Restaurants and cafés rejoice: industry exempt from providing separate menus with surcharges

Restaurant and café owners are rejoicing after a bill passed federal parliament last week which exempts them from providing separate menus for days when surcharges apply, such as weekends and public holidays.

The bill means less red tape for small restaurants, and according to Restaurant and Catering Australia chief executive John Hart, has been “a long time coming”.

“The federal government first committed to this 19 months ago, so we’re very happy it’s happened,” Hart told SmartCompany.

Hart says the reform is a “win-win” for restaurant and café owners and consumers. Many businesses have complained the separate-menus rule is a nuisance and takes too much time to organise, especially during difficult times for the industry.

“It’s a hell of a lot easier to apply the percentage surcharge and it’s easier for consumers as well, it’s much clearer to understand what the surcharge is when it’s clearly stated on the menu,” he says.

The bill exempts restaurants and cafés from the single pricing requirement in Australian Consumer Law and was passed on Thursday last week, as part of the Labor government’s last minute flurry of legislation during the current session, before the election period begins.

Until now, restaurants and cafés have had to provide separate menus for times when surcharges apply. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has targeted restaurants, along with other businesses such as rent-a-car companies and telecommunications businesses for not complying.

In 2010, restaurants complained after being targeted by the ACCC for allegedly breaking the rules.

In the second reading of the speech of the bill, Senator Jacinta Collins said it’s important these businesses are not subject to any unnecessary regulatory burden.

“The amendments will achieve a reduction in the regulatory burden for small business while still ensuring that consumers have protection and clarity when ordering from restaurant and café menus,” she said last week.

“The positive impact of these amendments will be significant for small business and will enable many venues that are open on weekends and public holidays to continue to provide valuable service to consumers in major cities and regional areas.”

Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury said in a statement it was a victory for small business.

“Restaurants and cafes are a valuable part of the Australian economy, so it is important that these businesses are not subject to any unnecessary regulatory burden,” he said.

“These amendments will cut red tape for small business, enabling many venues that are open on weekends and public holidays to go about their business without fear of accidentally falling foul of the law.”

The bill follows on from a 2010 Productivity Commission recommendation to reduce the regulatory burden for small businesses in the restaurant sector.

The Commission’s report found regulatory burdens inflated the costs and restricted business opportunities for small businesses.

The report found the need for restaurants and cafés to provide separate menus for Sundays and public holidays when surcharges apply imposed costs on businesses “without providing any significant additional benefit to consumers”.



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