Some restaurants are adding a “COVID19 surcharge” on the bill. Reportedly, this surcharge would help offset the rising cost of food during the pandemic. Whether restaurants should add this fee is open for debate.

Restaurants have been extremely adversely affected because of the global pandemic. They were forced to close their doors to dine-in customers. Many remained open, but could only offer curbside pickup, takeout, or delivery. Some had drive-thru options and continued business by serving customers. There are many that could not operate at all, because of staffing issues, high costs of operations compared to revenues generated during the pandemic, and other challenges.

Throughout the country, however, people have tried their best to support restaurants. In Wisconsin, elected officials purchased food from restaurants in their districts, and promoted various establishments on social media, in an effort to encourage others to do the same. Many of these restaurants are family-owned small businesses, and rely on a steady stream of customers to keep their lights on. Community members understand that, and provided support to many restaurants during this crisis by ordering food.

As states are opening up, following the widespread lockdowns, people are eager to go back to their favorite restaurants, and to enjoy gatherings (with social distancing measures) and a relaxing time.

Proponents of a “COVID19 surcharge” added at the bottom of the bill might argue that increased cost of ingredients such as meat would justify this new charge. Restaurants in Missouri included a 5 percent fee as the ‘COVID19 surcharge.” The number may vary depending on geography and the type of establishment.

Reportedly, restaurants are adding this surcharge as a separate item on the bill, rather than increasing menu prices overall, to clearly explain that they are not engaging in price-gouging and that the new fee is the result of the pandemic and its effects.

However, one must also keep in mind that as states open up, restaurants would need to start getting dine-in customers to ramp up their business again. As such, adding a fee to the final bill might discourage many customers from stepping into a restaurant at all, and that itself might hurt restaurants even more.

Moreover, as the lockdowns are lifted, many people are financially worse-off as a result of the pandemic. Given that, increasing fees at restaurants might be very difficult for the many customers to absorb.

Additionally, a “COVID19 surcharge” on the bill might discourage people from leaving a generous tip for the servers, to offset the effect of the surcharge on their wallets, if patrons feel that this new fee is not fair. In that case, the servers, many of whom rely heavily on tips, would be the net losers.

As businesses slowly open up, we would know more about how widely this “COVID19 surcharge” is being implemented at restaurants and what diners think about this new fee. There are arguments both for and against this possible new charge, and only time will tell whether this is a good or bad idea.

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