Should Kiwi Hospo Adopt a COVID Surcharge?

A pub in Ireland has said it hopes people understand after it introduced a €1 per person COVID-19 surcharge.

Mulligans of Sandymount, in Dublin, split opinion on social media after a customer shared a photograph of their bill online, which was tipped over the €50 mark by the charge.

"I hope people would understand why that charge is on the receipt and what it's going towards," said a spokesperson for the pub, adding that the fee is only a temporary cover charge.

Judging by the response on social media it seems a lot of people don’t understand. One person said: "The COVID charge is a disgrace, no problems with the price of the food or drinks as they are the prices around those areas. Mulligans of Sandymount should look at themselves."

Another said: "I don't know, I wouldn't really be for it. The rate reduction and wage subsidy scheme is a big help. I don't think it warrants a 'COVID charge' too, the optics of this are brutal."

Those of us who have worked in hospitality and understand how devastating the impacts of the virus and subsequent government lockdowns have been would probably feel differently, but how would the average Kiwi react?

An extra dollar per customer could make a big difference to many small businesses, but would patrons be willing to pay it? As Kiwis, we pride ourselves on being a nation that comes together to support one another – the team of 5 million as Jacinda called us, but is this reflected in the real world?

Part of the problem was perhaps that the charge was added to the bill without the customer’s prior knowledge, would Kiwis pay a COVID surcharge if given the choice, like a tip? As someone who has worked in hospitality, I would hazard a guess that the answer for most would be no. We are not traditionally a country that tips and I remember that every public holiday came with arguments from customers over the surcharge that applied. But perhaps the pandemic has changed this sentiment? Perhaps Kiwis are more willing to give now?

Maybe we should look to Victoria, Australia which is trying to implement a 1% COVID tax to help the region recover. Would Kiwis be more willing to support this sort of country-wide government intervention, rather than leaving it to individual business owners?

In Ireland, some people sympathised with the pub. One person said: "Private company is entitled to charge what they want, and consumers are entitled to shop somewhere else if they don't like it."

Another added: "Do you know how COVID has affected the staff? How hard they are working to make it safer for customers? Rapid new normal? Begrudge €2, don't eat out. End of."

The Irish establishment is not alone in introducing the coronavirus charge, restaurants in America have introduced similar temporary surcharges to keep businesses afloat.

With experts warning that the financial fall-out from the global pandemic could last years and with many small Kiwi businesses having to shut up shop perhaps it is time to ask Kiwis to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to supporting local.

To charge or not to charge? That is the COVID question.

Let us know what you think, email