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 9:52 am 17 Jun 08

VG i am really quite bored, and need to earn some money… so on a final note, I just read your earlier comment and really felt threatened that you would want to do that thing with the card and my cakehole. I apologise for calling you a scrooge. What I meant was miser!

sirocco sirocco 10:29 am 17 Jun 08

If you accept that Corkage is a reasonable fee then I can’t see how you can argue that Cakeage is not acceptable. In both instances the venue would be making money by selling you the bottle or cake and by bringing them into the restaurant you are depriving them of that revenue.

To counter any argument like this I would recommend all venues that have cake and wine to say in either instance “Nope, we don’t allow any BYO of anything” – just like they do in virtually every other restaurant around the world – Aust is a bit weird with their BYO tradition.

The thing that gets me is “15% Sunday and Public Holiday Surcharge”.

I once went into one of my favourite coffee-driven restaurants (on London Circuit in Bailey’s Corner) on a public holiday and was charged an extra %15 for my meal and when I asked one of the staff if they got higher pay rates for public holidays and they said no. So what am I paying the extra 15% for? The staff don’t get extra, the food isn’t any more expensive, and last time I checked my ACTEW bill utilities didn’t go up on Canberra Day – so how is being open on a public holiday any more expensive to them than a normal day?

vg vg 10:50 am 17 Jun 08

If a miser is a person who donates $100 every year to the Cancer Council and this year just happened to be handed an Entertainment Book then maybe I am one.

Better that than a miserable twit.

Clown Killer Clown Killer 10:52 am 17 Jun 08

I’ve got no detailed specific experience of the ACT licensing arrangements, but in Victoria BYO is an actual form of liquor license – it entitles the licensee to allow the service and consumption of alcohol that has been purchased elsewhere. “Fully Licensed” used to mean that the establishment could sell a complete range of wines, beers and spirits as well as allow the service and consumption of alcohol that has been purchased elsewhere – although in practice most licensees discouraged BYO. Our federal system of government probably means that the laws are completely different here in Canberra.

The reality is that many good restaurants simply don’t have the resources or ability to establish and maintain a decent cellar and as a result the number and range of wines they can offer suffers. It just makes good business sense to allow customers who wish to do so, to bring their own wine and charge them for the privilege.

sirocco sirocco 11:09 am 17 Jun 08

A BYO licence only allows the consumption of alcohol that has been brought in by customers to be consumed on the premises. It does not govern how patrons are then charged for the privilege. A fully licenced restaruant pays more and goes through more hassle with the ACT government to have the ability to sell alcohol – why would they then allow someone to bring in booze?

And it is very, very easy to maintain a decent wine selection – ALM (Australian Liquor Merchants) is an Australia wide alcohol wholesaler that sells to just about every hospitality business in Oz. Their selection may not be amazingly interesting or unique but it is broad enough to allow any old cafe to stock a good selection of Australian wines (and beers, ciders, port, spirits, tobacco, potato chips, tally ho papers etc just about anything to stock a bar/restaurant).

With the majority of Australian wines consumed within 24 hrs of purchase there is no need to have a “cellar” per se. Your $15 bottle Oyster Bay sauvignon blancs or $40 tassie pinot noirs are easily purchased weekly/daily/whatever from ALM. How many people out there actually take a bottle of something to a joe-average restaurant that they didn’t buy moments before at the local IGA because it was cheaper?

I grant you that it would be difficult to maintain an exceptional cellar (like The Ginger Room at OPH) but how many restaurants need this sort of cellar?

Clown Killer Clown Killer 11:18 am 17 Jun 08

…it is very, very easy to maintain a decent wine selection…

If that was truly the case, then you’d imagine more establishments would do so.

sirocco sirocco 11:59 am 17 Jun 08

I agree totally Clown Killer. It is so easy and yet so many restaurants cock it up – the point I was trying to make (but didn’t do well) was that wine selections should be much better but they often aren’t…

Mr Evil Mr Evil 12:00 pm 17 Jun 08

Next it’ll be –

Arseage – fee charged for using a seat while sitting at the table.

Lightage – charged for any lighting required over your table while you dine.

shauno shauno 12:36 pm 17 Jun 08

Some restaurants are flexible I took a bottle of grange to a non BYO restaurant once after phoning them first. They said yes as long as I paid the $20 per person corkage which i didn’t mind as I wanted to have the 86 grange there with some nice wagyu they had. Mind you I tried that at the charcoal grill once with a 71 grange and they wouldn’t do no matter how much the corkage was.

smeeagain smeeagain 12:39 pm 17 Jun 08

What I object to is when everyone on the the table is charged corkage. I don’t drink wine, so I am paying top dollar for their spirits or beer, then being charged corkage on top of that. Gets on my goat.

Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 12:46 pm 17 Jun 08

You already pay arseage and lightage in France. Want to sit outside instead of inside? Arseage. Want candlight? Lightage.

Clown Killer Clown Killer 12:46 pm 17 Jun 08

Fair call smeeagain, it would be particularly irritating if you also had to pay “goatage”

mouthface mouthface 12:46 pm 17 Jun 08

Two regular customers at a well known Canberra restaurant are Mr. Tight and Mr. Generous. Mr Tight always brings a BYO wine, never orders dessert or any extras, and never tips. He usually enquires about every detail on the bill and, whilst paying for the corkage, makes it known that he doesn’t agree with the charge. Mr Generous, on the other hand, will order a pre dinner drink, make a selection (or two) from the wine list, order three courses, coffee and a dessert wine and always leave a twenty dollar tip.

Scenario 1: It’s 9.58pm and the kitchen closes at 10pm. It’s been a long day and staff and owner are keen to wind things down, clean up and get out of there, grab a couple of cold ones at the local pub and head home. Mr Tight and company walk into the restaurant and ask for a table. The waiter politely informs them that the kitchen will be closing any minute and unfortunately they are not taking any more tables. Mr Tight and company head off to Chicken Gourmet to get some chips with gravy.

Scenario 2: It’s 9.58pm and the kitchen closes at 10pm. It’s been a long day and staff and owner are keen to wind things down, clean up and get out of there, grab a couple of cold ones at the local pub and head home. Mr Generous and company walk into the restaurant and ask for a table. The waiter politely informs them that the kitchen will be closing any minute, but in his case, they will keep the kitchen open a little longer, and promptly seats him and his company at his favourite table. Mr Generous and company have a great dinner, and owner and staff are happy to go the extra mile because it’s worth it for them.

The next day, Mr Tight, being a religious man, breaks down during his prayer session and and cries out in exasperation “Oh God, why have you foresaken me? Have I not been a good and decent man? Did I not donate to charity and save lives in the course of my employment? Why can’t you make it so I win Powerball?”

Suddenly a thunderous voice is heard to say ” Sheesh, Mr Tight…. enough already, meet me halfway…. buy a ticket!”

madman madman 12:52 pm 17 Jun 08

tylersmayhem said :

Also, people need to keep in mind that another reason that corkage is charged is because establishments need to cough up a huge amount of money to be allowed to alcoholic beverages to be server on their property. In some cases, the corkage would only just cover this licensing over a 12 month period.

I also have no real problem with cakeage, as long as the cost is reasonable.

I suppose this is to pay for the cake serving license?
I toatally agree that if you bring your own grog in you should supplement the license they need for it.

Thumper – I totally agree with you like always…

Plus why should you tip the waiter for the really good meal? Surely it was the chef’s doing and the waiter only took your order and moved your plates. Geez – monkeys can do that…

tylersmayhem tylersmayhem 1:15 pm 17 Jun 08

Hi Madman – just to clarify, in most if not all establishments, the kitchen get the same, if not more share of the tips received from the waiters.

For the record, I’m always happy to pay good money, and occasionally tip if the food and experience was outstanding. I just don’t like encouraging a US style tipping culture when you’re expected to pay for everything (good service or not) including twisitng a lid off the top of a beer bottle in a bar!

Ozhair Ozhair 1:41 pm 17 Jun 08

Okay, corkage and cakeage I can see the point of, no real problems there.

But this Service Fee thing? WTF? Every other service industry on the face of the Earth (okay I may be exagerating a wee bit) manages to build the cost of their product being served to you into the costs of said product. Why is the restaurant industry different? Why the need to seperate out the service fee?

As others have said, I have no problem with tipping if the service is exceptional, but being charged extra simply for standard service? Where else do you do that? Do I get charged a service fee at Dymocks because the guy behind the counter puts the book in a bag for me?

The Brad The Brad 1:48 pm 17 Jun 08

Every other service industry on the face of the Earth (okay I may be exagerating a wee bit) manages to build the cost of their product being served to you into the costs of said product.

Except for tradesmen. They charge the cost of a 30 minute taxi trip just to visit you.

mouthface mouthface 1:59 pm 17 Jun 08

Actually Ozhair, I was charged (I think it was 50c) to get a bag for my book at Borders

madman madman 2:05 pm 17 Jun 08

Hey there Tyler!
Thanks for clarifying that – I guess that’s what happens in Australia?

Cause from what I was reading the US waiters have a lower wage and supplement it from the tips – didn’t see anything about chef’s etc – would they be on supplemented wages too?

Mouthface I thought you were going away to earn some bread!!!!

toriness toriness 2:15 pm 17 Jun 08

mouthface, the 50c bag fee at borders is to discourage people from getting a bag when they probably don’t need one ie save the environment. nothing to do with paying the person behind the counter to just do their job as they are already being paid to do.

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