Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Invisible extras - Hawksmoor chips to service tips!

When and why is it acceptable to add service charge to a restaurant bill?

The subject of countless debates... Why should service be charged as an extra? Why isn't it covered by the restaurant staff's wages? How much should it be? Do the staff receive it? Is it better in cash? Why is it so much?
So here is my starter for ten...
1) 'Why is service charge extra?' We are a nation of non-tippers (unlike our friends in the US) so we find tipping very uncomfortable.  The easiest answer is to say 'it just is'. Restaurant staff work very hard and are paid very little. When you look at the margins that most restaurants work to, you see very quickly that there's not much left for wages. Service charge is the staff's incentive to do a good job.
2) 'How much should it be?' If service charge wasn't automatically included on your bill, how much would you honestly leave? More or less than if it had been included at 10-12.5%? At least if it's already included, it's a simple decision
3) 'I don't think the service was that great - why should I leave a tip?'
If you have bad service, you are entitled to not pay the service charge based on having a good reason for doing. But if you have decent/acceptable service, don't be stingy.
4) 'Should I leave it as cash?' 'Who gets the service charge?' There's no easy answer as this can vary enormously - always ask your waiter/waitress who will be exceptionally grateful to you.

When is service charge WRONG?
1) When you sit at a bar and someone passes you a glass/bottle/cocktail from the other side - that's just wrong and should be stopped with immediate effect!!!
2) When the prices are extortionate to start off with
3) When the service is dreadful - and I mean, really bad

Food for thought...

Restaurant of the Week
I had the pleasure of visiting Hawksmoor Seven Dials this week. I'd heard the hype and called to book a table on a Monday night for 8.30pm. Not a chance so a reservation was made for 9.30pm. Fortunately, true to form, my Italian friend was very late so it didn't make much difference BUT it did allow me to check out the bar which is beautiful!

The Bar
I earwigged the bar staff's conversation about the bar manager who knows more about cocktails than the rest of them put together (praise indeed as these guys knew their staff) and is obsessed by great glassware with lots of weird and wonderfully shaped glasses to suit both customers and the drinks. After a while, the chat became a little nerd like as they obsessed over cocktail trivia so I focused on a mint julep that used gin instead of standard bourbon and came in its own shaker. Delicious! When the Italian eventually arrived, I was forced to try their 'fancy gin cocktail' which they had kindly warned me was a little strong. And yes it was so that's the last photo I took!

The Food
We ordered our food quickly and picked a 900g Porterhouse steak. The food here isn't cheap. At £6.50 per 100g, this came to £58.50 and whilst it sounds big, there's a big bone in the middle which reduces your portion size to adequate as opposed to generous. The steak was beautiful but what really grated was the fact that everything else costs extra...from sauces like bearnaise or stilton at £2 a pop, through to triple cooked chips and buttered greens at £4. OK to the buttered greens but sauces and chips should be thrown in at prices like that.

A saving grace is that on Mondays, corkage is reduced to just £5 a bottle (usually £25) so we splashed out on a great bottle of red to make the most of the deal and thoroughly enjoyed it.

For once, we also had a pudding - peanut butter shortbread with salted caramel ice cream. I don't normally have puddings but this was AMAZING! And even better with a dessert wine and an apple brandy!

In summary
I still think that the rib of beef at Great Queen Street/Anchor & Hope is exceptionally good value...and it comes with chips. BUT the experience of Hawksmoor Seven Dials is definitely worth a visit...on a Monday when the corkage deal is on!

Hawksmoor (Seven Dials) on Urbanspoon

No comments:

Post a Comment