Ok, it IS organic but at $3 per cup is it really fair trade?

We are regular visitors to the Mongolian Village Grill in the Gloucester Centre in Ottawa’s East End. You can see our previous review here. It remains one of our favourite Ottawa dining spots. However, a small but noticeable change caused me to wonder about how some restaurateurs choose to set their prices and whether this seriously affects their patrons’ overall dining experiences. The change was that there were smart new displays listing the various beverages available and their respective costs.

When I was in the cookware business many years ago, we had a saying: “The price is the price is the price!” Generally, it is the salesperson’s job to build the value in the customer’s perception until it exceeds the actual price. At this point, you would likely have a sale. Generally, I apply this maxim to my restaurant bills, which I tend not to examine too closely. I look at the total cost and relate that to our overall dining experience to determine how I feel about the value received for money laid out. On this basis, let me say that generally, the Mongolian Village Grill offers good value, provided you are careful with your food selection. After this recent visit, however, I must add a codicil regarding coffee and dessert.

The new tabletop display informed me that a simple cup of coffee was $3.00. Some may think this not unreasonable and our son Ian quipped that if it was organic, free-trade coffee, then the price was justified. As a matter of fact, the sign did indicate that it was indeed organic free-trade. Personally, this carries little weight with me. It is a choice of the restaurateur and should not affect the end price since the cost of the ground coffee is a small percentage of the end price. Generally, I do not drink coffee after a meal and therefore do not really pay attention to prices except at breakfast where I would normally expect to pay around $2.00 for a bottomless cup if it is not included in a special.

A discussion started at our table and some found the price not unreasonable others decided they would forgo it at that price. To put this in more perspective and relate it back to the Mongolian Village, the costs of the main course ranged from $8.50 to $21.00. I should mention that $8.50 was for Fayth who is only 4 years old. My own meal was $12.50. When you consider that this includes choice of soup, unlimited steamed rice and wraps, this is very reasonable. But a simple cup of coffee adds 20% extra to an average $15.00 entrée.

Now let’s talk about a subject near and dear to my heart: dessert! I often have dessert here because there are two that I particularly like: 1. Fruit-filled crêpes, 2. White chocolate truffle cake. The girls, Lara and Amber will usually share a serving of the chocolate lava cake. Also on offer are carrot cake and lemon meringue pie. My criticism here is that all are offered at a premium price of $6.00 each. This could perhaps be justified in the case of the crêpes, which require labour to put together, but the lemon meringue pie or carrot cake? Assuming that a large pie or cake wholesales for $12.00 and yields 10 – 12 portions, this represents a mark-up of 500 -600% . I have nothing against profit per se but this definitely falls into the excessive column in my book.

If you are the kind of patron who likes coffee and dessert with your meal, at The Mongolian Village Grill, it is going to inflate your bill to the tune of $9.00 per person and add 30 – 50% to the total cost of the evening. Personally, I do not find this the sweetest way to end a meal!

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