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07 November 2008

Gordon Ramsay, give the restaurant business a kick in the (expletive deleted)

I have watched your TV programme where you go into an individual restaurant and go through them like a dose of salts and get them sorted out. How about doing us frequent diners a favour and getting the whole industry to clean up its act.

I go to Tesco and get a milkshake for £1
I go to Boots and get a lunch for £2.99
I go to a pub and get a decent meal for £10 including drinks.

Rarely do any of the above refuse to accept credit cards.
Rarely do any of the above expect a tip, especially for shoddy service.
Rarely do any of the above distort their prices with hidden charges.
Rarely do any of the above fail to generate a VAT receipt, legally compliant and showing the VAT paid.

Yet go into a restaurant (not a pub or in a hotel), pay £20 upwards for a meal and invariably you get a scribble for a bill, no itemised VAT and often a mandatory service charge too. Together the 10% mandatory charge and the inability to claim back VAT adds almost 30% to the expected price of the food. What other business has a service charge which is optional to charge but mandatory to pay? Why does 1 person dining get charged for service anyway? Why are pubs clear with their pricing and billing but restaurants are not?

I have no objection to tipping, but a mandatory service charge just distorts the price of the food.

I call on you to ban this 30% surcharge on food and get restaurants to issue correct bills (with the VAT total separately itemised) and to stop this nonsense of mandatory service charges for 1 person dining, indeed I would welcome them being banned for tables of 4 or less. There's no need for it and it simply annoys and confuses customers and puts them off. The bill is the last thing the restaurant serves, don't let the parting taste be a bad one.

Yours in hope
Craig (a fellow Scot working in Central London)

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