Got $30 extra to spend on sitting around after a meal?
Got $30 extra to spend on sitting around after a meal?
17 JANUARY 2020 8:43 AM

A hotel restaurant is trying a different pricing model to help it handle increased demand during a nearby conference, and it’s both outrageous and completely logical at the same time.

When dining out, few things are as frustrating when you arrive at a restaurant to find the dining areas full, and it seems at least half of the people at their tables have long finished their meals and are just sitting around talking.

One hotel restaurant seems to have found a solution, if only for a few days. The San Francisco Chronicle reports The Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill in San Francisco has seen a pickup in business during breakfast as the annual four-day JP Morgan Healthcare Conference takes place at a nearby hotel. To keep a steady stream of diners (both hotel guests and non-guests alike) moving in and out, the hotel has implemented congestive pricing while the conference is going on.

That translates to a $50 minimum per person, which, when adding on 18% service charge and 8.5% tax on all reservations comes to an actual per person minimum of $63.25 for breakfast. By the way, that only gets you 90 minutes in the hotel restaurant. If you want to linger, that’s another $30 (plus 8.5% tax) per person.

Between the high cost of entry and the extra cost for lounging around, I don’t think there will be too many people sticking around any longer than necessary. I’m pretty sure plenty of folks will just balk at the initial price and look for a less expensive option.

At first glance, it seems ridiculous that a hotel restaurant would require such a high minimum meal price and then charge people extra for staying longer. But when you think about it a little longer, it actually works out pretty nicely.

Don’t like the $50 minimum? Great, walk away and find breakfast somewhere else. You get to spend a reasonable amount of money on your meal and the restaurant gets to seat someone else who really, really wants to spend $22 for buttermilk pancakes, $28 for steak and eggs and $10 for a glass of orange juice (Seriously? $10 for orange juice? Are oranges squeezed in an artisanal way into your mouth?).

For those willing to splurge on breakfast, the minimum pricing and extended-sitting fee should keep the line for a table down and moving.

For the hotel, it’s mostly a win. It will definitely turn away some people who think it outrageous to not only require a high minimum spend on breakfast but to also charge a fee for sitting longer. On the other hand, it will cut down on any potential crowd. Either way, people are going to be somewhat upset, either at the prices or by the wait, so might as well go with the option that involves people spending more but having to wait a shorter period of time. On top of that, the prices will go back to normal after that conference ends, so it’s not a permanent fixture.

Besides, if the restaurant sees that it has too few diners with the minimum spend and extended-stay fee (see what I did there?), they can always adjust the prices a bit lower next year to see if that creates a better balance of supply and demand.

This type of solution won’t work at every hotel restaurant. I can’t imagine anyone thinking implementing a minimum spend at hotels where guests make their own waffles. This is a tailor-made solution to a hotel restaurant that lasts as long as its congestion does.

Personally, I think the minimum spend alone would likely be enough to ease up on the demand for tables in the restaurant, but then again, I’m not that into breakfast most days. On the other hand, there is something to be said about asking diners to at least pay for the space they’re taking up if they’re not going to order more food. I don’t know if that will necessarily catch on, but it’s an interesting experiment.

What do you think of having minimum per-person spends and charging extra for sitting around longer? Let me know in the comments below, or reach out to me at or @HNN_Bryan.

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