Global Economy

published : 2023-08-24

Customer 'Wealth Screening': French Resort Town Restaurants Under Fire

Outrage in Saint-Tropez as restaurants impose 'minimum spending' and enforces exorbitant tipping.

A close-up shot of an intricately designed menu on a linen covered table, with the glistening blue sea of Saint-Tropez in the background. Perfectly capturing the anticipation of a meal in a posh restaurant - taken with Canon EOS R5.

As travel and tourism rebound post-COVID-19, a troubling trend emerges as the holiday season approaches. In the picturesque French resort town of Saint-Tropez, certain restaurants are allegedly discriminating against customers based on their wealth, a scandal drawing sharp critique from officials and media alike.

"The unfortunate reality of these accusations is what makes them particularly shocking," stated Mayor Sylvie Siri, emphasizing the disapproval of the town council for such ignoble practices and expressing her concern for the image of the town they tarnish.

A whistleblower exposed to Var-Matin, a local news outlet, that restaurants were tracking customers' historical data, using it to classify them as 'big spenders' or 'small fry'. The criteria included past visits, previous expenditures, and order preferences.

A candid shot of Mayor Sylvie Siri, passionately speaking at a public event. A graphic illustration of the town's administration hard at work against illicit practices - taken with Nikon D850.

As a consequence, the 'small fry' were often met with the excuse of non-availability for months and redirected to other dining establishments.

In the world of luxury concierge services, 'minimum spending' is becoming a common term. Essentially, a restaurant offers a reservation at a steep price, for example, 5,000 euros (around $5,400) as a minimum spend. Declining this, potential patrons lose their spots.

This exploitative practice is tantamount to racketeering, says Mayor Siri in discussions with the Nice-Matin newspaper, where she also raises the legality of this data retention and breech of personal data protection laws. This tracking requires consent, adding an extra layer of illegality to the operation.

An overhead shot of a bustling restaurant in full swing during the late-night hours in Saint-Tropez, awash in warm lighting. This shot encapsulates the vibrant nightlife slowly being stifled by the unfolding events - taken with Sony Alpha A7 III.

Furthermore, these establishments allegedly exercise forced tipping, imposing a fee of up to 20% of the bill, much higher than the average tip of 5-10% in France. One notable occurrence involved a waiter pursuing a customer to the parking lot, demanding an additional tip on top of the already extravagant 500 euros (approximately $540).

Despite the prevalent accusations, neither local officials nor news media have publicly named the restaurants involved in these unethical practices.

Mayor Siri is expected to address the issue in a meeting with the restaurants and restaurant owners set to occur in September. A range of immediate potential consequences have been explored, including the suspension of late-night operation licenses.