Inflation Spurs Restaurants to Add New Fees to Checks

Closeup woman checking the price of foods on the bill after meal in the restaurant.
patpitchaya / Getty Images/iStockphoto

As inflation pushes the cost of doing business up, restaurants have been forced to find creative ways to address soaring food prices and the latest trend is adding new fees.

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The Wall Street Journal reports that new fees such as a “noncash adjustment,” “fuel surcharge,” or “kitchen appreciation” have been showing up on bills lately.

“Industry analysts say this wave of surcharges is mostly being driven by restaurants trying to cope with the impact of rising inflation and a tight labor market on their bottom lines,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Compounding the issues for restaurants, Mastercard and Visa raised transaction fees in April. 

Lightspeed, a global developer of point-of-sale software, noted that fee revenue doubled from April 2021 to April 2022 and that the number of restaurants adding service fees increased by 36.4% over the same period.

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“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 Wall Street Journal.

Despite some fuss, fees seem to be more acceptable to customers — at least on the surface. But that doesn’t mean customers are actually okay with fees, odds are they simply didn’t notice them at the bottom of the check.

Is there relief in sight? The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said on May 6 that in April, world food commodity prices decreased from March’s all-time high, but just slightly — down only 0.8%. That’s still up 29.8% from prices recorded in April 2021, as the Russia-Ukraine war continues to impact markets for staple grains and vegetable oils, as GOBankingRates previously reported.

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“It’s really a minimal amount of decline,” Erin Collier, economist at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, told Bloomberg at the time. “Prices are still definitely very high and definitely still very much a concern, especially for low-income food-deficit countries.”

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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