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How should a restaurant disclose that it is charging extra for providing employee health insurance? Or should it all?

I was recently at a restaurant in San Francisco where the menu stated something to the effect of the following:

"A 4% charge provides sick leave and health insurance for all employees"

Now, I have no problem with a restaurant charging more in order to provide decent wages and health benefits for its employees. In fact, on balance, I'm probably in favor of it. But that's not the point of this post.

What I am curious about is whether it is necessary to disclose it in such an obvious fashion.

Is it really necessary that a restaurant says it will add X to your bill so that its employees can get medical coverage?

Couldn't the restaurant do the same just be adding a %increase across the board for all its menu items, and the diner wouldn't be the wiser?

Do you care that a restaurant specifically tells you how much higher its prices are (or how much higher your tab will be) in order to provide certain benefits to its employees?

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  1. I agree that this statement is "gratuitous". Perhaps there is a competitive one-upsmanship situation among SF restaurants. With a mandate for national health care, this sort of thing shouldn't increase in prevalence. I see no need for a restaurant or any other business to announce to customers what it is spending on various business costs. This is as foolish as it would be to declare that 3% of their income is spent on the exterminator - TMI!

    2 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      "A 4% charge provides private school tuition for all my children"

      1. re: ipsedixit

        A 4% surcharge pays for the gas in my boat.

    2. "Glad you asked about the chocolate souflees. If I sell three of them tonight, I win a free colonoscopy."
      That'll bring 'em back.

      1. These threads have some information on restaurant menus with similar statements....


        4 Replies
        1. re: hannaone

          That's the thing. I am well aware of the SF ordinance that was finally affirmed by the 9th Cir. back in Jan 08, and whether you agree with the law or not, I see no requirement that a restaurant actually disclose to the customer the surcharge they are levying to comply with the law, right?

          So, in putting it on the menu explicitly or the bill, is this just some sort of passive-agressive way to protest the ordinance?

          1. re: ipsedixit

            That was what some of the discussion on those threads seemed to point out.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Yes, it's a political statement. Of course, if you're choosing to reflect the cost of the health insurance requirements by adding a surcharge, then you do have to disclose the fact there's a surcharge. But the fact that they choose to impose a surcharge instead of factoring the expense into their prices just as they do with all their other expenses is a political statement. I don't see them saying "we're adding a 4 percent surcharge because our utility bills are up"!

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                The restaurant must have some pretty high prices if a 4% surcharge is enough to cover health insurance.

          2. It's an obvious political statement.

            1. That's interesting. A restaurant I've been going to for a long time that has a long history has the story of the restaurant printed on one side of the menu. If I were the restaurant owner, I would have the story of the restaurant on the menu, and I don't think I'd get down quite so far to brass tacks, but I'd point out that one of the reasons we don't have rock bottom prices is that we do right by our employees.

              PS Now having read the whole thread I agree that the restaurant appears to be trying to rabble rouse against the law ... surely SF is the wrong place for that. I recently encountered a recorded statement from an administrator of a government program--they were clearly peeved by a change in the law that meant they needed to change the way they were doing things. I was frankly amazed, since the overall law's existence is the only reason they have a business ...

              2 Replies
              1. re: foiegras

                San Francisco? The wrong place to rabble rouse? Surely you are kidding.

                1. re: PeterL

                  My point is that SF is well known as liberal ... there's a reason why this law exists in SF and not, for example, in the red state where I live. I would hope (as a native San Franciscan) that the majority want to do the right thing ...

              2. I don't mind paying a few percent for a health insurance charge, but a taco shop I was in was charging $1.25 per person rather than a percentage. This seemed excessive for a bill of $7.

                1. I feel that this is more info, than I want. What about the tip for the trashman, who allows two bins, rather than three? What about the bribe to the traffic cop, who lets patrons park in the empty church parking lot, after hours?

                  Now, being in AZ, it is probably too easy to say, "hey, this sounds like a CA thing," but maybe not.

                  When I dine out, I do not care to see a spreadsheet of the financial comings and goings of a restaurant. I am not an accountant, and do not care where their overhead is spread. Show me the charges (all inclusive), and do not grovel at my feet trying to tack on extra charges, in hopes that I will be pleased that we have saved some fish that no one has ever seen, or free tattoo removal for the waitstaff. If the prices are out of line, I will just go elsewhere.

                  Encountered something that I would think was similar. We were dining in London, at a "tony restaurant," and I was presented with the bill. I was being charged £10/person for a "cover charge." At the time, that was a premium of about US$ 24/person. There was no entertainment. There was nothing, but the dining experience. Cover charge! What for - the pleasure of actually dining with you? I found that this was quite common for several restaurant "groups," and I felt it a total rip-off. I researched those groups, and developed a "black list" of establishments in/around London. With one exception (we were guests and had no say), we have taken our business elsewhere. Now, we normally host parties of 10-12, and I get to pick the wines. The tabs are quite high, but then we are often suggesting that our guests give several £M to our foundation. Still, I will not be robbed with a "cover charge," when the only "show" is my guests dining!

                  Thanks for reporting this. Would you mind mentioning the restaurant? We dine, and host in SF often. I would rather support restaurants that did not ADD things to the bill, but reflected the overhead on my menu's prices.



                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Bill Hunt


                    (P.S. Maybe in AZ there'll be an extra surcharge for not being able to hire illegal immigrants?)

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      Interesting. We have dined there in the past, but it MUST have been the "distant past." OK, we'll just dine up in the Sierra Foothills, and pass next trip.

                      As for AZ, who knows? We will have to live with whatever comes. OTOH, with the burst of several of our "bubbles," there might be others to step up - or maybe not. [Grin]

                      Thanks for the info. I'm now going to look at some things a bit more closely, thanks to you and this post.

                      Thanks for just posting this, as it can be food-for-thought, for some.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        I assume that as bubbles continue to burst, fewer and fewer will be amused.

                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          Very funny about the "food for thought".

                        2. re: ipsedixit

                          OMG, Ipsedixit, I'm so bloody embarrassed to be Arizonan right now. Just try to remember that SHE WAS NOT ELECTED and should never have made it to lt. governor, either. If she gets elected this time around I'm going to have to go undergraound ahd hide my head in shame. Again.

                          But what I was going to originally say was that it's not just a big,loud political statement but an absurd insult to both customers and the restaurant employees who finally have health insurance.

                      2. With the health care bill all employee's will be covered by businesses with over 50 employees. The cost of eating out is going to go up considerably.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: duck833

                          it is 50 or more per week who average 20 hours. A lot of places laid of people.

                          1. re: duck833

                            Not necessary. They may cut the cost from elsewhere. For example, the employees may get pay less in a restaurant which provides healthcare than a restaurant does not. Individual employee will simply have to decide.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              The employer can not do that, SF law makes it mandatory that they pay a certain min wage which is more then fed min wage, and they must pay healthcare for all who work at least 20 hours a week.

                              1. re: celeryroot

                                I think it is the direction of our nation. Maybe it is better for everyone to get healthcare coverage. So eating out will cost more, but so be it. We, Americans, should out too much anyway.

                                Now, I suspect we won't see a huge change of price change in upscale restaurants where the cost of healthcare coverage per employee is small compared to other costs. We will, however, see a much bigger change of price in small restaurants. In a sense, it actually hurts the little mom and pap starting up restaurants more, I think. Well, such as life.

                                There is no easy way out of this. Either we maintain to be private healthcare country where the private sectors buy the insurance for the employees -- so the cost of eating at some restaurants will go up. Or we will evolve into public healthcare country where the government will provide public healthcare for all along with a higher tax. If I have to pick, I pick the first one. Healthcare is a very large industry. ~15% of our GDP. It is bigger than our military or social security program in term of money. Just imagine we more than double our military spending now.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  "So eating out will cost more, but so be it. We, Americans, should out too much anyway."

                                  I assume that you meant to type "We Americans eat out too much anyway," but I could be very wrong.

                                  Maybe you will wish to share your personal observations with the Hotel and Restaurant Association, and they will want to hear from you. Maybe you need to share this observation with the US restauranteurs, that they just need to get over not having patrons, and will soon have to close, and terminate all employees. I do not care what a state, or municipality might mandate, if a restaurant must close, due to such thinking, then the tax base is lost, as are the jobs.

                                  I only hope that I did not read between the lines of what appears to be a typo.



                                  1. re: Bill Hunt


                                    Yes, it was a typo. Thanks. As a nation, we are very much splitted on this healthcare issue. Just as many hotel and restaurant owners may not like to pay for healthcare for their employees, there are just as many waiters and waitressess want it.

                                    I think the idea that all restaurants will shut down because they need to provide healthcare for their employees is a stretch. Things will be tougher, but not doomed days. Just as you can argue that restaurant business may get tougher, I can argue that healthcare business may get easier because there will be more people cover by health insurance and willing to see a doctor for annual exam and etc. It is, therefore, predicted that we will be facing shortage of nurses and doctors very soon.

                          2. Quite a few restaurants in SF do it. It is a political statement.


                            Above provides some info. Also, keep in mind waiters in SF are paid, by SF law, more then min wage plus tips, and sf healthcare is for employees who work 20 or more hours a week. It is why many restauranters and small businesses are going outside of city.

                            1. I think it is meant to show why the restaurant is passing the cost to you, the customer. Personally, I think it is unnecessary. Paying healthcare for employees should be an incentive for the employees and not customers. In other words, such policy should attract better restaurant employees and that alone should be enough. Alternatively, the restaurant can pay its employee less by providing a better healthcare plan than its competitors. Again, these polices should be viewed as incentives for the employees not customers.

                              What is next telling me how many vacation days the employees are getting? Or how much they get pay overall?

                              I don't care one way or the other.

                              19 Replies
                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Well, actually some European dignitaries ARE telling the world how much vacation should be provided, and not just for employees, but for all residents of the country, whether they can afford it, or not, or even work.

                                With certain states, and municipalities, mandating what the minimum wage is, and what the benefits shall be, I would definitely anticipate that the patron will pick up the bill. The restauranteur has fixed overhead, so something has to give. That will be reflected in higher prices. I would not expect that a restauranteur should just reduce their profits, to comply. Their pockets are just not that deep.

                                I do not want to go political, but this line of thinking harkens back to "Joe the Plumber." Anyone in business must just pick up the tab. Not likely to happen.


                                1. re: Bill Hunt


                                  Patrons will pick up part of the cost increase, not all of it. The increase of cost will be splitted between sellers (supply) and buyers (demand). Look back your college economic textbooks, and you will see what I mean. As you move the supply curve up/back, the equilibrate market price point does not move straight up, it moves at a slope depending on the demand curve -- in short, the cost will be splitted. The only time the increase cost completely moves to the patrons is when we have an inelastic demand curve, and restaurants are far from that. It is very elastic.

                                  Anyway, back to the main topic. I believe that statement which ipsedixit read is more of a political statement than an economic statement. It is more like "our restaurants supports local high school baseball team". Ok, not exactly that, but something like that.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    Well, with most segments of the restaurant markets, the trend is decidedly downward. Higher-end fast food is the exception, and there is a war on that battlefront. Will be interesting to see how it shakes out in two years. My prediction is that all areas of the hospitality market will be at a all time low, though I would love to be wrong. When we get the European VAT, at every step in the process, I think that most restaurants will just close the doors. Again, hope that I am very wrong.


                                    1. re: Bill Hunt


                                      I personally am concern about the possibility of VAT, but I read several columns today, which says it is going to happen in about 10-15 years (from both Democrat and Republican think-tankers personals). It is a broad tax and it is hidden, so it is easy to impose. Income tax and sale tax are very visible to every Americans. When the government rise them, you see it and feel it. On the other hand, coporate tax is a lot more hidden to most Americans, despite it has just much real impact if not more. VAT is more like that. Great tax for politics.

                                      I don't think most restaurants will just close the doors. We will just be more like Europe.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        VAT is only hidden if you don't know it's there. In countries which have VAT, like here in the UK, we know it's there so it is not an issue, as such.

                                        As with all tax rates, folk never think reductions are enough and complain (as happened when the rate was reduced recently). Similarly, they complain when it rises (as will happen shortly when our new government increases the rate - from 17.5% to almost certainly £20.

                                        That said and without wishing to get political, I'm generally agin regressive taxes like VAT and other sales taxes. They hit poorer people disproportionately hard.

                                        1. re: Harters


                                          Thanks. What do you mean by VAT is not hidden in UK? Does the VAT tax lists on the store on items/goods? If not, then it is hidden. For example, all Americans know our country has a high corporate tax. Comporate tax, of course, affects companies profits and therefore our salaries and company future investment.... We know that, but we don't feel it like personal income tax. There is a difference between knowing and feeling. A somewhat different example. Have you heard that people tend to be much more careful with their money when they pay with cash instead of credit card? It just seems less painful to pay $100 in credit card for gorcey than to pay $100 in cash. I am sure everyone know $100 in credit card is the same as $100 in cash, but people do not feel the same way. While at it, that is also the same reason why casinos use those plastic coin chips instead of real cash. VAT tax, like corporate tax, does not induce the same pain level as personal income tax. It is hidden in that sense. I don't mean hidden as in not telling the people like a full blown coverup.

                                          Yes, you can say VAT can be regressive. However, VAT is still a lot more progressive than a sale tax. VAT affect the value added only. For example if I transform some $10 iron ore into a cheap $15 cast iron pan, and the VAT is at 10% (just for easy math), then the VAT for this cheap iron pan is only $0.5 on a $15 pan (VAT increased the sale price by 3%). If I transform the same $10 iron ore into a very fancy cast iron pan which I sell for $100, then the value added is $90 and the VAT is $9 on a $100 pan (VAT increased the sale price by 9%). So there is a progressive-ness to it. Whereas pure sale tax is just that. More regressive.

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            "What do you mean by VAT is not hidden in UK? Does the VAT tax lists on the store on items/goods? If not, then it is hidden. "

                                            I repeat - it is not hidden because we know it is there. We have had VAT since 1973. No-one here would consider that it is is any way a secretive tax.

                                            And, just to clarifiy your misunderstanding of how it works, it is charged on the full sale price of the item, not just the "added" portion. Taking your examples of the pans (and assuming a 10% rate for easy maths) - the amount of VAT levied would be $1.50 and $10 - making the sale price $16.50 and $110. There is sometimes the very dubious argument made by the supporters of VAT that it is progressive in that only wealthier folk can afford to buy the cast iron pan.

                                            Where I do agree with you is in the fact that governments like taxes such as VAT, duty on petrol and the like (at least the UK governments have liked them). means they can make great political points about not raising the levels of income tax.

                                            1. re: Harters


                                              Thanks. I know you have repeated yourself that a VAT is not hidden. It is good to know your definition.

                                              Hidden tax does not have to be 100% secretive, though that definition does not go against its definition. It is just a narrower definition than it is. As long as a tax is not highly visible, then it is a hidden tax. For example, corporate income tax, tarriffs (import tax), sin taxes (e.g. tax on tobacco), inflation tax, .... these are all classified as hidden taxes. It isn't like we don't know there is a coporate tax, or that we don't know there is a tax on tobacco. We are fully aware of it, more so that any future VAT on America will be, but these are considered as hidden taxes.

                                              Professor Allan Meltzer wrote:

                                              "European experience suggests that the VAT is a largely *hidden tax* that can increase with less political opposition than increases in the income tax"

                                              From Columbia Encyclopedia:
                                              "...Because the consumer ultimately pays a higher price for the taxed commodity, a VAT is essentially a hidden sales tax...."

                                              "...The second major political advantage for a VAT is that it is a *hidden tax*. Because it would be incorporated at each stage of production, its true burdens would be disguised"


                                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics


                                              No matter how the VAT is calculated, it is regressive -- just as regressive as a sales tax.

                                              Why? Because everyone pays the same amount. If the VAT is $5 then the person making 20k/year pays the same $5 as the person making 200/k/year. This is the same reason why a sales tax is regressive because the no matter your income strata, you pay the same amount of tax.

                                              Basing the VAT on only the "value-added" portion does not make the VAT less regressive than a pure sales tax -- just calculated differently than a sales tax. But at the end of the day, both are equally regressive.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit


                                                Thanks. Well, actually VAT and sale taxes are regressive for a slightly different reason than your example. Your example is true in spirit, but misses on the descriptions, I think. Sale tax is not regressive due to the fact that every one pays the same amount. Wealthy people buy more and will pay more in sale tax - in absolute term.

                                                A global sale tax is regressive because people do not spend linearly with increasing income.

                                                If a person with a 20K income spends 15K on goods and a person with a 200k income spend 150K on goods, then each would spent 75% of their income and thus the sale tax is a flat tax. In reality, low income people spent a greater proportion of their income, thus regressive. As if the poor get taxed at 75% of their income and the rich taxed at a lower 50% of their income.

                                                I can argue why VAT may be more progressive than a sale tax. I didn't say VAT is progress in absolute term -- at least I hope I didn't write that. I hope I said VAT can be more progressive (or less regressive) than a sale tax, but I think this is way beyond this post on CHOWHOUND

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  Well, looks like we're going to have to take this outside ...


                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    No, I always lose bar fight. I am running away.

                                            3. re: Harters

                                              Now, as a "daft Yank," I only spend a couple of weeks, twice per year, in the UK (enjoy every trip), and I am very aware of the VAT.

                                              Maybe it's because my lovely wife shops at Thomas Goode's in Mayfair, and I have tons of paperwork to fill out, or maybe because I have researched the UK and the taxation laws.

                                              I live with it, but then do not pay most other taxes in the UK, or FR, or ES, so I only have one, or two, to concern myself with.

                                              By the time that the "extras" are added in the US, the taxation will approach 70%. I predict that this will happen by 2015, if the world exceeds the Mayan Calender... ?


                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                Ah, indeed, Bill. As a non-resident foreigner, your wife presumably reclaims the VAT on the Mayfair shopping (think it might depend on how she's spent)

                                                1. re: Harters

                                                  Yes. In some cases we have, but in some we have not. It depends on what she finds, whether it is worth the paperwork. At least we have the option to do so.

                                                  It will be very interesting to see how the US implements the VAT. Could be fine, if they then do a flat-tax, or it could be catastrophic, but only time will tell. One proposal was to leave the US Income Tax at about the same level, and then add 20% VAT at every level. Coupled with local and state taxes, this could be about 90% taxation, compared to what we pay now. Time will tell. Since US spending is projected to be 125% of GDP by 2015, why not tax the residents 100%?


                                      2. re: Bill Hunt

                                        Of course I expect the restaurants to pass their costs along -- all their costs. That's how businesses work. But singling out one specific expense and listing it separately on the menu, instead of raising all the prices slightly, is a political act, not an economic act.

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          One day in the future, the menu will consist of the following:

                                          1. The description (or ingredients) of the dish
                                          2. The nutritional information of the dish (the % of sodium, fat, calories, etc.)
                                          3. The cost of the dish broken down to discrete parts (labor, raw materials, restaurant overhead, employee benefits, city taxes, etc.)

                                          Won't that make for lovely reading.

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            One day in the future, there will be so much information on the menu, that most Americans won't bother to read it. Justlike those 2-5 pages of legal disclaimer statements on everything which every one just skip over now.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              Oh, but wait, "there is more.... " Each child that eats anything, will have to report it to a US Government agency, and if it does not pass muster, then the family will need to attend a counseling session.

                                              Not sure how this will work, but I anticipate a chip being implanted, that will send signals to Washington, DC, so that they will be able to monitor every child's caloric intake.

                                              Much more to come - wait for it.


                                      3. Gratuitous and very off putting.

                                        To me, it says one of two things. Either "look at us, aren't we progressive" or "our uppity employees wanted basic benefits, so we're passing the cost on to you." Either way, seeing this on the menu would probably send me to a different restaurant.

                                        1. It's like the (equally annoying) environmental/disposal surcharge added on at the end of an oil change. Both allow the business to quote a lower initial price. If I have to pay something, I want it included. I also agree that ipsedixit's example has the added political dig.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: quirkydeb

                                            The difference with used motor oil is that the owner of the vehicle typically has the option of taking the used motor oil home with her (thus avoiding the disposal charge). No such option with the surcharge for healthcare.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              Wait until there is a surcharge for any fried dish. It has got to be coming - wait for it...


                                          2. I saw that on a menu last year in SF. It sparked an uncomfortable political discussion at a family dinner about the ordinance the minute we picked up the menus. Boo. Thanks a lot, restaurant. That really enhanced my dining experience.

                                            Everyone who lives in SF is aware of the new ordinance so it's not like they are providing anyone with info they didn't already know. I think it is tasteless.

                                            1. Oh Boy, now the tip can be reduced...(duck) :-)

                                              9 Replies
                                              1. re: jfood

                                                Oh. Oh. I didn't think of it. Yeah, it is true.

                                                1. re: jfood

                                                  Now the question needs to be asked ... is whether you tip based on your total tab with the 4% or before the 4% is tacked on?

                                                  [Double Duck]

                                                  1. re: jfood


                                                    Are you saying that you do not tip on the healthcare surcharge, the wine cork disposal surcharge, the employee vacation surcharge, the fried food oil disposal, and then the non-renewable produce surcharge? Fee upon you!!!!!

                                                    Have you not heard that all restaurant staff must be guaranteed six weeks, no expenses, at an approved Club Med?

                                                    I'm with you,


                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                      Let's not forget the "zezuntheit" surcharge.

                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                        No, there WILL be more surcharges, than any of us can comprehend. Then, as mentioned up-thread, let's not overlook the VAT at ever level, from asparagus farmer, to the packaging company, to the shipper, to the chef (or distributor before them). A simple salad will then be US $45, and we're talking about what was once termed a "house salad," on a tiny plate. There will be a board determining that we are not worthy of such, as we were not at Harvard Law, and that stuff is only reserved for the alums.

                                                        My wife once talked about leaving healthcare and having me open a restaurant for her. She has long ago changed her mind. She wants no part of that end of the hospitality business.


                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt


                                                          You are misunderstanding the nature of VAT (or, perhaps, America is considering a different version than we have in the UK).

                                                          VAT is *not* charged at every level. It is a Value Added Tax - so is only levied when value is added to a product. Therefore, if I buy food for the home , or a restaurant buys food to prepare for meals, VAT is NOT charged by the supplier and no VAT has been charged at any point in the process so far. When the restaurant turns that food into a meal, value has been added to the product and VAT is charged. In some European countries (Spain for example), the tax will be shown on the bill. In other countries (UK for example), tax is never shown separately and is always included in a menu price.

                                                          Without wishing to get too deeply into our tax system, even where VAT is levied as part of, say, a manufacturing process, it is reclaimable business expense for the company, which they offset against the VAT they levy on their customer. So, throughout the whole process of manufacture through to end user sale, VAT is charged on the one hand and reclaimed on the other. It is only an end user not registered for VAT who cannot reclaim - essentially private individuals and small traders (currently those with an annual turnover less than £68k)

                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                            The proposal in the US is for it to be added at every level, from mfgr., to distribution to consumption. Let us say that it ends up being 20%. If one mines the iron ore, then +20% will be added. When one creates steel from that ore, another 20% will be added. That steel is shipped to a mfgr'ing plant, and 20% will be added. Then, when that product is sent to the distributor, another 20% will be added. Now, when the retailer sells it to me, I will pay an additional 20%. Nice, huh?

                                                            What will actually happen, we can only wait and see.

                                                            I would bet that there are a couple of "levels" in the UK, as it IS a "Value Added Tax," so that every time that "value is added," then things need to be taxed. Obviously, the consumer does not see these delineated, but remember, if value is added, there is a tax.

                                                            For food production, I could imagine that from seed to table, there could well be 3 - 4 levels of additional taxation.

                                                            Now, and totally OT for this thread, how has the additional "cover charge" in many London restaurants fared? That one got my dander up on several occasions. Why am I to be charged extra, just for being a patron at a restaurant, that offers nothing beyond food? Think we have hashed that one about in the past.



                                                    2. re: jfood

                                                      Sad but true, jfood, you're probably spot-on.

                                                    3. Reason 1 they're making a statement
                                                      Reson 2 it's less expensive to add a surcharge than reprinting the menus

                                                      ("Surcharge" is the catch all invented by the airline industry to sock it to you)

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: monku

                                                        "Reson 2 it's less expensive to add a surcharge than reprinting the menus"


                                                        The restaurant we were at updates their menu regularly -- almost daily, if I recall correctly.

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          Those places are probably giving you a double whammy with increased prices and then adding the 4% surcharge....and there are restaurants that don't update or have a daily menu.

                                                          Another "surcharge" gimmick is the daily "resort fee" that some hotels tack on your hotel bill when you check out. Quote you a low daily fee then tack on 10% for stuff you used to get for free.

                                                          1. re: monku

                                                            Ah, the "Resort Fee." There is a very old joke about that, and it involves a patron, his wife, some sexual favors, reverse charges, and the punchline is "ah, but you could have." Before this gets too far of CH topic, I'd better get back to food and wine.


                                                      2. No - I don't require businesses to disclose what they do with their income. I eat and I pay. I know that some of the payment is going to the government by way of tax. As for the rest, I know it's paying the staff wages, the food costs, the overheads, the statutory requirements relating to these matters and the owner's profit. I don't need to know the ratio between these things (much as they might be interesting).

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: Harters

                                                          If you would live in SF you would understand

                                                          1. re: celeryroot

                                                            No doubt. Here in the UK, there's no need for an employer to "buy" an employee's health care as we have our state provided system paid by taxation.

                                                            1. re: celeryroot

                                                              Based on the heated discussions on this topic on the SF board, I'd say that most San Franciscans don't understand. After all, only a handful of upscale restaurants are choosing to make a big deal about it.

                                                              1. re: celeryroot

                                                                I used to live in the greater SF area for 13+ years.

                                                            2. It's poor etiquette to discuss money. Add the percentage to your menu prices and get over it.

                                                              10 Replies
                                                              1. re: shaogo

                                                                The downside to that is that some restaurants will want the patrons to know how compassionate they are - or green, or something else.


                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                  Well, in this case they're just complying with the law -- grudgingly at that. No compassion involved.

                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                    Shhh ...

                                                                    For those who may not be clear on what it means not to have health insurance ... I know someone whose daughter's in grad school. She was covered on her father's insurance until her stepmother canceled her coverage. Then she has a freak accident, I think it was a broken glass in the kitchen, severing a key tendon in her hand. She goes to the nearest "I have no coverage" hospital, and they sew her up so she won't bleed to death ... but no reattaching the tendon, that's not necessary. So now she has one working hand & thumb. Mom couldn't add her to her policy till annual enrollment, so dipped into her 401(k) to reattach the tendon ...

                                                                    So you're eating at your favorite luxury restaurant, and there's an accident in the kitchen. Are you really comfortable with the person who gets injured preparing your meal being left with only one working hand (and probably no livelihood) because they don't have healthcare coverage?

                                                                    In my mind it really speaks to the character of the restaurant owners who are unhappy about it ... I think I'd have to boycott those restaurants.

                                                                    1. re: foiegras

                                                                      My sympathies to the young lady; however, just for the sake of clarity, if someone got hurt on the job (at least in California) it would be covered under workers' compensation insurance, which is an involuntary system (in California). Of course, employers are always complaining about workers' comp, too!

                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                        True ... but I'd also hate to think that if it happened a few minutes before or after work that the people preparing my meal would be screwed. My view is that if I can afford to do something (like go out to eat), I can afford to do it right. I honestly find it quite difficult to understand people who want the lowest price imaginable, regardless of the cost to others. It seems to me a karmically dangerous way to live ...

                                                                        1. re: foiegras

                                                                          Well, what if I am struck by lightening, have wonderful health insurance, and it's declared an act of God? Of course I can go to the ER, but then others have to pay for me, unless my AMEX card will not cover it.

                                                                          There will always be individual instances, for which no plan on Earth can possibly have anticipated. Meteor? What happens then?

                                                                          Maybe we need to talk in generalities, and not one-off specifics.


                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                            I've certainly heard of property not being covered due to 'acts of God,' but not people. Are you 'posting under the influence,' by any chance? ;)

                                                                            1. re: foiegras

                                                                              No, not really. Just making some observations.

                                                                              Luckily, I have wonderful healthcare insurance, so it's probably moot.

                                                                              Still, I can imagine all sorts of possible instances, where one might slip through the cracks. Let's say that workman's compensation covers them, but then the clock-out, step outside for a smoke, and are hit by an auto. Are they still covered?


                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                I believe that scenario would be covered. The point is, in a wealthy industrialized nation, why anyone isn't--and why it's possible for anyone to fall through the cracks.

                                                                        2. re: Ruth Lafler


                                                                          That would have been the case in most states too.


                                                                2. Why is it that so many people who are provided with employer paid health insurance (actually employer's cutomers paid health insurance) don't like people in lower paying professions receiving health insurance?

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: junescook

                                                                    I don't think people have a problem with restaurant servers (or other blue collar workers) receiving employee benefits like health insurance.

                                                                    What I find troubling is the employer telling me how much they are charging extra inorder to provide those benefits.

                                                                    I mean would you be happy if your car dealer posted on the sticker that 1% of the price of this car is to ensure that your dealer is provided health insurance?

                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                      Maybe the restauranteur should add a line of charge, "My Bentley?"

                                                                      Put the prices on the Menu and on the bill. Do not try for sympathy by breaking things out as a surcharge (or whatever people wish to call it). Let me know the price, and if it is out of line, regardless of the Bentley, I'll pay.

                                                                      Sorry, but I just want to know the prices of each dish, or each bottle of wine, and let's be done with it.

                                                                      Just personal preferences,


                                                                    2. re: junescook

                                                                      Well, I'm in favor of single payer, so I don't think any employer should be providing health insurance. But I don't think anyone here is saying the restaurant shouldn't provide health insurance. The question is whether the restaurant should charge a surcharge specficially labeled as being tied to providing health insurance rather than including it in the overall price as it does with every other expense. As we've noted above, the surcharge is political statement by these restaurateurs who are unhappy about how San Francisco's labor laws are applied to their businesses.

                                                                    3. I work at a restaurant in SF that has one of these surcharges, although our boss decided to charge $1.25 per person. As there are now many restaurants here that have something similar, most people take it in stride. The people who complain are almost always from somewhere else. When someone has a problem with it, we promptly send the owner over to stand up for it. That happens about every other month, although I know he gets a few nasty letters each month, Those, too, are mostly from tourists. All that said, I think the whole thing is really silly. It's mostly the owner saying,"You voted for it, there you go." I wish he would just raise prices a bit, and skip the charge.

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: srr

                                                                        i wonder that too. Afterall, buying healthcare insurance for employees is part of the cost of business. It will save him much trouble by simply incorporate into the price, as oppose directly listing it as a separate fee. Considered healthcare is a heated topic, it is almost asking for a fight by listing it as a separate fee.

                                                                        1. re: srr

                                                                          Let's take this to the level of the absurd. What is the difference between the health insurance surcharge, and doing something like this:

                                                                          Grilled Filet with micro-greens and a peppercorn sauce - $6.00
                                                                          Electricity surcharge - add $2.00
                                                                          Natural gas surcharge - add $3.00
                                                                          Mandated health insurance - add $12.00
                                                                          Rent - add $15.00
                                                                          Permit for new dining room - add $3.00
                                                                          Repair of walk-in refrigerator - add $2.00
                                                                          Flowers for entryway - add $1.00
                                                                          Holiday present to city councilman - add $10.00
                                                                          Parking ticket that I got last week - add $0.50
                                                                          Note on my Bentley - add $6.00
                                                                          Advertising - add $3.00
                                                                          Ink and paper to print menus - add $2.00

                                                                          Where does it stop? Let us look beyond the surcharge du jour.


                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                            And Bill, don't forget this one last line-item surcharge:

                                                                            Time and effort to list all of the above surcharges -- add $1.00

                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                              Ah yes. I had forgotten that. It is like the UK practice of adding a "cover charge," for just dining, where there is zero floor show, live music, or even valet parking. Oh, about £20 per person, just for the opportunity to dine there. Right! Never again for this poor Southern boy. Gordon Ramsey is not cheap, but at least he charges for thing up front, rather than on the back end.


                                                                        2. Before I read all of the comments I had a completely different idea about the menu. Personally, I want to support businesses that pay their employees a livable wage and who give their employees things like health insurance, even if it means I pay a little more. (I spent half of my life in the service industry, so I understand how difficult it is to be uninsured). So I read the statement on the menu as being positive, however, after reading all of these comments, it is obvious that it is a statement was not meant in that light.