Restaurants charging 'energy surplus' to diners to cover soaring costs
As restaurants grapple with soaring energy prices alongside Belgian households, some have taken to charging customers an extra fee to help cover the costs.
Diners across Belgium have reported being asked to pay an additional few euros on their bills at various restaurants, including in Brussels and Walloon Brabant.
The practice is considered legal so long as restaurants admit to the charge clearly at the entrance of the establishment.
Michel De Bloos, the managing director of the Thai Café restaurant chain that includes such a charge, explained that the cost of cooking a dish has risen dramatically since the surge in energy prices.
“Induction hobs consume around 3,500 watts. Then there are fridges, a cold room, hot water... all of that is energy,” he explained.
De Bloos charges a fee of €1 per customer in his 14 restaurants, adding that he has already done everything possible on his side to lower costs through means such as low-energy lighting and the installation of solar panels.
“I realised that we had roughly €100,000 in increased bills for all our restaurants, and we have about 100,000 customers per month in all our restaurants,” said De Bloos. “It was simple: I told myself just €1 per customer.”
While De Bloos could have instead increased menu prices across the board, he felt the energy fee was more transparent in terms of letting customers know why additional charges were necessary.
As long as the cost is presented up front and in a clear manner, lawyer Laurent Mosselmans says this is perfectly fine.
“The pricing is completely up to the customer and the restaurant: you can list your steak at €20 one day and at €21 the next because electricity is going up or because you have been subjected to the effects of the pandemic,” Mosselmans said.
“If the consumer agrees and it is clearly displayed in writing, that's fine, there's nothing to complain about. If the electricity prices go down again or the pandemic abates, and the restaurant puts its steak back at €20, we might think: 'This restaurant owner is honest and friendly, I'll eat my steak here again'.”