Jun 6, 2022 - Economy

Restaurants layer on new fees to counter inflation

Illustration of $100 bills being twirled on a fork.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The next time you get a receipt, consider taking a closer look.

Why it matters: While Americans already grappling with record inflation are less surprised by the rising costs of goods, many are finding new fees taking a bite out of their budgets.

  • Businesses are getting creative with new fees and charges from the "fuel surcharge" to deal with high gas prices, a "noncash adjustment" for using credit instead of cash, "kitchen appreciation fees" or simply a "temporary fee."

By the numbers: The number of restaurants adding service fees increased by 36.4% from April 2021 to April 2022, Lightspeed, a global developer of point-of-sale software, told The Wall Street Journal.

Flashback: Early in the pandemic, businesses started adding fees like a disinfection charge or the cost of personal protection equipment.

  • The New York City Council allowed restaurants to temporarily add a "COVID-19 Recovery Charge" of up to 10% of total bills but required that the menu and bill clearly disclosed the charge.

What they’re saying: “As the costs of doing business have changed, we’ve seen more merchants leverage this tactic,” Peter Dougherty, Lightspeed’s general manager of hospitality, told the Journal.

  • Ted Rossman, a senior industry analyst, CreditCards.com, told Inc.com that consumers want to be presented with one price.
  • "They don't want to be nickel and dimed for everything from the air conditioning to the cleaning supplies to their employees' health insurance," Rossman said.

Reality check: Some of the extra charges are clearer than others, like when restaurants specify menu items have higher costs for delivery orders and service fees may apply.

  • Experts advise reading the fine print and if a fee isn't properly displayed or listed, ask for more information.

Fuel surcharges added amid rising gas prices

Ridesharing and on-demand delivery apps added fuel surcharges in March to "help drivers" combat high gas prices.

  • Uber added a fuel surcharge of $0.45 or $0.55 to each trip in mid-March.
  • Lyft added a $0.55 surcharge to each ride.
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