‘Not socially accepted’: 90% of S’poreans polled are against extra charges for condiments at eateries

Poll shows 90% of Singaporeans against being charged for condiments at eateries

With inflation on the rise, business owners across Singapore have been forced to outsource different ways to make ends meet.

In particular, businesses in the food and beverage (F&B) industry have begun charging customers for extra condiments, such as S$1 for a small plate of sliced chilli.

Singaporeans are displeased with these added costs, with a poll by Answers.sg revealing that 90% of respondents are against extra charges for condiments.

Respondents that MS News spoke to noted that these extra charges increase expenses in the long run.

However, some said that the additional costs are vital to decrease food wastage. For F&B establishments, business ethics come into play as they debate this issue.

Majority of poll respondents opposed to condiment charges

A recent Answers.sg poll found that 90% out of a total of 2,061 respondents were against Singapore eateries charging for condiments.

Source: Answers.sg

Of this number, 74% strongly disagreed with eateries in Singapore charging for condiments.

4% remained neutral, while the remaining 6% were for establishments putting a price tag on condiments.

Some of the condiments at eateries include mayonnaise, ketchup, Tabasco, mustard, and, more common in Asian countries, sliced chillis soaked in soy sauce.

Single mother frustrated with condiment charges, brings her own sauces to eateries

Dissatisfied and frustrated, that is how 50-year-old education trainer Izzy Maniam feels when she has to fork out extra money for condiments at an eatery.

Ms Maniam is part of the 90% of Singaporeans who have polled against the extra charges for condiments.

As a single mother of two, she feels the condiment charges add to her expenses when dining out with her children.

“We are already paying for service charges. On top of that, we now have to pay for a small plate of sauce, which used to be free, it’s just frustrating,” Ms Maniam told MS News.

Source: Harry Grout on Unsplash, for illustration purposes only.

According to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS), purchases of goods and services from GST-registered businesses are subjected to a GST rate of at least 9%.

This rate was recently increased in January 2024 from 8%.

Meanwhile, some F&B businesses may choose to impose a service charge — typically at 10% — on their bills.

“IRAS does not interfere with such business decisions,” says the organisation on its website.

Ms Maniam believes it is acceptable for eateries to charge for condiments if they are “special” or “limited edition”, but common condiments should be free.

“If it helps, I can bring my own bottle of sauce, which I have many times,” she shared.

However, as many eateries do not allow patrons to consume food and drinks from external establishments, Ms Maniam has been told on several occasions that she is not allowed to bring her own sauces.

Ms Maniam also shared that eating out with her children has now become a “luxury” with the rise in food costs.

“Fast food chains take a huge chunk out of expenses for a regular burger meal. Kids love fast food, so how do I tell them that they have to share a meal, or sometimes not have it at all, because it’s just too expensive,” she said. 

University student believes charges are needed to decrease food wastage

Despite the majority of Singaporeans agreeing that condiment charges should be abolished, there are a handful who feel the costs are needed.

23-year-old university student Beth Wong belongs to the 6% of Singaporeans who believe charges for condiments should be implemented.

She feels that the additional costs are a vital step to decrease food wastage.

Source: UpMenu

When condiments are free, many diners take more than what is needed, often throwing them out after their meals. Charging for condiments promotes a more sustainable consumption habit,” she said. 

According to the latest statistics from the National Environment Agency (NEA), Singapore generated a total of 813 million kilograms (kg) of food waste in 2022.

Despite a slight dip since 2021, the amount of food wastage is still significantly higher than the totals from 2018 to 2020.

Beth also shared that paying for condiments establishes a fair pricing system.

The charges ensure that the cost is borne by the users, rather than being distributed across all customers through higher prices in the menu,” she told MS News

Labelling the additional costs as “natural consequences”, she highlighted that customers should be more understanding of extra charges at local food establishments.

If eateries overly absorb the increment, they may struggle financially and could lead to lower quality products or even reduced services,” said Beth.

“Helping out some costs can ensure the business sustains and we can still enjoy our favorite meals.”

Nightclub manager does not charge for food condiments despite rising costs

A data set by Trading Economics revealed that food prices in Singapore rose by 2.8% in April 2024 compared to last year.

Despite the numbers easing from a 3.0% increase in March 2024, many businesses are still feeling the pinch from food inflation prices.

38-year-old Bruce G. is the general manager of ALPHA NIGHTLIFE, a disco club in Singapore that serves common finger foods such as popcorn chicken, fries, and hotdogs.

Source: Stu Moffat on Unsplash, for illustration purposes only.

Managing ALPHA for around two years, Bruce shared with MS News that he does not charge for condiments, despite the rise in inflation.

I don’t think it’s socially accepted. Personally, if I were a customer, I would not be happy to be charged for condiments separately,” he said. 

Bruce added that if establishments have to charge for condiments to keep up with food inflation, the cost should be factored into the base price of the product instead of a separate charge.

“It’s a lot more palatable (for customers), this way,” he explained.

Banh Mi restaurant owner says condiments should be complimentary

54-year-old restaurant owner Peter Sim has been running his Banh Mi establishment in Singapore for close to three years, selling Vietnamese sandwiches with a Singaporean twist.

Source: Deepthi Clicks on Unsplash, for illustration purposes only.

With the rise in food costs, Mr Sim pointed out the difference in the amount of diners today, as compared to when the restaurant opened.

I have noticed that the crowd is getting smaller as compared to two years ago, and the spending per order is also decreasing,” he told MS News

Despite Singapore’s food inflation, Mr Sim does not charge his patrons for condiments as he believes it should be part of the entire dining experience.

However, he believes eateries should charge for condiments depending on the amount requested by the customer.

He said: “If the request is beyond a reasonable amount based on best judgment by the crew then, yes, a nominal amount should be charged.”

With the rise in other expenses such as rental and labor costs, Mr Sim recommends other businesses to source for cheaper alternatives of supplies and ingredients, instead of raising the selling price of products.

Former worker at fast food chain restaurant used to give out condiments for free

Having been on both sides of the debate, 20-year-old former fast food chain worker Divya empathised with the frustration that a lot of customers feel when charged for condiments.

“I do believe they [larger businesses] will be able to survive without having to charge 50 cents for sauce,” she told MS News.

While working at a fast food chain in Singapore, Divya used to dread asking customers to pay for condiments, which was required.

“I felt quite paiseh [sheepish] whenever I would have to enforce the policy, especially when customers do not understand why,” she said.

After several unpleasant customer interactions, Divya started handing out condiments for free.

She reasoned: “I would rather maintain good rapport with customers and risk the chance of getting lectured by my supervisors and older co-workers.”

As a former worker in the F&B industry, Divya understands the need for smaller businesses to charge for condiments to combat food inflation.

However, she stated that she would be less inclined to purchase an item if she had to pay extra for the accompanying sauce.

While it may be a small detail, I believe the sauce can make or break the experience of food, and if I already paid for the food, shouldn’t I get to enjoy the full experience without any extra fees?”

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Featured image by MS News and courtesy of Monika Borys on Unsplash.

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