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London dining service charge

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I've been reading dozens of menus for London restaurants and find this line on many of them:

> A discretionary service charge of 12.5% will be added to your bill <

What exactly does this mean? Whose discretion does this depend on? Is one to simply pay it or should one discretely take it off the bill?

Is this peculiar to London or will we find it in Liverpool and the Peak District, too?

I don't get it and I don't remember it from earlier trips, although it was probably there on our last few trips to London.

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