So we go to lunch at Le Pain Quotidien on 6th Street in the Pac Mutual Building. We had a really nice meal with great service, but then when we got the bill things got strange. The restaurant charges customers who eat there an added fee for what they call “table service.” This additional fee is not the tip for the server. The check clearly states, “Gratuity Not Included.” This “table service” charge is only for “dine-in” customers, not people who take their food “to go.” Maybe it’s a European thing, but I don’t get it.
Le Pain Quotidien is a global chain of boulangerie-restaurants with 200 locations on five continents. The DTLA restaurant has a large communal table made of reclaimed wood and a few smaller tables inside, and additional seating outside in a patio area. Once you seat yourself, you are greeted by a server who brings the menu to your table.
I ordered the Avocado Toast Tartine ($10.50). It’s one of their signature Belgian open faced sandwiches on organic whole wheat bread with citrus-cumin salt, organic chia seeds and olive oil. I also ordered the Watermelon Cooler ($4.95).
My husband ordered the Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad ($15.50). It’s avocado, bacon, organic egg, Fourme d’Ambert cheese, organic mesclun with a smoked tea vinaigrette. The salad comes with a side of organic bread. My husband ordered the Sparkling Iced Hibiscus ($4.95) to drink. We really enjoyed the food. It was very clean and pure tasting.
Like all boulangeries, Le Pain Quotidien has an awesome selection of desserts. My husband ordered one of the giant chocolate cookies. Now here’s where things got weird. The sign in front of the cookies says $3.85 but we noticed on the receipt we were charged $4.15. After we paid the bill, my husband pointed out the price difference to the server. He didn’t want the 30-cents. He just wanted to bring the error to the attention of the restaurant. Get this… it wasn’t an error. The restaurant has different prices for people who “dine-in” and people who “take-away.” And it’s not just on the cookies. It’s on everything. The prices are clearly higher on the “dine-in” menu compared to the “take-away” menu. The “dine-in” Cobb Salad was 85-cents more. The “dine-in” Avocado Toast was 55-cents more. Plus you are still expected to add 20% for the tip, which we did because it’s not the servers decision to charge this “table service” fee.
Although I enjoyed Le Pain Quotidien, there is a cluster of French sandwich shops by Pershing Square in Downtown Los Angeles. Right by the Le Pain Quotidien there’s Crepe X-Press Café, Madame Monsieur, and Pitchoun Bakery. Why would I pay a “table service” fee when I can get almost the exact same food at the French place next door? Just to make sure I understood, I called the restaurant and asked the same question, and I was told dine-in customers are charged a fee for “table service” in addition to the expectation of leaving a tip for their server. Does anyone else think this is strange? Please let me know what you think in the comment section below. Thanks!