Holiday wages pressure cafes

HAMISH CARDWELL AND JARED NICOLL
Last updated 11:51 07/02/2013
Tash Fahey
Emma Allen

Sir charged: Tash Fahey, front-of-house manager at Chequers Cafe, says it has a 15 per cent surcharge on public holidays

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Marlborough eateries are split over public holiday surcharges, with some happy to waive them and others saying they are needed to recoup costs.

The Marlborough Express spoke to three restaurants and cafes in the centre of Blenheim yesterday. All had a public holiday surcharge for Waitangi Day.

However, four wineries on the outskirts of town who we spoke to did not have a surcharge.

Most Picton cafes and bars also chose not to pass the statutory holiday wage hikes onto their customers.

Chequers Cafe and Wine Bar front of house manager Tash Fahey said it had a 15 per cent surcharge because it was very hard to predict whether a public holiday would be busy.

If the weather was nice, customers would often head out of town, and the cafe had to roster on enough staff for any eventuality.

Staff were entitled to time-and-a-half and a day in lieu for working on a public holiday, which was an additional cost for the business, she said.

The surcharge did not keep their customers away.

"We have had all our regular [customers] today.

"If they like going to your cafe enough, they will continue to come."

Staff always told people about the charge before they ordered anything so there were no surprises when they got the bill, Ms Fahey said.

Hotel d'Urville owner Chris Birks said he charged a 15 per cent surcharge in an attempt to cover the cost of the extra staff wages and entitlements, which it didn't quite do.

It was a busy time of year for the restaurant and yesterday was no different, regardless of the surcharge, he said.

"It does not seem to make any difference to the people who dine with us."

Wither Hills Restaurant maitre d' Nikki Dinmore said they did not have a surcharge yesterday and she did not like the idea of doing so. "I would not go somewhere if there was one. People think it is a step too far."

The restaurant was fully booked all day and people had rung ahead to find out if the restaurant had a surcharge, she said.

Wairau River Wines general manager Lindsay Parkinson said the restaurant had never had a surcharge. "I feel that a restaurant is no different from a supermarket or petrol station."

It was up to each restaurant owner whether to have a surcharge, and their customers could decide whether they wanted to go to one that did, Mr Parkinson said.

Picton was busy yesterday as people made the most of the hot weather to go out for lunch or take a trip into the Sounds.

Popular cafes Gusto, in High St, and Sea Breeze, in London Quay, were closed for the day.

Most of the cafes the Express spoke to (Le Cafe, Mikey's Bar and the Flying Haggis) did not have a surcharge.

The Dog and Frog cafe, in High St, did have a surcharge.

Cortado Restaurant and Bar manager Diogo Almeida said he did not want to sting its regulars, who often popped in on public holidays, with a surcharge.

The restaurant and bar was run in connection with a similar business in Christchurch, which also did not have a surcharge.

The cafes that chose to open were busy, with a string of customers at noon.

Marlborough Chamber of Commerce manager Brian Dawson said he would rather see businesses in Marlborough open with a surcharge than not open at all.

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"There is a very high wage cost on public holidays, so a surcharge is understandable," he said.

- The Marlborough Express

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