You’ve almost certainly encountered it, and if you haven’t, it looks like you’ll be there soon.
Diners are increasingly being asked to shell out extra for brunch, lunch or an afternoon cocktail on Sundays.
Weekend and holiday surcharges are legal and, according to the Restaurants and Catering Association, an important part of helping hospitality businesses break even.
They are also likely to become more common – and steeper – with commodity prices soaring and hospitality wages rising from October 1.
“That cost has to go somewhere,” said Belinda Clarke, CEO of the Restaurant and Catering Association.
“Other, [restaurants and cafes] might as well not open, and I think we all like to grab a coffee and go out for brunch on the weekends.”
Some restaurants will charge you a surcharge on Saturdays, but most will limit the surcharge to Sundays and holidays.
What are the rules regarding supplements?
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission – which enforces fair trading laws in the country – allows restaurants and cafes to charge extra on weekends and public holidays.
The Queensland Office of Fair Trading advises businesses that they do not need to produce separate menus for surcharge days and can simply display the percentage increase on their menu “as long as you display it well in prominently, clearly and transparently”.
According to the ACCC, companies should not impose a surcharge unless they face high costs that day.
“Businesses must not mislead consumers about the price of goods or services, including any unavoidable or pre-selected additional charges that may apply to the transaction,” a spokeswoman said.
Customers who believe they have been hit by undisclosed surcharges can file a complaint with their local fair trade or consumer agency, the ACCC spokeswoman said.
Typically, this fee is around 10%, according to the Queensland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIQ).
“What we might see is movement in the amount,” said CCIQ director general of workplace relations Joanna Minchinton.
“I’ve seen surcharges move and the range is over 10-20%.”
So where does the money go?
The surcharge mainly helps cover staff costs, Ms Minchinton said.
“For a permanent employee, who is classified in the second food and beverage category – so they serve drinks, they serve food – the pay rate Monday to Friday is $22.77 an hour” , she said.
“And then when you have a holiday…it goes to $51.23 an hour.”
Weekend penalty rates are an important part of hospitality work, but it means businesses face additional costs on weekends and holidays.
“We really want to make sure our industry is paying people properly,” Ms. Clarke said.
“We want to make sure that we are a career and that we are seen as a reputable industry to work in.
“This means that sometimes you as a consumer have to realize that there will be additional surcharges on days when they pay a lot more.”
The Restaurants and Catering Association surveyed business owners at the end of 2021, asking if they had ever managed to pay themselves an appropriate wage based on their industry standard.
“More than 60% underpay themselves to make ends meet, either regularly or significantly, or simply don’t pay themselves at all to make ends meet,” Ms Clarke said.
According to the CCIQ, restaurant and café owners have an average profit margin of less than 10% of their income.
“The surcharge has the benefit of helping the business stay open to provide the social outings we all need on weekends and holidays,” Ms Minchinton said.
“So that’s where I guess your surcharges will help the business stay open.”
Is it necessary?
The CCIQ and the Association of restaurateurs and caterers say so.
This helps a company account for penalty rates — which are more than double the average payroll on holidays — as well as rising ingredient costs.
“These businesses are essential for community socialization and for connection, and the surcharges allow these businesses to stay open, keep operating and stay alive,” Ms Minchinton said.
Ms Clarke said businesses were reluctant and even fearful of raising prices, but many had to introduce surcharges to survive.
“There’s a lot of fear in the industry to do this,” she said.
“We have to make sure that we educate as an industry that whatever it takes to be able to serve their customers is what you have to charge.”
“I’m not saying put on huge prices, but it’s about what you need to do to make ends meet.”