Restaurant workers worried over service charge backlash

The staff members at Serai Restaurant are worried that their livelihood will be affected if service charge is scrapped. — Picture by Fikri Yusof
The staff members at Serai Restaurant are worried that their livelihood will be affected if service charge is scrapped. — Picture by Fikri Yusof

PETALING JAYA, April 5 — Restaurant workers are sweating over their livelihood because the restaurant service charge is being questioned by the public and consumer groups.

Typically, the service charge amounts to 10 per cent of a customer’s bill in lieu of a tip and is shared among the waiting staff at the end of the month.

“If you take away the service charge, I am in big trouble,” said cashier Nurshamiqah Shamsutin, 20, of Serai Restaurant in Section 16.

“I get a basic salary of RM350 plus a points system and the service charge based on my salary and the restaurant’s performance, pushing my income to as high as RM1,450.”

Amar Singh, 38, who has been working for The Ship restaurant chain for 11 years, was appalled when he heard talk about doing away with service charges.

“With a basic salary of RM900, my colleagues and I work hard to provide the best service possible to attract customers for the additional bonus,” he said.

“On average, we can earn RM500 each from it a month.

“Taking this away will threaten our livelihood.”

The staff at Nosh-Up Cafe in Section 16 have branded the calls “inconsiderate” and “a poor misunderstanding”.

“People believe that we are cheating them by charging the service charge along with the Goods and Services Tax (GST),” said chef Ping Teck Ee, 28. “It is part of our salary.”

Nosh-Up waiter Md Masum Billah said he would not be able to survive without the service charge.

“With a basic of RM1,200, I would not have survived without the service charge,” he said.

Paratha Crispy Popiah Outlet manager Ahmed Enjamul, 30, said removing the service charge would be a big mistake.

“An average waiter already has enough to deal with and by taking away another source of income, their morale will be rock-bottom,” he said.

However, while employees benefit from service charge, some are being taken advantage of, with some employers keeping the money.

“I know the service charge is for services rendered by us to customers, but I didn’t know I was entitled to a part of it. I have never received a commission or bonus from the service charge,” said a waiter at a western restaurant in Jaya 33.

“It doesn’t matter as it all goes to the boss,” said another restaurant worker.

“I serve a full restaurant but I have never received any commission,” he said.

While some employees may not see their cut from a service charge, there are other perks instead.

“The staff here have a fixed salary of RM2,000, with free meals and lodging,” a waiter at Italian restaurant Enorme in Section 13 said.

“Some customers do give hefty tips of up to RM100, which are distributed among us at the end of the month.”

Archie Roxas, a waiter at Barn Thai restaurant, said: “It was made clear that the service charge was for us, so we make the effort to give our best so we can to earn our bonuses.”