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Old 05-25-2019, 04:08 AM
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So when will fast food places start charging for napkins and ketchup packets?


I've noticed a trend for the past couple of years or so for fast food restaurants to start to cut off all of the "freebies" they offered in the past. Where I work is within walking distance of a fast food plaza so I've been able to see the freebies go away in real time for the past five years.

McDonald's is the one I've seen the most happen too. First they took the napkin dispensers out of the lobby and you now have to ask for napkins. Next they stopped giving out bagged croutons for salads unless you asked for them, then they cut out bagged croutons for salads entirely. Next they made a hard limit to how many sauce cups you get for chicken nuggets, now if you get a 4 or 6 piece they only give you a single one (though if whoever is working drive-thru is in a hurry they'll just give you a handful just to get you out of the way)

Similarly, every pizza place near me has gotten rid of both Parmesan cheese and red peppers in their little paper packets and are now selling them in small containers for an additional fee of course. This must have happened at all chains at the same time fairly recently as I still have Pizza Hut and Dominos red peppers packs in my work desk for future use.

I understand they're doing this to cut costs and pad the bottom line but I'm curious to what we'll see next, the eventual charging for ketchup packets and what not. (I've also noticed now a lot of places will only give you one or two ketchup packets with fries now unless you specifically ask for more than two)
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Old 05-25-2019, 04:45 AM
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In Russia, McDonald's does charge for ketchup packets and dip sauces. Don't remember if it does in places like the Baltics or Poland.
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Old 05-25-2019, 05:02 AM
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Yeah, they already do this in many European fast food places (Germany and Austria, at least). It's been this way for at least 15 years. It's not a hard and fast rule, though. Some places charge for every condiment package, some charge only for certain kinds, and some don't charge at all. Salt and pepper are, mercifully, always free IME.
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Old 05-25-2019, 05:09 AM
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That doesn't seem to be a thing out here in the central plains of the US. Most such condiments are free when requested in any kind of reasonable quantity. The only such incident I've experienced recently was when picking up a couple of pizza from a shop named after a certain diminutive Roman emperor, I was charged for extra dipping marinara.
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Old 05-25-2019, 07:11 AM
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Popeye's is really stingy with the dipping sauce. They charge for extra sauces, and often either short me on the sauces I asked for with my order, or just conveniently "forget" altogether.
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Old 05-25-2019, 08:29 AM
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Chicken nugget dipping sauce seems to be the only one that incurs a charge in the NE US. Some places try to change things, such as ketchup pumps, and little plastic containers, and giving out napkins, but it appears that those are often short lived or not absolute, like being able to get the ketchup packs by asking.

Many pizza places have shakers of pepper, parm, and some spice ?oregano? and to go one gets a small container or a packet, no charge, but you may have to ask for them, or they ask if you want them.
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Old 05-25-2019, 09:49 AM
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First they took the napkin dispensers out of the lobby and you now have to ask for napkins.
This is the kind of thing that I'd expect to happen, not as a company-wide change, but in individual stores if people were abusing the napkin availability (by taking way more napkins than they needed, or by coming in and grabbing napkins without buying any food).
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Old 05-25-2019, 10:52 AM
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What I'm seeing is a combination of having to specifically ask for things, not having open dispensers (neither of which involves more money), or having to pay for extra. Mainly this discourages waste.

I'm not sure what it's called but there's an economic principle where some things are cheap enough that it's not cost-effective to keep track of and charge for each individual use. Which is why the Star Trek portrayal of Ferengi charging for things like the ink you use to fill out a form isn't realistic.
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Old 05-25-2019, 11:32 AM
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I understand they're doing this to cut costs and pad the bottom line but I'm curious to what we'll see next, the eventual charging for ketchup packets and what not. (I've also noticed now a lot of places will only give you one or two ketchup packets with fries now unless you specifically ask for more than two)
It's more to cut costs/waste than to bad the bottom line, especially if you can get them free by asking.
At my store, we have packets of condiments and salad dressing. A few years ago we had to set a limit on how many you can take and charge after that. Selling dressing packets isn't going to pad the bottom line, but it stopped people from buying a [personal sized] salad and taking 6 packets of dressing or buying a chicken salad sandwich and taking a handful of mayo packets. Let's be honest, most people are going to toss the extras in a kitchen drawer or throw them out as soon as they finish eating, but we still have to pay for them. At 10-20 cents a piece (our cost) it eats a good chunk of the profit on a 3-4 dollar item.

Now, if you want to go in the other direction, there's Taco Bell. They'll give you so many sauce packets it's almost a joke. The last few times I've been there, I've counted how many I got. I don't think anyone needs 19 hot sauce packets for two tacos.


TLDR, it's done so people take (or buy) what they actually need instead of taking them specifically because they're free.
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Old 05-25-2019, 12:01 PM
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Now, if you want to go in the other direction, there's Taco Bell. They'll give you so many sauce packets it's almost a joke. The last few times I've been there, I've counted how many I got. I don't think anyone needs 19 hot sauce packets for two tacos.
I ask for their Diablo sauce, and I ask for as many packets as they're allowed to give me. Results have ranged from 2 to 31.
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Old 05-25-2019, 12:04 PM
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I'm surprised many of them don't bother to say thank you when you pay. Does not bother me but I wonder did they stop asking employees to say thank you?
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Old 05-25-2019, 12:39 PM
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I'm surprised many of them don't bother to say thank you when you pay. Does not bother me but I wonder did they stop asking employees to say thank you?
If drive through workers could just put the coins in my hand and then the bills, I'd be happy.
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Old 05-25-2019, 01:00 PM
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If they don't already add the cost of these items to there products, they'd be poor businessmen. Makes you wonder why when you ask for ketchup they give you a whole handful of packets.
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Old 05-25-2019, 01:02 PM
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I worked at Wendys way back and they tracked paper costs as a separate item and that was napkins and cups and forks/spoons,etc. I assume they still track it now.
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Old 05-25-2019, 04:25 PM
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Some people admittedly do abuse free napkin privileges, but there is also the fact that the dispensers are often jammed so full that a single tug will discharge a dozen napkins into your hand when you only wanted a couple.

Last edited by Two Many Cats; 05-25-2019 at 04:25 PM.
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Old 05-25-2019, 04:54 PM
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If they don't already add the cost of these items to there products, they'd be poor businessmen.
I agree when it comes to things like forks and napkins. But when I was running a pizza restaurant, the ONLY time I ever started charging for something was when I felt the customer abuse of free stuff was going too far.

The best example I remember was ranch dressing. We made it ourselves, and portioned it into little 2 ounce Solo cups. The original idea behind having ranch was for our salads. When dipping pizza in ranch started to become popular, we would give customers a cup if they requested it. As the years went by, more and more people would ask for absurd amounts (like 4 cups for a single slice from the front counter, or 12 cups for a 12" pizza), then leave half or more of it behind. So I started charging 25 cents a cup.

Unfortunately, like with all things, a few jackasses ruined it for everyone else.

Last edited by GESancMan; 05-25-2019 at 04:55 PM.
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Old 05-25-2019, 04:56 PM
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Dick's in Seattle has always charged 5 cents for packets of ketchup and mustard.
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Old 05-25-2019, 11:31 PM
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Unfortunately, like with all things, a few jackasses ruined it for everyone else.
At my place we do a good chunk of catering. When we first started, we would supply, for free, all the (disposable) plates, napkins and forks provided you spent a certain amount. Plenty of people would scoff at the idea that we were charging for them, citing other places that gave them away for free. I'd typically point out that A)WE have to pay for them and B)if you look at their prices, they're without fail, more expensive then ours.

In any case, once you get over a certain threshold, the profit was there to absorb the cost. But plenty of people would still abuse the policy. I can remember one person, in specific that would go out of his way to abuse it. He place an order for, say, 30 people and ask what his total was. He'd then add things, just a few at a time (ie 'uhh, put on 6 more sodas, what's the total now?' type stuff). As soon as he hit the threshold to get the charge waived for utensils/napkins/plates, he'd not only add them on, but remind me that they were free. The problem was when I'd say 'How many place settings do you need?', he'd say something like 'send enough for 50, no make it 70 people'.
So, he's taking this to a place that has, at most, 30 people and bringing more than double the place settings that he needs...because they're free.

When we were dealing with him, we considered making some sort of policy to limit how many we would send (for free), but in the end we just discontinued that.


On a somewhat similar note, a lot of people get annoyed that we charge for delivery. Sometimes, with places super far from us, I have to explain that my driver will be gone for two and a half hours, so no, $30-$40 isn't that much, in fact it really just covers time and gas. The funny thing is that in all these cases, I always give them the option of picking it up themselves (a lot of people don't realize that's an option). About half the time their response is 'I don't have time to drive all the way to your store, pick this up and take it out there', to which I've always wanted to say 'so, you don't have the time to do it, but you want us to do it for free?'.

And this all goes for anything we charge extra for. Again, people seem to forget that literally everything we do, be it a service or a physical product, costs us money. We have to pass along the charge one way or another. We typically choose not to incorporate a lot of those charges into the other products so people that don't want/need them aren't paying for them anyway. And because if something is free, people will take it for no other reason than because it's free.
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Old 05-26-2019, 12:53 PM
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In Russia, McDonald's does charge for ketchup packets and dip sauces. Don't remember if it does in places like the Baltics or Poland.
In Soviet Russia you don't eat fast food, you eat slow food.
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Old 05-26-2019, 02:20 PM
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Some people admittedly do abuse free napkin privileges, but there is also the fact that the dispensers are often jammed so full that a single tug will discharge a dozen napkins into your hand when you only wanted a couple.
Then you set the extras next to/on top of the napkin dispenser where everyone acts like they have napkin-polio or something and refuses to touch them. People are weird.
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Old 05-26-2019, 02:48 PM
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Then you set the extras next to/on top of the napkin dispenser where everyone acts like they have napkin-polio or something and refuses to touch them. People are weird.
And no doubt if management gathered up the loose napkins and put them back in the dispenser, someone would call the health department.
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Old 05-26-2019, 02:52 PM
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If anything I have seen MORE of these items in the lobby as self-service increases. McDonalds near me has a lot of napkins and stuff and you get your own cups for your drinks. Arby's has increased the number of sauce dispensers. Wendy's has all the different spoons, forks, sauces, napkins. Five Guys as always has several bottles of vinegar, ketchup, salt, pepper, sugar. I know for awhile McDonalds has put a limit on and charged extra for nugget sauce in some places but I don't really get those. When I pick up pizza, they always offer plates and napkins even though I'm taking it home to eat. if anything, most places push their sauces on you and look at you like you have 2 heads if you don't want extra sauces for things that already come with sauce.

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Old 05-26-2019, 04:21 PM
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When I did the obligatory fast food job as a kid, way back in the Dark Ages, we didn't hand out ketchup packages.

If you wanted ketchup, you came up to counter and asked for it. We'd squirt some into a paper cup. "Thank you, come again."

Mustard and relish were in plastic packages under the counter and you had to ask for those, too.

Only many years later were the condiments out in the open for customers to take.
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Old 05-26-2019, 11:18 PM
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The little packets of ketchup cost (wholesale) about 1.5 cents each. Other packets can be had for a little more (you can buy mayo packets from Amazon for $9.53 for 200, or 4.76 cents apiece) but I suspect that the bulk buyers get a better deal than you can.

A case of 6,000 brown, recycled paper napkins ends up at about 1.8 cents per napkin, but as above, I'm sure the big chains pay far less.

Bigger dipping cups of course cost more, which is why they only give you one or two and don't leave them sitting out for people to take a dozen of them.

Then there's Taco Bell, which throws a dozen sauce packets in the bag every time I buy a couple of tacos.
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Old 05-27-2019, 07:36 AM
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The little packets of ketchup cost (wholesale) about 1.5 cents each. Other packets can be had for a little more (you can buy mayo packets from Amazon for $9.53 for 200, or 4.76 cents apiece) but I suspect that the bulk buyers get a better deal than you can.

A case of 6,000 brown, recycled paper napkins ends up at about 1.8 cents per napkin, but as above, I'm sure the big chains pay far less.

Bigger dipping cups of course cost more, which is why they only give you one or two and don't leave them sitting out for people to take a dozen of them.

Then there's Taco Bell, which throws a dozen sauce packets in the bag every time I buy a couple of tacos.
It's gotta be some type of fallacy to argue about how cheap an individual item is while neglecting to take into account that you have to multiply that cost by the amount of items that are being talked about.

For example, you found napkins for 1.8 cents. Let's say a big chain, like Hardees/ Carls Jr, pays .5 cents. If it's fair to say that 100 napkins are wasted each day because people take far more than they need, that's 50˘/day. Multiply that by 365 days, $182.50 and times their 2000 stores and you have $365,000, literally thrown in the garbage.
When you look at it like that, it seems like putting those types of things behind the counter and handing each customer a few of them is a good way to cut costs.

Even if napkins are .1 cents and only 10 are wasted each day, you're still looking at over $30k/year.

And you can add in the condiments and anything else the customer can grab for themselves.
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Old 05-27-2019, 09:19 PM
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I work in a cafe and you would not believe how some folks behave. So we have sugar and lemon packets out, and creamers, folks will try to take handfuls, not to use then but later at home. We have a napkin dispenser that you can pull out one at a time, it is up near the register. This has cut way down on napkin use, folks used to take handfuls again, and either take them home or waste most of them. Same for butter PC containers, salt and pepper, anything like that. Folks will alway be able to get as many as they truly need from us, but it is expensive if you are not careful.
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Old 05-27-2019, 09:38 PM
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Same for butter PC containers, salt and pepper, anything like that.
What is a PC container?
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Old 05-27-2019, 11:35 PM
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There’s a Burger King in Washington DC that charge for ‘extra’ dipping sauce for chicken nuggets and will not give you free ketchup packets unless you make them put it in the bag. They don’t charge extra for it, as of now. It’s quite annoying to find this out when you get back to your hotel with the food.

I’ve heard of charging for ketchup packs in the UK but never run across it myself.
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Old 05-28-2019, 12:43 AM
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Our local Bob Evans has fluctuated over the last year or two with "extras"... For a while they would bring a "basket" of rolls/biscuits to the table for everyone. And usually bring another if requested. Now that's been stopped and each individual gets 1 or 2 rolls/ biscuits with their order. Of late there are seldom any individual jelly packets or honey bottles on the table. When asked we were told customers were emptying entire jelly pack containers into (purses? or pockets.) So they took them off the tables until requested. So the few ruined it for the many. That said, I'm usually shocked by the handfuls of napkins I get in sacks from several places.
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Old 05-28-2019, 02:08 AM
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What is a PC container?
PC stands for portion control. They are those little individual packets of restaurant condiments, salt, sugar, butter, jelly, honey, peanutbutter, sugar, salt, pepper, and so on.
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Old 05-28-2019, 06:41 AM
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If anything I have seen MORE of these items in the lobby as self-service increases. McDonalds near me has a lot of napkins and stuff and you get your own cups for your drinks. Arby's has increased the number of sauce dispensers. Wendy's has all the different spoons, forks, sauces, napkins. Five Guys as always has several bottles of vinegar, ketchup, salt, pepper, sugar. I know for awhile McDonalds has put a limit on and charged extra for nugget sauce in some places but I don't really get those. When I pick up pizza, they always offer plates and napkins even though I'm taking it home to eat. if anything, most places push their sauces on you and look at you like you have 2 heads if you don't want extra sauces for things that already come with sauce.
In my experience , the condiments in the lobby are not individual serving size packages. They're pumps ( for ketchup; mayo, etc ) or bottles ( malt vinegar sauce ) with little paper cups or in trays (relish). Why does this matter- because this
Quote:
"still have Pizza Hut and Dominos red peppers packs in my work desk for future use."
only works with individual, shelf stable packages. You might be able to store a plastic cup of red pepper flakes with a lid in your desk- but storing this in your desk full of ketchup won't work.


The main problem is people "stealing" . I put it in quotes because it's not technically stealing since the restaurant has in effect given you permission. But they didn't intend for you to take 6 plates and sets of cutlery because you bought one chicken dinner. Or 20 ketchup packets for one burger. Some people will take enough condiment packages so that they never have to buy any condiments- I'm not talking about keeping an extra package or two in your desk. Or my own personal favorite, and why lots of places don't just put lemon and sugar out- ask for a cup of water - with cold water, make your own lemonade. With hot water add your own teabag that you brought from home. The only way to combat these problems ( and how big a problem they are varies by location) is to control distribution.
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Old 05-28-2019, 06:51 AM
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In Aus most of the ethnic-Australian fast food places charge for ketchup. And they do make a profit on it. Was different 30 years ago. Dunno about Mc. Most people here wouldn't even know that.they have ketchup.
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Old 05-28-2019, 06:56 AM
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I ask for their Diablo sauce, and I ask for as many packets as they're allowed to give me. Results have ranged from 2 to 31.
I tried that stuff for the first time recently. Quite spicy for Taco Bell!
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Old 05-28-2019, 02:41 PM
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Then there's Taco Bell, which throws a dozen sauce packets in the bag every time I buy a couple of tacos.
Not that it's particularly significant, but I can't help mentioning that last week I bought a burrito from a regional chain called Fuzzy's Tacos, and when I got home I found NINETEEN sauce packets of different heat levels in my bag. NINETEEN.
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Old 05-28-2019, 06:07 PM
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I stopped going to a certain chicken restaurant named for a New England town (which I'm not naming, so as to deny them the opportunity to push ads at me) when they took away napkins, forcing one to ask for them.

That's a chicken restaurant. Chicken. That you eat with your hands. With no napkins readily available. Buh bye.

That said, free refills seem to be the norm now, which it wasn't back in the day. Not much of a ketchup guy, so I never noticed stinginess there. But the napkin thing is worrying and I hope it doesn't catch on.
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Old 05-29-2019, 11:43 AM
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McNuggets used to be a pretty standard part of my McDonald's order, but I don't get them all that much anymore because I'm just not all that eager to go through the whole routine of begging for sufficient sauce packets. I go there to enjoy some junk food, not negotiate a goddamn treaty.
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Old 05-29-2019, 01:18 PM
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When you look at it like that, it seems like putting those types of things behind the counter and handing each customer a few of them is a good way to cut costs.

Even if napkins are .1 cents and only 10 are wasted each day, you're still looking at over $30k/year.
You have to balance that against slowing down the line or hiring more employees or dealing with the irate customer who always eats 7 ketchup packets with his fries.

Particularly, when you do the switchover, you're potentially going to get a lot of annoyed people in the drive-through who used to get ketchup (or whatever) automatically, and get home to find they didn't get it.

Or you have to start asking every person, which slows you down.

I'm not saying that fast food places shouldn't do this, but there are costs to it as well.
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Old 05-29-2019, 01:48 PM
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That said, free refills seem to be the norm now, which it wasn't back in the day. Not much of a ketchup guy, so I never noticed stinginess there. But the napkin thing is worrying and I hope it doesn't catch on.
The refills are free, but that's because you're paying for first drink. It would be a like a restaurant telling you that you can have as many napkins as you need, but the first one is $3.00.
You're paying $2.00 for a big soda that cost the store 25˘ in syrup (and a little in water/gas). When you go back for refills, you're (likely) reusing the straw, lid, cup and at least some of the ice. Even if you get two more refills, they're still coming out way ahead.
On top of all that, in many cases, they don't even own the equipment. Pepsi/Coke leases it to them.

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You have to balance that against slowing down the line or hiring more employees or dealing with the irate customer who always eats 7 ketchup packets with his fries.

Particularly, when you do the switchover, you're potentially going to get a lot of annoyed people in the drive-through who used to get ketchup (or whatever) automatically, and get home to find they didn't get it.

Or you have to start asking every person, which slows you down.

I'm not saying that fast food places shouldn't do this, but there are costs to it as well.
Taco Bell, the place that'll give you 20 sauce packets for 2 tacos always asks if you want any sauce.
But when it comes to drive thougs, the condiments will always be 'behind the counter', there's no where else to keep them. And they can't just toss a few of everything into every bag.
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Old 05-29-2019, 02:03 PM
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I often think these kinds of decisions are short-sighted and made by accountants who just see a number on a balance sheet. As a customer, I'm bothered by the hassle of having to get napkins from behind the counter instead of just having them readily available at the table. So maybe the store saves 5 cents because I didn't take extra napkins, but the hassle is one drip of aggravation that may lead to me not going to the store again. Another example is credit card minimum charges. While I can understand the rational, I don't want to deal with the hassle of meeting that minimum if my order doesn't meet it.

It's not that a single thing like lack of napkins will cause me to give up a store, but it's more that a place like that will move lower on my likability scale and I'll be less likely to go there. Then a year later I'll realize I never go to "Stingy's Subshop" anymore because it just fell out of the lunch rotation.
  #40  
Old 05-29-2019, 07:18 PM
iamthewalrus(:3= is offline
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Originally Posted by Joey P View Post
Taco Bell, the place that'll give you 20 sauce packets for 2 tacos always asks if you want any sauce.
But when it comes to drive thougs, the condiments will always be 'behind the counter', there's no where else to keep them. And they can't just toss a few of everything into every bag.
Sure, but if, for example, a place normally just puts some ketchup into the bag when people order fries, and they change that process, then they either have to be very careful about asking people or you're going to get some people who get home and are pissed that they didn't get ketchup when they always used to.

Both of those are a cost, and often one that's hard to measure. One of them slows down the drive through line (sure, just a little, but that stuff can add up and cause people driving by to go elsewhere), and the other one pisses off some customers who might become non-customers.

And of course, in store, you're going to have people coming back up to the counter and interrupting the person trying to make an order because they need the thing.
  #41  
Old 05-29-2019, 10:45 PM
Joey P is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iamthewalrus(:3= View Post
Sure, but if, for example, a place normally just puts some ketchup into the bag when people order fries, and they change that process, then they either have to be very careful about asking people or you're going to get some people who get home and are pissed that they didn't get ketchup when they always used to.
True, but a change is different than how things are. That doesn't make sense, let me try again. Yes, a change may disrupt status quo and cause issues, but you can't compare Option A to the transition from A to B, you have to compare A to B. In this discussion, it's not fair to compare automatically giving condiments or having them in a place where the customer can get them on their own to the annoyance of getting people used to the new way. You have to compare having them out to not having them out.

Quote:
Both of those are a cost, and often one that's hard to measure. One of them slows down the drive through line (sure, just a little, but that stuff can add up and cause people driving by to go elsewhere), and the other one pisses off some customers who might become non-customers.
There's very few things in large chain stores (restaurants or otherwise) that aren't quantified. McDonalds, Taco Bell time how long it takes between an order being placed and the customer getting the order. It would be trivial for them to look at averages before, during and after a transition to see if there's a difference and weigh that against the cost savings.

And given the fact that so much is quantified, I assume places like Taco Bell are okay with the amount of sauce that goes out the door. I'm sure TPTB are well aware of the 10:1 ratio of sauce to tacos.
It's entirely possible that, given the price and them knowing people toss them in a drawer, they consider the excess advertising. Every time you open that drawer, you're reminded of Taco Bell.

Last edited by Joey P; 05-29-2019 at 10:47 PM.
  #42  
Old 05-30-2019, 11:38 AM
iamthewalrus(:3= is offline
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True, but a change is different than how things are. That doesn't make sense, let me try again. Yes, a change may disrupt status quo and cause issues, but you can't compare Option A to the transition from A to B, you have to compare A to B. In this discussion, it's not fair to compare automatically giving condiments or having them in a place where the customer can get them on their own to the annoyance of getting people used to the new way. You have to compare having them out to not having them out.
The thread is about when fast food places will make a change to charging for this stuff, so the fact that the transition has costs is relevant to that discussion.

If you were starting a new restaurant, you could (mostly*) ignore the transition costs. But an existing restaurant considering this as a cost-cutting measure should consider the transition costs, and might explain why things haven't changed even if B is superior to A.

*only mostly because if you are sufficiently different than what customers expect from similar restaurants, you might have many of the same issues.
  #43  
Old 05-31-2019, 10:43 AM
control-z is offline
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As long as people are buying enough big profit items like fries and sodas I can't see them charging for napkins or ketchup any time soon. I find it amusing that when you ask for napkins or ketchup they give you a huge handfull when one or two was all I wanted.
  #44  
Old 05-31-2019, 12:32 PM
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You people must be going to the fancy suburban white people McDonald's where they care about the corporate rules. If you go to the ghetto McDonald's downtown, they'll just hand you the entire box with the sauce cups in it, they don't give a shit.
  #45  
Old 05-31-2019, 01:07 PM
typoink is offline
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Originally Posted by Chimera View Post
Then there's Taco Bell, which throws a dozen sauce packets in the bag every time I buy a couple of tacos.
I've never seen any evidence for this, but my assumption has always been that Taco Bell does this knowing that many people keep those extra packets in a drawer and it becomes a form of cheap free advertising for them.
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