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Surprising new charges at restaurants – and some oldies as well

By 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?

What’s Your opinion?


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135 Responses to
Surprising new charges at restaurants – and some oldies as well
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Holden Caulfield 11:17 pm 17 Jun 08

ant said :

the kitchen gets a share of the tips? No they bloody-well don’t! And if the chef gets a share, no one else does.

Yes, I was going to mention that. I was a dishpig while studying and not only did the place I work generally have 6 waiting staff to 2 kitchen staff (1 chef, 1 dishpig/assistant), but we never saw any sign of the tips the wait staff “earned” through sitting on their arse all night, haha.

shiny flu 10:46 pm 17 Jun 08

Gratuity charge is way over the top for Australia, America: definitely normal, Europe: to be expected. If the service/food was not up to a high standard I would refuse to pay a set ‘tip.’ But if the service and food were good 10%-15% if it was average then 5%-10%.

ant 9:26 pm 17 Jun 08

the kitchen gets a share of the tips? No they bloody-well don’t! And if the chef gets a share, no one else does.

shauno 9:06 pm 17 Jun 08

Speaking of tips once in Singapore a while ago we had a pretty big night out in Chimes and I had my credit card over the bar. End of the night gave them a $100 tip and woke up the next day hungover to the max. Was going through a few receipts and noticed the 100 tip had an extra 0 added by one of the staff. So in my drunken state ended up paying $1000 tip yipee

Thumper 8:30 pm 17 Jun 08

I should add that I have absolutely no problems with corkage and cakeage.

Danman 8:24 pm 17 Jun 08

regardless needlenose, not that I am a well internationally travelled person, but I worked in hospitality for almost a decade a as chef, and I eat out often, and IMO the US has the best table service I have ever experienced.

I think if I am going to pay a little extra on top of what is already a damn sight cheaper dining by Australian standards, then I do not mind.

The end result of wait staff relying on tips is lower food cost and better service.
At the end of it all, you probably pay just as much as you do in AU but the table service is so much better.

As for tips in australia, if I have a good meal with great service ill tip.

If the service was the minimum to keep me happy I will not…

Cakeage and corkage as previously discussed is fine.

Cancellation fee is a bit rich depending on numbers, but when I had my chef hat on and we had catering for people – we request a cut off for numbers and will charge on those numbers even if people cancel.

This is because all teh food has to be purchased on the numbers supplied and if people cancel, its the establishment that misses out.

If I got charged a cancellation fee because my a’la’carte booking of 4 was now 3 then that’s a bit steep.

I generally only charged for cancellations when it was a pre ordered and arranged function booking – and the cancellation fee was no refund on non attencence..for all or a few..Hard isn’t it, but why should teh establishment foot the bill for a lot of food it would not have needed.

fabforty 8:20 pm 17 Jun 08

OK, I used to own my own restaurant. Every dollar counts. Like all business owners I had huge overheads. When you own a small venue and have it taken up with a large table of customers who bring their own wine and cake your small profit margin is even less. For each bottle of BYO wine staff have to provide glassware and a wine cooler then clear the glasses and wash them up. For each cake brought we have to store it, serve it complete with candles, forks and side plates. The same has to be cleared and washed. Often for a Woolies mudcake. That’s not to mention how much we have lost through loss of dessert sales.

I have even had arguments with customers who thought bringing cask wine and a six-pack of muffins was OK. At what point do we say “enough” ? Should we accept customers bringing crackers and dip for pre-dinner drinks ? How is that different to bringing their own dessert ?

Nosey 8:19 pm 17 Jun 08

Mouthface,

While I agree with some points, I disagree with others that you have made.

Namely, people bring in their own birthday cake because it’s more personal IMO.

It’s not the same but similar to getting others to buy presents for someone.

The thought is gone.

Anyway, thanks to you and enrique for giving me a few laughs on an otherwise dull day.

needlenose 7:55 pm 17 Jun 08

The US system is stuffed – not only do tips supplement low wages; the waitstaff are actually TAXED on what the government estimates their tips ought to be. If they get more than that, they’re supposed to declare it for tax as well. If they get less, tough. It’s the government’s way of catching what are essentially cash in hand transactions, but it means that if someone stiffs the waitstaff on tips, the consequence is more than just not getting the money – they’re actually out of pocket.

Can’t really see why anyone would object to paying cakeage. I organised a big party at the Ottoman last year, with the degustation menu. But because it was a special occasion, I wanted to get one of those completely OTT cakes from that place in Queanbeyan, made to my own design. The Ottoman maitre d’, who was great throughout, said that would be fine; the charge would be the same, but instead of the dessert course they would store, present, plate serve etc the cake. Seemed very fair to me. (And in the event I was too late to order my OTT cake, and not only did they put together lovely desserts for 80 guests at short notice, they made me a special one of my own.)

Holden Caulfield 5:08 pm 17 Jun 08

Before it’s finished I have one question and a few comments.

Is vg going to charge mouthface a cakeage fee for removing his card from mouthface’s cake hole?

I think mouthface and ulyssesSB kind of missed enrique’s point about PR. Not withstanding the equally valid points about the legitimacy of charging for services provided. I understand and accept corkage fees as I do understand the fact a service is still being supplied, but, in most cases, I also don’t think it is too much to ask to offer that service gratis. Who knows, doing so, might even earn you a tip, haha.

And one last one … arseface, I think it is time you shut your mouth. Better to be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

tylersmayhem 4:39 pm 17 Jun 08

Hey Madman,

I was basing these facts while working in the industry in both Aussie & UK. I can’t comment for the US. Nothing would surprise me on what they do over there!? Talk about maintaining a false economy. I’d love to take a lower wage and get the majority of my pay via tips (if it was enforced like in the US), then be paid the majority of my income tax free!

ulyssesSB 3:57 pm 17 Jun 08

on a drunken level that is…

ulyssesSB 3:56 pm 17 Jun 08

Now please, for the sake of humanity – can people PLEASE stop encouraging this debate. It is chasing it’s tale and facts are being regurgitated and a drunken level. Let us agree to disagree. I’ll eat out, you’ll eat in. Fair?

ulyssesSB 3:54 pm 17 Jun 08

astrojax said :

Why should you expect them to serve you for free

why, ulysses? becuase it is their job and they get awage to do so. do you tip every shop assistant , every service station counter operator?

now, tipping for service above and beyond expectations is justified. paying a ‘service charge’ is a rort.

Although I get the feeling that this thread is starting to go in circles, and people are just repeating the same ol’ thing I will post a lil’ summit. I DO AGREE that a service charge is pretty silly. I don’t really get the point of it, but I’ll pay it if a place has it. However, corkage and cakeage on BYO items is in my opinion perfectly reasonable.

Tipping, (I read somewhere above) has been explained as not being charged but offered rather by the customer. In the States, it has a different meaning – and IS a service charge under the masquerade of ‘tip’. Much in the same linguistic quirk as they refer to a main meal as an ‘entree’.

In response to the last part – I think it is agreeable that most dinners will cost you over 40 bucks IF you actually go to a restaurant and not a cafe of the like. Now, personally, if I buy a book for $49 dollars and pay with a fifty, I’ll let the counter clerk keep the change. And although it equates to a lesser tip on percentage – the level of work far outweighs the tip size.

madman 3:54 pm 17 Jun 08

Skaboy – Do you do tyres/brakes for motorbikes?

Duke 3:41 pm 17 Jun 08

I wouldn’t tip your staff skaboy, this is true, but if I was happy with the service provided (and those courtesy air fresheners score big with me!)then you would be assured of my repeat business and me passing on recommendations to my friends. That would be your reward.

I can’t defend tipping in some industries and not in others ska, but I do pay hourly ‘labour’ charges for work done on my car. ‘Labour’ is the mechanics equivalent of corkage. Perhaps we could avoid all labour charges and mechanics could just include labour in the cost of parts!

skaboy12 3:36 pm 17 Jun 08

COme into Ozzy Tyres and we will look after you.

astrojax 3:35 pm 17 Jun 08

Why should you expect them to serve you for free

why, ulysses? becuase it is their job and they get awage to do so. do you tip every shop assistant , every service station counter operator?

now, tipping for service above and beyond expectations is justified. paying a ‘service charge’ is a rort.

madman 3:19 pm 17 Jun 08

skaboy… where is this magical place you talk about?

skaboy12 2:38 pm 17 Jun 08

Duke said :

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.

But I bet you wouldn’t tip my staff for putting wheels and tyres on your car, or doing a service on it.

Even though we go one step further than other tyre places by checking your brake pads, cleaning your wheels and putting an airfreshener in your car, egardless of what you get done, you would never even think to tip the boys out the back covered in grease. I reckon they get na fair bit dirtier and do worse jobs than waitstaff.

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