Fleecing restaurants send diners reeling


by Harischandra Gunaratna

Prices of food and drink serveed at some of the restaurants in and around Colombo have sent the diners reeling as they are as high as five star prices or close to them.

A number of new restaurants have sprung up in the city, but in some of them the quality of what they serve the customers is much to be desired though the prices are sky high.

It is only the affluent who could afford to patronise these restaurants since the prices in the menus are so high and not within the reach of the average man.

Nissanka Pethiyagoda, an expert in wines and senior graduate of Ceylon Hotel School and a former Chief Burser of Air Lanka said that there is a lot of hot cash in the country which could not be accounted for and also they get a 10 year tax free period. Hence those who have a plenty of black money but with no knowledge or experience of operating a restaurant or a hotel have ventured into this lucrative business thus brining a very bad taste .

"Their only motive is to make money and not customer satisfaction or adhere to the ethical practices," Pethiyagoda said.

"Once I walked into an outlet of a leading baker in Dehiwala and ordered some tea and what they served me was what is called Nestea which is a light brew of coffee coming out of a Nescafe machine. But they call it tea," he pointed out.

In another instance I walked into restaurant which looked decent, in the same area and ordered a coffee. But the standard of the product was very poor. For the price they charged, a customer could have enjoyed a high quality cup of coffee in a five star hotel,he said.

In this backdrop, the government should exercise control over these restaurants and see that they maintain the required standards with inspections conducted regularly. In some cases the hygienic standards in these places are appalling and the customers don’t know about the quality of food served though it may be quite tasty, a regular visitor to these restaurants who wished to remain anonymous said.

Dr Pradeep Kariyawasam, Chief Medical Officer,Public Health Department, Colombo Municipal Council said "The kitchens of these restaurants are required to be inspected every month, but inadequate staff makes it impossible to conduct checks regularly as there are over 350 eateries around the city,"

All employees in a restaurant whether they are big or small are required to undergo a medical test for it to be issued with a trade license and already 300 institutions have had their employees undergo medical tests this year, he said.

Anil Perera, former Vice Principal of the Ceylon Hotel School said that some restaurants fleece customers with low quality and unhygienic food.

Though they have fancy and attractive names in the menu the customer gets a raw deal, he added.

In some places when one orders a fresh juice what they get is either a artificial one or diluted and they should deviate from this practice, he said.

Recently a customer walked into a restaurant close to the Parliament with his family and ordered five pineapple juices and he was brought a bill for Rs 3,500.

He said, even in a five star a pineapple juice would not cost so much.

"They should make these places more affordable to a larger section of the society rather than confining them to one segment," a customer said.

Anil Perera said some restaurants have high overheads as they have invested a lot of money on fine cutlery and crockery, furniture and many other items, Hence their prices are also high, but he said that they should not charge five star prices.

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