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19 Santa Monica Restaurants Listed on Popular "Surcharge List"

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By Jorge Casuso

August 14, 2023 -- Diners at a growing number of Santa Monica restaurants are forking out more than they expected to cover surcharges and fees automatically added to their bill.

And they're airing their complaints on social media, sharing the names of LA area eateries that include added charges for everything from bread and water to funding for employee health care.

A "Los Angeles Restaurant Surcharge List" crowdsourced by Reddit users includes 238 restaurants -- 19 of them in Santa Monica.

The list includes the names of the restaurants, the amount of the fee and the mandatory disclosure most often found in fine print on the bottom of the menu or bill.

According to the list, the menu for Caipirinha Bar notes that a "20% service charge will be added to each check to support equitable earnings, medical, and retirement benefits for staff."

The menu for Blossom Vietnamese Noodle Shop notes that "For Dining in ONLY, 18% Service Charge is Added to Your Final Check."

While according to Reddit, Xuntos adds a 20 percent service charge per item that is “non-negotiable, non-discretionary, non-removable.”

The surcharges began to appear on menus and bills after restaurants reopened after the coronavirus shudowns that began in March 2020.

Some restaurants, including the Albright, which charges a 10 percent fee, give no reason for the additional charge, according to the list complied by Reddit users.

Meanwhile, Il Fornaio gives a lengthy explanation on its menu for its 3 percent "Restaurant Adversity Surcharge" that is "a result of supply chain difficulties & increasing operational costs the restaurant industry is experiencing (including rising wage, benefit & other government requirements)."

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) says a growing number of restaurant operators nationwide are turning to surcharges and fees to help offset rising food and labor costs.

The Association's November 2022 Restaurant Business Conditions Survey found that 15 percent of the 3,000 restaurateurs surveyed had added surcharges or fees. And the added charges aren't expected to go away any time soon.

According NRA's November 2022 survey, "Among restaurant operators that are currently adding fees or surcharges to customer checks, 81 percent say they think it will likely be necessary to continue doing so for more than 1 year."

Of the 19 Santa Monica restaurants that include surcharges and fees, six say it is to help pay for employee health care.

Two others say it is to "be distributed entirely to our hardworking kitchen staff" and to "equalize wages between our front- and back-of-house teams."

In June, servers at Jon & Vinny’s, a popular Los Angeles restaurant frequented by celebrities, filed a class action lawsuit against its owner, Joint Venture Restaurant Group Inc, claiming they were being denied their full compensation under state law.

“Customers have paid these 18 percent charges reasonably believing they were to be remitted to the service staff,” the lawsuit filed on June 21 reads.

“However, Defendant has not remitted the total proceeds of these gratuities to the nonmanagerial employees who serve the food and beverages at its restaurants.

"Instead, Defendant has had a policy and practice of retaining for itself a portion of these gratuities and/or using a portion of these gratuities to pay managers or other non-service employees.”

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the restaurant added a disclaimer to its receipts.

It reads, “The service charge is not a tip or gratuity, and is an added fee controlled by the restaurant that helps facilitate a higher living base wage for all of our employees.”

The Santa Monica restaurants included on Reddit's crowdsourced list are The Albright, Bardonna, Birdie G's, Blossom Vietnamese Noodle Shop, Caipirinha Bar, Capo, Cassia, Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe, Il Fornaio, Loulou, The Misfit, Milo & Olive, Pasjoli, Rustic Canyon, Tallula's, Socalo, Uovo and Xuntos.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article listed Santa Monica Brew Works among the 19 restaurants that add a fee or surcharge to the bill. Santa Monica Brew Works collects an 18 percent Service Charge in lieu of tips that goes entirely to employees.

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