Restaurant industry workers took to Reddit to dish on why you should be skeptical of the price of pasta, cheesecake, wine, and even those fancy sushi rolls. 

Elisabeth Sherman
January 11, 2018

Whenever you go out to eat a restaurant you know there are going to be markups; it’s the contract you sign when you let the waiter seat you a table. Sometimes, though, depending on where you’re going out to eat, you’re looking for the best deal, or at least hoping that someone, back there in the kitchen, isn’t trying to take you for a fool. You’re hoping that at least the staff, from the waiters to the chefs, aren’t trying to pull a fast one on you when it comes to the price of that house wine or the elegant sushi roll that has just arrived at your table. Sure, your dinner may look like it took time and care to prepare, but you might also have the sneaking suspicion that it was actually just reheated, a little spicy mayo dabbed on top, poured out of a box, or pulled out of a freezer. And sometimes, you might just be right.

Recently, chefs, servers, and other restaurant employees took to Reddit to share the “biggest ripoffs that your restaurants sell,” confirming some of your suspicions and probably serving up a few surprises, too (they've done similar tell-alls, like this thread in which they reveal the 15 things they'd never order at a restaurant). Here are 15 of the most egregious ripoffs restaurant workers reported on the Reddit thread.  

1. “We buy tiny wine bottles for $7 and sell for $37. The house wine [here] is Franzia box wine.”

2. “I worked in a fancy country club…A slice of ‘homemade’ cheesecake was $7 each on the menu. One of the sous chefs stopped by the Giant Food grocery store every day on the way to work to pick up a whole cheesecake for about $5.”

3. "Most of our desserts are purchased from the Wal-Mart directly across the street then marked up 500%...We just drizzle a bit of chocolate or raspberry sauce on it so that it doesn't look exactly like the one from Wal-Mart. Also, a smoker outside the building doesn't mean your barbecue is fresh. Most of it is frozen. Sometimes we just throw logs on there so it looks and smells like we're barbecuing.”

4. "I worked at a local taco shop that made its own sauces. The hot sauce was basically tomato juice and a buttload of cayenne pepper.”

5. “We serve 'hot fresh baked pretzels' for $8.95. We get [them] by the case frozen. Roughly $75 per box. 100 per box.”

6. “The baked Camembert. It was literally the Camembert from Aldi. £1 each. Baked and sold for £15 to share.”

7. “Noodles are pretty cheap to buy in bulk. A bowl at a restaurant can be anywhere from $8-$16.”

8. “I worked at a Japanese for a while and we had this thing called a Volcano roll. It cost $7.25. A California roll there cost $3.75. The Volcano roll was a Cali roll cut into the shape of a triangle and topped with spicy mayo that has been heated up with about $.10 worth of fish.”

9. “I used to cook at a seafood restaurant and without a doubt, it was the lobster rolls.”

10. “Short-rib flatbread pizza. We take leftover short rib from the previous night, shred it, put it on $0.05 worth of flatbread with a sprinkle of cheese and some diced red onion, and ship it out for $11.45. It's literally $10 profit. And people love it.”

11. “Cake balls. They're maybe 1 inch by 1 inch (rolled in a ball and dipped in icing) but we sell them for $1.65 each. We sell a quarter sheet cake for $20. We sell 1 dozen cake balls, which is maybe 1/3rd the cake, for $19.”

12. “Soda Pop. $3 a glass for $0.10 of product.”

13. “I was a line cook…A grilled cheese was upwards of $7. Literally just put a slice and a half of cheese on bread, and panini pressed it.”

14. “Used to work in this restaurant where the specialty was a seafood pasta. Each order cost the restaurant just $3 but they charged $24.

15. “Cucumber or avocado rolls. Less than a handful of rice, one-half sheet of nori, and about 1/4 of an avocado or it's equivalent in cucumber.”

Posts have been edited for length and clarity.