Some restaurants in the French resort town of Saint-Tropez have allegedly worked to "screen" customers to only bring in the wealthiest, drawing condemnation from the town’s mayor and the media.
"These accusations are extremely shocking to me because they are unfortunately true," Mayor Sylvie Siri told reporters, saying the town council stood "totally opposed to such despicable practices," which she claimed were "ruining the town’s image."
A tipster told local outlet Var-Matin that the restaurants would check for previous visits and filter out potential customers based on what they previously spent and what they ordered – among other details – sorting them into "big spender" or "small fry."
Those who fell into the "small fry" category would hear that the restaurant had no openings for months and would receive a recommendation for another restaurant.
"Even luxury concierge services no longer hesitate to speak in terms of minimum spending when you call on their services. [pushing as] high as possible, to hope to get a table in one of the most popular restaurants and clubs in Saint-Tropez," the insider said, according to a Google translation.
"Minimum spending" occurs when the restaurant offers the reservation at a minimum price, saying it has an available table, for example, at 5,000 euros (approximately $5,400). Those who refuse to pay would not have the reservation.
Siri compared the practice of "minimum spending" to extortion and called the practice "racketeering" when speaking to the Nice-Matin newspaper. She claimed that the data retention of spending and other information could breach personal data protection laws and amount to outright illegal tracing since the restaurants would require consent to keep such information.
She said the practice of forced tipping, with customers asked to pay as much as 20% of a bill – far above the average 5-10% in France – defied the "discretion" of customers. One incident, reported by the tipster, included a waiter chasing a customer into the parking lot and demanding additional tipping above the 500 euros left for service (approximately $540).
Neither Siri nor any of the news outlets named any of the restaurants accused of the extortionate practices.
She will have the chance to address these issues in September when the restaurants and restaurateurs will meet with town officials, Monaco Life reported.
Siri plans to "remind" the restaurants "of their responsibilities" to the community, but she has already looked at potential actions she can take immediately, including the suspension of late-night operation licenses.