Are French restaurants right to charge €5 if you don’t finish your meal?

Two restaurants in the “Cornwall of France“, have recently introduced an unusual charge for diners. L’Atlantis and L’Aigle Royal in Quimper, Brittany, have added a €5 (£4.33) surcharge for diners who leave “substantial” food on their plate when they finish eating.

The charge applies to diners at the pan-Asian, all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants, which can each seat hundreds. It has been introduced by the owners of both restaurants – husband and wife JP and Sarah Xu – to highlight the issue of food waste, according to French economic publication, Capital.

It is estimated that around 20kg of food is wasted per person in France each year, amounting to about 10m tonnes (charity Waste and Resources Action Programme calculates that the UK produces around 9.5 million tonnes). While this is far less than the EU average of 131kg per person, France’s 2020 anti-waste law has set an ambitious 50 per cent reduction target by 2030.

However, buffets – which can encourage a “pile-em-high” mentality among diners, particularly those marketing themselves as all-you-can-eat – have been highlighted as a significant factor in food wastage by tech firm Winnow, which provides commercial food waste solutions for the hospitality sector in a variety of settings, including hotel chains and resorts.

Speaking to i, a representative of L’Aigle Royal explained that it “would not be a problem” if diners left a small amount of food on their plate and that the charge would only apply to those who left a large proportion of their meal on the plate and were abusing the buffet offering. Capital reports that, so far, the two restaurants have only added the charge to a handful of diners’ bills, to the tune of around €50.

The food waste charge comes after a series of unpopular instances of so-called “price gouging” at restaurants and food outlets elsewhere in Europe. In Barcelona, it has been reported that some restaurants are turning away solo diners in favour of bigger-spending groups, preferably of tourists.

Meanwhile, the Catalan capital’s historic Queviures Múrria deli has introduced a charge of €5 for “Instagram tourists” who want to take pictures inside without making a purchase.

More controversial was the €2 surcharge by Bar Pace on Italy’s upscale Lake Como for “diviso a metà” – cutting a sandwich in half for two diners to share – and the €1.50 added to a bill at Caffe Gelateria Serafini in Lavis, northern Italy, for “due cucchiaini”, an extra teaspoon to allow a couple to both enjoy a dessert. On the Italian Riviera, a diner at Osteria del Cavolo in Finale Ligure was charged €2 for “piattino condivisione” this summer when she asked for an extra plate to allow her child to taste some of her dish.

While cover charges for linen, tableware and bread are not uncommon in Italian restaurants, the country has seen the cost of pasta rise by twice the rate of inflation this year, affecting restaurants, which are also feeling the squeeze from higher energy and labour costs.