. 🙂

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