Some Bay area diners are finding a new charge on their restaurant bills. It's an extra fee or surcharge for Obamacare, and the restaurant group that started it is based here in Florida.
"We wanted to be transparent about it. We didn't want to hide it," explained Gators Dockside general manager Jeff Adkins.
The Gators Dockside restaurant in Lakeland, along with eight others in the chain, posted signs on the front doors and the restrooms. The servers carry laminated signs to the tables. And when people call in, servers have a phone script:
"We've implemented a one-percent surcharge on all food and beverage purchases due to the substantial costs of Obamacare," it says.
"I've had a customer leave a slip on the table saying, 'My tip reflects how I feel about this' -- and they'll have no tip there," server Sarah Woosley offered.
But Adkins says most of the feedback is positive. And since they started the surcharge, business is up.
"A lot of people have the stance of, since it is only one penny for a dollar, that they really think it's worth it to keep full-time employees and provide health insurance for people," he said.
But this health care surcharge is not going to employee health care -- yet. They won't get company health benefits until the mandate kicks in, presumably next year.
Adkins says the surcharge is covering extra accounting and HR work needed in advance. The benefits will cost much more -- he expects benefits for 250 full-time workers to cost around $500,000, far more than the $150,000 the surcharge is expected to bring in.
"This is only just a drop in the bucket of what we're going to get back," Adkins continued.
So then why not a 2 percent or 6 percent or 9 percent charge?
"That's a good question," Adkins replied. "I don't know why they didn't want to go that high."
Adkins also said the surcharge is not intended as a political statement; it's just a way to recoup some of the costs of getting the full-time staff covered under the law.
The Gators Dockside restaurants have different owners, and some -- including the location in Tampa -- are not participating.
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