Carlie Fletcher, 35, and her partner Colin tucked into a dish of scallops, ribs and a 16oz rib eye steak at Central Park in Middlesbrough, Teesside on Monday night. They paid the £60.83 bill only to find at home that it included an “optional” service charge, which Carli said staff should have told them.
But restaurant bosses insist they offered her a refund and the service charge is highlighted in bold on the receipt.
Management at the lavish bar and restaurant, which serves burgers, chicken, steak and other meals, said it was clearly printed on all bills – with the word ‘optional’ printed in bold and capital letters.
But Carli, mum-of-three, told Teesside Live: “The argument here is that they need to make it clear that there is a service charge in place.
“I don’t even want a refund – they can keep that £5.50.
“If they charge a service fee, it should be more visible, and it shouldn’t just be taken.”
Carli, from Middlesbrough, said she had no intention of tipping as staff were ‘walking around like headless chickens’.
She continued: “It wasn’t worth a tip – so when I saw this I just thought ‘how dare they’.
“We had no reason to tip as the staff walked around like headless chickens. But the food was perfect and we couldn’t fault it.
“It makes you feel scruffy if you don’t want to leave that £5.50 – not everyone does.”
But the service charge, which other restaurants often charge, is used because customers regularly don’t bring cash to tip.
When Carli called the restaurant to speak to management, she was offered a full refund, which she declined due to concerns about her personal details.
A venue manager said: “There are other restaurants on Teesside that charge a service charge, not just Central Park.
“Any service fees that Central Park receives are shared between 60 and 65 employees that we employ.
“And it’s underlined in the bill in bold that it’s optional. If people don’t want to pay the charge at reception, we’re very happy to take it off the bill. That’s why it says optional in bold.
“And if someone calls because they didn’t realize it’s on the bill, we’ll refund them immediately.”