Restaurant menu

Australian restaurant puzzled by fine print at bottom of restaurant menu

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A Brisbane restaurant has left diners shocked and confused by a series of extra charges listed in fine print at the bottom of the menu.

A customer of El Camino Cantina in Southbank, Brisbane noticed the accusations and posted a picture on Reddit.

“Additional service charge every day of the week,” they wrote.

The fine print reveals a host of additional costs that diners will face, including:

  • 10% surcharge on Sundays

  • 5% service charge on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays

  • 10% supplement for groups of 10 or more

The fine print at the bottom includes restaurant service charges and additional fees, some of which shocked diners. Source: Reddit

There are also fees for using credit cards, debit cards and tap and go, which are regularly applied in restaurants and shops.

The post quickly drew over 300 comments, with most viewers blown away by the seemingly excessive charges.

“This is so lame, service charge shouldn’t be a thing. Include it in your price and stop cheating customers! one person said.

“Did I understand correctly…there is a resort fee every day of the week?” said another.

“10% charge for groups of 10+??!!” another wrote in shock, while someone else added that if this group were to have dinner on a Saturday they would also be hit with a 5% surcharge, “and then if you pay by card it’s is another fee”.

Others have gone so far as to swear never to return to the restaurant.

El Camino Cantina is operated by Pacific Concepts, which told Yahoo News Australia the charges were needed to cover higher wages and “rising” inflation costs.

A margarita at the El Camino Cantina restaurant

While patrons rave about the restaurant’s margaritas and sombreros, the extra charge has struck some. Source: travel consultant

“Service charges are commonplace in the Australian hospitality industry and cover a variety of costs incurred by businesses, including wages at the penalty rate on certain days and higher operating costs at particular times,” said the spokesperson.

“Furthermore, the recent spike in inflation and minimum wage increases have added pressure on our business, which continues to be impacted by Covid-19-induced hospitality challenges. We are fully transparent on the service charge, which is shown on our menus, websites and receipts.

Pacific Concepts also operates the Bavarian Bier Cafe and Fratelli Fresh.

In August, a Bavarian restaurant in Maroochydore, on the Sunshine Coast, complained about a strange $5.35 charge which it spotted on its receipt and which was listed as a “service charge from the industry”.

“I’ve never seen this hidden gem before,” the customer wrote on social media, asking if anyone knew what the charge was for.

Again, the answer comes down to “high inflation”.

El camino cantina restaurant at southbank

The restaurant at El Camino Cantina in South Brisbane. Source: Google Maps

Experts say the charges are ‘unwarranted’

Griffith University marketing expert Dr Sara Thaichon told Yahoo News Australia that adding a surcharge is legal as long as customers know about it before making any transaction.

“But this can be problematic from a customer’s perspective, as it’s often seen as an underhanded restaurant tactic, especially when customers don’t expect it in Australia, where we don’t have a tipping culture like in the United States,” she said.

“While a voluntary tip is intended for the employees providing the service, a service charge often goes directly to the business to cover the cost of the business, such as the costs to provide the actual services or administrative fees.”

Flinders University marketing expert Professor Roberta Crouch said owners would be “better” to simply raise their prices to account for rising costs of certain ingredients rather than charge an additional levy.

“A surcharge with no explanation will never be greeted with joy by most people, we love and hope to understand what we are paying for,” she said.

She said that while “many people may not notice” a small added charge, a 5% charge will most certainly be noticed, especially on a larger bill.

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), supplements on different days are permitted but must be prominently displayed on the menu.

“Restaurants, cafes and bistros that charge a supplement on certain days do not need to provide you with a separate menu or price list or have a separate price column with the supplement included. However, the menu must include the words “a supplement of [percentage] applies to [the specified day or days]’ and these words must be displayed at least as prominently as the most important price on the menu.

The ACCC also says companies can mislead customers if they “state that an advertised price is the full price you’ll pay when it isn’t.”

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