‘Service Charge Is What Sets Apart A Dine-In From A Takeaway’
Sushant Rathi, 30, is an entrepreneur who runs high-end ‘World O Kitchen’ restaurant at Crossings Republik in Delhi-NCR, is critical of the government’s decision to scrap service charge
I studied hotel management in Australia and with all the learning I decided to start an upscale restaurant in India. I put all the potential and learning I had to make World O Kitchen a delightful dine-in experience, with the food as tasty and authentic as one can imagine. Such a set-up requires experienced hospitality professionals, chefs and security to operate apart from the investment in its ambience and decoration.
Now I ask a simple question: What will be the difference left between a high-end classic restaurant and a takeaway if we can’t take service charge? People who are ordering food at home will never get the ambience they get in a good restaurant. I believe what sets apart a dine-in experience is the service and ambience of the place. Otherwise, you can have food from a roadside setup too.
Millennials love to hang out and eat out, that’s why good restaurants are there. How can the government scrap the service charge when we are actually charging for what we are providing? It takes a lot of effort and expenses to provide the right ambience to the patrons. This is what a service charge is all about.
The business of restaurants is not easy since we have to undergo a string of permissions and there is no single-window system to clear all legal norms. We face all the hiccups to start a restaurant and if we can’t charge for the service then how are we supposed to pay the waiters, chef, housekeeping and security?
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If this is going to continue, the restaurant business will not survive. For a classic dine-in, people look for a good restaurant. Families and couples look for places that have ambience, hygienic preparations, good security and much more; and these require a good amount of investment every month.
The scrapping of service charge is actually erasing the line between a dine-in and a takeaway. Nobody who is ordering from home cares about how the ambience of the takeaway is or how the etiquette the waiters is. Or how hygienically the chef is preparing the food. But dine-in restaurants must pass the muster, as all customers keep an eye on these standards.
Service charge was already optional, some people often refused to pay it but many regular customers continued paying it as they were pleased with the food and the ambience. Now this move the government will promote people not to pay service charges which is not good for the industry.
Give me one reason why a restaurateur would continue the business if he or she is not getting adequate returns from the investment. The government should think about the investments and efforts we have put in; they should think about the salaries of our staff and our vendors. Food business is a long chain that are part of the economic wheels. The service charge is what helps us keep our heads above the water. The industry is still recovering from the pandemic blues; instead of leeching away our profits, the government must help us thrive and contribute to the economy.
As told to Deepti Sharma