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Pouring it on foolishness of charges

Mar 28, 2017 3:11 AM

As predicted, after major Las Vegas Strip casino/resorts instituted automobile parking charges in recent months, word has emerged indicating additional “pour-on” charges for ketchup will soon be instituted at many Southern Nevada resort restaurants.

Those with knowledge of the inner working of major Las Vegas resorts had predicted parking charges could snowball into other areas at the major properties. The “pour on” charge seems to be the first indication of this industry trend.

The popular table sauce was first made with egg whites, mushrooms, oysters, mussels, walnuts, or other foods, but more recently the unmodified term usually refers to tomato ketchup. Employees at eateries where the “ketchup charge” will be instituted are being briefed to make sure they know “tomato sauce” is the more common term in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and India, and is almost exclusively used in South Africa. Other foreign guests will be informed of the charge on a need to know basis.

As any hamburger eater is aware, ketchup is a sweet and somewhat tangy sauce, made from tomatoes, sweetener, vinegar and various seasonings and spices. Those seasonings usually vary by recipe, but generally include onions, allspice, coriander, cloves, cumin, garlic and sometimes celery, cinnamon or ginger, and even mustard.

The market leader in the United States is Heinz with an 82 percent market share. Heinz has recently introduced several new ketchup varieties including organic, no salt, reduced sugar, sriracha and jalapeno. The McIlhenny Company, makers of Tabasco products, has also begun selling its spicy ketchup.

Ketchup historians say it is believed that in the 17th century the Chinese mixed a concoction of pickled fish and spices and called it (in the Amoy dialect) kôe-chiap or kê-chiap. By the early 18th century, the table sauce had made it to the Malay states (present day Malaysia and Singapore), where it was tasted by English colonists. The Indonesian-Malay word for the sauce was kecap (pronounced “kay-chap”). That word evolved into the English word “ketchup.” English settlers brought ketchup with them to the American colonies.

The term ketchup was used in 1690 in a popular dictionary. The spelling “catchup” or “catsup” has also been used. It is not exactly known why Hunt’s Foods, a major ketchup provider, in recent years switched to the spelling used by Heinz and dropped “catsup” as its preferred spelling. Industry speculation remains that the change may have been prompted by Hunt’s Food acquisition by Conagra Brands in the 1990’s, but this could not be confirmed.

A major Las Vegas Strip executive with knowledge of the change in policy but not authorized to speak for publication on the subject for fear of dismissal without severance or time to clean out his desk or locker, said, “Our cost of providing free ketchup has simply gotten out of hand. With all the additional remodeling at our property, we have to search for as many profit centers as we can. There’s no such thing as a free lunch and soon there will be no such thing as free ketchup.”

He told GamingToday exclusively, “ketchup must be monetized in today’s modern hospitality environment.” He added that high-level meetings were held to determine if the resort’s fees could be increased to cover ketchup, Worcestershire Sauce, mustard and mayonnaise, but that idea was rejected. For now, only ketchup lovers will incur the extra charge. Properties with significant Chinese menus will offer free soy sauce, but only to customers who order Chinese items from the menu.

When asked about possible “blowback” or “regurgitation” from ketchup lovers, he said, “Yes, we expect it. However, we think ketchup remains a popular item for burgers, eggs and steaks, so guests will be agreeable to paying for it, just the same as parking.”

He also noted that the exact way the “pour-on” charge will be implemented is not yet determined. Ketchup may be provided in those plastic tubes with a set charge for each packet. It was proposed GPS, infrared and geo-location technology or even a specially designed “measuring computer chip” could allow cashiers to determine exactly how much ketchup is used on each table by each group or individual. An itemized ketchup charge on each check would then automatically be added in by the cashier. It will be impossible to avoid, just the same as the resort fee.

I.M. French, president of the National Ketchup Lovers Society (NKLS), said he was unaware of the new charge on ketchup, but would mobilize members for a march down the Las Vegas Strip unless other condiments, especially mustard, face similar charges.

Editors Note: the important nature of the information contained in this column requires it be published today including information embargoed until April 1.