Excessive "Cakeage" Fees

Joined May 30, 2010
I came across an article from my local paper about excessive cake serving fees and I wondered what ya'll thought about it.

I am not in the Restaurant business...I am just curious how a professional would have handled it.

(I am of the opinion that a fee is justified...but $10 a slice?).  Thanks.

Oh, and is "cakeage" a word?

From the San Francisco Chronicle:


Here’s one of the best ways to deflate a birthday celebration:
My husband and I came down off the mountain and ventured to SF to celebrate my daughter’s 30th birthday. I brought the requisite cake. There were 8 of us total. I won’t get into the averageness of the meal, but I almost turned completely gray when I saw that they charged us $80.00 for “cakeage”. I was inclined to assault our server. It made my head spin. Tough economic times for sure and here we were spending a vile sum of cash on an average meal where we couldn’t even hear the person 2 seats away. As it was a celebration for my daughter, I couldn’t say much whatever the expense. Toss in the mandatory tip, the 4% wellness and cakeage and we were just a tad over budget.

When did cakeage sneak out? And am I the only “hick” (former city kid, I might add) who chokes at the excess of these cool restaurants? Thanks for letting me vent.
It took my breath away, too, when I saw this email. I sometimes see a cakeage fee listed at the bottom of menus, but I think $10 a person is excessive. At this particular restaurant, that’s the same price as if everyone had ordered a separate dessert.

At first I thought the restaurant should charge a flat rate $25 or so as they do with corkage. However, I got to thinking about it from a restaurant’s point of view and I could understand their logic a little better.

Obviously a restaurant is in business to sell food, and if people bring in their own food then any hope of profit goes out the window. In the case of a birthday cake, diners are still occupying a table while they eat a separate course, which prevents a restaurant from resetting it for another party. When a person brings in a bottle of wine, it’s normally consumed with the meal so it doesn’t impact the turn of tables all that much.

That said, $10 a person fee seems excessive. The restaurant doesn’t have to make the dessert or pay for ingredients.

In the end, it comes down to communications. The restaurant doesn’t list a “cakeage” fee on the menu so the customer was caught unaware. From the restaurant’s standpoint, they had no idea the guests would bring their own dessert. At that point, there should have been a conversation. Ideally, anyone who wants to bring in a special cake should arrange it before the event.

I’d appreciate hearing from other restaurants as to how they handle similar situations.

Joined Feb 1, 2007
Am I living in a different world than everybody else? No matter what the event, it would never even occur to me to bring my own cake to a restaurant. Certainly not to anything more upclass than a McDonalds.
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Joined May 20, 2009
Cakeage like that?...wtf! Without any communication beforehand it sounds like chiselling after the fact that needs to be exposed on a reverse marketing level...hope the restaurant was named in the paper.

We're a small outfit competing for local business...everybody has a birthday. The tables are big, some of the guests 'press-ganged', the bar does good...done properly, repeat business is up for grabs.

We offer a cake but if they don't want it & someone close wants to make a personal gesture, no problem and no charge...they're more likely to have an entree they would'nt have at home, that's why they came to a restaurant.

If there's no cake either way, we usually send a dessert with a candle on the house & then might pickup another round of drinks or special coffee orders etc...

Ultimately we're not selling food as much as a 'dining experience'...to be seen to go the extra yard for a local family of several generations...a marketing no brainer!

Just mho...
Joined Feb 17, 2007
This happened a few times at a restaurant I where I was employed as the pastry chef.

Here's the frustrating thing....there are few restaurants in my area that actually employ pastry chefs any more...in fact...that was THE ONLY pastry chef job on the whole island.  My desserts were well reknowned and it was widely known and acknowledged that I could and would make any dessert with any dietary specialty, restriction, or exception.  Whatever the regional cuisine...I could accommodate the request.  So there was no need to bring dessert of any sort to our restaurant. 

Occasionally someone would not realize there was an inhouse pastry chef and would bring a cake of their own.  Problem is the servers would then use my dessert sauces and whipped cream and garnishes to make the customer's cake look "professional".  So it does cost the restaurant money.  But more than that it does takes up quite a bit of the server's time to cut and plate 8 slices of cake.  So we're now out labour dollars and some product.  Every penny counts in this economy...and when money is tight it's the luxury that goes...so the pastry chef is one of the first..if not THE first..out the door.  Now matter how good you may be. 

My dessert sales per customer were very high.  Something like 85 percent of all lunch customers bought dessert with their meal.  One day a customer came in with a vegan "cake".  Okay..fine.  But then they wanted my NON-VEGAN dessert sauces and whipped cream for plating and decorating.....okay...fine....I can deal with that.  What made me mad was when they offered their cake to the ENTIRE RESTAURANT.  I lost a good 50 percent of my regular dessert sales because of the freebee vegan cake.  THAT is when I got mad.  Revenue lost.  Revenue lost that pays my salary.

In the end we came up with a policy that if the guest chooses to bring their own dessert they will pay a $2.50 cutting and serving fee PER PERSON.  That seemed fair. It does need to be stated ahead of time though...in my opinion.  It's not fair for the guest to find a $20.00 additional charge on their bill at the end of the meal....they may not be prepared for that.  As soon as they trot in with their cake, the server should politely inform them that they would be happy to be cut and plate their cake but that it is the restaurant's policy to charge a dessert service fee.  This then gives the customer the option to agree to the fee or to decide to serve their dessert at home following their meal.

Really---it's a restaurant not a potluck.  Pretty soon people will start showing up with raw steaks in their handbags and wanting them grilled for them.....lol.

It's different if a restaurant cannot furnish desserts...but for those who can....I think a cutting and plating fee is absolutely reasonable.  $10 per person does seem excessive though.
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Joined May 20, 2009
Yes, I did neglect to mention we send the cake whole with plates and cutlery and they hack it up on their own time...if they want whipped cream, though seldom do this way, we charge.

Chefelle...our desserts are not in your league, the somewhat neglected end of the menu at this stage and sales do reflect that...more like 15-20% max...so I feel your pain at this abuse.

Fwiw, we often get tourists bringing in fish fillets they caught on a charter for a flat $5 off the fish dish...this is a service that gets them directed to us and is greatly appreciated...again, repeat business is what we're after.

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