Skip navigation

Why are restaurants ignoring dessert?

• See more Sanson Sez

Here’s another puzzle where I keep doing the math and it doesn’t add up. More than a few times in recent months I’ve been out to lunch with compadres and after the appetizers and entrees are eaten the check is dropped at the table with a smile. It’s lunch and a lot of people are on a schedule and they have to go. But not everybody all the time. The check comes without the server asking, “Would you like coffee or dessert?”

I understand if a restaurant is slammed and there are lines of people waiting to get a table. But that’s not always the case. Many times larger tables of customers are out at lunch celebrating a birthday or another special occasion. Such was the case recently when the check was dropped off at our six-top and I counted three other vacant tables of the same size. Were there reservations that I didn’t know about?

What I do know is that when the check is dropped off early, servers, who make most of their money on tips, are losing out. And the restaurant is losing revenue from the sale of desserts and/or coffee. Is there a time when you walk away from incremental sales? I ask because maybe I’m missing something.

The last time this happened we were in no hurry and would have certainly ordered dessert and coffee, despite a number of service missteps that occurred during meal service. And then somebody at the table said, “Hey, if they don’t want more of our money, then screw ’em.” We left. We did end up ordering coffee . . . but at the Starbucks about 300 feet away.

So, what gives? Why are some restaurants ignoring dessert and coffee service? I’d love to hear your take on it.

On another service note, the number of restaurants replacing menus and wine lists in favor of tablets appears to be growing by the day. I can see a number of efficiencies in doing so, but I urge you to be cautious. One editor here was recently at a restaurant that had one tablet per table. Even though she is quite tech savvy, she struggled to navigate through the tablet to find a menu item. Her husband, also tech savvy, experienced the same problem, taking several minutes to find his menu selection. In most cases, you want to keep service rolling, not slow it down. In this case, the tablet may have been the problem. It simply wasn’t intuitive or easy to navigate. Also, is one tablet per four-top enough?

But here’s another part of the tablet equation: Can you imagine bringing an elderly parent to a restaurant with a tablet menu? “If my father saw an iPad menu in a restaurant, he’d say, ‘Let’s go to McDonald’s,’” said my editor friend. Nevertheless, menu engineering expert Gregg Rapp said on a recent CBS Sunday Morning show, “iPad menus are the wave of the future.”

Let me know if you use tablet menus in your restaurants and the pluses and minuses of doing so. Is this the future or merely a fad? Please email me. Thanks.

Michael Sanson, Editor-in-Chief
e-mail: [email protected]
Twitter: @MikeSansonRH

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.