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  1. The recent brouhaha over abolishing service charge at restaurants is ill-founded, says Magandeep Singh

The recent brouhaha over abolishing service charge at restaurants is ill-founded, says Magandeep Singh

It is the restaurant that’s in the conceptual stage—not the smartness, just to be clear. The cuisine isn’t important.

By: | Published: January 15, 2017 5:45 AM
It is the restaurant that’s in the conceptual stage—not the smartness, says the writer. It is the restaurant that’s in the conceptual stage—not the smartness, says the writer.

RECENTLY, I wrote a piece about that widespread harassment called service charge and the vitriol that was unleashed on me online was unbelievably caustic. That’s the problem with democracy. Low IQ doesn’t impede people from believing in their right to speak.

Not to be discouraged, or unfair, I tried to make sense of the nonsensical rants that were proffered by way of explanation. In fact, I have now gone a step further and am agreeing with the idea of levying a service charge. But why stop there? Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present to you my smart concept restaurant.

It is the restaurant that’s in the conceptual stage—not the smartness, just to be clear. The cuisine isn’t important. This is more about the fairness of pricing that we shall offer. The bill will list every arrear separately, from rent and employee salaries, to cost of equipment, et al. And each entry will be suitably amortised over a 10-year period and then broken down to calculate to 10 precise decimal places just how much of it was used to prepare and serve up your meal, for that is exactly what you will be expected to pay. The variables in the equation would be your weight (heavy people are a bigger strain on furniture, so will be charged more) and also light people (because I just don’t trust them, period). The longer you sit, the more you pay for my rent component, the quicker you leave, the more you pay for my efficient service component. In case a glass breaks while you are there, the cost would instantly be divided among all patrons present and added to your bill. Also, if I fire the dishwasher and hire a new manager all while you’re between mains and dessert, the bill would reflect the salary surge.

The Wi-Fi would be free only if you are watching cricket or a Salman Khan film at full volume—it attracts more customers, so I’m obliged to offer you a rebate for your contribution. Conversely, if you watch anything by Aamir Khan or Irfaan Khan, I will have to levy the art movie surcharge.

In the toilet, purely to reduce the blatant wastage of a precious resource, we shall charge for toilet paper by the inch and for water by the centilitre. Maybe we can even sell bottled wash-up water. L’eau de Bidet anyone?

Then I will have a carbon footprint offset charge because it is very important to be sustainable and green and I just happen to own a nasty gas-hungry SUV; nature doesn’t put a price tag on all it provides, so I will.

What else? Have I missed out on anything? Oh yes, the food. Frankly, you can bring your own and eat it out of your tiffin; my boys will be too busy at the till adding up your bills, that too in real time.

This is such a brilliant plan all for sake of transparency I can’t believe that nobody has worked this algorithm out already! Maybe it has more appeal as an app that I can sell subscriptions for.

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Am I swindling you? Absolutely. But does it somehow sound not entirely wrong? Perhaps. That’s what I have learnt of late: consumer is king only if the restaurateur says so. But to make him say that, you need to let him rummage deeply through your pockets as he/she feels comfortable. Crass? Sure, but as long as it is for the benefit of the person running the place and his team, write it off as coerced charity.

For if you, like me, were brought up believing that money can’t buy you class, well the S series by Mercedes can be a viable alternative, especially if you own a restaurant!

The writer is a sommelier

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