Fed up with credit card companies’ service charges, the venerable French restaurant Batifole is asking patrons to not use their plastic to pay for their meals. Here is the message printed on the menu from chef-owner Jean-Jacques Texier (emphasis his):
The Credit Card Companies (Visa, Amex, and Master-Card) have introduced new fees, as well; they have substantially raised their service charges to merchants. They think that I should raise my price and transfer the cost on to you. But we are dedicated to keeping Batifole affordable and seek your support.
Please Pay By Using your Debit Card or Cash.
Texier, who previously voiced his opinion in the Star, started printing the message on his menus a year ago. “At first I felt a little intimidated by the credit card companies about saying anything about it, but then I got bolder. I haven’t really heard any feedback from the companies since I talked to the press.” He also adds that it took him three weeks to manually go through his receipts to fully understand what fees he’s been charged.
“Restaurants typically operate on profit margins of four to 10 per cent,” Texier says. “If I operate on four per cent profits and add in the service fees and the fact that we’re in a recession, I’d go under for sure.”
Peter Geary, co-owner of Yorkville’s Pangaea, says restaurants have always had a frustrating relationship with Visa, MasterCard, et al. Credit cards tend to offer discounted service rates for restaurants, but recently some cards—like corporate credit cards—have been considered exempt from those reduced rates.
“My guess is that Jean-Jacques deals with more neighbourhood diners than corporate diners. A lot of our business is corporate, so I find myself in a position where it’s not appropriate to ask people not to use their cards. It really depends on where your niche market is. It’s the cost of doing business for us,” he says.
Still, Texier says his restaurant continues to accept credit cards. “We’re in a society of virtual money, and most people will use their debit or credit cards to pay for anything over $20.”