Pinion Bistro, based in Prescot, tweeted a picture of its Sunday menu, which showed its sides with roast potatoes for £2.50, honey-roasted carrots for £3.50, Yorkshire pudding for £1 and extra gravy £1.
This sparked many opinions on Twitter after one user called Andy said: “Extra gravy £1? Is that level of tightness really necessary? #stingyservice.”
Gary Usher, founder of Elite Bistros, which runs Pinion as well five other restaurants around the north-west area, gave the reasons that included having to buy the ingredients, the fact it is worth £3 and because it is part of the business model. He added jokingly: “How else am I going to get to Mauritius again?”
The Morning Advertiser spoke with pub operators to uncover if they charge for additional extras such as gravy.
Karen Errington, licensee of the Rat Inn, Anick, Northumberland, said: “If someone asks for some more of something that is an integral part of the dish they’ve ordered – eg, gravy – I would not charge for it.
“With Sunday lunch, if someone requests extra veg I wouldn’t charge either – within reason. I rarely charge for extra bread either. It’s important to remain flexible with people because the majority will not ask for more and, in the spirit of remaining hospitable, which at the end of the day is what we are aiming to achieve, sometimes you have to just take the hit.
“However, if someone orders an additional item from the menu that is not part of the dish ordered then it is fair to charge because that’s their choice to do so.”
Ensuring there is a balance to making money and keeping customers happy is the key, according to Errington.
She added: “I always tell our staff they need to use discretion and judge each case on merit. For example, a regular who puts money in our till every week might not get charged for small extras. It is a good way to recognise loyalty with little touches like this and is wonderful low-cost PR.
“On the other hand, we sometimes get asked for peppercorn sauce when people order maybe just a bowl of chips and in this case, it is not only fair but important we do charge otherwise there is no profit to be made (brandy in sauce, etc).
“It is really a question of getting the balance right between making a reasonable profit and remaining hospitable to people.
“Our approach is absolutely integral to us as an independent and very personal operation and would not necessarily work in a more corporate environment.”
Heath Ball, licensee of the 2018 Great British Pub of the Year, the Red Lion & Sun in Highgate, north London, doesn’t charge anything more for gravy.
Not worth the headache
He said: “Last Sunday (Father’s Day) we served 33 extra gravies. We serve a good serving of gravy. [I've] had load of conversations with the team and my reply is always it’s not worth the argument with the customer and negative reviews for a potential £1 charge. Plus, I hate being told how much is enough. Like when you get given a ramekin of ketchup.
“But when the cost of making one small jug of gravy is £1, all those extras add up. Once in a while you get some person who thinks they should’ve had more veg. I always get more [for them]. Again, it is not worth the headache.
“The other day, one table had two extra gravies each. It wasn’t a roast dinner, it was a ramen by the time they were done!”
However, Stosi Madi, chef-patron of the Parkers Arms in Newton-in-Bowland, Lancashire, charges for additional items.
She said: “I charge for any extras apart from ketchup or mustard that are bought in. Dishes are priced according to what’s on them. [It] takes me three days to make gravies and sauces because all are from scratch.
“We sauce dishes adequately but if asked for more, we charge. It's on the menu anyway as an extra. If we used Bisto, I would not charge because it is not labour-intensive and would not affect the bottom line so much.
“People understand peppercorn sauce for a steak will cost extra so it’s no different with extra gravy or sauce – in fact, it is even more labour-intensive and time consuming to make. It is rare to be asked for more because we are generous with it.
“Also, if it’s a regular customer then they automatically get it sent out anyway. It is unusual to be asked for more because most of our customers can see the food sauced adequately.”