SINGAPORE: Should restaurant diners have to pay extra if they bring in their own cake? The issue has sparked a debate online, after food blogger Dr Leslie Tay - who posts at ieatishootipost.sg - wrote on Facebook about a recent dining incident.
"So surprised that the pizza restaurant we just had dinner at just told us that they charge S$15 if we wish to cut our birthday cake!" wrote Dr Tay in his post on Sunday (Dec 9). "Since when did this 'anti-celebratory' practice start? I really hope this is not the new norm."
Dr Tay, who also runs Karri Family Clinic, later told Channel NewsAsia in an email interview that the restaurant in question was the Peperoni Pizzeria restaurant at Frankel Avenue in Katong.
He had refrained from naming the restaurant in his post as his intent was "not to destroy any restaurant but to create a conversation", he told Channel NewsAsia.
"I just want people to realise some restaurants will charge you cakeage, so you should find out before you decide," he said.
He said he had been at the same restaurant in July, and was not charged a "cakeage" fee then.
However when he went back again this month to celebrate a family member's birthday, he found out that his hosts had been told they would have to pay a S$15 fee if they wanted to cut and serve their own cake.
"In the end, we took the cake home to cut, because the birthday girl just did not feel it’s worth $15 to cut a 600g cake," he said. "It did burst the bubble on an otherwise joyous occasion."
"CAKEAGE" FEE IS LIKE CHARGING CORKAGE: PEPERONI
When contacted by Channel NewsAsia, Les Amis Group - which owns the Peperoni Pizzeria chain - confirmed the "cakeage" fee and said the charge was rolled out at all Peperoni outlets in September.
The fee applies to all brands under the Peperoni Group, which covers six Peperoni outlets and Italian restaurant LINO.
"Charging ‘cakeage’ fee is like charging corkage which is a flat fee," said David Marazzi, director of the Peperoni Group, in response to queries from Channel NewsAsia.
"A corkage fee is an extra charge in a restaurant for opening, decanting, supplying stemware, and serving a bottle of wine that a guest may have brought in. ‘Cakeage’ fee is based on a similar concept which includes storing and chilling the cake, lighting up candles, presenting it, cutting it up into slices and serving it," he added.
He said that the restaurant has observed "on many occasions" that large birthday groups who bring in a cake tend not to order dessert, thus affecting the overall average check and turnover rate of the table.
He added that "rising cost of labour and rising food cost have been taking its toll on the F&B industry", and pointed out that "cakeage" fees were common in places such as Sydney and London where labour costs are high.
Mr Marazzi explained that the S$15 fee reflects the cost of an in-house dessert serving - mostly ranging between S$13 and S$16. The fee can be waived if at least half the guests at the table order desserts, he added.
"At Peperoni, we do offer a very affordable birthday profiteroles tower option (with birthday sparkler) or a 1/2kg tiramisu cake option - both S$28, good for six to eight people," he said. "However, if guests do have a strong preference for their own cake, a ‘cakeage’ charge is communicated."
He added that with big group reservations, restaurant staff would usually call ahead and check whether the reservation was for a birthday celebration.
"When in doubt and to avoid disappointment, we do encourage guests to call to clarify if there is a ‘cakeage’ charge," he said.
All Peperoni outlets do not charge service charge, he said.
"TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE" OR "NOT TOO MUCH TO ASK"?
Dr Tay's post sparked a debate online, with some netizens saying they supported the policy while others expressed their outrage.
"Totally unacceptable!" wrote Facebook user Phidelia Fernandez. "I would never ever patronise the restaurant ever!"
"From what I see, more and more operators are becoming greedy!" said Facebook user Evina Sho. "Monies made out of greed will not last long."
However others said that the policy was reasonable.
"It's reasonable to charge a nominal sum per head for cake," said Facebook user Dominique Fong. "Restaurants provide you with utensils and plates for your cake. Plus they also dispose of your cake box, washing up etc. These are not free."
"You cut cake, they need to provide extra plates and cutlery for the cake," said Facebook user Ben Lee. "They also need to clear the mess. S$15 is not too much to ask."