Restaurants 'load costs on customers': 'Shameful tricks' attacked by guide

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The Independent Online
SOME restaurants are loading on costs for the customer to the 'point of virtual deceit', according to a consumer report out today.

A new edition of the Consumers' Association book, The Good Food Guide, attacks the 'shameful tricks' used by some of the newest and most popular ones - particularly in London - to 'milk customers'.

It cited as examples: one restaurant charging pounds 3 for a bottle of mineral water, plus a cover charge, when the plates for the bread and butter were not provided; another imposing a pounds 1.50 cover charge for olives and bread left unrequested on the table and adding a notionally 'optional' 12.5 per cent service charge, and a dining room above a pub that charges extra for vegetables and potatoes, a pounds 1 evening cover charge and a 15 per cent 'optional' service charge.

Tom Jaine, editor of the Good Food Guide, said: 'While the recession may have forced proprietors to reduce their headline prices to persuade customers through their doors, some of them load the other costs to the point of virtual deceit.

'No wonder the public sometimes feels restaurants are combat zones.'

The 1994 guide recommends more than 1,400 restaurants throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Six share the joint top spot: Chez Nico and La Gavroche, both in Oxford Street, central London; La Tante Claire, Chelsea, south-west London; Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire; L'Ortolan, Shinfield, Berkshire; and Altnaharrie Inn, Ullapool, Highland.

The Consumers' Association, which publishes the 1994 The Good Food Guide, says restaurant owners are paying to be included in food guides which do not exist.