UNITED STATES—Are you someone that dines out on a frequent basis? Have you seen an increase in your bill? Do you tip only to find yourself having to tip again because it is already included in the bill? You might be asking why so many questions about dining out?

Well things have changed in recent years as a result of the pandemic and inflation. Look, there was no industry impacted more by the pandemic than the service industry, in particular restaurants. Many of them had their businesses closed for months, some went out of business and have not returned and will not return. When they did return, you saw slight changes in the beginning with social distancing and limited capacity, that has all but changed with most places where they’re back to full capacity, but a big issue is price.

The price to eat out has risen significantly and it is beyond scary. I have no problem paying for a meal that is top tier. I do have a problem when the meal is not up to par, you’re waiting a significant amount of time or what you receive is not worth the cost people. For example, can you imagine paying $40 for a hamburger and fries people? I cannot and I will not, I don’t care how fancy the restaurant is, but that is starting to happen more and more. A burger and fries that used to cost $10 has jumped from $10 to $15. Those restaurants wonder why people are headed to Burger King, McDonald’s, Jack in the Box and any other fast-food restaurants where they can get something to eat that actually satiates them and they are not left wanting more.

That is the problem with dining out; a vast majority of the time you’re still hungry after the meal. It is almost like having a bit of a snack before going to the restaurant is key to not breaking the bank to eat and still be hungry. Let’s face it if you’re dining out, very rarely are you doing it solo. With one other person, you can easily spend $60 to $100. With a family of four you’re looking at $150 to $200 possibly and that’s before you include the tip.

The tip is another battle people because what do you leave. Some want to leave a few bucks, some leave at least 15 percent, some do at least 20 to 25 percent. I’m a big proponent if you’re dining at a restaurant you leave at least 20 percent. Even if the service is not top tier you leave something. Now the service would have to be horrid and I mean absolute horrid for me to leave no tip at all. I cannot recall such a situation happening in the past 2-3 years. I think if anything the pandemic showed many of us to be even more aware and thankful to our servers who make pennies on a dime and have to deal with all sorts of crazy personalities in a given shift.

If you dine with family then the tip becomes a big problem because the gratuity is already included in the bill no matter what type of service you get. It is usually 18 to 20 percent, but has jumped to as high as 25 to 30 percent at some restaurants. Also check that bill people because if you’re asking for extras, you’re likely paying for them, extra sauce, extra butter, extra items on the side, the restaurants are beginning to charge the consumer for those things rather you like them or not.

I’m starting to pay for the bill at restaurants with cash instead of credit or debit, because if you don’t sign off correctly on the receipt on the tip or gratuity you could be charged extra. Yeah, I learned this from a waiter that people have been known to put in an extra amount on the receipt if you leave it blank. So it is best to enter $0. If the gratuity is already in the bill, there is no need to leave an extra tip unless you choose to do so. So I would argue simply leave an extra tip if you please with cash.

This might sound crazy, but that thought of eating out being cheaper than cooking at home is slightly changing, but the more people in your party and the nicer the restaurant you go to, the more you’re likely to pay as a result. The cost of food rather the grocery store or at the restaurant has gone up because of inflation. Plain and simple you need to be aware of what you pay when you dine out.

Written By Jason Jones