Service charge

That California Bun: Weighing in on the Service Charge Debate

You know what I like about Jamaicans: no matter where they end up and for how long, they don’t lose their accent. Even when singing, they sound distinctly Jamaican, unlike any other population who inadvertently sound vaguely American. Well, the Californian vibe is very similar to that Jamaican trait, because no matter where a Californian goes or what they do, you can always feel that easy-to-chill underlying energy that marks effort.

With that established, you know what to expect when you walk into a David Myers restaurant (no, he’s not originally from California, but he kind of lived there long enough to be steeped in “it”.) runs a bunch of restaurants around the world and most of them promise a pretty upscale experience and yet almost none seem to handle that dreary old-school stuffiness that’s so inherent in fancy formal dining. The food, as meticulous as it is, is presented with a practiced nonchalance that comes across as approachable and convivial. It’s like having dinner with friends and your friend happens to be a Michelin star chef.

What is the best description I can give for Adrift Kaya, which recently opened its doors to guests of the JW Marriott Hotel Aerocity in the capital. You want Japanese food but don’t want to get bogged down in a ritual in a traditionally decorated OTT space, then this is your best bet. Not only is the vibe, even the drinks are modern, contemporary takes on the classics, and the cuisine reflects the sentiment. Sure, it’s pricey, but given the standard series of Japanese restaurants and their more than predictable pricing, it was a nice and lively change. And, as I shared earlier, Chef Myers and his team will ensure that every dish, every piece of fish is perfect, well garnished and duly decorated, but never will you feel overwhelmed by the meticulousness of it all. . I wish Delhi improved sake availability, as the bar here could easily become my favorite (albeit super fancy) Izakaya in town.

Apart from that, I recently received paan at home. Now the only time I’ve eaten them is when foreign friends come to visit on their maiden voyage or when I really need to wipe that whiskey breath away (and replace it with something more vile but less prosecuted by the law, if you understand my drift).

Still, I was curious how something as minute as a paan can be home delivered. Well, the Betel Leaf Co has my applause not only for sending me a set of paans that were as fresh as possible, but also in a range of flavors that even my non-paan friends oddly shared a few and came away pretty impressed by. It’s 100% tobacco-free and even FSSAI certified – so that could be a game-changer on Holi (or any house party) next time around.

And finally, let’s get to the question that intrigues the industry: service fees. Is it a tip or a legitimate fork from the cost of running a restaurant? I did a little survey of diners and here’s what I guessed. If the service charge is a legitimate item, then (a) add it to the price of the dish (nobody cares about a slightly more expensive menu, contrary to what the restaurateurs claim or maybe these diners lied in the survey); or (B) break down other components like rent, cost of ingredients, electricity, etc., all for the sake of transparency.

In the UK the word ‘discretionary’ is prefixed to the term meaning it can be deleted and on occasion I have the manager has always checked the service deficit after settlement of the bill. Civil and very constructive. In the US, I suspect I would be shot without explanation if I removed the 20% SC. In all Western countries, the minimum wage is a strong concept. It may not be enough, but it means no one can be paid less than that. In India, where staff lack such a safety net, the SC can help bridge the gap. That is, assuming unscrupulous owners don’t withhold some of it under “junkyards” or other similar pretenses. And let’s not forget that the hotels do not charge any SC and yet manage to offer excellent service. I’ll reserve any strong opinions for now, both sides have valid points. I’ll rather refer to the opening sequence of Usual Suspects where Steve Buscemi delivers his point of view, not the subject, with great vehemence. I encourage you all to watch this fun yet poignant take.

(The writer is a sommelier)