The Las Vegas Place You Shouldn’t Go on National Margarita Day, Thanks to the Insidious CNF Charge

It’s that time again! National Margarita Day! On Feb. 22, 2014, visitors from around the world will enjoy margaritas at their favorite Las Vegas bars and restaurants.

But here’s our tip for enjoying this most epic of made-up national holidays: Don’t go to Cabo Wabo Cantina at Planet Hollywood.

The reasons can be summed up with three simple letters: CNF, or the “Concession & Franchise Fee.”

Vegas visitors have long bemoaned the fact hotels charge resort fees, but Cabo Wabo Cantina and a few other Strip restaurants charge this concession fee, and it’s far worse than a resort fee because you get nothing whatsoever for it. It’s just a fee tacked onto your bill.

The CNF charge is, in fact, worse than a resort fee, because guests typically don’t learn about the gratuitous fee until their bill arrives, when it’s too late to choose another restaurant.

CNF charge

Behold, the infuriating charge that makes us want to choke someone to death. And not in a good way.

Adding to the outrage of the CNF charge is the fact it’s added to your bill before the sales tax is calculated, so you’re paying tax on a tax.

Restaurants like Cabo Wabo Cantina should provide pitchforks along with their tortilla chips.

The ridiculous, annoying and should-be-banned “Concession & Franchise Fee” runs from 3-5%, and is presumably related to fees charged to venues by the casinos they’re attached to, sort of a surcharge for a restaurant having a great location. Yes, all kinds of WTF.

Honestly, who knows and who cares why it’s charged? It’s a disgusting, shameless money grab, and we haven’t been back to Cabo Wabo Cantina since the last time we were dinged by this CNF charge.

If this charge is necessary, why doesn’t every casino restaurant include it? And why is it a separate charge, as opposed to being folded into the overall costs of food and drinks, as other operating costs are?

The sad part here is Cabo Wabo Cantina is otherwise a perfectly fine place to drink and dine, emphasis on the drink, of course. But we get prickly when establishments try such repugnant methods of extracting money from our wallet, for no additional value whatsoever. At least with hotel resort fees you get a free local phone calls. (Don’t get us started.)

Cabo Wabo CNF charge

It takes a lot for us to turn down a margarita, but the CNF charge does the trick.

Cabo Wabo Cantina isn’t the only CNF culprit, from what we hear. Other restaurants with CNF charges include Señor Frog’s at Treasure Island and Sugar Factory at Paris Las Vegas. For shame.

Want to avoid the concession fee? Ask if the restaurant charges it before you ever sit down. If you love the place, a few extra bucks might not matter. But maybe it should. If we pay this fee, we’ll be seeing more restaurants charging it, you can bet on that.

Like most things in Las Vegas, we get to vote with our dollars. So, we vote for celebrating National Margarita Day somewhere else, thanks.

  • Don McDonald

    Do they have to post on the menu about the fee?

    • Jon Nichols

      I just checked their online menu, and at the very bottom in tiny print is “All checks subject to CNF of 4.7%”

      • vitalvegas

        Thanks, Jon.

    • vitalvegas

      Not sure if it’s required, but Cabo Wabo appears to do so on theirs.

  • detroit1051

    I never heard of Concession & Franchise Fee. What a rip-off. Does this happen in other cities that have chains operating in resorts or hotels? I’ll pay for food and service but not this!

    • vitalvegas

      Agreed. Unacceptable. We haven’t heard about it anywhere else.

  • John L. Pestka

    Excellent article to point this fee out. I wonder how many patrons don’t even realize they’re paying it. And I thought you were saying not to go to Cabo Wabo because the food is awful…

    • vitalvegas

      Ha! Agree, John. This fee is made worse by the fact the bill is presented after much alcohol has been consumed. The food’s OK, but the liquor is their focal point.

  • Steven Brown

    This sounds sneakingly familiar to the “CSF” fee Rhumbar at Mirage and Casa Fuente at the Forum Shops charge.

    • vitalvegas

      Ew. Wasn’t aware of those. Maybe time for further investigation. Thanks for the tip!

  • Jon Nichols

    When I see CNF, that equals “No Tip” for me. If they’re going to be that underhanded, then I can’t respond by giving them extra money.

    • http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/author.php?author_id=3334 JK Grence

      Please don’t take out your frustrations with the management’s decisions by stiffing the waiter. Thank you.

      • vitalvegas

        Agreed. Two separate things, but the temptation is definitely there just because of the frustration factor.

        • http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/author.php?author_id=3334 JK Grence

          I’m an industry veteran and I’d be tempted to do it to them. The thing with this is that you have to tell the waiter *exactly* why they’re getting a reduced tip, otherwise they’ll just figure you’re a cheap jackass.

          • vitalvegas

            Yeah, and as you said, it’s not their fault.

    • vitalvegas

      Unfortunately, Jon, those two things aren’t related. Although, if waitstaff gets enough negative feedback, they could put pressure on the restaurant to change this policy.

  • MAKNYC

    It would seem to me that if such a fee is not legally mandated by the municipality government, and it is not specifically disclosed on the price list (menu), then the establishment would have no legal basis to enforce collection of the fee if someone protested.

    • vitalvegas

      Agreed! Guess they have it on the menu, but curious what would happen if someone refused to pay it. Managers might have the ability to remove it.

  • http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/author.php?author_id=3334 JK Grence

    Concession and Franchise Fee? As in, we have to pay the rent and the corporate office fee? Funny, I thought $17 for a cheeseburger would more than cover that. Apparently not.

    Note that neither the Cabo Wabo location in Hollywood nor the original in Cabo San Lucas have this ridiculous fee. I’m sure someone at the CW corporate office already knows, but it wouldn’t hurt to call them to let them know exactly why you won’t be returning to their establishment.

    • vitalvegas

      Completely agree. If enough people complain, they’ll make it go away. The regular menu prices might go up, but then at least it’s up front, and customers can make their own decision at that point.

  • grapes

    Thanks for the heads up. Definitely won’t be going there or anywhere else with such a fee.

    • vitalvegas

      Agreed. We don’t expect to return if that fee persists.

  • http://www.betchamissedit.com vegasauthor

    I can verify that Sugar Factory does indeed charge this insidious fee. Just had dinner there on Friday night and I am looking at my receipt. Not going there again. Too bad. I really liked the place.

  • Troy Swezey

    We just got hit for it at SUGAR FACTORY and the manager said it used to be printed on their old menus but didn’t make it onto the new menus. WTF?

  • Phranq Tamburri

    I will ALAWAY pay the CNF fee…… Only AFTER I complain to the manager AND explain to the nice waitress why I am not tipping her well. See,…. I can COST SHIFT AS WELL. Perhaps the employees not being tipped will force the restaraunts to change quicker.
    But ensure to TELL them why you are not tipping!

    • http://www.vitalvegas.com/ Scott Roeben

      That seems fair. We miss going to the places that have it a little, like Cabo Wabo and Sugar Factory. But it’s the price they pay for adding ridiculous charges.

  • George Strong

    I would simply stiff the server and feel good about it.