Vegan Couple Brings Own Pasta to Restaurant, Gets Charged Double for Order, and Refuses to Pay

Categories: Wake Up Call

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According to an article on a New Jersey news site, a vegan couple dining out at a local Italian restaurant says the restaurant's owner charged them twice as much as they should have been charged for two pasta dinners. The owner justified the price by the fact that the couple had brought their own whole wheat pasta and asked specifically for red marinara tomato sauce, mushrooms, onions, olives, and red peppers.

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If you've ever worked in the restaurant biz, you know how much of a pain custom orders can be -- and how quickly a build-your-own order can ring up a bill. But this couple says in the past they had been charged less at the same establishment for the same meal. So, anti-veganism on the East Coast? Or justified price bumps for high-maintenance orders?

It wasn't the first time Jack and Toby Litsky had dined at Monticello at Red Bank with friends. In fact, they say they had eaten at the restaurant twice before and had brought their own pasta to accommodate their dining needs both times.

Since the couple had gone vegan to combat their high cholesterol, they realized not every restaurant serving whole wheat pasta really meant 100 percent whole grain. So instead, they've gotten in the habit of bringing their own. They also write out instructions on a card to be delivered to the chef along with the pasta, which they say hasn't been a problem with local restaurants, including Monticello, until now.

This time, they say the restaurant's chef-owner, Caterin Giambalzo, charged them $24 per entree, double the $12 they say they paid in the past. Litsky must have been especially shocked to see the new price since he told the paper that most restaurants actually charge them less since they bring their own ingredients. At Monticello, he said, most pasta dishes with chicken or fish cost between $22 and $24, making the price of their meal seem all the more arbitrary. Litsky says he asked if the bill was incorrect, but the owner insisted on the price and told him if he didn't pay, she'd call the cops.

The cops were called and they told Litsky that getting arrested for "theft of services" wasn't worth the $12 under contest. They also told him that, yes indeed, a manager or owner can choose to charge whatever they want for a meal. He paid but is now challenging the $24 (the difference in cost for the two dishes) with his credit card company.

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The owner and couple may have worked out a deal through a partial refund, but the question still remains about whether customers should be charged extra for accommodations made in relation to dietary restrictions. On the consumer side, it sure would suck to be charged more in order to enjoy a meal out with friends because of how you choose (or in some cases, have to choose) to eat. But anyone who's been in a kitchen during a Saturday-night dinner service knows that it's a finely oiled machine that easily can be thrown off course by special requests.

In this case, the owner seemed willing to cooperate, but at what point do special request become too much? Weigh in through the comment section below.

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9 comments
azbubba
azbubba

First of all, I was amazed that the article did not cover the angle we all thought of: a restaurant trusting a customer to bring their own ingredients puts them at risk for introducing unknown items to a kitchen. I know of at least one state where that would be illegal (food has to come from known sources).

However, that being said, it's not like this is the first time the couple had done this. If they had done this in the past, the restaurant should have made them aware of the increased cost ahead of time. Does the restaurant have the right to charge more? Sure. Is it bad customer service to double the price of a meal and not tell the customers? Absolutely.

kellis
kellis

It is not a special request to bring in your own ingredients. That goes way beyond any accommodations expected from a restaurant. You are crossing a line by bringing in your own food period. It puts the restaurant in a very bad place both financially and legally. What if the ingredients you brought made you sick and you choose to go after the business for it? If you are not able to find something that the restaurant can prepare for you that satisfies your choice (yes it is a choice, not a right) of lifestyle, then go to a different restaurant or prepare your own meals. Just because these people were not charged or laughed out of the restaurant the first couple of times they "requested" their own pasta prepared, does not mean they are entitled to continue to do so without an additional cost.

athonwy
athonwy

You should be ashamed of yourself for this kind of ridiculous and sensationalist reporting. This couple is not Vegan, but anything to make a headline, right?

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public topcommenter like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I'm shocked that a restaurant would allow someone to bring their own ingredients .  How does the restaurant know the source of those ingredients, know that they are safe or have been adulterated, know that the ingredients won't contaminate the restaurant's purchased ingredients in some way, etc...  I don't want to be the next diner to eat from a restaurant kitchen after the kitchen has just accepted ingredients from a guest's table.

The_Solver
The_Solver

I find that the simple act of communication almost always alleviates confusion. So here are two options:

OPTION 1

Litsky: May I bring my own pasta and instructions for how I'd like it prepared?

Giambalzo: No you may not!

Litsky: Ok maybe I'll order something else then. On 2nd thought, I'll try a different restaurant.

OPTION 2

Litsky: May I bring my own pasta and instructions for how I'd like it prepared?

Giambalzo: Yes you may, however I'll have to charge you double for the extra work involved.

Litsky: What? This is an outrage! Why should I have to pay for extra considerations such as taking the time to read my instructions etc. Lets go everybody, this place is a rip off.

marcy
marcy

@The_Solver 

Exactly right, the diner should be informed of the price before the bill arrives and the owner is free to set the price or refuse the order.   High maintenance customers should expect to be charged more or even asked to take their business elsewhere.  If you want a private chef and custom menu, hire one. 

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