Cakeage, aka cake-cutting charges, are a fee levied by restaurants when a customer brings their own birthday cake in to cut and serve at the end of their birthday meal, anywhere from £3.50 to a whopping £9 per head in London. It’s similar to the more commonly seen corkage charges at some BYOB restaurants where they charge a fee to uncork and serve wine or beer brought in by the customer but somehow the idea and even practice of cakeage is far more contentious than corkage. So contentious that even our own household is divided on it.
Hence I thought to put forward our arguments to perhaps bring a more balanced view to the cakeage controversy as both husband and I are so poles apart on it.
I’ll break it down into three points. Firstly, the argument often used that it costs extra is poppycock - the additional cost to the restaurant is negligible, their staff will be working anyway, there is no extra rent due etc. The additional cost is basically only the cost of the extra washing up and maybe a few minutes of staff time. I can understand if you were to apportion the costs exactly you could argue otherwise, but it’s an add-on that requires no investment by the restaurant. That said I know how difficult the food industry is with restaurant closures all over the place and can completely appreciate the temptation to charge, I just feel it will deter people which would only cost them more.
Secondly, the line of reasoning that there is a loss of sales because the cake replaces the dessert is weak at best. Most people at a birthday party will have the cake in addition to dessert, but more importantly, the restaurant wouldn’t be making any money at all if there wasn’t a birthday party which the cake is an inherent part of. If a bunch of people randomly came into a restaurant and wanted cake to be served to them and it wasn’t a birthday party then that’s a completely different matter. But since that would be really weird and this would never happen, who cares.
Now with these two points addressed I can actually get to the crux of my reasons to disagree with cakeage - it’s just miserable, plain and simple. While it may not be profiteering, who wants to make money like this. The world’s a dark enough place without making it that bit more miserable by charging someone on their birthday to slice and serve a bit of cake that cost the restaurant nothing. Cakeage fees, to me, represent a lack of compassion and kindness to your fellow persons which is more important than ever. And if there is a small but genuine cost to the restaurant, is that so bad for something so sincerely lovely as the celebration of a person? Is ‘giving’ such a bad thing? And it’s tight and I don’t like tight people. They’re annoying to be around.
I can see how cakeage can be a killjoy but if I had a restaurant I would hundo p have a cakeage charge. Other than the obvious reason that I’d be potentially losing out on desserts ordered off our carefully made menu as the customers have brought their own delicious cake in, I’d also have to deal with having to take delivery of it plus the responsibility of keeping it safe in storage until the meal. Not to mention, have the serving staff bring the cake in, wait till the singing and picture taking has been done (which in this Instagram generation can take AGES, cuz you gotta get that perfect gram with the cake...and why wouldn’t you want to when they look as gorgeous as ours), then take it away to cut it in portions and serve them on individual plates with cutlery and then there is the clearing and washing up.
It IS extra work (and considerably more than opening a few bottles with regards to corkage), and when a lot of birthdays are celebrated on weekends when restaurants are at their busiest (with multiple special occasions no doubt!), it adds on more pressure on the staff. So to do all the extra work involved in serving a birthday cake for free, the added responsibility, plus the possible expense of missing out on having desserts off the menu...I can’t say it’s unreasonable for restaurants to charge a cakeage fee at all.
Debating this with my husband, we can appreciate both sides of the cakeage coin but still have our overriding sentiments in place. As a cake business obviously we want our cakes served at birthdays in all restaurants and venues so hope the value placed on our cakes in terms of the memories they’ll make (and gorgeous photos to mark the event!) is far greater than the cakeage charges.
So whose side of the cakeage coin are you on - mine or hubby’s? Would you choose to have your birthday meal in a restaurant that charges cakeage, seek elsewhere, or go without (noooooo)?! What is the maximum you’d consider paying per person? Are there any other sides to the cakeage coin we are missing? Do let us know your thoughts in the comments below. I’m obviously hoping you’re team Shmii cuz I hate losing to hubby on any debate!
Lots of love,