Why are take out and eat in prices different in London?

If you’re eating in coffee shops, cafes or takeouts in the UK, sometimes you will see two prices listed, one for eat in and one for takeaway. The reason for this is that in theory the level of sales tax, or VAT, applied should be different (lower) for takeout food compared to food eaten on the premises. It’s nothing to do with the ‘extra’ cost of seating and cleaning up after customers.  McDonald’s in particular used to charge two different prices, but more recently standardised prices presumably after agreeing with the tax inspector that a certain percentage will always be eat in and the rest always take out so they don’t need to calculate it down to the exact penny.

It creates a stupid situation anyway, what if it’s busy and you pay extra to eat in, but then can’t find a table so leave anyway? Crepe Affaire still does charge an additional £1 per item to eat in, which is ridiculous.

You can save money therefore, by always saying you’re going to takeout, even if you plan to stay and eat in. Your coffee may come in a paper cup instead of a china mug and you may have to eat with a plastic fork instead of a metal one. Your McDonald’s will come in a bag instead of on a tray. If you feel like you’re ‘breaking the rules’ somehow, just sit far enough away from the counter that the staff can’t see you, they won’t care anyway they’re too busy with the next customer.

The only time you should ever pay the extra for eating in is if you are in a small independent shop staffed by the owners. But if they charged you extra to eat in, don’t feel obliged to leave any tip.