I’ve often stopped to grab a bite to eat whilst out on a shopping trip, pausing at a supermarket café or High Street restaurant.
Of course, choice and standard of food can vary greatly between cafés, but what can also vary vastly is the way in which the condiments are made available.
It’s often nice to add a bit of vinegar, ketchup or mayonnaise to a meal, preferably from a decent bottle, but this is not always the case. Sauces can be served in anything from tiny, hard-to-open sachets, which can be free or cost anything up to 12p, to large bottles that are left permanently on the tables, with a number of other options in between.
Plastic sachets are the most annoying ways to have your ketchup served. You can spend ages trying to open them up, spraying unsuspecting fellow-eaters in the process, only to end up with the most minute splodge of sauce on your plate. It can take several of these to produce enough of your chosen sauce to complement your meal – not really an option if you’re paying for the privilege, not to mention all that plastic waste!
It may be that some cafés fear that bottles of sauces will ‘disappear’ or are less cost effective, but considering what you pay for some meals, a bottle of sauce is a small ask. Some eating-places bring the bottles to the table with your meal and remove them when you’ve finished – there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.
Sainsbury’s restaurants have tried various systems over the years. Originally I remember being able to help myself to sauce from a bottle, then to sachets that were readily available at no extra cost. Then they started to supply a pot of sachets at the till point, which in my local branch at least, has now been reduced to an odd sachet or two being produced reluctantly when you pay.
One of the best systems, for customers and café owners alike, is that adopted by McDonalds – sauce on tap. This way you help yourself to your chosen condiment, in suitable amounts, in a type of card-based pot, which is much more user and environmentally friendly than plastic sachets.
However the sauces are served, I don’t believe that customers should pay extra for the privilege, but what do you think?