It’s a common experience to look at a restaurant’s menu and find hidden charges laying in the fine print – from service fees to split bill and public holiday costs, it can feel like surcharges are everywhere.
And while it’s legal for such establishments to expect as much from their customers, particularly when it comes to public holidays, one particular cafe has ignited a debate over what’s actually reasonable when it comes to such surcharges.
An exasperated customer launched the conversation when they posted to Reddit, sharing an image of a menu they’d encountered while dining out in Brisbane, and the 25 per cent surcharge attached to it.
“How much is too much for a public holiday surcharge?” they asked, before expanding with “what’s a fair go surcharge for a struggling business owner these days?”
The comments flooded in from there, and one thing became clear: 25 per cent was well above what many were willing to pay, unless they could guarantee the extra fees were going directly into the wallets of the staff.
One got right to the point when they declared, “25% = I eat elsewhere.”
“I can understand [a] public holiday surcharge for 10% or 15%,” another said, “but isn’t [it] that [being] open on public holidays often attracts much more business than usual, giving the restaurant an advantage such as higher cash flow?”
“10% is fair, 25% is robbery,” one agreed.
However, not all were of the opinion that walking away from such a cost was the only option, instead noting that “if I go out on a public holiday I am prepared for it to be exxy, I wouldn’t have an issue with 25%.”
And for some, the public holiday fee wasn’t the issue. Their problem? The extra 7% just to split a bill.
“Even if I’m not split billing, f**k any place that charges extra for split billing, ESPECIALLY 7%,” one complained. “JFC, how are people not more upset about that part?”
“25% is outrageous, as is 7% for splitting bills. It’s like they hate customers,” said one.
Another had a few questions about it, writing “that’s higher than normal, but why is there a 7% surcharge for splitting the bill? It takes like an extra 30 seconds tops.”
“Because people want it, and if they want anything you find a way to charge for it, even if it costs literally nothing,” came the reply. “Gotta get that hustle … Then they wonder why no-one comes back.”
Unfortunately for the Redditors, restaurants and cafes in Australia have the freedom to set whatever surcharges they see fit as long as they don’t try to hide them on their menus.
As the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has declared, “restaurants, cafes and bistros that charge a surcharge on certain days do not need to provide a separate menu or price list or have a separate price column with the surcharge factored in.
“However, the menu must include the words ‘a surcharge of [percentage] applies on [the specified day or days]’ and these words must be displayed at least as prominently as the most prominent price on the menu.
“If the menu does not have prices listed, these words must be displayed in a way that is conspicuous and visible to a reader. These measures apply to pricing for both food and beverages.”
This article first appeared on Over60.