Remember the good old days of dining out? A three course meal, accompanied by free bread and complimentary beverage, in fact, you could even bring a birthday cake along and no one would raise an objection. Now, it's virtually an offence!
A couple of weeks ago, Labor MP Chloe Fox spoke out about being ordered to pay "cakeage" at a run-of-the-mill Adelaide pub.
"I took it in and the bar man just said: 'is that a cake?' and I said 'yes'. Then I said: "you're not going to charge me cakeage, are you?" thinking I was being very funny and he said "yes, that'll be $20", and he wasn't joking!" she says.
Ms Fox insists it's not about the cost, it's the principle.
"If you've got a lovely upmarket restaurant and somebody brings in a cake and they want you to serve it, slice it, put it on a plate, they may even want to dress it up, I can understand there may be some cost. What I don't understand is a pub saying to people who are going to eat cake from a serviette and cut it themselves, we're going to charge you for this. I find that extraordinary."
However if she was looking for sympathy, there was none being dished out.
Today Tonight: "Did it offend you?"
Chloe Fox: "Of course it did. It offended the entire industry, you've got no idea how many emails and letters and phone calls I've had from industry and from the public."
Sally Neville from Restaurant and Catering SA says times have changed and the cost of living isn't only affecting the patrons, it's also putting restaurateurs to the test. Bottom line: there's nothing for nothing any more. Not for corkage or make that "screwage", "cakeage" or even the latest sting � "breadage". That's right up to $2.50 for a slice of bread.
Restaurant owner Frank Favaro makes no apology for what he calls "extra service charges" at his upmarket eatery Chianti Classico.
"It was actually discussed in Parliament and I'm a little bit disappointed in our pollies. Perhaps if they haven't got anything better to speak of than cakeage, well we've got a bit of an issue with the people we elect!" he says.
According to Frank, the solution is simple. Before you book a table, talk to the manager about their terms and conditions and you can choose to accept them or not.
However Fasta Pasta king George Belperio says 'Let them eat cake!'
George says he's never charged diners for their own cake in 24 years and while he admits he probably caters to different clientele than some of his fine food colleagues, in a fickle market like Adelaide, he claims there's no justification to hit them where it hurts.
"Personally I don't understand why. I mean all they're really doing is washing some plates at the end of the day if they possibly feel that they can get that two or three dollars a head out of them, I would rather see those people back next week."
The latest figures in SA suggest the restaurant industry is growing at about 12 per cent. Sally Neville says it proves people still want to go out, even if they have to pay more for the experience.
"Except for the occasional Minister, perhaps, who might feel offended by that but you know they take it in their stride and our industry will educate the public on those trends," she adds
Chloe Fox's own research reveals some restaurants charge up to $10 per head for cakeage. In the end, her birthday party was rescued after the pub scrapped the cost--as long as the recipient cut her own cake and cleaned up the mess.
So it's a case of: "diner beware". Just don't turn up with a cake and expect to eat it too--at least, not without a fee. One can only wonder what will appear next time on your bill. A charge for toilet paper? Salt and pepper? Perhaps even the table cloth!