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Why your restaurant bills may be higher than usual

The Daily Meal logo The Daily Meal 6/2/2020 Taylor Rock
a group of people sitting around a wooden table: covid-19 restaurant surcharge © ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images covid-19 restaurant surcharge

The next time you go out to eat, your meal might end up costing you more than usual. As businesses continue to reopen around the country, some restaurants are hitting customers with a COVID-19 surcharge on each check to make up a fraction of the monetary loss caused by coronavirus closures. For size, the restaurant industry was projected to lose an estimated $240 billion in sales by the end of this year.

So, just how much is this charge? It’s different everywhere. According to Restaurant Business Magazine, Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises added a 4% fee to delivery and takeout orders at all of its restaurants. However, the fee can be refunded by any customer who requests it.

“The fees are a necessary step during a time when unanticipated costs have jeopardized the survival of our business,” LEYE president R.J. Melman said in a statement, the Chicago Tribune reported. Melman cited PPE for employees and “the greatest increase in food pricing since 1974,” as added expenditures caused by the pandemic.

In other parts of the country, Original Pancake locations have added a 15% “service fee” separate from the tip, and a pub in Holland, Michigan, added a $1 charge.

Some people aren’t taking kindly to the new tax, though. Kiko Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi in West Plains, Missouri, implemented a $2.19 surcharge that has since been removed over customer backlash. Instead, it was replaced by higher menu prices, the Miami Herald reported.

Similarly, Harold’s Chicken on Broadway in Chicago got rid of and apologized on Facebook for its 26% COVID-19 fee in mid-May because the phone was ringing off the hook with customer complaints. Manager Jacquelyn Santana told a local station that the surcharge was meant to make up for the 26% increase in supply costs.

A potential COVID-19 surcharge is just one of many ways the post-coronavirus dining experience may differ. Not all states are allowing eateries to open just yet, though. Here's a breakdown of where restaurants are open for dine-in and what new precautions have been taken to slow the virus's spread.

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