Should You Charge For Condiments?

For many restaurants, condiments are a foregone conclusion; you’re not going to make money, or even break even on them, but they’re an expected part of eating out for the consumer. Hamburger places, hotdog stands, and even standard diners and restaurants are expected to have some condiments at the ready, such as ketchup, hot sauce, and more.

Some locations and chains charge for some condiments, such as sour cream and guacamole, when extras are ordered on the side; likewise, pizza chains have charged for marinara or garlic sauce, and wing locations have charged for ranch and blue cheese. At the end of the day, though, it’s rare for a major chain to charge for something as iconic when paired with their food as ketchup.

Huffington Post reports that certain McDonald’s locations in Manhattan have started to charge for extra condiments. One manager outright states the obvious: “we want to control condiment costs.” The same manager offers one to four packets of ketchup for free (depending on the size of the order), and charges 25 cents for every packet past that. The fee came to manager Rocio Vazquez’s mind, once she saw how many packets that were asked for ended up in the trash.

It’s common for McDonald’s locations to charge for honey mustard and barbecue sauce, but ketchup packets is an oddity… yet, is it one that your restaurant should take up?

The initial benefit seems obvious; much like soft drinks, there can be a massive upcharge for something that costs minimal. It will curtail losses, increase sales, but it has the potential to drive customers, especially those that like to drench their french fries in the tomato-based condiment, away. A quarter might be too much; possibly a nickel or dime would be better suited. The goal isn’t to profit off of the condiments, but a chance to break even or have a nominal fee that alerts consumers to the fact that you have to purchase the item will prevent waste.

If you consider charging for condiments, make sure to consider all the variables. In any situation, you might want to let it slide for today; it is National Hamburger Day, after all.