Prices on menus should include all charges

Whenever I return to Singapore from abroad, I always look forward to trying new restaurants and immersing myself in the local food and beverage (F&B) scene by hanging out in bars and cafes.

The F&B scene here has grown to be so eclectic that you can get almost any kind of cuisine, and, best of all, it is usually well cooked.

What I do not look forward to, however, is the omission of the goods and services tax (GST) and service charge from the listed prices on the menu in nearly all the restaurants I have visited.

At best, there is something in fine print stating that a 7 per cent GST and a 10 per cent service charge are applicable, or the use of the symbol "++" against the price of each item.

While I can appreciate why restaurants would want to present a lower perceived cost of the menu item to the customer, this is misleading.

As far as the patron is concerned, he has to pay the list price, as well as the GST and service charge, whether he wants to or not.

Furthermore, some restaurants apply the service charge based on the combined list price plus GST, whereas others apply the GST to the list price plus service charge.

The Restaurant Association of Singapore and other F&B groups should consider doing away with this practice and require their members to show a list price that is all inclusive.

Furthermore, the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore should mandate that prices shown on promotional and advertising material be inclusive of GST and service charge, and not allow advertisers to hide behind using "++" after the price.

This will not only help customers make better choices, but will also encourage a system of tipping for truly good service.

Tong Hsien-Hui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2016, with the headline 'Prices on menus should include all charges'. Print Edition | Subscribe