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Hello Egulleters,

Doing some restaurant reviews, central london, and keep on running into a 'cover charge' ranging from about £1.50 to £1.95.

I've asked and rung to see what this covers, and responses range from bread & olives (i thought they were free, and was never asked whether I wanted them - I didn't) to 'oh, it's standard.. it covers linen and all that sort of stuff' (so does this mean if I stain a tablecloth it's double? or don't use a napkin I get a 10% discount?).

I think I've paid this abroad but it always had something to do live entertainment, or sitting somewhere scenic & outdoors. Why am I paying it at a crap indoor italian restaurant in mayfair?

From a sheer economics point of view, let's consider the following example: I go for lunch with a friend and I'm not that hungry so I have a salad for lunch & a glass of water, I'm paying: £11 for the dish, plus 12% service, so that's £12.32 and then plus £1.60 service charge! that's almost £14, so 27% more than I thought i was going to pay.

What's the justification? is this just a nice little earner for a few sharp restaurateurs? would love to hear some feedback.

Thanks!

LSQR

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the ivy charge it,

historically it covers linen, but whatever way it is dressed up is essentially a small hidden charge that in percentage terms can be quite large, so it helps the restaurant if you're not spending enough.

whether or not it's worth getting worked up about is another issue......

you don't win friends with salad

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I really don't believe any restaurant has the right to to charge for service etc. Restaurants do it because they can get away with it, end of. Tipping etc should always be the right of the customer. I think its a shame that so many restaurants have forgotten that they are actually in the hospitality industry.

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the ivy charge it,

historically it covers linen,  but whatever way it is dressed up is essentially a small hidden charge that in percentage terms can be quite large, so it helps the restaurant if you're not spending enough.

whether or not  it's worth getting worked up about is another issue......

I agree it's not massive - pound or two maybe, but it's more an issue of transparency.. you're paying for something and you don't know why or what it's for, and sometimes even the restaurant/waiters don't know, & it's forced on you when you don't want it & don't ask for it.

For me it just smacks of rip-off and makes me feel negatively. Doubtless a restaurateur somewhere will counter that they could equally just absorb the cost into the prices, but if you don't know what costs you're paying for with the charge in the first place...

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the ivy charge it,

historically it covers linen,  but whatever way it is dressed up is essentially a small hidden charge that in percentage terms can be quite large, so it helps the restaurant if you're not spending enough.

whether or not  it's worth getting worked up about is another issue......

Is this another one of those accounting wheezes like the "discretionary" service charge?

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Of course I do not like to see additional charges on my bill, but my indignation is assuaged if:

i. there is complete transparency from the start; and

ii. I enjoy the meal

It is rather fickle, I admit, but if I like the restaurant, I won't care much about an additional pound or two.

However, if I had a bad experience, I would never stop complaining at their gall in charging me extra just for the (dis)pleasure of eating there.

For example, I really liked Corrigan's and really thought nothing of handing out an extra £1.50 - in my eyes they had earned it.

All I did think actually was how strange it was that there was a service charge at all (maybe to help them keep the food cost reasonable, new restaurant costs, our current economic climate?)

Food Snob

foodsnob@hotmail.co.uk

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A pee take none the less!!! Christ, don't they charge around twenty five quid as it is for a fry up!?

no, it's £13.50 toast £1.50 extra.

had a brilliant one a few months ago and a shocker last week, looked like poor hotel buffet and a cold one at that. They did the right thing though and comped it after i complained, just left us with £15 bill for two teas and two large oranges!

Don't think they have a cover charge at breakfast thinking about it, good job as there was no napery or tablecloths..

you don't win friends with salad

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I'm rather in favour of a cover charge, provided it reduces the the amount charged for a dish, and includes any "service charge".

The costs of operating a restaurant can be divided into fixed costs, such as rent, heat, light etc that stay the same regardless of what is ordered, and arguably include linen, flowers, cleaning, and the like, and variable costs that include food costs, staff to cook it etc.

The cover charge should cover the fixed costs - what it costs to equip and open the place for me to walk in and sit down, while the price per dish should reflect what it costs to actually prepare it.

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I'm rather in favour of a cover charge, provided it reduces the the amount charged for a dish, and includes any "service charge".

The costs of operating a restaurant can be divided into fixed costs, such as rent, heat, light etc that stay the same regardless of what is ordered, and arguably include linen, flowers, cleaning, and the like, and variable costs that include food costs, staff to cook it etc.

The cover charge should cover the fixed costs - what it costs to equip and open the place for me to walk in and sit down, while the price per dish should reflect what it costs to actually prepare it.

OK, so where are we at? more transparency? - so if you see on the menu:

'A £1.50 cover charge has been added to your bill, this is to cover fixed costs such as linen, flowers, cleaning and is added to ensure that prices charged for dishes reflect their true cost and fair mark-up'

Alright, well maybe not something as wordy as that, but you get the gist... otherwise it's just -

'pay £1.50 more, you don't know what it's for and neither really do we, and we know you're unlikely to complain about a few quid in front of this girl you're trying to impress so you'll just pay it'

God, I hope this doesn't sound like restaurateur-hating. I love restaurants and the people that make them, that's why I'm doing this job... striving for a fair deal, that's all.

Edited by le singe qui rit (log)
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I'm all in favour of transparancy.

I find people are much more willing to pay if they understand what it is for and that you are not ripping them off - restaurants are only marginally profitable at the best of times.

Would you rather the menu prices were increaded by say 25% without explanation?

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IMHO,

At the end of the day, there will always be those who will hate to see a cover charge on the bill simply on principle, regardless of what prices are, where the money is going or how much transparency there is.

Personally, I would ignore any such printed justification behind the CR - at the end of the day/meal, all I see is that I am out-of-pocket that additional amount, whatever it went on.

Previously, I too have always associated CRs with, as mentioned in another post above also, tourist-y restaurants abroad. Here, I have really only heard discussion over those charged at Corrigan's and Giaconda, and both times, these have been quietly acquiesced too on grounds of:

i. people liking the food; and

ii. the prices being recognisably low enough to warrant one

Food Snob

foodsnob@hotmail.co.uk

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I am a simple soul and tend to skim through menus noting that entrees are £X and mains are £Y, assessing whether the food will meet my needs. I do some simple mental arithmetic and then conclude the restaurant looks about right in terms of value/quality.

I don't study all the small print when making these decisions, after all it is a meal not a mortgage. If I then get a hit with a cover charge, or charges for extras I didn't request (like bread/pappadums already on the table) I feel aggrieved.

Transparency is achieved when menus state the full, inclusive price of the dish; including cover charges, vegetables and accompaniments and service. Anything else makes me suspicious. Excess information can simply disguise sharp practice.

Corrigan and Merrony may be exceptions (I especially like Paul's fixed mark up of wine). However, as they are both recent openings I hope we are not seeing a trend.

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I had a press release from Bentley's, another Corrigan gaff, for a 'credit crunch lunch' deal. The deal was pretty poxy, in the high teens for some soup and shepherd's pie (possibly a slight exaggeration but not much of one). Add the 12.5% service charge and another £1.50 and it's not just an average deal, it's a crap deal.

Once you start whacking an extra quid on your bill here and there for cover charges, overpriced coffees, mineral water and all that shite, you might just as well have gone to Gavroche with a £50 note. at least you know exactly what you're going to get.

Re the Wolseley. Gary's right. It doesn't charge a cover at breakfast.

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As sombody who works stupidly hard in the industry, I still cannot accept all the bloody service charges, cover charges etc. Reading some of the comments, you'd think that restaurants are doing the customer a favour, charging service instead of pricing their menus correctly. Total crap. How many other service industries are there, whereby service is added on? I completely standby my first comment on this thread, the CUSTOMER should always have the right to pay service and not have it forced upon them. And before somebody says, Oh but service charges are all discretionary, don't bother!!

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Corrigan and Merrony may be exceptions (I especially like Paul's fixed mark up of wine). However, as they are both recent openings I hope we are not seeing a trend.

La Giaconda have a cover charge, too.

The post was meant to be read in the context of the other posts which discuss how both Corrigan and Merrony have cover charges. Thus they are the "exception" as cover charges are still quite rare in the UK.

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And before somebody says, Oh but service charges are all discretionary, don't bother!!

Well, they have to be described as discretionary for the tronc to work, with the National Insurance and other advantages that have been previously discussed on another thread. If a service charge is stated to be discretionary and you choose not to pay it (no doubt because you are unhappy with either the service or the meal rather than to save money), then there is nothing the restaurant can do.

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I readily understand the in's and outs of the charges. Again this isn't the point I'm trying to address. I, like others cannot understand why these charges are imposed in the first place and why the whole service thing goes unchallenged? My firm belief is that service should be left to the right of the customer, regardless of a good, bad or indifferent experience. Whatever next, an admission charge perhaps?! I feel that I'm again in the minority here, but I want to give my customers the very best experience I can, without having to fleece them further for actually doing our job. The beauty of this industry is that it is great to be appreciated for what you do and if somebody wants to pay a tip on top of their bill, then that should be the customers right.

This isn't like the states whereby service charges make up salaries.( or shouldn't be!)

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I've been to a few places around here where service is not included in the bill, and, because we are Brits, it is written in large letters "PLEASE NOTE SERVICE NOT INCLUDED". All the places with this policy have had immaculate service (an oxymoron in these parts even with stars attached to the name...). Capitalism works!

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I've been to a few places around here where service is not included in the bill, and, because we are Brits, it is written in large letters "PLEASE NOTE SERVICE NOT INCLUDED". All the places with this policy have had immaculate service (an oxymoron in these parts even with stars attached to the name...). Capitalism works!

I've just seen a '10% optional discretionary service charge' in carluccios...

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