The sneaky way restaurants could be overcharging you

We’re well aware that it’s hard to escape excessive tipping in the digital age. From the barista who swivels an iPad with a suggested $2 tip for a $5 coffee to food delivery apps prompting us to tip electronically before we can place our next order. The last bastions of fair-tipping hope were restaurants, until now.

More and more frequently, restaurant owners are including a suggested tip at the bottom of your receipt. Their suggestions are oftentimes deceptive and can make you tip more than what you actually wanted to leave your server. How do they get away with this? We can explain.

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The most overpriced foods at restaurants
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The most overpriced foods at restaurants

Omelet -- 566%

Plate IQ breaks down a Denver omelet made with ham, cheese, onions, and peppers and finds that the raw ingredients cost just $1.35, according to an ingredient cost analysis from Plate IQ. None of the items cost more than 50 cents, yet you’re likely paying about $9 for your breakfast, meaning you pay 566 percent more. The restaurant will likely charge $1 less for a vegetarian option made with spinach, mushrooms, and Brie cheese, bringing the markup down to 471 percent. Not that every supermarket item is cheap—don't miss these 14 grocery store items that are grossly overpriced.

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Cheese pizza -- 580%

No ingredients in pizza crust cost more than 15 cents per pizza. The toppings add up a bit more, but a Margherita pizza would still cost the restaurant about $1.77, even though you’re shelling out closer to $12. Order a supreme pizza with all the works and the extra cost to fall on you could equate to a 636 percent markup.

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Pizza toppings -- 636%

If your pizzeria charges a few bucks for meat or a couple dollars for veggies, that’s an extra 525 percent markup on each topping. Get all the works on a supreme pizza, and you could be looking at paying an extra 636 percent.

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Cheese -- 417%

We get it—a hamburger won’t always do the trick when you’re craving a cheeseburger. But tacking $1.50 onto your check for a 29-cent slice of cheese is practically thievery. Don't miss these other 57 secrets your restaurant server isn't telling you.

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Guacamole -- 285%

Yes, you know guac is extra—but did you realize just how much more? Making guacamole from scratch would end up costing 52 cents per serving. With a scoop of guacamole costing up to $2 at burrito joints, though, you’re getting served a 285 percent markup.

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Pasta -- 809%

A serving of dry pasta only costs about 25 cents, and even with a homemade sauce, each serving will only cost about $1.43. Unless a restaurant is going through the labor of making its pasta from scratch, a $13 pasta dish is marked up more than 800 percent.

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Coffee -- 825%

Using the brewing instructions from Starbucks ground coffee, you’ll end up paying about 20 cents per serving. Buy a tall brewed coffee from the store, and you’re paying 825 percent more than you would by making your own. To make the most of your cafe coffee, learn how to get free refills every time you go to Starbucks.

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Soup -- 1,500%

Homemade chicken noodle soup only costs a restaurant about 30 cents to make, though a big bowl can cost $4.95, according to Forbes, making it one of the most overpriced things on a menu. If you’re concerned about “wasting” money on something you can make yourself, opt for thick soups like gumbo or chowder, which are more expensive to make but the same price for the customer, Forbes recommends. Just learn why you should never order these certain fish at restaurants—and what to get instead.

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Potatoes -- 471%

A pound of potatoes costs about 70 cents, meaning an individual spud is worth about 35 cents. On a menu, though, you’ll end up paying $2 to get one as a side, meaning you’re paying 471 percent more than you would baking your own white potato. Don't miss these other foods that chefs never order at restaurants.

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Wine -- 167%

A bottle priced at $15 at a wine shop might only cost the restaurant $10 on wholesale, but they’ll charge you $25 to $30. (That's particularly overpriced considering the best wine in the world costs just $10 retail.) Plus, paying $8 a glass—even with their bigger-than-normal pours—means you’re paying more than twice as much as you would at a BYOB restaurant. Oddly enough, you’ll often end up being less overcharged (though still, of course, paying more) for the most expensive bottles on the menu, because the biggest markups are on the cheapest bottles, according to Wine Enthusiast.

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A good tip according is 15 to 20 percent—here’s a guide to tipping no matter what the situation. You can leave closer to 15 percent if the service was average to above average, according to Consumer Reports. If your server really knocked your socks off and went out of his or her way to make your visit memorable, a 20 percent tip will be in order. Restaurants typically provide three levels of pre-suggested tips printed on receipts, some of them starting at 18 percent and moving up to 25 percent or more. Secondly, restaurants are calculating their percentages on the post-tax bill, according to an investigation by NBC San Diego News. You should only be tipping 15 to 20 percent of your meal price pre-taxaccording to the grandmother of all etiquette, the Emily Post Institute. This isn’t the only mistake we make at restaurants when we are trying to be polite.

Take a few seconds to do the math yourself instead of choosing one of the suggested options—it’ll save you some money. In addition to tipping, here are other etiquette rules you should never ignore at a restaurant. Now, if we could only get baristas to turn away from the iPad when we’re selecting a tip.

America's top fast food restaurants:

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America's Top 10 fast food restaurants
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America's Top 10 fast food restaurants

10. Starbucks

(Photo: Shutterstock)

9. Little Caesars

(Photo: Alamy)

8. Domino's Pizza

(Photo: Elizabeth Hait)

7. Subway 

(Photo: Shutterstock)

6. Dunkin Donuts

(Photo: Shutterstock)

5. Pizza Hut

(Photo: Shutterstock)

4. Papa John's 

(Photo: Shutterstock)

3. Panera Bread

(Photo: JeepersMedia/Flickr)

2. Chipotle

(Photo: Shutterstock)

1. Chick-Fil-A

(Photo: Shutterstock)

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