Restaurants and Surcharges

Edit: New readers to the topic can join at Sept 2022 by clicking here.

I’ve noticed a few restaurants in my local town are now charging an extra 10% on public holidays and displaying this information on the counter only. My understanding is that this is no longer a legal practice: that is, there’s no law against raising the price but it must be printed on the menu (for each item).

I have mentioned this at a few places where I have seen the surcharge and the response is usually apathetic.

If this practice is illegal, why do so many places still do it?

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“Following legislative amendments in 2013, restaurants, cafes and bistros that charge a surcharge on certain days do not need to provide a separate menu or price list or have a separate price column with the surcharge factored in. However, the menu must include the words “a surcharge of [percentage] applies on [the specified day or days]” and these words must be displayed at least as prominently as the most prominent price on the menu. If the menu does not have prices listed, these words must be displayed in a way that is conspicuous and visible to a reader. These measures apply to pricing for both food and beverages.”

From my own observation few cafes actually do that. They have a notice but it is usually in comparatively small font at the bottom of a page. My suspicion is there is no enforcement if there is no complaint, case by case, and perhaps not even then considering the overall workloads and often meagre resources available.


The appropriate response is to read the notice, loudly exclaim something like “Oh dear”, and walk out.


A bit unrealistic to expect it on every item and don’t forget the ridiculous wages these places have to pay their staff for weekends and holidays.

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Yes! Who do those uppity peasants think they are, expecting to be paid a living wage? We should follow the US and make them work for tips! Next thing you know they’ll be demanding a safe working environment.


Happy to pay a surcharge on such days, provided staff DO get paid penalty rates, sadly many do not, and the extra profit from the surcharge goes into the pocket of the owner. I think surcharge should be listed clearly on each page of a menu.


Obviously an operator, they are entitled to to there penalty rates otherwise they work for nothing

Careful @Fred! At least one of our esteemed political parties might take your comment and claim they have a public mandate to take another step toward more Americanisation of the pay system.


The workers get paid penalty rates - fair enough. Are you prepared to pay penalty rates for your food or coffee. Is the business owner not to be allowed a small profit and keep their doors open. You seem to think the owners make a fortune and can absorb all these extra costs.
And NO, I’m not an owner or operator of a business but someone who just lives in the real world.

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The retail, food and beverage industry is quite well regulated with award wages underpinning earnings.

Most seem to forget though, when penalty rates were taken off the table for a lot of industries/employees - those rates were rolled into the gross annual figure/payrise and conditions, much like good ole leave loading was after a while many years back.

Its not they dont get the rates, they do they just arent separate to their weekly wage. Amazing how many conveniently forget this after a while.

As to collecting a surcharge that isnt paid, its probably not just for wages - there are things like extra insurance, licence to open and trade sundays etc etc etc.

@PhilT that’s acceptable!

My gripe is that the practice is deceptive. Without printing it somewhere on the menu: You sit down, read the menu and order your food and then it’s not until afterwards that you find out it’s more expensive than the menu advertised. Extra running costs associated with holidays doesn’t justify the practice.

I would have thought that having your restaurant busy outweighed the extra costs. You’d make more profit (per staff member) on a Sunday than on a Monday, right?

Are the extra running costs exclusive to the hospitality industry? Why isn’t there a surcharge when I shop at Coles, for example?


Maybe and maybe not. It depends on the establishment and location. Many of our local cafes are chockers with retirees and stay at home mums or dads, as well as workers, M-F, but comparatively empty S-S when many people “get out of town”, have family time, and the workers are not there.

A change to the requirement, like “Customer is not obligated to pay any surcharge or fee not printed on the menu” could get attention to doing the right thing pretty quickly. Of course there could be some short term uncivil encounters when a customer refused to pay, citing the law, but I reckon the business would learn and fix their menus quick smart.

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A pity that so many of them don’t comply and that the awards aren’t policed.


Yes Khary those particular industries you mentioned are quite well regulated. 7-Eleven did a wonderful job paying their staff their entitlements, as did Caltex, Pizza Hut and too many restaurants and bars in the last 18 months to mention. Will that stop these pirates from ripping off their staff so people like some who have commented here can enjoy their weekends out with their families? Not a chance. Not as long as they can make a ton of money until they may be caught out (a big maybe), and then get a slap on the wrist fine that doesn’t equate to anywhere near what they reaped from their staff.
While we are at it don’t forget the huge number of people in hospitality who are paid cash in hand at a much reduced rate, and told if they don’t like it someone else will take the job. I get sick of people saying how good shop assistants, bar staff and waiters have it that work unsociable hours, miss out on going out with friends or family, and actually can lose friends for continually being unavailable. If they have it so great how come all those people aren’t lining up for a job in these places? For the vast majority in the industry it’s not a career choice (excluding chefs for the most part), for a huge amount it’s the only job they could get due to life circumstances.


If you arent happy in a job or career, do something about it - study, get another job. No not all employers are scrupulous - its the law that needs amended in that case. Lobby your legislators.

Not suggesting the system is perfect but if nobody challenges it, it will never change.

Btw, i work on call - so I live that life of “work unsociable hours, miss out on going out with friends or family, and actually can lose friends for continually being unavailable”.

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@Khary Your idea of “study, get another job” is amazingly simplistic. You didn’t happen to be an advisor to Joe “poor people don’t drive” Hockey, who also said “If you can’t afford a house get a better job!”. You may not know this but there are many people in this country who cannot afford to go to university or TAFE to study (they aren’t free anymore), or simply change jobs to get a better one. Not everyone has the freedom of choices that you seem to think they have - the real world is not like that.
Interesting too that you took my comment as a personal attack rather than an attack at the status of the regulations on those industries - your last comment about “living the life” gave it away. I’m sorry then if anything I said in my previous reply felt a little too close to home for you in your belief system, it wasn’t meant as a personal attack on you :).


Not at all. You make many assumptions :slight_smile:

My point re working on call myself was that i am not entirely unempathetic to the situation / conditions while my comments may be read by some as being so. No more no less. Nothing personal taken from your points.

Nothing in life is simplistic, most things are multifaceted. Life is too short to be miserable, the only one who can change your life or situation is you.


I just made enquiries with a restaurant to book for lunch at a restaurant located in the Inner Western suburbs of Sydney and as soon as I mentioned there were 8 people, she told me it would attract a 10% surcharge. This is not because of a public holiday, but rather, because we are a group of 8. So charging a 10% surcharge is quite common for a number of reasons. I don’t know whether this is justified but I think it strange that we are being penalised because we are 8 people. This 10% surcharge would not apply if there were 6 of us. You’d think the restaurant would be happy for a larger number to book. Of course when it’s a public holiday, the restaurant justifies the 10% charge by saying they have to pay their staff additional penalty rates. I’d rather pay the 10% for that reason, as long as the extra rates are passed on to the staff.

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At new year in my town, not many coffee shops were open, however the one I decided to have my fix in, was charging 15% surcharge, obviously I cannot do without my coffee. However it has stuck in my craw ever since. They also refuse to give a Seniors Discount, so I walk past that establishment now!

The rollback of penalty rates is shown to be a rort with the FWC apparently in bed with business.

"Employers admitted the reduction in Sunday penalty rates would not offer consumers lower prices, a crucial clause in the Fair Work Commission’s ruling has revealed.

In paragraph 632 of the FWC’s full decision, it states that the notion of lower wage costs leading to lower prices, increased demand and increased labour was “not supported” by “any” of the employers who presented submissions.

This clause runs contrary to the commission’s argument that the real winners of the decision are the consumers, claiming they would “benefit from more convenient access to services and in some cases lower prices”.