Surprising new charges at restaurants – and some oldies as well

Peter Holland 16 June 2008 135

Talking to a mate today, he told me that he got slugged at a restaurant at a birthday party for the following charges:

Corkage – an oldie but still around

Cakeage – What the?? it is a cake, you get a knife, you cut it. Not really haute cuisine…

Service Charge – apparently similar to an american “tip”

Cancellation charge – one member of his party cancelled, cost him, wait for it….. $29.00!

His reaction to these charges, never go back to that restaurant, which he wouldn’t tell me the name of, priceless.

have you heard of these charges or other new ones that seem a bit over the top?


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135 Responses to Surprising new charges at restaurants – and some oldies as well
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mouthface mouthface 10:27 pm 16 Jun 08

Felix,

Most club bistros are contracted and only make their money from the sale of food, but in most cases they have a contract which includes greatly subsidised rent on the club floor and a complete fitout that they did not have to invest in. Their investment did not include a purchase price or a fit out cost. The club also has an arrangement with them to cap prices and they work on massive volumes. To give you an idea, a bistro like the one at Southern Cross club or Hellenic club will do more people in one day than most restaurants will do in a week. The inly motivation the clubs have is to get as many people through the door so that some of their money ends up in the pokies.

Felix the Cat Felix the Cat 10:08 pm 16 Jun 08

I don’t really agree with tipping (in Aust) or “service fee”. Aren’t the actual waiting staff supposed to get this money – they provided the good service? So how does it work if you pay the bill with the “service charge” by credit card? The restaurant gets it all I would think.

Corkage and cakeage (never heard of the latter until today but I guess it’s fair enough if they charge corkage) – shouldn’t the cost of the meal/wine cover this without it being an extra charge? I can see the purpose in it, just reckon it’s a bit of a rort on top of the overpriced meal you’ve already paid for.

Other cheaper eating establishments (such as clubs) don’t charge corkage or cakeage (or service or cancellation fees…) so why do restaurants that charge a lot more for their meals feel the need to? Yes, I know clubs have polkies and membership fees but I’m sure their bistros don’t run at a loss (a lot of them are outsourced anyway). I’m guessing that the local club pays their chefs and waiters pretty much the same as the fancy restaurants do. An award wage is an award wage, they aren’t going to pay more if they don’t have to.

mouthface mouthface 9:56 pm 16 Jun 08

Special G said :

Mouthface is all out on this one. If restaurants want to throw in a service charge they should up the prices of their meals. Then see if people will go there based on the food cost and quality. Put the costs up front.

As for the comment about regular customers being critics. Damn right they are. They don’t do write ups in magazines although treat your customers like shit , especially somewhere small like Canberra, and watch your cash flow go out the window. Regular punters are keeping your business running they should be treated exactly the same as any food critic.

Exactly, they don’t do write ups. They don’t get to publish uninformed comment, which is what canberracafe.com was suggesting. S/he has no idea about restaurants judging by what s/he has written, yet feels justified in calling an establishment a rip off because they charge corkage. Pull your head in!

mouthface mouthface 9:48 pm 16 Jun 08

Thumper said :

It’s also a matter of greasing the wheel, tori. Staff are less likely to spit in my food or knock a Merlot into my lap if they know their tip is dependent on their efforts.

So tipping is blackmail?

Actually, tipping is bribery. And that is exactly what it is supposed to be. Most people may not understand the nature of tipping and therefore choose to be critical of it as a practice. Certainly nobody is obliged to tip and should never be made to feel that they have to. In the American system, it actually is a service charge rather than a true tip, because the way hospitality staff get paid works a little differently.

The beauty of the tip, when done properly, is that it is a bribe to extract extra service from the waiting staff and have a perfect night out. For example, if you want the best table in the house, and slip the waiter a tip before the service, then by rights, you should be able to have it. The tip is proclaiming “I am a big tipper, and if you give me extra special service, you will be rewarded”. If you are a regular, and known for being generous, then staff will probably go out of their way to make sure everything goes smoothly for you. That shouldn’t mean that if you don’t tip you should receive shit service, but well known big tippers will get the extra attention. Kind of like the highest bidder on ebay wins the item.

Duke Duke 9:37 pm 16 Jun 08

@vg – I’m not against tipping those people. We should start a movement! Next Thursday you can tip your Centerlink officer and i’ll throw some coins at the first stop-n-go guy I see leaning on his shovel. When I worked as a cleaner I didn’t get tips, but I did get small gifts from people whose offices and toilets I cleaned. A token gesture goes a long way.

@Thumper – ‘blackmail’ is an ugly word. Replace it with ‘incentive’

Duke Duke 9:19 pm 16 Jun 08

tori – I should also add that tipping at a restaurant you frequent has many benefits. The staff get to know you and know your name (which always impresses clients, girlfriends, family) and can lead to better table placement, discounts, priority bookings and freebies. I’m the guy at the quiet table in the corner, vg and other misers sit at the wobbly table next to the mens loos!

Thumper Thumper 9:19 pm 16 Jun 08

It’s also a matter of greasing the wheel, tori. Staff are less likely to spit in my food or knock a Merlot into my lap if they know their tip is dependent on their efforts.

So tipping is blackmail?

vg vg 9:06 pm 16 Jun 08

“Tradition, not americanisation leads me to tip and because I worked in kitchens for many years so I know the restaurant game is a tough gig.”

So is cleaning toilets, working the front counter in Centrelink, being a nurse in a casualty ward in a major hospital and working on a road gang. No tips there.

vg vg 9:02 pm 16 Jun 08

‘Tipping’ is another habit imported from the USA. If the service I receive is exemplary then the staff are doing their job. Its nothing extreme, it just called professionalism. The only reward they need receive, like myself, is my fortnightly pay packet.

If the pay that hospitality staff received is below par that isn’t my problem. It might be unfair etc etc but that’s the staff’s battle to fight. Having said that, when I am in a group and we all throw in equal amounts to cover the total meal I am happy to leave the excess when the service is of a high standard. When it is just me paying with a credit card I never leave a tip.

Tipping is bullshit. The only onus on any ‘self-respecting diner’ has is to pay the bill. That’s it. No obligation legal, moral or otherwise to go past that point. If hospitality staff think gratuities are some sort of right as opposed to a privilege the chip will get knocked off their shoulders when they move outside the comfort of their service job.

Duke Duke 8:58 pm 16 Jun 08

tori – it’s a tough one, deciding if or how much one should tip, but I must have good taste/luck with restaurants because rarely do I encounter bad service – except on my last trip to Woodstock (my distain illustrated by a 20 cent tip).

Tradition, not americanisation leads me to tip and because I worked in kitchens for many years so I know the restaurant game is a tough gig.

You will be pleased to know i haven’t gone down the path of tipping my hairdresser!

Nobody really deserves a tip for doing their job well, but if i’ve had a pleasant evening, and the success of the dinner is due in part to a competent waiter/ess, then i’m happy to throw in a couple of extra bucks knowing they so easily could have ruined the night by being rude etc.

It’s also a matter of greasing the wheel, tori. Staff are less likely to spit in my food
or knock a Merlot into my lap if they know their tip is dependent on their efforts.

toriness toriness 8:40 pm 16 Jun 08

duke – interested to know why you think ‘any self-respecting diner will/should tip anyway’? do you mean regardless of quality of food or service i should still leave a tip? if the food and service is below standard, do i have the right to deduct money from my bill? and i am wondering why it is tha if i do an excellent job in my current job, or have done in the past in my previous jobs, i have never received a tip. even though there is absolutely a service element to my job – indeed isn’t there a service element to nearly all jobs? why is it that hospitality people ‘deserve’ tips for good work but nobody else? my commentary is not a personal attack against you at all, duke, i am just of the opinion that tipping is americanised bullshit.

ulyssesSB ulyssesSB 8:30 pm 16 Jun 08

Duke said :

Alotta tightarses on this thread. Going to a restaurant is an occasion, an experience. If all you want is a ‘feed’ pissoff back to the Leagues club.

@ Special G – Canberra has excellent restaurants in part because it is a small town. Bad restaurants quickly get a bad rep and don’t last long. I don’t mind paying a bit more to support a restaurant producing good food.

If critics of extra charges had their way the only restaurants left in town would be McDonalds – which is the type of dining experience these critics should stick to!

This is the truth.

Duke Duke 8:10 pm 16 Jun 08

Corkage – acceptable – (the miscreant in me longs to take some cask wine to a fancy restaurant and have the wait staff tap it for me 😉

Cakeage – acceptable – you’re using restaurant plates, cuttlery, spilling crumbs on the floor.

Service fee – rubbish. Any self-respecting diner will/should tip anyway

Cancellation fee – acceptable. $29 for one cancellation is a bit rich, but when whole tables cancel everybody loses, including the group who couldn’t dine because the restaurant was ‘fully booked.’

Alotta tightarses on this thread. Going to a restaurant is an occasion, an experience. If all you want is a ‘feed’ pissoff back to the Leagues club.

@ Special G – Canberra has excellent restaurants in part because it is a small town. Bad restaurants quickly get a bad rep and don’t last long. I don’t mind paying a bit more to support a restaurant producing good food.

If critics of extra charges had their way the only restaurants left in town would be McDonalds – which is the type of dining experience these critics should stick to!

ulyssesSB ulyssesSB 8:01 pm 16 Jun 08

Special G said :

Mouthface is all out on this one. If restaurants want to throw in a service charge they should up the prices of their meals. Then see if people will go there based on the food cost and quality. Put the costs up front.

As for the comment about regular customers being critics. Damn right they are. They don’t do write ups in magazines although treat your customers like shit , especially somewhere small like Canberra, and watch your cash flow go out the window. Regular punters are keeping your business running they should be treated exactly the same as any food critic.

Service charge/corkage/cakeage = shit treatment? Once again it is called PAYING FOR A SERVICE! What is there not to get. How is it sooo hard to understand that when in a dining establishment, YOU MUST PAY FOR THEIR SERVICE? They aren’t a charity, they are a business. Why should you expect them to serve you for free. This is essentially what it boils down to.

Primal Primal 8:00 pm 16 Jun 08

enrique said :

Not really, birthday/special occasion cakes are a traditional part of Australian society/culture that only come out on the odd occasion.

As a rule, who is going to even think about ordering dessert when there’s free cake around? The restaurant allows you to BYO your own food (doing themselves out of potential income in the process) and charges a small fee for the cutlery, plates and possibly even serving of said food. Nothing wrong with that in my book.

astrojax astrojax 7:57 pm 16 Jun 08

Not really, birthday/special occasion cakes are a traditional part of Australian society/culture that only come out on the odd occasion.

you really have no capacity for seeing things from anyone else’s perspective, do you enrique? ‘odd occasion’ for you, mebbe, but a restaurant potentially deals with oddballs like you every sitting. are you seriously trying to make a case that ‘cakeage’ (apart from the appalling name) is somehow ‘unaustralian’? get a life, f’fark’s sake…

that aside, the cancellation fee seems a bit on the nose, as does the service charge – service is provided by staff who are paid a minimum wage about which a customer would be aware, unlike the states where the minimum wage is so paltry that a tip – service charge – is expected. we are not america. i’d have told them to shove it up their jumper, unless it was a public holiday and this was information available before the sitting commenced.

Special G Special G 7:20 pm 16 Jun 08

Mouthface is all out on this one. If restaurants want to throw in a service charge they should up the prices of their meals. Then see if people will go there based on the food cost and quality. Put the costs up front.

As for the comment about regular customers being critics. Damn right they are. They don’t do write ups in magazines although treat your customers like shit , especially somewhere small like Canberra, and watch your cash flow go out the window. Regular punters are keeping your business running they should be treated exactly the same as any food critic.

ulyssesSB ulyssesSB 7:08 pm 16 Jun 08

Hey enrique,
I am not interested in debating, I just want to hurt your feelings… duh!

Also, If the nice person has gone to the trouble of making a cake, the other lazy sods should have the decency to put in for cakeage. What are we talking about here? Two dollars each… come on get serious.

lux lux 7:05 pm 16 Jun 08

I’ve worked at a lot of restaurants and encountered a lot of bogans who didn’t like paying corkage, cakeage and the like… I’ve had people claim that because they brought a screw-top wine bottle, they shouldn’t have to pay corkage as there’s no cork. Bah! All in all, the tables that bitched and moaned about the extra charge were generally the same ones that needed items on the menu explained to them, the same ones that asked for chips and gravy (in a five-star, fine dining restaurant), the same ones that counted out coins to pay the bill.

As a side note, i worked a very reputable restaurant in Canberra a few years back, and they charged cakeage and corkage by the bottle or cake, rather than by the person. So they’re obviously not the “money grubbing” type of proprietors referred to by some in this discussion, as the fee they charge is flat, they don’t squeeze more out of you depending on the size of your party.

Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 7:01 pm 16 Jun 08

All for cakeage (if they bring plates, cutlery and napkins and light the candles). All for reasonable corkage. And I’d tip in an instant if I started getting the same level of service I get in the US, where nothing is ever too hard.

Were they out on the public holiday? Some places charge a flat rate ‘service charge’ on public holidays.

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