Saturday, June 1, 2019

Restaurant Surcharges Are Designed to Punish You

4% surcharge - Miguel's Old Town - 2444 San Diego Ave, San Diego, 92110

I used to love Miguel's, but today was my last visit? Why?

Because they have added a notice to the menu that there is an additional 4% surcharge to cover having to pay for mandated increases in minimum wages and benefits.

A 4% surcharge will be added to all guest checks to help cover increasing costs and support recent increases to minimum wage and benefits for our dedicated team.

The California Restaurant Association has always been one of the most outspoken and active opponents of minimum wage increases. Now they are advising restaurant owners on how to implement a surcharge while avoiding lawsuits. You'll note the inclusion of "increasing costs" in addition to the real reasons for the surcharge. That way they can spend this excess money any way they want and can't be sued for not actually sharing the money they collect with their employees.

I support increasing the minimum wage and benefits, and I don't mind if a restaurant has to raise prices across the board as a result. However, while legal, the surcharge and the notice are just a form of public protest by the owner, to inform everyone that they don't want to pay their workers a living wage and wouldn't be doing it, except that they are being forced to do so. It's also a warning to their patrons that they shouldn't support minimum wage laws and a threat of further increases in the surcharge, should their labor costs continue to increase.

I don't care if my carne asada cost $18.99 instead of $17.99, if the money is going to increase the wages and benefits paid to the lowest paid kitchen staff, who don't get tips. I do care when the owner decides to get in my face and whine because the minimum wage went up.

University of California San Diego professor On Amir who studies consumer behavior at the Rady School of Management says, "There are right ways and wrong ways to raise prices," The surcharge "doesn't create the image of fairness for diners who think 'you're underpaying your people and now I have to pay more because of your unfair labor practices." 

Restaurant owners are hoping to teach people a lesson about supporting laws that increase worker's wages and benefits. Many diners won't even notice the surcharge. Others will be annoyed and reduce the tip paid to the servers. (Not a good option because that's the same as taking some of their tip money and giving it to the business owner). And some will reject the very notion of "surcharges" as a form of protest and take their business elsewhere. 

Restaurant owners are hoping that won't be an option, and it won't be if these surcharges become ubiquitous, which is why it's important to reject this now by only patronizing restaurants that don't add surcharges. 




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