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10% Service Charge? Maltese Restaurants Mulling Over Introducing Discretionary Fee After Reopening

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As Malta’s restaurants prepare to reopen their doors until 5pm in May, leading restauranteurs are discussing introducing a cover charge.

This cover charge, common in countries abroad, would be a new addition to Malta’s culinary scene. The charge generally lies between 10% and 15% of the total bill, and is automatically added to a table’s bill if the restaurant owners decide to go down that route.

And it seems more and more restaurants are getting on board with the idea, one leading restauranteur told Lovin Malta. 

“There’s a big movement that’s gathering momentum within restaurant owners, who want to try and implement a service charge on the bill,” they told Lovin Malta.

Speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear of potential backlash, the restauranteur, who owns multiple locations around Malta, said such a charge would help restaurants rebound after a destructive pandemic and improve the sector.

“There were very few restaurant owners, from the biggest guys to the smallest, that didn’t like the idea,” they told Lovin Malta. “It’s still being discussed, but this discretionary fee would help restaurants and staff, with a split being discussed.”

Around a fifth of Malta’s restaurants have closed down since the start of the pandemic.

19% of establishments closed down between March 2020 and March 2021, with an additional 12% having put their operations on sale or to rent.

“I like the idea of a service charge for many reasons,” the owner continued. “It makes our sector more attractive to work in, over time it would improve service as well as staff would want to work for that good tip.”

“It’ll also help the coffers of those restaurants which run on tiny margins, making things a bit more sustainable – but this will only work if many do it together as it is a change in culture.”

Service charges can be found in countries around the world, though they are not without controversy.

Some diners dislike it as it automatically adds a service charge, even if the service that evening was not up to standard. Others worry that by adding the charge, diners will be more reluctant to cough up a further tip for the waiting staff, for whom tips can mean all the difference.

Would a 10% service charge change the way you dine out when restaurants reopen?

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Johnathan is interested in the weird, wonderful, and sometimes dark realities late capitalist society forces upon us all. He also likes food and music. Follow him at @supreofficialmt on Instagram, and send him news, food and music stories at [email protected]

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