- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 4, 2014

The owners of several upscale restaurants in Los Angeles have tacked on a 3 percent surcharge to customers’ checks as a way to cover their employees’ health care costs.

Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne — owners of Lucques, Tavern, A.O.C, and a few offshoots — started charging the fee Monday, explicitly stating in a press release that it was due to health care costs, LA Weekly reported.

“The major point is that this is not a political statement or endorsement of any kind,” the owners said. “We are doing this because, quite frankly, we believe it’s the right thing to do.”

Several other restaurant groups in the area are following suit, including Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan of Rustic Canyon, Josiah Citrin of Mélisse and David Lentz of The Hungry Cat.

“To us, when we rolled it out, we thought people would want to support places that are supporting their staff,” Mr. Loeb told the Los Angeles Times. “I would do that. If I knew a place was supporting their staff, I’d want to go there.”

Mr. Citrin said he hasn’t gotten much feedback since he added the surcharge Tuesday.

“When an employee comes and says ‘Hey, thanks, this is my first checkup since I left my parents’ insurance,’ that is inspiring to me,” he said.

According to Helen Johannesen, director of operations for Animal, Son of a Gun and Trois Mec, Dotolo and Shook’s restaurants will be implementing a service charge in the fall, the Times reported.

This trend comes almost one year after another upscale LA restaurant, Republique, made local headlines for adding a 3 percent surcharge for healthcare costs as well.

LA Weekly reported that some customers on Yelp and social media vowed never to give the restaurant their business again. Many claimed the surcharge was politically motivated. Others wondered why the restaurant didn’t figure health care costs into the menu prices.

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