The Great Cakeage Controversy – should birthday candles be chargeable?

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It’s the latest row to hit London’s restaurants. You go out with friends or family to celebrate a birthday. Before coffee, the waiting staff bring out a cake you have supplied complete with a candle or three and sing Happy Birthday.

Part of the service? A nice extra to be rewarded with a more generous tip?

That’s how most of us see it. But some of London’s top restaurants take a different view. They impose a “cakeage” charge in much the same way they impose “corkage” if you want to bring your own wine. In a few cases, cakeage can hit £9 a person.

Most diners understand corkage. Restaurants make much of their profit on wine so if you bring your own, they get nothing. Besides, they have to wash up all those glasses.

The reasoning for cakeage is that some restaurants will bake a cake if asked in advance, they have washing up, and some customers will eat cake rather than buy a dessert.

The case against is that the party may have already spent more than they planned as it’s a celebration, often the cake is tiny and only enough for a token slice and – most crucially – restaurants fail to warn customers.

Slapping hidden charges on at the last moment is bad for repeat visits. And it’s bad for reputation.

So at least, advertise it – and waive if for parties where most have already eaten a dessert course.

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