Restaurant surcharges!

Am I the only one who is frosted by the surcharges showing up in restaurants all over southern CA? I’m not talking about the 18% surcharge added at NYC’s Union Square Restaurant Group which complements their “no tipping” policy. I’m talking about the 3 - 4% surcharge which several restaurants have started charging which they explain away by saying that it’s to either supplement back of house wages, provide health care to employees, etc. I find this outrageous! All retail businesses face the challenge of taking good care of their employees. Are we soon going to see hardware stores, pharmacies, etc. impose surcharges? I certainly hope not! Restaurants, like any other business, need to set their prices so that they bring in enough revenue to properly compensate all of their employees. If they are unable to do so, imho they don’t belong in business. I find surcharges offensive and sort of sneaky…they are hoping customers will either not notice or will not want to complain in front of guests. I personally try to avoid restaurants with surcharges, but if I’m surprised by an unexpected surcharge , I’ve begun to reduce my normal 20+% tip by the amount of the surcharge and tell the server that I’m doing this. I’m hoping that servers will make this known to management and perhaps it will have some impact. If restaurants simply raise their prices if they need too, servers will automatically earn more. Am I the only one who thinks this way?

i, too, am irritated by those charges.
that said, i would NOT take it out on the server!
what i do is request that the surcharges be removed from my tab
(i’ve been accomodated most of the time i’ve done this)
usually i ADD this 3% to the server’s tip so that i can be sure that the money is actually going to a restaurant worker instead of just going to the owner.

agree with all your other points about this

Clearly no better way to address FOH/BOH income inequality than giving FOH even more money.


Was it SF or all of CA that started the mandatory health insurance coverage for restaurant worker? I seem to remember that the restaurants were showing it as a separate surcharge so that customers didn’t think they were raising their prices for no reason. I’ve become so accustomed to seeing it that I don’t think I even notice it any more. And, yeah, don’t punish the server. Just the “messenger.”

Restaurants often impose those charges because they’ve been legally required to spend more money. Putting it on as a surcharge keeps it out of the gross receipts, a percentage of which usually go to the landlord.

Some government mandates exempt places with fewer employees or charge different rates for medium and large numbers of employees. For example, only businesses with 50 or more employees are required by the ACA to insure them. If a restaurant with a lot of employees is competing with restaurants with few, just increasing prices to cover the costs would make them less competitive.


I think you would have NorCal more then…most places seem to have a 20% service charge + a 5% health surcharge…lol

Service charges are still rare.

Some restaurants pay a percentage of sales to their landlord. The surcharge may be a way to keep the money in-house vs. the landlord getting a percentage.

The surcharges have been in the SF area for a few years, due to required health care security ordnance.