Weekend surcharge at Melbourne cafe sparks heated debate: 'Criminal'

Is the weekend surcharge the new Sunday surcharge? Here's why we can expect more of this.

A diner at a Melbourne cafe was left with a sour taste in their mouth after noticing an extra addition to the eatery's menu.

To the person's surprise, Piatella cafe and bar in Glen Waverley is charging customers 7 per cent more on both days of the weekend — not just Sunday, which is what's more commonly seen. The business displayed the surcharge on a sign inside the venue, as well as on the website.

"Weekend Surcharge!?!" the person shared on Reddit, sparking a debate over the rise in surcharges.

Is it a 'highway robbery' or 'basic mathematics'?

Some thought charging the weekend fee was "criminal", especially in addition to the public holiday and card surcharges the cafe also passes to the customer.

A photo of the stand detailing a weekend surcharge of 7 percent at Piatella Cafe and Bar in Melbourne. Another photo of the outside of the cafe.
A customer's frustration with a weekend surcharge has highlighted a difficult reality. Source: Reddit/Google Maps

"Someone I know was charged both a weekend surcharge and also the public holiday surcharge plus a credit card fee," one person said.

"My manager increased the prices and added a weekend surcharge at the same time. It was interesting explaining that to the regulars," another said.

However others weren't as fussed, saying the 7 per cent surcharge was "the lowest" they've seen and that the extra operating costs businesses have recently had to fork out "should be accounted for".

"As long as that goes straight to the working staff and not the owners, I'm ok with that," one person said.

"It’s disheartening to see how childish the mentality here is. It’s basic mathematics. If business pay staff weekend penalty rates then they need to pass it on to customers," another said.

"Is it because commercial rents have skyrocketed?" a third person asked.

Melbourne cafe wants to 'pay staff competitively'

On their website, Piatella detailed why they've started charging customers weekend, public holiday and card surcharges since June of last year.

"Lately it has become harder and harder to provide you with the exceptional customer service we are known for, with staff shortages and price increases all round," they said.

The business mentioned that "higher costs of product" mean "businesses are going to struggle to stay open".

"Hopefully in [having surcharges], we can pay our staff competitively in order to keep them working here at Piatella! We hope you can understand," they continued.

Yahoo News Australia has contacted Piatella for further comment.

Is the weekend surcharge new?

The controversial topic of surcharges on weekends and public holidays is nothing new, but it is one that rears its head quite frequently, especially when customers are expected to fork out extra amid cost-of-living pressures. Business owners point out that the extra charges go towards additional operating costs on these busy days, which include paying penalty rates.

The practice is legal, according to the consumer watchdog. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) acknowledges that some restaurants and cafés imposing surcharges on certain days – usually weekends and public holidays – is allowed, as long as this is displayed accordingly and does not mislead consumers.

"At least this place is doing the right thing through prominent notice," one person commented on the Reddit post.

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