Here’s what I think of your surcharge, sir! – Virgil

- Advertisement -

Can somebody please explain to me, why, oh why does the hospitality industry persist with their idiotic statutory holiday surcharge carry-on? Don’t get me wrong, I understand their reasoning. I manage a large team of staff in a 7 day operation and it’s certainly true that staying open [a voluntary act, remember] on a stat is far from cheap. You’re obliged to pay all staff working these days at time and half rate and if it’s their regular rostered day, they get a day-off in lieu too.  So sure, I get it, pulling coffees on Queens Birthday costs management a low-rent king’s ransom.  But what I don’t get is why these businesses only attempt to recoup the extra costs of staffing, on the actual day. We have a very funny approach to service in New Zealand per se, and this another great example.  The surcharge- often 20%- just comes across as greedy and totally puts me off eating out at all on such days. It’s not that I can’t afford it- I just don’t see why I should. Lots of other businesses open on stats and they seem to get by without charging a stupid surcharge.

While I boycotted all of Devonport’s [mostly deeply mediocre] cafes yesterday, I did call in at the excellent Evergreen Books [a brilliant local second-hand book shop with a very decent food section ] and picked up some bed-time pulp for the week. Guess what? No surcharge! Later on I went to New World. Again, no surcharge. So what’s so bloody special about the hospitality industry?

By all means, recover the unquestionably steep costs of opening on a stat but do it incrementally across the whole year.  In other words, charge a wee bit more every day rather than a big greedy lump a few times a year. And if you don’t like that, just don’t open! Nobody’s forcing you.

Then again, this could just be the ravings of a misinformed  cantankerous git. Any café or restaurant owners should feel free to put me in my place right about now…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

26 thoughts on “Here’s what I think of your surcharge, sir! – Virgil

  1. When my commercial food business did work on some stat. holidays, I used to arrange with the staff as to who would work those days – it suited most of the staff as we were closed on Good Friday and Easter Day, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, and they were quite happy to take turns. I worked most of those days too. I currently work on Saturdays. Bad guess Jacqui! The present penal rates for Stat Hols. are 1 1/2 x plus 1 day in lieu which translates as a 2 1/2 x paid rate. That is too much to pay for a provincial cafe, such as mine, as there would be no profit or even worse insufficient revenue to cover the cost of the day’s o[peration. I have elected to close rather than to expect customers to pay the surcharge. My rostered on staff have a paid holiday and I just have a holiday! My biggest grouch is noticing large and extremely busy cafes, if I travel away from my hometown on a Stat. Hol. reel in an excessive amount of money from surcharges.

  2. I found a simple answer- I NEVER go to eat/coffee on public holidays . They are cutting off their noses to spite their faces. Just add 50 cents all year round I am sure that it will suffice even the greediest. Its a bit like adding a staff tip to the bill and then having a jar for the staff on the counter Purlease!!

  3. I don’t understand why they insist on adding a percentage charge instead of a flat fee. I’ve been to a celebratory dinner on a stat holiday and had to add 20% to a $600 bill – that’s a hell of a lot on top. Surely a surcharge of say $20 or $40 would be quite enough to cover the staffing cost. Remember the extra is on top of your wine as well.

  4. I’d (and do) work Sundays and maybe Christmas depending on if I had anything better to do (as for right now, I’m a student, so I just try to work as much as I can stand whatever the day). I know what you’re getting at though, but I think restaurants would either have to pay staff more on those days to get them to work anyway, or wouldn’t be able to be open. Both of those outcomes are okay with me, like I said earlier I’m happy with places charging the surcharge since it costs them more to be open on those days (I too just avoid eating out then).

  5. Moe and Margaret, would you work Sundays for normal time, would you work Christmas day?
    I am guessing you are 9-5 Monday to Friday workers. Think of staff that have to work unsocial hours that interrupt family time, sport and recreation.For the record I work on a seven week roster and have to work weekends as part of that roster. I also dislike the surcharge and avoid eating out on the public holiday. We eat out on other days of a long weekend (tricky at Easter)

  6. Yeah, I think a good solution would just be to not have the time and a half or whatever the wage legislation is for holidays.

  7. If the Labour government had not hiked up the penal rates for Stat. holidays, there would be no need for surcharges. Consequently, most small commercial food businesses (especially provincial) cannot afford to pay such rates and do not open, giving the patronage to the larger businesses who may or may not be justified in charging the extra. The present legislation should be amended so that all commercial food businesses can be assured of a viable operation on Stat. holidays giving customers a wider choice of venues.

  8. Virgil, you’re right – it’s rubbish. Question – are more people inclined to dine out on a stat day than they are on a normal weekday…and as such aren’t the establishments making more sales anyway? Personally even though we’d like to dine out, we stay at home for our eggs and bacon as the extra charges don’t make it worth it.

  9. Very, very occasionally I tip in NZ, but only for exceptional service, which is very rare. I only do this to give the business an indication to keep doing whatever it is they are doing are re-staff training etc.
    I HATE the gratuity option that comes up on the eftpos hand set at some places.
    It’s more often the general shoddiness of service in NZ that annoys me. I don’t blame the waiting staff either. Bad service comes from bad management and training.
    I’m appalled how often waiting staff can’t discuss everything on a menu [waiting staff should have personally tasted everything on the menu IMHO], or don’t notice empty wine glasses, ignore or don’t know to look for eye contact.

  10. Surcharge: I rarely eat out so if there’s to be a surcharge ‘d rather it was on the “holiday” day itself, rather than across the board. I would then avoid eating out on holidays !
    Tipping: I’ve never tipped in NZ, and don’t intend to. I had enough of that in the UK and the US
    LORNA: I so agree. Hotels charge per night, rather than per person and have largely done away with cheaper single rooms. So (as a single traveller) I grit my teeth, pay the same as 2 people would and then …rumple both beds, use every towel, soap etc., fully exercise any heaters and run the hot water like it’s going out of fashion !

  11. I know that tipping or gratuity is a whole new topic but it is something that I do have an issue with. In NZ a waiter is paid a wage that is considered appropriate for the type of work performed so why is tipping considered almost essential?
    When I go into a clothing store no matter how good the service is I don’t tip the staff and nor are all of them on commission so why are we made to feel that we should tip waiters?

  12. i agree with you … i tend not to avoid eating out on places on holidays i just then don’t add my regular 20% gratuity that i would normaly add for good service. so in the end it doesn’t cost me anymore. might be a little unfair on the servers, but heck they’re getting time and half anyways.

  13. `I’d like to extend this ‘surcharge’ mentality to the single traveller. Why does the accommodation sector charge a single traveller up to twice as much for a bed as two or more travellers? OK, I know the reason: because they can. Because there are two beds in a room, let’s charge one person for both. It’s discrimination. It’s a bit like that ad on telly where the guy goes to buy eggs and is told he must buy bread too. It’s unfair. Sorry for highjacking your blog, Virgil, but it puts travelling almost out of reach for the lone traveller.

  14. I would mind that, but I’m not sure it’s the case. Having worked in hospo, drinks take up a good amount of staff time, storage and cups washing resources, etc. So I think the mark up of drinks is at least partially justified by all of that even when the actual drink isn’t very expensive for the restaurant to buy. I don’t know that I’d agree that they subsidise food items for that reason. Either way, like I said before I can’t afford to eat out very often, so I rarely buy drinks when I do because of how marked up they are, so I don’t really have the chance to feel irritated about that. I do though feel irritated when I order, for example, a green salad or pasta with simple tomato sauce and get charged the same price as things that would cost the restaurant more to make – so I think I’m being consistent.

  15. If prices accurately reflected the costs to the restaurant you’d be paying a hell of a lot more for your food and a lot less for drinks. Do you mind that when you buy a drink at a restaurant that you’re actually subsidising the pricier items off the menu?

  16. Well, the second part is just what you’re arguing, but it’s not entailed by the first so restating it isn’t anymore convincing! I still think it’s best, that is fairest, if a customer’s payment reflects as accurately as possible the cost to the restaurant of their meal. For example I also think people ordering plain potatoes should be charged less than someone ordering, I dunno, free range pork. Free range pork eater might feel irritated that they have to pay more, but surely we’d accept that it’s not the potato eaters’ responsibility to pay for part of the more expensive meals?

  17. You should know [ at least roughly] what your staffing costs will be for stats across the year, so you should be able to evenly spread the costs across the year.

  18. Quite right Helen- it’s an irritation, which is something that, to my way of thinking, businesses should avoid inflicting upon their customers. I see it as a matter of poor customer service and dare I say it, poor accounting. But hey- that’s just me! Also to be fair, hospitality is a dog of a trade- Very hard work, very long hours and very tight profit margins

  19. One of our local cafes has a sign outside on public holidays saying “no surcharge here” or something to that effect.
    I find surcharge irritating and it is generally more the principle than the actual amount charged. It just feels negative.

  20. I don’t mind whether the establishment chooses to increase their prices across the year or apply a surcharge on the day (as long as it the surcharge is made very obvious before you order). I think Moe made a really good point in favour of the surcharge. I think businesses have to make a profit and are entitled to charge what the market will pay (as long as they’re not a monopoly!).

    I think the reason other retailers don’t charge a surcharge is because no-one would shop there on a public holiday if they did. I mean how urgently do you really want the latest John Grisham book? Most retail purchases could easily be deferred by a day if it meant not paying extra. In fact, isn’t it ironic that most retailers have big sales on public holidays? However, on public holidays when you want to eat out, you REALLY want to eat out – to make the most of being able to take your time and to be able to catch up with friends/family with no work/school commitments; so you pay the surcharge.

  21. Hands up those who can remember a time before, what is often referred to as ‘Rogernomics’? Penal rates were very similar to what are now currently in place. I cannot remember any additional surcharges being applied in cafes and restaurants then.
    Were their accounting/management practices better then, so they averaged out their price structure to cover almost 365 days? I only know, that wherever possible, I give my loyalty to those who operate a holiday surcharge free zone and am far more likely to leave a tip.
    I have also noticed that some eating establishments are closed on public holidays. I do wonder if there is any pressure placed on those who don’t use the surcharge system by others in that industry.

  22. ‘What about supermarkets, fastfood franchises, garden centres, department stores? All very staff intesnive and all surcahrge free-zones. How much would it add to prices across the board? A few cents methinks, Still, fair point Moe.’

    Well, in general I think people who want to shop at these places on holidays should be the ones who pay the extra that it costs, so if they could work out a way of accounting for that I’d be in favour of it. But I still think that though they’re more staff intensive, the ratio of cost of staff to cost of other stuff is much less than in cafes and restaurants (bar fast food places). You know, for garden centres the plants or whatever would be a large chunk of it, etc. I agree with both of you though that if you don’t want to pay the surcharge, for whatever reason, just don’t go to places that add it.

  23. You have read my mind dear Virgil.

    I agree, why cant the said cafes etc charge that little bit more each day and yes, if you cant afford it, dont open.

    But also, if you dont want to pay for the surcharge, dont go to these fine establishments too, they may get the clue after their customers go elsewhere for cheaper and sometimes better food and service.

  24. What about supermarkets, fastfood franchises, garden centres, department stores? All very staff intesnive and all surcahrge free-zones. How much would it add to prices across the board? A few cents methinks, Still, fair point Moe.

  25. I dunno, as a pretty poor student who can’t afford to eat out that often I’d prefer that the people who want to eat out on days where it costs the restaurant more to provide the service are the ones who pay the extra. I think the difference in your examples, hospitality and a book store, is that the staff are a much larger part of the expenses of a restaurant compared to a book store.