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‘Optional' charges are alienating restaurant customers, says report

28 October 2009 by
‘Optional' charges are alienating restaurant customers, says report

Local restaurants and chain operators are alienating customers with policies such as automatically adding service charge to the bill and charging for bread that was not asked for, experts have warned.

In a survey of 2,000 consumers by online reservation provider Livebookings, almost half said they are put off from returning to restaurants due to the rising trend of ‘optional' service charges being automatically added to their bill.

Other top bugbears include being provided with a limited-time booking slot (31%) and being billed for bread that they didn't ask for (22%).

The research also revealed that waiters could now be getting a rougher ride from diners, with nearly a quarter (22%) of respondents admitting they're more likely to moan about poor service due to the economic downturn.

Restaurant critic Andy Hayler said the survey results should ring alarm bells for operators.

"Whilst I can accept that the top tier restaurants include additions such as service charges to the bill, you don't expect your local chains or independents to do the same," he said. "We are within our rights as customers to expect that tips be earned and not taken for granted."

In better news for the industry, 38% say they haven't cut back on their meals out but are just choosing to spend their money more wisely - 10% are now visiting less expensive venues. More than half (56%) said special offers would attract them to a particular restaurant.

Good customer service more important than price in restaurants >>

Bad service remains the number one customer complaint >>

Customers still pay service charge after bad service >>

Hospitality skills body launches Smiles of Britain campaign >>

Tips legislation comes into effect as row over costs continues >>

By Daniel Thomas

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