Surcharges and fees at restaurants in one county were raised by disgruntled diners, seemingly surprised and confused at the additional charges on their receipt.
In Orange County, California, several food service establishments have reportedly introduced new surcharges that will cost customers a little more when eating out.
Those near Los Angeles created a Google spreadsheet listing fees they couldn’t understand, and the number has grown exponentially.
The sheet, which lists hundreds of restaurants, lists the percentage of fees and other indicators to indicate the alarming rise in additional fees.
In response, businesses in the area created their own table outlining the reasons for the surcharge, what percentage of the bill it accounts for, whether it replaces a tip, and whether or not customers can forgo it.
Listed fees range from additional restaurant charges for accommodating large groups, a corkage surcharge on wine, and a shared-plate fee for guests sharing a single meal, according to The Orange County Register.
Many restaurants on the list also had a three percent credit card fee.
New devices and adjustments after the peak of the coronavirus pandemic have reportedly caused some of the changes.
According to the publication, protective equipment for employees or additional insurance could result in fees of three to five percent at some dining establishments in the area.
Restaurants reportedly need additional equipment to store food in an area where it won’t be contaminated by ongoing COVID-19 variants.
Other companies have argued that higher operating costs in California are responsible for the surcharges.
Claim Jumper, a restaurant owned by Landry’s Incorporated and a franchisee of the Kelly Restaurant Group, listed one of its fees under “currently applicable wage, benefits and health laws.”
There’s even a page on its website telling customers why their receipt might show a three percent charge.
“We believe that simply increasing menu prices would disproportionately impact one group of our team members more than another and also result in us having to downsize our menu selections,” the restaurant wrote.
“That’s why we decided on a surcharge of three percent in order to distribute these operational increases transparently and fairly.”
Others, like Norms, a famous Southern California restaurant, expressed a similar sentiment about increased operating costs.
“In recent years, the total cost of doing business in California has risen sharply. Norms’ sole intent is to continue to offer everyday, affordable specialties…and to maintain the portion sizes that our guests have come to expect,” the company wrote on its website.
However, some, like Pacific Catch, a seafood restaurant with multiple locations across California, have dropped a three percent markup after backlash from customers.
“We listened to feedback from our guests in the restaurant and online and realized it was both potentially confusing and controversial,” Pacific Catch chief marketing officer Steve Kelly told The Orange County Register.
He also added that the pandemic has affected the restaurant’s operations.
“All restaurants that have weathered the pandemic have struggled with wage and food cost inflation, which has impacted already-thin margins,” Kelly told the publication.
“It’s a real challenge.”
According to a study by the National Restaurant Association, about 15 percent of restaurants in the United States now charge additional fees and surcharges similar to those charged to customers and establishments in Orange County.
In California, workers who pay minimum wage at restaurants are also struggling, as the state’s figure is $15.50 an hour, while the living wage is $21.24 an hour, according to MIT collected data.
For more related content, see the US Sun’s coverage of certain restaurant patrons being hit with a sneaky surcharge of up to 20 percent.
The US Sun also has an exclusive article on ways an assistant attorney says customers can defend themselves against hidden fees at restaurants.