With pressures from rising food costs, restaurant operators are seeking ways to increase check size without increasing the cost of popular menu items, but it turns out that charging for condiments won’t be the easy fix, according to The NPD Group, a leading global information company, when researching the various ways in which operators can offset high food costs. Overwhelmingly, consumers said “no” when asked in a recent NPD survey if they would be willing to pay a small additional fee for their condiments at restaurants.

Over 80 percent of the consumers surveyed said they would not be willing to pay even a small additional amount for condiments, which are typically included free with a meal ordered at a restaurant. There was, however, a minority of consumers (about one in every six) who said they would pay something additional for condiments. More than half of these willing respondents said they would pay 25 cents, and less than half said they would be willing to pay more than that. Men were more inclined to say they would pay more than 50 cents for condiments, and over half of women would not pay more than 25 cents.

The consequences of charging for condiments may come at a greater cost to operators because about half of the consumers surveyed said that they would go to another restaurant rather than pay for condiments. Others said they would find ways to avoid the charge by ordering items that didn’t require condiments, and roughly a fourth said they would begrudgingly accept the added fee.

“Charging for condiments carries more risk than any revenue benefit a restaurant operator would derive from charging for condiments,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “Condiments are viewed as a standard component of the menu items being ordered, rather than an ‘add-on.’ While some restaurant visitors said they would pay for condiments, there are too many others who would be bothered by the fee and would go someplace else to eat.”

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