Some time ago a client went into a restaurant in York with friends and ordered a hot water with lemon. She was charged two pounds and wrote a complaint, bitterly complaining that she was charged for hot water. The owner replied as below:

I’m sorry that you feel you were “ripped off” and I will try and explain to you why you weren’t.

You entered the café and the waiter showed you to your seat and gave you a menu, waited for a time and then took your order. He entered it into the till, collected a cup, saucer and spoon and then took them into the kitchen. There he selected a knife, chopping board, got a lemon from the fridge, cut off a slice and put it in the cup. Then he returned to the dining room, drew off the necessary hot water and carried the cup to your table. When you were leaving, he printed off your bill, took it to you, processed your credit card payment and cashed off the till. After you left, he cleared away your cup, saucer and spoon, took them to the kitchen, washed and dried them, along with the chopping board and knife and put away the lemon.. Then returning to the dining room, he restacked the cup, saucer and spoon, wiped down your table and replaced the menu awaiting the next customer.

That’s at least two to three minutes work for the waiter.

The costs of overheads for the business ie rent, business rates, electricity costs, bank charges etc works out at 27.50 per hour of trading. I pay my colleagues a decent living wage and after taking into account holiday pay, national nsurance and non-productive time prior to opening and after closing the waiter who served you costs me 12.50 and hour. Therefore together the cost is 40 per hour, or 67p per minute, meaning that the cost of providing you with 2-3 minutes of service was 1.34 – 2.00. Then the government add on VAT at 20% which takes the cost of that cup of fruit infusion to between 1.60 and 2.40 irrespective of whether you had a tea bag costing one and a half pence or slice of lemon costing five pence. I have to pay my suppliers otherwise the facilities won’t be available to other people who use them in the future. I accept that it mkes the price of a cuppa in a city centre café look expensive compared to the one you make at home but unfortunately that’s the cruel reality of life. It’s actually the facilities that cost the money, far more so than the ingredients.

Perhaps the rudeness you perceived inme was triggered by the disrespect that I perceived in you by your presumption that you could use our facilites and be waited on for free.

At a time that most places are suffering, I think it is important that clients understand how much it takes to run any small business.