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Sunday 23 April 2006 1.24pm
Thanks to all for their support re the Coren rant... we are still alive, though still smarting from his poison pen.

It looks like a couple of specific replies are due:

Ivanhoe... Sorry to hear about your Valentine's problem. I guess I am the 'posh sounding man' on the ansafone, not sure about the other one. Anyway, I have checked back through our records and we only had a couple of cancellations for Valentines, neither was in your name. There was one, though, with the initials SG, a regular who cancelled on 6th February with a slightly huffy message sent through our website with a similar complaint to yours. Not sure if this is you or someone else but I am presuming it may be you? We always email the menu to early bookers, and I checked and we did send the menu by email to SG on 25th January; it was also sent a second time on 1st February, which tallies with your story making me think this is you. The menu was also, of course, on our website.

We always do a two-night Valentine special (at a special price) but it is a much more elaborate meal than our normal menu with various luxury ingredients and a glass of champagne, and compared with what some other restaurants charge on Valentine's day, not, I think, bad value.

Osamede and fh... I was not aware that the service charge was really such a major concern as to put of guests from coming back. We may draw up a questionnaire and get the opinions of a range of diners on this matter.

If you don't eat at restaurants that add a discretionary service charge on principle, I would think you are limiting yourself since it has become a fairly standard practice. It is a difficult issue because there are so many angles to it, most of which the average diner would know nothing about. A lot of it has to do with tax savings of various forms, and it has been a very contentious issue with the Inland Revenue not having been clear on it and having changed their mind three times now.

Consider, however, that 35-40% of our total revenue (including the service charge) goes to the staff and Gordon Brown in PAYE tax. Consider also that our total non-service charge revenue includes 17.5% VAT, which also goes straight to Gordon Brown. Add in our food/drink costs, rent, rates, utility bills, repairs, maintenance and everything else and see what is left at the end. Without a service charge we would not be in business today, and I think the same goes for most restaurants, which is why it has become such a widespread practice.
Sunday 23 April 2006 3.42pm
if a resaturant has added a service charge, I almost never give a tip. However I will give anything from 10% to 20% (more often) depending on how good the service was Usually 15% - more for good service less for poor service. I somehow feel that tips not added to a bill as they are in a service charge are more likely to go to the staff rather than the owner which is why I am more likely to give a higher tip for good service.

I do not buy that "Add in our food/drink costs, rent, rates, utility bills, repairs, maintenance and everything else and see what is left at the end. Without a service charge we would not be in business today" Surely correct budgeting and pricing of the menu should cover rent, food etc costs?
Sunday 23 April 2006 7.34pm
Champor-Champor wrote:
If you don't eat at restaurants that add a discretionary service charge on principle, I would think you are limiting yourself since it has become a fairly standard practice..

Lets put it this way: I was at Roast a while ago and experienced probably the most indifferent service I have got in a restaurant anywhere. At the end of the meal, they presented us with a "service charge" of 12% added to the bill. For what?

We told the waiter that we would not pay 12% because frankly they didn't deserve it. We said we'd leave a flat 5 tip as a token, so he should change the tip to that. The waiter replied that they could not change the tip in their system - it is locked at 12% or deleted.

What sort of "Service incentive" is that? They assume we will pay 12%, code it in and think you'll give it no matter what? We left nothing.

If that is what is going at at 12%, you can figure out that its worse at 15%. No one in a service business should be operating with the assumption that you tell the customer how to tip you.

As long as people put up with this, this city will retain more than its fair share of restaurants with indifferent service. And you will turn off more diners because there is no pleasant feeling at the end of the meal, only a grudging okay at best.
Tuesday 25 April 2006 11.02am
For what it's worth we've always had a brilliant evening when we go to Champor Champor.One of our very favourite restaurants and our top restaurant in this area.
Tuesday 25 April 2006 11.43am
Like a lot of other forum posters I was shocked to read the review. Did he go to the same place?!

I've eaten at Champor Champor several times and found the food to be excellent. I don't begrudge paying a fixed charge for service when it's good - and it is.

Keep it up CC!!
Tuesday 25 April 2006 4.07pm
Still, I'm with those that think it's positively cheeky to add any service automatically, it's just bullying tactics and should be contested.
Tuesday 25 April 2006 4.42pm
i went to L'Auberge recently (on Tooley st, opposite London Bridge Station), and after the meal the bill came with a tip already applied. The three of us agreed that because the food order had been wrong (we received Beef Burger instead of Beuf Burgingion (sp?)), we would not be leaving a tip (or at least less of a tip), so two of us paid cash for what we'd had, and the third person agreed on an amount to pay on a card (and claim back as expenses), and then we would leave a cash tip afterwards - but the waitress came back and said that after taking the cash, the amount for the card wasn't enough to cover the bill, so she'd increased it to cover the missing amount.
My friend didn't mind, because he claimed it back anyway, but it made me really angry, and i wasn't allowed to complain, as no one wanted to cause a fuss. Certainly 12.5% was too much of a tip, when they get the food wrong (even though they were very good about it, and got the proper meal very quickly afterwards).
I understand that places that put tips on the bill, can use any money from tips, paid by card, as part of the wage for staff, so it is common practice to pay staff less than the minimum wage, but make up extra in the money from tips paid by cards. This certainly does avoid tax, and it also means that any tips you pay go shared to all staff not just the ones who served you. For this reason i always try to pay the exact amount, and leave tips in cash if possible.

I've not been to CC, but have always wanted to, so maybe i'll give it a try sometime soon.
Tuesday 25 April 2006 6.13pm
Much to our surprise, we had a response from Giles Coren today, sort of trying to justify his bully boy tactics and saying that his deliberate lie was not a real lie - at least 'not one that would reflect badly on us'. He also sort of apologised for the piece. But, it is written now, and has been read by millions all over the country so we are still not really happy about it.

Thanks for all the various comments on service charges and tips. I am becoming quite obsessed with this topic now, because the more I think about it, the more different angles I see on the issue. Please keep your thoughts coming.

I wonder what the difference is between a tip, a gratuity and a service charge? I would agree with Jac's view that if a service charge is added by the restaurant, additional tipping is not necessary (and it is very bad form when restaurants add a service charge and then offer you the option to add an additonal 'tip or gratuity' on the credit card).

Why is it that it is expected that we should tip a waiter in a restaurant, but not the stewardess on the plane? Should we tip barmen? bellboys? What about taxi drivers? The bus driver? They are all providing a service. There are also different norms in different parts of the world. Tips are pretty much refused and money returned in countries like Japan and Korea, while they will chase you down the street if you don't leave enough of a tip in the USA, and I never quite understand why you are expected to tip the barman a dollar, when he pours you a beer at the bar.

Is it better to leave a cash tip for the waiter, as JonR mentions above, in the belief that because that particular waiter served you he/she deserves the cash. Should tips/service charge not be distributed to all the staff including those in the kitchen, who also worked hard to serve you (albeit behind the scenes)? I would say that the 'service included / service compris' approach ensures that your money gets distributed around all the staff, which is a good thing not a bad thing.

There are a million other questions buzzing in my mind about the topic, but that will do for now...
Tuesday 25 April 2006 9.09pm
My daughter, in her youth, worked as a waitress and used to tell me about people for whom she ran around and tried as hard as she could to be helpful and obliging and then they left without tipping and as her basic wage was zilch because the idea was the rest was made up in tips she said she would NEVER not tip in a restaurant and I think that's stayed with me. However, I would hope that the chefs are getting a better rate of pay because they are NOT out front and getting tips. It rather depends on the policy of the individual restaurant. But I do think that in many places the waiters/esses are paid a lower rate because of getting tips. Yes, I always tip bell boys or porters and certainly taxis., I've never tipped the bus driver. I think I finally come down on the side of the tipping of someone who has rendered me a personal service. And NOT tipping if the service is lousy or uncivil.
Tuesday 25 April 2006 9.33pm
jackie rokotnitz wrote:
tipping of someone who has rendered me a personal service. And NOT tipping if the service is lousy or uncivil.

As ever, I agree with JR - however, as discussed in another Thread, I just won't go back if I'm not happy with the service (variable food I can deal with, rubbish service is unacceptable). The whole Service Charge thing causes so much confusion when a group go out for a meal - it should be up to to individual to decide whether they wish to leave a Tip. Incidentally, re JonR's friend being charged on his Card for 'the difference', despite specifying how much he wished to have charged on the card - that's an actionable offence.
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