Restaurant goers in Victoria are seething after a local man almost copped a whopping charge before even eating his meal. The would-be diner was trying to make a booking for a dozen people at a local eatery when he was hit with a suggested tip of $156.
"I was looking to organise a birthday dinner for my fiancé at one of our favourite restaurants in the south-east suburbs of Melbourne," he explained online. "I go to book a table for 12 and they advised me that everyone would have to order the set menu and that we'd have to book online and pay a deposit. Not thrilled with all this but okay."
It was then the man received a response from the restaurant stating that the non-refundable deposit would actually be the entire cost of the meal for 12 people. "And, get this, [they] had the option for a 20 per cent tip pre-selected," he wrote on Reddit alongside a pic of the booking form, which included a range of tipping options.
"I called them to clarify what would happen if I had a person or two bail at the last minute," he added, saying he was advised the deposit would be forfeited for anyone who cancelled within 48 hours of the reservation, along with the tip.
"I found the whole experience really cheeky, bordering on rude," the disgruntled customer said. "I mean, imagine wanting a tip prior to even providing a good experience! I canned the whole thing and instead booked at a nice restaurant run by nice people.
"I get that it is a tough industry and late cancellations can cost restaurants money, but this seemed way over the top. Is this normal now?" he asked.
'The audacity is astounding'
The post has since sparked outrage among fellow diners. "Plenty of places to eat without that level of draconian rules and blatant greed," one Redditor vented. "A 20 per cent tip in advance that's entirely non-refundable? LOL. I bet that wouldn't even be going to the staff if you did go."
"The audacity to ask for over $150 before you even set foot in the place is astounding," someone else added. Others slammed the move as "bulls**t" and "nuts" as "we don't live in America" where hospitality staff rely on tips to supplement low wages. "Why do we need to tip in Australia when our staff actually get paid?" one user questioned.
Restaurants under pressure
While Australian restaurants were called out for requesting exorbitant tips, their increasing reliance on gratuities is no surprise considering CreditorWatch's latest Business Risk Index puts food and beverage services at the highest risk of default due to their reliance on discretionary spending, which is in decline.
In the past year restaurant bills have risen by 6.5 per cent and takeaway food has gone up 9.1 per cent as business owners grapple with increased overheads, according to ANZ Research Senior Economist Adelaide Timbrell.
"This is likely due to a mix of factors in the hospitality sector, including the higher price of inputs like food, electricity and transport, as well as labour shortages, which have likely impacted productivity in the sector," Ms Timbrell recently told Yahoo News Australia. "Rising wages in the sector may also contribute to the rising cost of dining out, though are one of many factors."
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.