If you’ve gone out to dinner in recent weeks, you may have noticed a new additional fee attached to your check: an “employee benefit” fee.
Many furious restaurant patrons are taking to the internet to share their shock at finding the new surcharge on their restaurant meals, often a small percentage tacked on to the bottom of the check. One Tiktoker, @ashnichole_xo, shared in a video that she noticed the new fee on her check at Sherman Oaks, California restaurant Osteria La Buca, a frequent dinner spot of hers’.
@ashnichole_xo Is this normal?? #greenscreen #receipt #employeehealth #restaurant original sound – Ashley Nichole
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TikToker: ‘Is This A Normal Thing Or Is This Weird?’
In her video, Nichole discussed seeing a 5% “employee health” fee on her check, one that she had never seen before. When she asked the hostess what the fee was for, the answer stunned her: “She goes, ‘Oh, that’s our health care’. And my reaction was, ‘Your health? Your health care?’ and she goes, ‘Yes, our health care.'”
Nichole was so confused by the whole situation she shared her experience on TikTok—and many commenters responded that they, too, had begun to notice the odd surcharge on their recent checks, and felt “these fees are getting out of hand”, especially as many struggle to save money during inflation. Even more reacted with anger and frustration at the news: “I’m sorry but I’m not paying for this. Just tax and tip. Health care should be cover [sic] by employer,” said one commenter. “If I’m paying for their healthcare, I’m not leaving a tip! That would be like tipping my child for a service! If I’m paying your healthcare we family!”
Some defended the concept: “The cost could be added to your menu items and you’d never know or care,” pointed out one reply. However, most on the thread were clearly annoyed with the added fee.
Are These Employee Benefit Fees Permanent?
According to an article from March 2020 in The New York Times—days before lockdown was put into effect—these kinds of fees began to be added to checks in some areas as far back as 2008, though usually increases like these have been folded into menu item prices without a specific callout. However, with added transparency, restaurants are also facing added backlash, with customers knowing exactly how much of their money is going where.
Many have asked, “Are these employee benefit fees permanent?” and at this point, it’s hard to tell. Though not only related to inflation and rising costs post-COVID, these kinds of surcharges have only increased in use, and it’s hard to say whether any restaurants already implementing them would cut them from checks at some time in the future. Employers with 50 or more employees also have to follow Affordable Care Act protocols now, which imposes more stringent requirements on supplying health care to workers.
Some restaurants already offer patrons the option of “opting out” of the surcharge—however, as chef and restauranteur Sean Brock told The New York Times, “We are not going to force anything on anyone, but we believe if we are healthy and happy, we can pass it on to the guests.”