Do I have to pay the 10% service charge in restaurants?

Last updated on January 15, 2011

A 10% service charge is usually applied in restaurants in Singapore. You may come across situations in which you feel that you have been given terrible service at a particular restaurant, and do not want to pay the service charge because it would be unjustified to do so. Unfortunately, it is highly probable that you will be ordered to pay the amount, in the event that such a trivial matter is brought to the attention of the court.

This is because it is often clearly displayed  in menus and signs that all prices are subject to a 10% service charge. There is no indication that this 10% is dependent on good service. In most cases in reality, the amount collected from service charge is not even returned to the restaurant staff. It can be argued that by having food there, you accepted to pay the 10% charge as part of the contract. Hence, it would not be right for you to refuse to pay.

However, it is likely that smart restaurant owners have their ways of placating irate customers who complain of bad service. For example, they may offer the customer a free meal upon his next visit, or a small discount from the bill. They would not allow the matter to escalate beyond a fuss at the restaurant even though they may win a case in court. This is because the amount of money concerned is usually too small to justify taking legal action. Also, customers always have the option of not returning to the restaurant if they are dissatisfied with its service.

The 10% service charge simply seems to be a custom amongst restaurants in Singapore. There does not appear to be anything that mandates it.

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