Warning to Aussie tourists over small detail on restaurant receipts

A visitor to the UK has warned others of an expensive trend emerging at restaurants.

A "disappointed" visitor to London has warned those in Australia travelling to the UK to look out for extra charges likely to ruin their dining experience.

Going to a restaurant in the city on Monday, Andrew Rodger from Perth noticed a 12.5 per cent "auto service charge" on his receipt. However when he went to another restaurant, underneath the total it read "service is included but not obligatory".

A photo (left) of the Angus Steakhouse UK receipt from the London location, which doesn't specify that the surcharge is optional, and a Wahaca receipt (right) that does say its optional.
A man visiting the UK, has warned Aussie travellers to watch out for an optional 12.5 service surcharge, which gets automatically added to the bill. Source: Supplied

Not all restaurants mention fee is optional on receipt

Confused, Andrew asked a waitress for clarification. "When I asked the server they informed me it was instead of tipping, yet they [staff] had not received any of it," he told Yahoo News Australia. "The waitress informed that this became common earlier this year and most people don't notice”.

Now that Andrew knew it was "optional at all venues," he had the surcharge removed from his bill, which can be seen on the receipt at Wahaca in London where it had been changed to £0.00.

However he said he was unimpressed that only "certain restaurants" inform customers on the receipt the surcharge is optional.

But on both the online menus of Angus Steakhouse and Wahaca, the 12.5 per cent fee is listed as "discretionary", albeit in small writing at the bottom. Wahaca specifying that "100 per cent of tips go directly to [their] restaurant teams".

Yahoo News Australia has reached out to both restaurants for comment.

A photo of both restaurants saying in small writing at the bottom of their menus that there is an optional 12.5 per cent service surcharge.
The surcharge is printed in small writing on the menus at both restaurants. Source: Angus Steak House UK / Wahaca

Fears restaurants are pocketing money meant for staff

Andrew says he doesn't want others to fall for the trend, and went in search of answers to see how widely the tactic is used.

British expats in Australia who had recently been to the UK told Andrew online they had seen the surcharge in other parts of the UK. Some however were unaware of the trend.

"Wasn't happening last year, though I wasn't in London, is it just a tourist places thing?" one questioned.

"A lot of waitress staff in the UK get less than minimum wage now as their employers claim they make it up in tips," another claimed. "Ask them to take it off and tip in cash so you know it goes to the correct person. Only if they deserve it of course."

The minimum wage in the UK is A$20.42 per hour, for those who are 23-years-old or over, $19.95 for those between 21 and 22, $14.68 for those between 18 and 20, and $10.35 for those under 18, as of April.

In Australia, the national minimum wage is $23.23 per hour as of July 1, according to the Fair Work Ombudsman. Casual employees will also get at least a 25 per cent casual loading.

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