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'The New Norm': Viral Document Exposes Hidden Charges on Restaurant Bills, From Service Fees to 'Health and Happiness' Fees A viral Reddit post about Los Angeles restaurants sparked the creation of a crowdsourced document.

By Emily Rella

entrepreneur daily

A group of angry Los Angeles residents are taking to Reddit to expose the extraneous (and mostly hidden) fees that have been quietly cropping up at restaurants in the area.

On the Reddit page titled 'LA Restaurant Surcharge Offenders List,' under the subreddit page r/LosAngeles, thousands of users are posting photos of receipts that show examples of service fees they've been experiencing in the city.

Surcharges listed range from the standard (service, cork fees at BYOB spots, tip included) to the strange (medical benefits for restaurant employees and "wellness" and "health and happiness" fees).

Related: 'Criminal' and 'Absolutely Obscene' Photo of $28 Beer on Menu at Airport Sparks Outrage

Sugarfish by Sushi Nowaza is reportedly charging customers a 16% service fee that does not count towards tip that is "used to fund" all of the restaurant's "operations." (Getty Images)

"As a server who works in an old school restaurant with no service fees, I feel really bad for servers who work in places with 'service fees', which is just a shady way for owners to keep tips (or what many guests mistakenly believe are tips, and in any case are obliged to leave less real tip when the fee cuts into the budget for dining)," one person wrote in the thread. "I really wish there was a way to boycott places with service charges without hurting the employees."

The thread, which has over 1.7 thousand upvotes and 439 examples of fees, lead to the creation of an anonymous Google spreadsheet that includes 234 different restaurants and the extra fees that diners have encountered.

A look at the circulating Google Spreadsheet that is exposing different fees in the Los Angeles area (via Reddit)

Notable brow-raising standouts include a 20% fee at Queen Street in Echo Park, which management claims is for "equitable pay, medical, and retirement" for employees (and does not count towards tip), a 5% fee at Soulmate in West Hollywood to make up for "competitive industry compensation" (also does not count towards tip), and 11 different restaurants charging a "wellness" fee ranging everywhere from 3% to 5%, with over half of the restaurants not specifying what that fee incurs.

Per ZipRecruiter, the average hourly rate for a waiter or waitress in the Los Angeles area is $14.80 per hour.

Related: 'These Fees Are Getting Out of Hand': Diner Claims She Was Charged 5% Fee At Restaurant to Support Employee Health Care

"Might as well just get used to it as the new norm. For so long, service staff lived off of tips that artificially inflated take-home wages and kept the cost of eating out artificially low," another Reddit user lamented. "It's going to take time for things to equalize where restaurant staff is paid a livable wage, but that will come with significantly higher cost of eating out."

Adding fees to bills is nothing new for diners since the pandemic, where COVID-related charges were slapped onto checks to make back money lost during closures and restrictions. Restaurants have also been adding "inflation fees."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index for "Food Away From Home" (which calculates prices for in-restaurant dining and takeout prices) jumped 7.1% from July 2022 to July 2023, with the CPI specifically for "full-service meals" jumping 5.8% in the same period.

Related: Restaurants Are Adding 'Inflation Fees' to Customer Checks

Emily Rella

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior News Writer

Emily Rella is a Senior News Writer at Previously, she was an editor at Verizon Media. Her coverage spans features, business, lifestyle, tech, entertainment, and lifestyle. She is a 2015 graduate of Boston College and a Ridgefield, CT native. Find her on Twitter at @EmilyKRella.

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