Money talks

It’s a fact—we offer some of the world’s finest cuisine. But do our menu prices accurately reflect the high quality of what we deliver?

I consider it a great honour to be able to represent Australia’s restaurant industry abroad. I am continually reminded of the absolute superiority of our food and service offering.

This year, for the first time, I had the pleasure of visiting Washington in the US. I was delighted by the Australian food and wine on offer, and by the level of appreciation of cuisine. I was also at the Capitol for the debate on minimum wage, which was increased to $7.25 per hour. The debate was similar to the deliberations of Australia’s Fair Pay Commission. The outcome, however, was much different.

The reality in Australia is that our industry cannot continue providing the world’s best service and best food at the current prices, and still pay the huge wages we pay. I can’t help thinking the only variable we truly have control over is the prices we charge. A really simple calculation reveals that US restaurants charge the same amount for a meal in US dollars as we charge. Factoring in the conversion, this shows that meal prices are 1.2 to 1.3 times higher then ours, yet their wage bill is far lower. The meal in the US is then subject to an 18 to 20 per cent tip, which corrects the wage differential, but the discrepancy between the menu prices remains the same.

The restaurant industry in Australia is growing at a phenomenal rate, and I hope this growth is sustainable at the prices we charge.

John Hart
CEO, Restaurant & Catering Australia

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