Diaries Magazine

Surcharge Woes: Response to Inside Scoop SF

By Blairbarnes

Recently, I have had many guests approach me about a 4% surcharge that has been tacked on to the bill at the restaurant I work at in SF. Michael Bauer, the Food and Wine Editor for SF Chronicle even posed the question this week…”Do you give a smaller tip at restaurants that include the surcharge?”

Being an employee at one of these restaurants I will say customers are not happy about this surcharge and personally I don’t blame them. Additionally, at my place of business the verbage we are to use describing it is evasive to say the least, “The city of San Francisco has many ordinances and taxes different from the rest of the state of California, thus to account for the added costs we include the surcharge to offset these additional costs.” Guests want to know where and why they are paying 5 dollars more on top of regular sales tax, I would like to say, “unfortunately, our owner finds it too expensive to do business in San Francisco the place he chose to open his restaurant, knowing that the minimum wage is higher here, knowing we do do not qualify for tip credits, where he is required to provide health plans and paid sick leave among other things. While you are here paying 30 dollars a plate and 15 dollars for a glass of wine, he wants you to also help him pay for the things he should be taking care of himself because he chose to do business in San Francisco.” But alas, I must gloss over the facts and blame these alleged taxes and ordinances for the surcharge. That being said, I do see the point many of Mr. Bauer’s readers make by deducting the surcharge from the tip, however, that only hurts the staff, the owner still has his money in his pocket.

From the comments section:

Scarman: Will tip less and not go back. Nobody is helping me pay for my Obamacare plan that cost me $200 more / month

Well scarman, no one is helping us pay ours either, and since we HAVE to get one, this system doesn’t really make sense since the 4% is supposed to be for health care but we can’t use it to pay premiums, so where does it go, I don’t know?

Plugger1 says: Tipping has gotten out of hand. First it was 10%, then 15%, now 20% is expected. I think I’ll stop tipping all together. I hope more people will.

Plugger1, if you and everyone else stops tipping then you will become more accustomed to pouring your drinks from the soda machine, ordering from a counter, and picking your own table at a fast casual. Another possibility is instead of paying 20 dollars for that steak you’ll be paying 24 and instead of 10 dollars for a glass on wine you’ll pay 12, and so on, still paying the same as tipping but guess what you won’t have your precious “power” over the waitstaff

DearBob:”I have friends who automatically deduct that percentage — generally 3 to 4% — from the bill, and I understand the reasoning: This money goes to pay employee benefits”

But it doesn’t. It’s just an opportunity for restaurateurs to pad their own pockets. This was clear a year or two ago, when the city attorney went after several restaurants who charged a surcharge, supposedly for Healthy San Francisco, but the charge was many, many times more than what Healthy San Francisco cost them.

Look, don’t be tightwads. Anything the restaurant puts on the bill, is for the restaurant. Don’t use that as an excuse to stiff people who already make very little money. If it’s the principle of it, complain to the restaurant management. If it’s an economic issue, then rethink whether or not you can afford to eat out.


The bottom line is don’t take it out on us folks, I’ve seen many people who straight up won’t tip if they see the surcharge (and from reading the comments section on Mr. Bauer’s article). Let’s get this straight, its not our call, we didn’t get to decide we wanted to participate, hell I didn’t even live in the city when Healthy SF was passed, I have paid for a personal insurance policy for years, but still many times a week get stiffed or severely under tipped because of people’s disdain for the surcharge. Let’s do something about it, because obviously no one cares for it, except the restaurant owners that is.

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