Well now, I’ve heard of this in other cities, but as far as I know, this is new for Portland:
From the DOC restaurant menu: A 3% health and wellness charge will be added to each check to provide health insurance and living wages for all our staff. Thank you!
And from Nonna: a 5% health and wellness charge will be added to each check to provide health insurance for all of our staff. Thank you!
Finally, Biwa – a 5% health and wellness charge will be added to each check to provide health insurance for our staff.
So if you do a 20% tip, they are going to add another 5%, which raises it up to 25%. As a diner, are you bothered by this? Would you be less likely to tip your normal amount?
(Does this mean that Nonna employees get 2% better insurance? Is the DOC manager a better shopper? )
They should just build it into the price of the food. People are going to end up reducing their tip because of the additional charge.
It’s right wing politics, why not add a surcharge for rent so the landlord gets payed?
I would walk out. Seriously folks, this is the cost of doing business. Are you next going to add a charge if I want utensils to eat with, or a plate to serve my food on?
I wouldn’t go back. This is “if you don’t pay this, you don’t care about people” bs. Incorporate it into our prices instead of trying to make yourself sound like a saint for doing something most employers take for granted.
Patrick Magee (@oldsweng) says
This is something which should be reflected in the menu price. A note in the menu noting they pay a living wage and health benefits for ALL employees would be more acceptable to me and not affect my tip.
I like it. We’ve done a very poor job of providing health care in this country, so I don’t object to restaurants taking matters into their own hands. Health insurance is still very expensive to provide, and profit margins aren’t getting any better for restaurants, so this seems like a reasonable solution.
To address comments above (in no particular order)
Why not just fold it into the price of food? No all restaurants are providing healthcare – most don’t. So if you raise food prices you risk turning people to your “cheaper” competitors. I think this is an attempt at transparency.
Right wing politics: Uhhhh, what? Not sure that makes sense to me. I think this is fairly apolitical, as people are searching for a solution to a chronic problem. (But then again, I’m not sure why health care is a political issue rather than a human one.)
Dime Store does this as well. It is listed on the menu, but rather discreetly.
I’ve seen two different reasons for doing this. The first, as Brian mentions, is largely political – opposition to requirements from the ACA and basically wanting to turn customers on the bill by annoying them. The second is marginally better – simply letting customers know that they are paying more because their servers are receiving insurance in an industry where many business might instead choose to cut hours rather than pay for insurance.
Either way, it’s an annoyance to me as a customer. Build it into the cost. Don’t make me do the math and certainly don’t risk me not even noticing the surcharge until I get my bill.
Biwa has been doing this for years. Since well before the ACA. I’m happy to pay it.
I’m with Patrick – just bump the prices by 5% and add a note in the menu that prices include healthcare. Adding 5% to the total feels like they’re being sneaky — it’s like all the BS fees that airlines charge.
It’s just really “off putting” to me….like they’ve got real nerve to add that.
What if you don’t notice it until the check comes…can you refuse to pay? Or does wait staff point it out while taking your drink order right along with the nights specials? Does it show as a separate line item on the check or receipt…”healthcare/living wage tax”?
Aren’t DOC and Nonna’s the same owner? Why would one be 3% and other 5%? Makes no sense.
When utilities go up or the new street tax takes affect will there be a new charge for these as well? How about cost of doing business? How about adjusting your food costs and menu prices accordingly?
I would be far less offended or “put off” by a price increase and an explanation why than this route. Clearly they’re trying to make a point but I’m not 100% clear what that point is.
My point is I chose to take my birthday dinner elsewhere after seeing this on the menu.
This is a bit of a conundrum. I always tip 20%, unless the service is bad, then I tip accordingly. I’ve eaten at Biwa twice. The first time I went the service was great, so I tipped 15% (taking into account I was also paying 5% for healthcare costs). The second I time went, the service was appalling, so I think we left 15%, but made up our minds never to eat there again (because of the added healthcare charge). I agree with Patrick Magee and Dan on this.
What’s it matter if it’s reflected in the menu price or tacked on to the bill if you pay the same amount at the end of the day as long as it’s stated on the menu, as with as service charge for parties of a certain size? Seems like an irrational reaction to get all huffy about it. And knowing some of the people involved in this, I think the “right wing politics” charge is laughable. In the immortal worlds of Sargeant Hulka: “Lighten up, Francis.”
Personally, I think it’s a PR mistake, which I think is evidenced here, because people are always looking for a reason to get offended by one thing or another. I don’t know that these places have actually been hurt by it and I know I’ve heard from them that they think it’s had as much PR benefit as detriment (some people who read it are happy to hear that employees are getting a bump in pay and benefits — though, really, it doesn’t guarantee that a restaurant that doesn’t have the wellness charge doesn’t pay their employees as much or have equally good benefits).
As for why DOC’s charge would be lower than Nonna’s, I think a little simple math would make that clear: DOC’s prices are more than Nonna’s; therefore, you need a higher percentage of the bill at Nonna’s to give equal benefits to employees as DOC, assuming they’re staffed reasonably similarly.
Gary Scott says
I wouldn’t eat at any place that adds a health surcharge. I have no problem paying a few dollars extra for the food but I draw the line at a tax on my tip. Build the cost of insurance into the cost of the food.
I don’t like this business practice because it seems to say “dine with us because we treat our employees well” or, worse yet, “dine with us so my employees can have health insurance.” I have a business and pay well and offer better benefits, including health, life and disability insurance, paid vacation and personal leave and a generous retirement plan, than comparably sized business in my industry as far as I know. I do it to attract and retain great staff, who in turn make my business successful, and because I believe employees deserve to be given the same benefits they enable me to enjoy. If the restaurant owners feel strongly about encouraging this practice, then advocate within the industry and more broadly politically on health care coverage issues. But don’t make it an issue with your customers as they sit down to dine. Tacky. Ironically, I eat regularly at the restaurants on restaurant row at 30th and NE Killingsworth, have never eaten at DOC or Nonna, and have them on the list of places I want to try. I’ll have to think about it now.
I think it is BS. Charge me 3-5% more for dinner, pay the health care costs and move along. Next they will add a 4% fee for their street tax surcharge, and then what? 2% for energy? 1.5% for alcohol shrinkage? bought a bum steer and need to pay it off. add 5%?? Business model costs should be in the price you charge. Want folks to know you pay employee health insurance? Say so on the menu and your web site.
Having thought about this a while, I say screw that idea, I prefer that my servers come to work sick because they can’t afford to get to a doctor. And an even better idea might be a dish soap surcharge of 2% so the owner can afford to put clean dishes on the table.
I’m assuming that tipping customers will reduce the amount that they will tip their server, again, having the server “pay” for everything with their tips.
Many servers already share their tips with the kitchen staff, event and banquet planners as well as the owners for room charges. private parties and credit card fees.
It is good that these places list the fee for all to see, but if the owners want to provide healthcare for their staff why not increase the price of the food or allow employees to buy in? As a server, possibly making %25 percent less (assuming you make %20 in tips) is a high price to pay for healthcare.
I wonder what percentage of benefits this surcharge directly pays to the employees benefits. Do they get complete full coverage provided? Or just the in-company option with a small percentage the company pays. Either way it seems like a bleeding-heart tactic and in poor taste to put on a menu.
The minimum wage is what for waitstaff these days?
I have no objection to providing a living wage for workers-myself is a worker. Dining out is part functional in satisfying our hunger and part entertainment – as dining out is the weekly event for many. Personally, I am annoyed by being bothered with political messages while I am out enjoying myself – guilt tripping and entertainment don’t mix. I would not even set foot in restaurant that practices such cheap price-raising tactics. Simply raising the price of food is sufficient, and the managers/owner may supplement the restaurant branding by saying “we are proud supporter of worker’s insurance etc.”. Customers would figure out the higher price without being subjugated to guilt-trip marketing tactics.
Remove tipping from the equation.
Just saw this nonsense at Paddy’s yesterday. I believe it’s cowardly of any establishment to invoke this “tax”. First it encourages patrons to tip less. Second, and I’m suspicious more than absolutley knowing, by not attaching this money to the menu tally does it protects the owner from his own tax or somehow benefit him by putting this “tax” into a different revenue category? Regardless, it’s a bad idea and I will now look carefully on menus and checks before I pay or order and walk if I see it. It’s actually pathetic. Pay employees what you think is right. I asked all the employees at Paddys and everyone says they hate it and were embarrassed by it.
Not only are they doing it at restaurants, but last night I bought a few items at Crossroads on Hawthorne….didn’t realize until I got home that they are charging a 2 percent charge. Maybe they have it posted on their wall or counter, but I didn’t notice anything…..
PDX Food Dude says
I think it is a dishonest way to do business.
I know this is an old article but I just encountered it at a downtown restaurant. I haven’t seen it at the other places outside of downtown where I have eaten (n.e. portland usually). I didn’t see anything on the menu about it – must have been well hidden if it was there. I will now take note and either not eat at those restaurants that do this or I will reduce tip by the extra amount you charge me. If you as a restaurant can’t afford to cover your costs you shouldn’t be in business.
PDX Food Dude says
I’m seeing various forms of it. Mostly in the form of an extra tip line and not an additional charge which I think is a much better way to go.