Colorado restaurant group is the latest to add surcharges to bills to offset inflation

A fork and knife resting on a restaurant bill.
  • More restaurants are adding fees and surcharges to customers’ bills as the pandemic and supply chain crisis stretches on.
  • To offset additional costs such as increasing wages and COVID protocols, restaurants are using fees to try and make ends meet.
  • Choice Restaurant Concepts, a restaurant group in Colorado Springs, Colorado, blames inflation for having to add a new surcharge at its five area eating establishments.

As the coronavirus pandemic stretches on, more restaurants are adding surcharges and fees at the bottom of their bills, passing on rising costs to consumers when dining out.

Typically, restaurateurs get their income from pre-tax and tip meal totals which cover the costs of operating their business. To offset additional costs such as increasing wages, adding COVID protocols, rising costs caused by the pandemic, some restaurants have been adding fees to try to make ends meet.

Choice Restaurant Concepts, a restaurant group in Colorado Springs, Colorado, blames inflation for having to add a new surcharge at its five area eating establishments.

“Rather than raise prices throughout the company, we decided to charge a 5% fee to off set the current cost differences,” Choice Restaurant Concepts states on their website. “The reason that we chose this route was because it allows YOU the consumer to hold us accountable for when we remove it.”

The restaurant group promised their customers that the surcharge caused by the “temporary inflated economy” will not be a long-term solution and hope to have it removed sometime in 2022, according to the statement.

The group’s general manager, Travis Blaney, said the company is prepared to adjust the inflation surcharge as they go, according to local Colorado news station KRDO

In a majority of US states, it is legal for businesses to add on surcharges, but they must be disclosed to consumers.  Diners who encounter a COVID-19-related surcharge or fee that wasn’t properly disclosed can ask for the charge to be removed or can file a complaint with a local regulator.

Restaurant customers have expressed they are selective about which surcharges they will pay, and can feel as though they’re being blindsided with extra fees after their meal, an October article from OpenTable found.

The skyrocketing cost of food due to supply chain bottlenecks has caused some restaurants across the US to implement fees and surcharges or completely remove menu items that are too expensive to prepare. 

Restaurant owner Douglas Kim of Jeju Noodle Bar in New York City told Grub Street that he had to take a popular chicken wing appetizer off the menu when the cost of wings increased in August to $US5 ($AU7) per pound.

“It’s a lose-lose situation,” Kim said. “If I sell chicken wings for $US24 ($AU34), people will think I’m crazy.”

Kim also added a 5 percent surcharge to his menu to help with additional costs, according to Grub Street.

Restauranteur Geoff Tracy of Washington DC’s Chef Geoff’s Restaurant Group has chosen not to add a surcharge because it can be confusing to the customer, he told DC-area radio station WTOP.

However, Tracy plans on raising menu prices at his restaurants in 2022, he said.

“Ultimately, the consumer has to accept the fact that prices are going up because the cost of the products we are selling them is going up,” Tracy told WTOP.

The general consensus amongst experts is that for these pandemic-era charges and fees to succeed, restaurants need to be transparent and communicate additional costs with their customers.