Restaurant pricing: Australia

28 04 2006

I've said my piece about pricing in the US, but there's an area of pricing in Australian restaurants that both annoys me and pleases me.

When you eat in most Australian restaurants or cafes the price you pay for your meal is what's on the menu – as is what you get. If you want anything extra than what's described (e.g. a salad, vegies, bread, soup, etc.) you usually pay extra for those items. This is great if you just want that meal – if you don't want salad with your meal, then you don't pay for it. So it very much works on the 'user pays' principle, unlike the US where MANY meals come with soup or salad and other bits and pieces as standard. For those of us brought up on the "clean your plate – think of the starving [Indians/Biafrans/whatever]" the whole shebang provided in US restaurants is a trap as you tend to eat WAY more than you intended.

But the down side to the 'user pays for any extras' principle in Australia is that you can end up paying way more for your meal for items that cost the restaurant very little to produce, such as a plain garden salad. We got caught last night – Dave asked for bread and butter. Surprisingly for this restaurant, he got 2 slices of white bread such as you'd use for breakfast toast! We all expected some crusty bread, such as that I had for the Bruschetta. When we paid the bill, the restaurant had charged us $1.90 for the pathetic bread and butter – hell, you can buy the whole sliced loaf in the supermarket for that!

The other thing that got us was the credit card charge – which none of us had seen detailed on the blackboard menu outside, or the actual menu. It was 5% of the bill – and, in my opinion, is an absolute rip-off as the credit card providers only charge vendors between 1 and 3% (vendors are now allowed to pass on this charge). That means we were paying between 2 and 4% extra just because we chose to use a credit card. Well, hello! We chose to use a credit card because we DON'T walk around with that much cash on us all the time, and because we want an accurate reckoning and evidence of expenditure. That meant that we paid an extra $7 on this bill.

However, I do feel sorry for the very young girl who finalised our bill. She apologised most profusely for this charge – numerous times. As we left the restaurant my husband asked if we'd seen the manager walk past. We hadn't – he said that the manager looked daggers at the girl when she heard her apologise to us for the credit card charge. So no doubt the girl is in for it and will be told in no uncertain terms that she should never do that again. Poor kid.


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