[east bay] Mandatory Service charges - what do you think?

I’m wondering what others think of the mandatory service charges popping up in some restaurants.

I went to Navi Kitchen last week. When I ordered, there was a little sign by the register saying there was a 15% service charge included. Lo and behold, it is additional to the already expensive prices listed on the menu. My lunch of chai tea and vegetarian mac and cheese came out to almost $20! I thought I’d maybe misread the sign at the counter but their menu online says “15% service charge included.”

This charge is also at Ike’s sandwich locations (75 cents in Emeryville) and they ask if you’d like to tip on top of that. They said they will happily remove it if you ask, but who wants to do that? You just feel like a bit of jerk!

My thoughts about this are if owners really want to give their employees better wages and want to raise prices by doing so, they should just include it in the price. This would be preferable for me than spending 15-20% more than the list price. The whole thing reeks of using social justice to justify higher prices and either guilt their customers into accepting higher prices or letting customers feel morally superior over their lunchtime sandwich. The lunchtime sandwich which will cost you $12 or more.

Little side note, at navi kitchen you order at the counter, get your own water, utensils and napkins and bus your own table. The “servers” only service is bringing your food to your table. The employees were very nice though!

Curious if others are as curmudgeonly as I am about this issue or if I need to just accept this new pricing model and get over my righteous lunch cause. Bring back the $8 lunch or bust!

Two points you should ask them:

  • If service is charged, and if service is not provided, they should remove service charge.
  • If service included on the menu, why is it included again?

That’s like 30% off the bill right there.

I’d just not go. This is not social justice, this is flat out misleading.

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I don’t mind service charge included for restaurants where you are actually getting full service - typically it will be 18% and I usually tip 20% anyway. But to add it when you are ordering at the counter - particularly 15%, seems inappropriate and annoying.


I’m in favor of doing away with tipping altogether in favor of service charges, even if that means paying such for counter/takeout (service charges are meant to cover back-of-house staff, so I’m fine with it), but asking for tips on top of a service charge is just weird…

I like that Chez Panisse has had them for awhile, and I think Comal switched somewhat recently. Kiraku has a weird fixed price charge, so depending on your bill, you might end up with a very small service-charge by percentage.

I think there’s a new Japanese hi-tech chain restaurant in the South Bay that has pre-figured everything into the cost of the items, but they are correspondingly pricier than you’d expect if you didn’t take that into account.


Regarding including the service charge in the price. Some restaurant’s rents are based on sales.

I think the service charge at full service places makes more sense as long as it is very clear if the the service charge is already included or will be added on top of the bill.

But I agree with brisket44 that at the counter/takeout places, I’m not a fan of it. For the service charges going to back of the house staff, I was under the impression that California law says that tips/service charges should only be for those that interact directly with diners.

I like the idea of the Japanese hi-tech chain KC talked about. I think that’s the most fair for diners and servers and cooks. The quality of the service you receive doesn’t depend on highly subjective tips and the quality of the servers and cooks lives don’t depend on the moods of diners.

Interesting, didn’t know that. Makes more sense for not including in the price.

I’m not sure but I think co-erced tip pools are illegal (but that doesn’t stop anyone), but a service charge can be divvied up at owner’s discretion.

The hi-tech restaurant chain with the enlightened pricing is Yayoi – ordering is done through iPads, and they have a fancy bidet toilet(!)

encountered the same 15% service charge when i get the meatballer sub (13.75) to go. when questioned. they pointed to the sign. i just assumed i misunderstood the sign until i read it over again.

the sign is phrased in the theme of achieving wage equality. would be helpful if proper English was used to express and implement their intent.

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Lame . Raise the price . On the bottom of the menu in small print . It should read " Profit and overhead included in the cost . "

Yes, I like the Comal does it. Much prefer it that way.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold

Market stall in Lima
Credit: TXMX 2