Service charge

10% service charge? Maltese restaurants consider introducing discretionary fees after reopening

As restaurants in Malta prepare to reopen until 5 p.m. in May, major restaurateurs are considering introducing a cover charge.

These cover charges, common in foreign countries, would be a new addition to the Maltese culinary scene. The charge is usually between 10% and 15% of the total bill and is automatically added to a table’s bill if restaurateurs decide to go that route.

And it seems more and more restaurants are taking on the idea, a leading restaurateur told Lovin Malta.

“There is a big movement that is gaining momentum among restaurateurs, who want to try to put a service charge on the bill,” they told Lovin Malta.

Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of a potential backlash, the restaurateur, who owns several establishments in Malta, said such a charge would help restaurants bounce back from a destructive pandemic and improve the industry.

“There were very few restaurateurs, from big to small, who 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 breakdown being discussed.”

About a fifth of Maltese restaurants have closed since the start of the pandemic.

19% of establishments closed between March 2020 and March 2021, with an additional 12% having put their operations up for sale or rental.

“I like the idea of ​​service fees for many reasons,” the owner continued. “It makes our industry more attractive to work in, over time it would improve service and staff would want to work for that good tip.”

“It will also help the coffers of those restaurants that operate on small margins, making things a bit more sustainable – but it will only work if many do it together because it’s a culture change.”

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

Some diners don’t like it because it automatically adds a service charge, even though the service that night wasn’t up to par. Others worry that by adding the fee, diners will be more reluctant to tip waiters extra, for whom tips can make all the difference.