Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Cakeage: Defined and Defended

It was brought to my attention that the Oxford dictionary has added the word "cakeage" to its slang dictionary. Cakeage is defined as "a charge made by a restaurant for serving a cake they have not supplied themselves."

The word is derived from corkage, a word many of you are familiar with. Restaurants apply a corkage fee to any bottle of wine that is brought in from outside the building. So if beverages brought in from outside the building can be charged for without push back, why can't food brought in from outside the building be charged for as well?

This is the dilemma those of us in the restaurant industry battle all the time. Customers accept - and expect - a corkage fee when they bring in wine. But, bring in anything else and customers get very, very upset at additional charges.

We have a hard time understanding why customers bring in anything from outside the building and expect not to be charged.  Yet they can't seem to understand why we would charge for items brought in from outside. Well, there are several reasons.

We are a business first and foremost.  Doing things that don't make business sense won't allow us to be a business for very long. Believe it or not we have to make a profit in order to be able to continue to serve you. Beyond that, we don't charge any hourly room or rental fees, linen fees, staff fees, or any other hidden charges when you reserve our banquet room or a large space in our dining room. It starts there.

Next, and perhaps a bigger reason we charge a cakeage fee, is for both our staff and for our other customers as well. If we allow customers to bring in their own desserts (cake, cupcakes, you name it), they remain seated at a table  and eat dessert for free. In our instance, we make desserts here and offer desserts on our menu. We pay for and pay staff to make those desserts and have now lost the opportunity to sell them. Our servers, who are told from day one in this industry that, "17% of more is more," lose the opportunity for "more."

Beyond losing the opportunity for "more," many groups that bring in their own dessert often sit, visit and celebrate much, much longer than other diners. The reasons for this are obvious... if you have brought in a cake, most likely it is for a celebration and the guest has reason to visit.

In the meantime, while the guest is sitting and eating their own dessert, probably for longer than the allotted time slot that reservation allows, your server who had a 2 or 3 table station, now has a 1 or 2 table station. Other guests that probably made reservations for your specific table are now waiting longer and then most likely get seated in another server's station while your server waits for your table to open up. See how it all has a trickle effect?

Hopefully that all makes sense.  And because we realize we don't offer celebration cakes on the menu, we charge a minimal, yet fair "cakeage" fee. To accommodate your special event, we offer to refrigerate, cut, plate and serve your cake for you.

We want to encourage celebration at the Uptown, and we try to do so in the most fair and understanding way possible.  But we have to do it in a way that benefits ourselves, our staff, and yes... even your fellow customers waiting for a table.

The only other option - and perhaps also a consideration - is to not allow outside food in the building at all. After all, you can't not have your "cakeage" and eat it too!

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