Watch Out: Some Restaurants Add a Mandatory Coronavirus Surcharge to Your Bill

“New mandatory ‘COVID-19 restaurant surcharges’ (google it) are also popping up in food establishments with in the USA. If you eat out make sure you check the bottom of your receipt to see if they tacked it on. I’m sure in the future many places hotels, restaurants, salons, rentals etc will all try to tack on something extra, it could be the new norm for a while as they try to catch up and recover.”

Watch Out: Some Restaurants Add a Mandatory Coronavirus Surcharge to Your Bill

The paragraph you just read was this comment which was posted by Mike — who is a reader of The Gate — in response to this article pertaining to an increase of greater than 15 percent in mandatory resort fees at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Autograph Collection casino resort property, which becomes effective as of Friday, January 1, 2021.

One such dining establishment is Harolds Chicken on Broadway in Chicago, which has since revoked the charge of 26 percent that was automatically added to the bills of its customers due to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic. This announcement — which includes a public apology for implementing the practice of charging a mandatory fee — was posted at the official Facebook Internet web site of Harolds Chicken on Broadway:

We have listened to our customers and apologize for any discomfort we have caused anyone. Harolds Chicken on Broadway will remove any COVID 19 surcharges immediately. We are in this together and will survive together.

Customers have actually been divided on this issue. Some of them took the dining establishment to task.

“A COVID 19 TAX? When did people start making their OWN TAX? And 26%? That’s more than ILLINOIS Tax to begin with!!! Crazy” is what Stacyleigh R. Lewis-Smith posted on Facebook in response to the apologetic announcement; while Suzanne Marie warned that Harolds Chicken on Broadway “better not raise your prices now! You should be shut down for taking advantage of people. Shame on you! Will never patronize! Damage has been done! Boycotting!”

However, other customers were supportive of the move. Nelson Fisher responded to Stacyleigh R. Lewis-Smith by saying that she “Read the article a case of wings went from $60 to $90…..so yeah thats 50% and they only raised their prices by 26%.” Meanwhile, Rachel Zipkin Maniscalco advised Harolds Chicken on Broadway that she hopes “you raise your prices! No one needs take our food and you and your staff are putting yourself at risk daily to continue to serve your customers. I wish I lived closer, I’d happily pay the surcharge and support your business. I’m so sorry you’ve gotten such a privileged negative reaction to a need to charge more when your cost of operating during a pandemic has changed. Shame on people!”

Robert Szabla noted that the “Covid surcharge is gone but the prices are 30 percent higher!”

Harolds Chicken on Broadway was not the only dining establishment which has been adding a surcharge due to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic. A user on Twitter named Talia posted a photograph of a receipt which included a Covid 19 Surcharge of $2.19 to her bill of $43.85 — before taxes were added — on Wednesday, May 6, 2020 by Kiko Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Lounge, which is located in West Plains in southwestern Missouri…

…and many fellow users of Twitter responded with a harsh backlash against the dining establishment.

In response to the backlash that the restaurant received via social media, Kiko Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Lounge removed the surcharge and instead increased their prices across the board:

Below our updated menu to reflect our increase in food products. We will update our menu every week to reflect all the prices on meat, chicken, seafood & vegetable we get from our food suppliers, if it continues to increase we will increase it, if its go down we will lower our prices as well. It is our way to ensure our employees can still earn some income & keep our door open. We also still keeping our “FAMILY MEAL” promo deal & “SUSHI PLATTER” promo deal, it is a good deal so you guys can still enjoy our foods at low cost with your family & friends. Most of our sushi prices are the same, but on our hibachi some we updated since everything going up. We appreciate all of the supports from our actual customer & peoples from this community, you shown us such warm welcome to us since day one, without you, there is no “US”! Thank you again!! Please remember our employees just work here so be kind & nice to them, they are just trying to survive & earn some income just like you in these crazy & unusual times! If you can love your pets, why can we love & treat each other with respect & kindness as human being

Other restaurants around the United States also have added mandatory surcharges to the bills of their customers due to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic — including in California and in Michigan.

Summary

Regardless of the reason, imposing mandatory surcharges on unsuspecting customers is flat out wrong and is no different than mandatory resort fees and their ilk which are automatically added to the folios of guests of hotel and resort properties.

The substantial increase in food costs is the highest in 46 years. If the restaurant is to pass on those higher costs to customers, prices should be increased accordingly and not imposed as a mandatory surcharge — even if that mandatory surcharge is only a penny — because mandatory surcharges are a deceptive way of artificially “keeping prices lower.” I would rather pay $30.00 for a steak dinner than $25.00 for that same dinner plus a $5.00 surcharge because I know what I am paying from the start — and I can also better compare prices with other restaurants which offer similar meals.

I am not opposed to a business earning enough revenue to enjoy a profit; but if I receive a bill at a restaurant — or any other type of business, for that matter — which did not disclose that it charges a mandatory fee due to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic but includes it at the end of the meal, I will not pay it. Period. End of story.

The hard truth is that if a restaurant — or virtually any business, for that matter — cannot find ways to afford to survive which are not considered deceptive, then it should go out of business. That may sound harsh; but although exceptions may come to mind, the free market forces of supply and demand — as well as what customers are willing to pay for a product or service — should ultimately determine whether a company should stay in business…

…and good luck to restaurants, supermarkets, grocery stores, and other food establishments which are attempting to survive with sharply rising food costs in a market in which 37 million people are currently unemployed in the United States alone — and that does not include anyone who was already unemployed prior to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic.

We are all in this together.” Yeah. Right…

but we saved lives!

Finally, this statement — which was posted on Facebook by Jen Elizabeth — bluntly scolded others who were opposed to the mandatory surcharge: “You people are literally sitting here collecting unemployment and getting stimulus checks and are still complaining about the price you pay when you ORDER FOOD FROM A RESTAURANT. You’re the same people that don’t tip and whine about everything that doesn’t go your way. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it.”

Speaking of tips, gratuities and tips have long been controversial with regards to travel and dining — to the point of contentiousness from all sides of the issue, as evidenced by the following articles which I wrote for The Gate over the years…

Photograph ©2020 by Brian Cohen.

11 thoughts on “Watch Out: Some Restaurants Add a Mandatory Coronavirus Surcharge to Your Bill”

  1. Barry Graham says:

    I had a dental checkup booked. They called this week to ask if I could come a day earlier. They asked lots of questions related to my exposure to disease. Then they said there was a $25 fee for PPE. I understand it’s expensive but I can wait a few months to do this. So I cancelled (within the courteous deadline). The shame is that they get paid nicely for the appointment and probably have a lot of down time during the day as a lot of people are still reluctant to go out. So instead of eating the cost of the PPE or offering to split it, they lost considerably more by having an empty seat.

    1. Mike says:

      $25 wow!! We posted at same time about the PPE. Any word if insurance is will to cover a PPE surcharge? I can see some updates to insurance plans in the near future.

  2. Mike says:

    Thumbs up!! My comment turned in to its own article and for an issues that deserved some attention. I also read that even dental office in FL charged $10 surcharge for extra PPE, hopefully that’s covered by insurance. Some salons are also jumping on the bandwagon. How do we reach when we get a haircut and see an extra 26% or $5 surcharge added? Is it even legal? With social distancing they are having to lose a chair or 2 cutting in to profits but should we have to pay for that? This is for sure a new trend that does not sit well with me. Do we reduce tips which hurts the worker but really going to the business owners pocket as added surcharge. What happened after we receive the vaccine can we show the certificate and receive a COVID vaccinated discount, ha!!

  3. Gene says:

    Great, another from of bailout. Everyone gets one except those like myself who are responsible and (fortunately) employed. Socialism at its finest.

  4. Erik Hansen says:

    What about the cost of printing new menus every week, etc. These are businesses not charities. I think the best approach is to spell it put with signage and having wait staff explain it that the covid surcharge is a temporary surcharge to account for the temporary increase in input costs for food. When these prices go down for the cost of food the restaurant can lower and then remove this surcharge. Fair is fair.

  5. Sean says:

    Whine whine whine

    Get over yourself, if you want to eat out pay the fee and move on with your life

    1. Sam says:

      What restaurant do you own?

  6. patrick says:

    Good to see your fingers haven’t cramped up yet by typing 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic constantly. Why call it Covid-19 or just the virus when 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic sounds and looks so much more dramatic. I mean saying 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic over and over really lets people know what you are talking about. Eventually 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic will give way to something else and 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic will be a thing of the past. 😉

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      “Eventually 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic will give way to something else and 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic will be a thing of the past.”

      In all seriousness, patrick, I truly hope that happens as soon as possible.

  7. NB_ga says:

    My issue is that labeling these surcharges so specifically seems to imply that we should feel some bizarre pride in being up-charged if it is to combat Covid-19. Fees are proudly tacked on the check like we to buying war bonds or collecting scrap metal during the WWII much in the same vein as the oft-repeated “we are all in this together” nonsense!

    There is no reason to be in businesses if you are not going to turn a profit – fair enough. But I do not care to know how a business spends their money – be it fixed overhead, labor, food or supplies, or some extra cost due to an overblown “pandemic” – add it up, price the goods or service where they need to priced… then let me decide apples to apples if I want to spend that amount.

  8. Lisa Rasmussen says:

    I just wosh this website would start loading the whole article on feedly.

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