‘How much I agree with your sagacious words about service charges (often, as you say, imposed before VAT – and sometimes with credit cards left blank). Actually I hate them in restaurants too. It seems to me that service was what I was buying in the first place – and any extra that I wished to give was wholly up to me. Of course, there should be an all-in price, including payments to staff. But how long has this argument been going on? I fear you are crying in the wilderness. Service charges, extra tipping expected, blank credit card slips – all put me off restaurants and hotels in this country. As in so many cases, they order such things better in France.’ Edward Mirzoeff
‘Spot on! We have never charged a service charge at Augill Castle. My experience is that service charges seem to be an urban-centric concept and are much less likely in the provinces. It is simply an underhand way of increasing prices.’ Simon Bennett, Augill Castle
‘In my mind 100% of service charge revenue goes to staff to increase their wages. Some may say why not pay them more in the first place? The answer from me would be that I would love to but sadly the margins in running a business such as ours have got so tight in recent years due to growing and additional operating costs that the bottom line will not stand it. We are still undecided on the topic but when a fellow hotelier tells me that his pot-washed gets an extra three grand a year from his share of the service charge and few customers ask for it to be removed from their bill then it is hard to argue against. It also makes recruiting of staff difficult if you can’t match the earnings of hotels and restaurants that run a service charge scheme in this way. Nothing is ever simple in this business.’ Thomas Robinson, Headlam Hall
‘We have never and will never add service charge on our bills. If a customer leaves a tip we give every penny to all the staff that worked that month divided by hours worked. So the longer you work that month the bigger the reward. If guests leave cash in room for housekeeping they divided that equally themselves. Works well and everyone happy. Service charge should be banned.’ Willem Vlok, Old Downton Lodge
‘We never accept service charges. If a bill shows such a charge, we always ask for it to be removed, and the bill re-issued. We state that we are always pleased to give tips, but we are not prepared to contribute to subsidise a company’s remuneration program. We also ask if the “Front of House Staff” have a jar or box behind the bar or wherever, so that all tips can be shared out among themselves at the end of the day, or whenever; after all, there is always more than one person who has contributed to your enjoyment of the food and drink or accommodation, while in their establishment.’ Graham A. Schofield.
‘Credit card companies make their money in one of two ways, by charging the customer interest when the whole bill is not settled and by charging the”merchant” commission. Therefore if a tip or service charge is levied on s bill paid by credit card, a percentage of this is going to the credit card company and not to the staff who have given the service. We have taken to tipping either by using debit cards or leaving the cash on the table. We are not always able to offer a tip when staying in a hotel.’ Catherine Held