The call to scrap the service charge has been made many times to food and beverage outlets here and elsewhere. The basic principle is that if the customer has to pay extra for service, he should be entitled to expect good service.

A recent survey of local residents found that service staff do enough to meet expectations, but they will not go that extra mile to make customers happy. This will no doubt reopen the service charge debate. In some countries, service charges are levied only for large groups as orders might be bunched (lengthening the waiting time for others) and dining requirements might be more demanding. But here, no distinction is made whatsoever.
F&B business owners here have argued that the service charge is part of their operating costs and they might well raise menu prices by 10 per cent if forced to remove service charges. This works out to the same for customers as they would not have the option of declining to pay the service charge, as is the case at some restaurants in Britain.
When there is no customer discretion to withdraw a 10 per cent tip, frontline workers have no motivation to go out of their way to please. But some restaurant operators counter that Singaporeans are a tight-fisted and demanding lot, many of whom won't part with a tip even when service is sparkling.
It is up to customers to prove them wrong. Reciprocating when service staff show good cheer helps to enhance the dining experience. Besides, being generous with a tip not only spurs good service, but is also a direct and personal way of closing the income gap, which so many among the chattering class lament. F&B managers should ensure that all tips are distributed to their staff in a fair manner. Striving for service excellence can give their businesses a competitive edge and bring Singapore closer to the standards evident in Hong Kong and the United States.

The call to scrap the service charge has been made many times to food and beverage outlets here and elsewhere. The basic principle is that if the customer has to pay extra for service, he should be entitled to expect good service.

A recent survey of local residents found that service staff do enough to meet expectations, but they will not go that extra mile to make customers happy. This will no doubt reopen the service charge debate. In some countries, service charges are levied only for large groups as orders might be bunched (lengthening the waiting time for others) and dining requirements might be more demanding. But here, no distinction is made whatsoever.

F&B business owners here have argued that the service charge is part of their operating costs and they might well raise menu prices by 10 per cent if forced to remove service charges. This works out to the same for customers as they would not have the option of declining to pay the service charge, as is the case at some restaurants in Britain.

When there is no customer discretion to withdraw a 10 per cent tip, frontline workers have no motivation to go out of their way to please. But some restaurant operators counter that Singaporeans are a tight-fisted and demanding lot, many of whom won't part with a tip even when service is sparkling.

It is up to customers to prove them wrong. Reciprocating when service staff show good cheer helps to enhance the dining experience. Besides, being generous with a tip not only spurs good service, but is also a direct and personal way of closing the income gap, which so many among the chattering class lament. F&B managers should ensure that all tips are distributed to their staff in a fair manner. Striving for service excellence can give their businesses a competitive edge and bring Singapore closer to the standards evident in Hong Kong and the United States.