I noticed a 'Living Wage Surcharge' on my bill when I recently dined at Tououse Petit. I will NOT be going back - begnets be damned!
@1, Perfect example of why it's important to read things carefully before commenting, there's a few things you missed:

First of all, although the word "annual" is used, their not talking about a yearly raise. They are talking about the total health cost of just one wage increase added up over one year, that would remain a liability each year - people's wages aren't exponentially increasing (unfortunately).

Second, your assumption that everyone is working full time is almost certainly wrong - another reason why restaurant workers still don't make all that much even after an increase in wages.

Finally, if you read the article carefully, you'll see that the numbers come from the anecdotal report of the business owner. To change them would be misquoting, and frankly it's pretty rude to assume a business owner can't calculate their own payroll numbers better then you can.

On the bright side, though, at least your comment shows that a $5 minimum wage increase doesn't have as much effect on payroll as you might expect, which does a lot to support arguments for increasing wages.
There's a really, REALLY simple solution for all these business owners who are passively-aggressively (and that's exactly what it is, despite their mewling protests to the contrary) adding surcharges to their bills in order to make a statement about how much of an imposition it is on their part to pay employees a living wage: simply raise your prices by whatever percentage you need to to cover the overage. Most people are intelligent enough to grasp the concept that increasing wages to pay employees something they can actually LIVE on results in slightly higher prices for consumers; it ain't rocket surgery, and in fact an overwhelming majority seem to be quite comfortable with the rather slight increase, so long as they know it is in fact going into the pockets of the workers and not that of the employer.
This was a pretty well balanced article. My initial gut reaction over these charges was anger-- it does seem like a whiny passive aggressive move in surface. But I now understand their perspective more, esp. for local small non-chain businesses. Simply raising prices across the board is easier said than done. In the end, if I can afford a luxury service like dining out in Seattle, an additional 5% doesn't hurt, if it's going to employees and keeping a local business alive.

Less sympathy for the W Hotel.
Agree with #5 - helped influence my perspective. That said, I'm still with Mr. Constant: I might feel differently if this were a cost leadership strategy (one company bucking the trend to unilaterally increase wages absent a regulation, and want to clue customers in to this) but since the new policy affects everyone it still seems like an arbitrary thing to line-item (the attack on the W rightly pointing to this).
It backfires for me. I don't refuse to go to places who tack on this fee because of the fee. Let's say I run up a $100 tab at Crab Pot and notice that to cover $15/hr and health insurance I have to spend an extra $5. (let me check my pockets, I've probably got it."

My reaction, "You cheap fucking bastards. Why didn't you just increase menu prices by 5% and pay a living wage before the law said you have to and stimulate the economy, increase employee retention, decrease retraining costs and generally have a happier labor force. It would have been simple. You cheap fucking bastards!"

When you realize the difference between $10/hr at McDonalds and $15 is a large soda costing $1.20 instead of $1.00...
Based on the quotes from business owners in the article, it sounds like these line-items ought to be labelled "profit margin surcharge," not "living wage surcharge" or similar.
Bumping wages up by $5 would cost $94,000 annually, on top of rent, food, and other overhead costs, not including her own salary.

This is the same hand waving we've always heard from business. If they don't open their books, how do we know what difference $94,000 makes? Out of what? What's your sales? Your margins? Costs? Profit?

Correlating this restaurant's downturn-- when the competition is doing well! -- only raises more questions. We're going to need to see your books for the last several years. Restaurants flourish and then fade all the time. It's hard to believe that this one is a victim of wages when most others are not; the real cause is elsewhere. We don't even know if this place normally is in the black this time of year.

But everybody loves a scapegoat. I'd expect every failing business in Seattle to pin the blame on $15/hr. Why wouldn't you? The alternative is to take the blame yourself and how is that a good business decision? Obviously the better PR move is to not admit fault.

I'm always going to assume any owner who doesn't open their books is playing the victim for PR purposes. They can say anything they want and get away with it, and if they can, they will.
@4: But there are those bores who only order an appetizer to split and just drink water or coffee. It would fall short to meet payroll.


And they represent what percentage - or rather fraction of a percentage - of an establishment's clientele?
Pricing changes take some work, and yet we don't see a "inflation over the last couple of years" surcharge. We don't see an "increase in food prices" surcharge. Just this one, from businesses who want to make a point.

This would make some sense if a business were doing this voluntarily, and needed to explain why their prices have gone higher than the competitor's. But they didn't care to do that. Now they're whining.

It's not as if these costs are in any way unpredictable, which could justify "things changed so fast, we have to balance the books until we can update prices."

Also, this is Orwellian: "A 2% surcharge is added to all purchases to [...] help keep our prices low."
Some San Francisco businesses did that for their paid sick time law. I tended not to go back to those.

A sign on the wall for a while explaining a price increase would have been better, if an owner just has to whine.
@15 My thoughts exactly. I don't recall seeing the "landlord raised our rent" surcharge. Or how about some "buying lower grade meat and reducing our portions due to owner's desire to buy a nice home in Ballard someday" charge?

Ballard Annex Oyster House had something like this back in September and it pissed me off.
@15 oh yeah, and when is "the price" the price? That "low prices" comment is ridiculous. I'm going to have the "cheapest burger in town" at only $1! (Surcharge notice: to deliver the best customer experience we add 1300% to every burger)
The new ordering kiosks now employed at some fast food places were unavailable for comment . . .
This is simply dishonest bait-and-switch. Stating prices in the menu that aren't honest, and then adding a surcharge surprise. I boycott dishonest business establishments. If I remember to, I will ask before ordering.
EVERYTHING is politically motivated ( for all actions of Humanity are political).
The very fact that people are so angry about the receipt they get at a restaurant and how WHERE the prices are seems to be the very reason business owners are trying to make it clear. People overreact about changes in prices, prices in general, etc. None of this is important. Eat there or don't.

No mention here that it is much easier and cheaper for a business to add a surcharge vs. changing the prices of each meal. Think a little bit about it. Plus the wages are going up every year so most of the these restaurant owners are adjusting constantly. They also don't know how it will impact the costs of their supplies as their local suppliers also have increases in wages to handle.

Why so much hate? Everyone is calling business owners cheap, while complaining about their own pocketbooks. If you want employees to make more, you have to pay more. That is how it works, period. A 61% raise can not be absorbed from the profit.

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