The Holiday Surcharge in Devo: UPDATED

Posted by on Jan 29, 2011 | 14 Comments

Public holiday surcharges are a source of much dispute.  Cafés, restaurants and bars say they need to charge them to make ends meet. Yet they infuriate many customers.

If you plan to eat out in Devonport this Monday (Anniversary Day), you might want to read on and find out which local eateries are loading their prices this Monday – and which have decided to drop the surcharge.

With both Waitangi Day and Anzac Day looming – and the “Monday-ising” of surcharges when the holidays fall on the weekend – this knowledge could save you a good chunk of money.

One Speculator reader with a wee bee in her bonnet set out to find out whether her favourite cafés and bars would be surcharging the bills. She ended up calling and emailing almost all Devonport eateries. Here’s what she discovered:

“In the first place I only wanted to find somewhere to meet some colleagues for a “Christmas drink”, which had been postponed from December.

“In December we planned to hold our little celebration at Manuka Restaurant. Because our rescheduled date turned out to be a public holiday, I decided that we needed to meet somewhere without a surcharge – because I refuse personally to pay surcharges.

“I emailed four possible venues for our get-together: Manuka, Dida’s Devonport, the Olive Press and Mecca/The Esplanade.  Dida’s and the Olive Press came back within the hour with a categorical: “no surcharge” answer.  Later in the day I got a grumpy reply from Manuka spelling out why there would be a surcharge.  Mecca/The Esplanade  didn’t reply, so were ruled out, but I later called them and found that they both surcharge.

“Guess what? We’ll be meeting at Dida’s or The Olive Press Bistro & Bar. There’s no question of going to Manuka anymore.  So the owner is losing 115% of my money instead of gaining 100% of it as Dida’s or the Olive Press will.

“In my opinion, surcharging is bad long-term PR for eateries.  About four years ago I nearly fell off my seat when I got the bill at Buona Sera.  I’d forgotten it was a public holiday and the idea that I’d be hit with a 15% surcharge never crossed my mind.  The restaurant got its 15% extra, but the waiter missed out on a tip, and I’ve never been back.  I have it ingrained in my reptilian brain that Buona Sera is an incredibly expensive place to eat.

“Getting back to the issue of Anniversary Day, after the little market research I’d done on Devonport bars, I got a bee in my bonnet, and decided to extend my enquiries to cafés.

“Most replied with a straight surcharge or no surcharge answer (see below for my results).  A couple were still wavering on Friday/Saturday.

“The owner of Corellis, for example, made it clear that there would be a surcharge because it was an economic necessity for her, but anyone the staff recognised as a local, wouldn’t have the surcharge added to their bill.

“Likewise, when I asked at the Devonport Deli in person, I was told that there wouldn’t be a surcharge for me. When I pushed my favourite friendly café owner,  she said she was still undecided about whether she would be putting the surcharge sign up on Monday because of “the economic times”.  In the past the Devonport Deli has surcharged, but we’ll only know on Monday if there will be surcharge this time.

“I ended up either emailing, calling, or visiting in person all of the cafés below, and asking them directly if they will surcharge this Monday. ”

Are you a café/restaurant owner? Will you be surcharging? The Speculator is particularly interested in views from both sides on the effects of something controversial like the surcharge on customer loyalty. Cafes know better than anyone the fickle nature of the punter population; is the surcharge something that makes them money on the day, but loses them money in the long term? Email us your thoughts at

Here are the results:

No surcharge:

Nicolino Restaurant & Cube Bar

Buona Sera Ristorante


Devonport Connection Café

Monsoon Café & Restaurant

Dida’s Devonport

The Olive Press Bistro & Bar

Sierra Café Devonport (but the café won’t rule out surcharges on future public holidays)

Esquires Devonport (each Esquires chooses its policy)


Narrowneck Beach Café

Java House Café

Ferryman’s Café

Portofino Bar & Restaurant

Clarry’s Coffee Lounge


Vanilla Café

Five Loaves *

Limited surcharging or undecided:


Devonport Deli


Manna Thai

Manuka Restaurant

Platter Café/Bar Restaurant

Torpedo Bay Café

The Patriot

Mecca Devonport

Esplanade Hotel

Devonport Stone Oven

Closed on Anniversary Day:

Little & Friday

*The staff member sounded unsure, but insisted there was no surcharge.

Some Speculator readers will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid paying a surcharge

Some Speculator readers will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid paying a surcharge


  1. GB says:

    Yes Mary your right, it’s a nationwide ‘problem’ then that needs fixing from the Government perhaps, new legislation?? alot of other things, including skateboarders still skateboarding down Victoria rd during daytime at 3oks an hour!

  2. Mary says:

    yay for devo connection! unlike the cafe where we dared to venture for a quick post swim coffee & was totally fleeced on a sunday posing as a holiday …. what a farce and it seems as though it truly is a way to make a little bit of extra $$ for the owner – yes times are hard but PR is expensive so being surcharge-less is a great free initiative for the savvy cafe owner …. the rationale does not stack up about extra wages – in that case surely retailers would also add 15% extra …. murawai beach cafe slapped 15% on the good old ice cream one so it is not only a north shore affliction

  3. CJ says:

    I was up in Mangonui at the weekend at the famous fish and chip shop, and was annoyed to be charged a surcharge on take-away fish and chips! Bleedin’ cheek.

    Incidentally, New Zealand is the only country in which I’ve seen this practice of surcharging on public holidays. I’ve certainly never seen it back in the old country. How far beyond the wit of man is it to simply absorb this extra cost into the prices for the rest of the year? Also, isn’t the extra cost of paying staff salaries over the holiday more than compensated for by the extra custom on a holiday??

  4. GB says:

    Great survey and knowledge to arm me with for the future, great stuff, so thanks alot bee in her bonnet!..However it doesn’t bother the greedy rich in Devo, as they seem to go whenever and wherever..but for the rest of us,…..

  5. I went in this morning to have my regular coffee. I had a prepaid card anyway, so wouldn’t be surcharged. I’m happy to report that the management had decided not to impose the surcharge. Has anyone come across other eateries other than those mentioned here that have dropped their surcharge?

  6. LB says:

    I know Devonport Connection Cafe never charge a surcharge and Thomas will be open Monday

  7. David says:

    Last year the Manna Thai restaurant even charged a surcharge on Takeaways!

  8. john says:

    Why not a location or premier seating charge and a maximum stay charge….the wannabees always choose cafes where they can be seen ..even if it is the busiest and no view corner of the village … they have their bikes, canines, pushchairs, kids all overflowing on to the footpath .. come back in an hour and they are still there !
    for great coffee and food, relaxation and comfort, the beach, bathrooms close by, a playground for children and a great dog parking area with water try the Narrow Neck Beach Cafe …

    Hmmm…. The Speculator normally charges for advertorials… – Ed

  9. Bee in her bonnet says:

    Cafe owners who aren’t charging a surcharge should put a sign outside advertising the fact. I’m sure they’ll pick up some of the regular customers from other cafes that do charge a surcharge.

  10. Bee in her bonnet says:

    Some more thoughts:
    Cafe owners are very entitled to charge this surcharge. I just choose not to pay it and go elsewhere. If my petrol station (which also has to pay staff extra on public holidays)charged a surcharge, I wouldn’t shop that day…..
    Public holidays have become cafe-free days for me. But thanks to this research , I might venture back into them.

  11. Kevin says:

    thanks for this list which shows us where to avoid. We previously walked out of Manuka after they very snottily told us we couldn’t sit at the table we chose despite the cafe being half empty. When will people realise bad service costs money?

  12. Diane says:

    Thanks. Makes it an easy decision where to eat tHis weekend!!!

  13. AL says:

    As in previous years , ( since 2003 ) no surcharges of any kind at Santini’s Espresso Bar in Wynyard Street. Grazie, AL.

  14. tom says:

    Its Thomas here, from Devonport Connection Cafe, we are opening again from Monday, 31st January. We have been promoting NO HOLIDAY SURCHARGE SINCE WE OPEN.

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