Discretionary service charges deter would-be diners

By Becky Paskin , 27-Oct-2009

Related topics: Trends & Reports

Mid-market independent and chain restaurants that ‘copy’ high-end establishments by automatically adding service charges to bills, are inadvertently putting diners off returning

Diners have noted discretionary service charges as their biggest bugbear

Diners have noted discretionary service charges as their biggest bugbear

Mid-market independent and chain restaurants that ‘copy’ high-end establishments by automatically adding service charges to bills, are inadvertently putting diners off returning.

 

A survey conducted by Livebookings on the nation’s eating habits found that almost half of diners would avoid returning to a restaurant that automatically added an optional service charge to their bill.

 

It also found that almost a third of diners were annoyed by being given time-limited booking slots, and 20 per cent hated being billed for bread they didn’t order.

 

David Norris, chief operating officer for Livebookings said: “It seems an increasing number of restaurants have been adopting customer service ideas traditionally found in the best and most expensive venues. From the results of our research, many of these changes such as service charges and limited-time booking slots have not been met with universal approval.”
 
Restaurant critic Andy Hayler , who has eaten at every three Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, said that customers are ‘within their right’ to only give tips when they are earned, and not on impulse.

 

“Having eaten in the some of the finest restaurants, I’ve found that the saying ‘you get what you pay for’ is usually accurate,” he said. “Whilst I can accept that the top tier restaurants to include additions such as service charges to the bill, you don’t expect your local chains or independents to do the same. Customer discretion is key.”

 

Earlier this month legislation came into force preventing employers from using tips left for staff to make up the National Minimum Wage. In response to the law change, D&D London and Sanctum Soho Hotel have both scrapped their 12.5 per cent discretionary service charge, allowing diners to choose what tip to leave.

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