Cakeage? What the hell is cakeage?

Cakeage? What the hell is cakeage?

I recently booked a fancy-schmancy restaurant to celebrate turning the big 5-0. (Thanks everyone for all the kind birthday wishes! You’re right, 50 isn’t that old, it’s not all downhill from here and you made me feel…hey you kids GET OFF MY LAWN!)

But I digress.

As it turned out, three of my old cronies from university days were also turning 50 in the same week, so we decided to throw caution to the wind, have a three-way birthday celebration and – hang the expense – book the best restaurant in town.

I thought it might be nice to bring a cake and candles and have a good old laugh and make the weary old jokes we all make when trying to blow out dozens of candles – it’s good for the lungs, nice to hear some heavy breathing again etc.

(By the way, is it just me or does it seem ridiculously unhygienic in this day and age to be spraying a cake with our pneumonia spores and then expect everyone to happily eat it afterwards it?).

Anyhow.

I was finalising the booking with the nice lady from the restaurant and she said, ‘So that’ll be a booking for 16 people, and oh, just to let you know if you’re planning on bringing a birthday cake there’ll be a cakeage fee of $10 per person.’

‘A what?’

‘A cakeage fee.’

I’ve heard of corkage. I’ve heard of wastage. But cakeage? What the hell is cakeage? Maybe I’ve been living in a cave. Maybe I haven’t turned 50 often enough. Or maybe I’m too used to kids’ party where we bring our own cake and don’t get charged for eating it.

I took her to task.

‘So what exactly is a cakeage fee?’

‘Well, it’s for cutting the cake and putting it on a plate and for washing up of the plates afterwards.’

‘So, let me get this right. You’ll charge us $160 for running a knife through a cake and putting it on a side plate that is already sitting there?’ ‘Yes’ was her answer but she spent a good three minutes telling me how much time it would take to do it.

I know restauranteurs will rise up in righteous indignation about this and I get that – it’s extra labour, extra time, extra Finish power balls. But here’s the thing. When it comes to customer service, it’s the feeling that counts and the feeling I got from this restaurant was – what a rip off! And let me add, this is a restaurant that charges upwards of $45 a main and serious wineage – sorry, I mean, corkage – to boot.

I get the logic of why they’d charge ‘cakeage’ but what about some goodwill here? Considering we were going to spend upwards of $2000 in their restaurant it seemed churlish that they wouldn’t even bother to let us bring a little muffin in with a strawberry on top and a few candles to have a bit of a laugh and a birthday singalong. Bringing a cake was a token gesture and a comical nod to turning 50, not a replacement dessert.

Result? We did go. We did eat their $20-per-serve-chocolate-fudge-parfait-beetroot-jus-caramelised-onion-concoction dessert but we didn’t bring a cake, nor did anyone remember to sing happy birthday or give us the opportunity to unhygienically blow out candles on a stale muffin. In fact, after a few bottles of wine, we all kinda forgot it was our birthday altogether.  All because of a silly idea called ‘cakeage’. So much for goodwill. We won’t be going back.

This experience was a great reminder that the simplest and most powerful form of marketing is word of mouth, (and it’s steroid-fuelled cousin), social media.   After all, if we’re not making our current customers happy, how can we expect to bring in new customers?   The moral of the story?  Let them eat cake.

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