Miami Restaurateurs Weigh in on Central Florida Restaurant's Obamacare Surcharge

michael_schwartz_bill_wisser.jpg
Bill Wisser
Miami chefs, including Michael Schwartz, weigh in on an Obamacare surcharge.
Gator's Dockside, a restaurant group in Lake Mary, Florida, has gotten a lot of press lately. It seems the corporate-owned restaurants are charging a 1 percent Affordable Care Act surcharge to compensate for the restaurants' additional costs associated with providing health care to their full-time employees when Obamacare's employer mandate begins in 2015. The additional monies collected are shown on a diner's check as a separate line item called "ACA Surcharge."

According to CNN, Gator's Dockside employs 500 people, with about half working full-time. Currently, only management receives health care, but the restaurant must offer benefits to all full-time employees once the Obamacare mandate goes into effect. The fee will allow the company to continue offering full-time hours to workers instead of cutting back hours or laying off employees, according to Sandra Clark, the group's director of operations.

But is adding a surcharge to a diner's check the best way to recoup some of the costs involved with offering health insurance to employees? Granted, Obamacare will raise the cost of doing business in the restaurant industry, but will it do the same to every small business in the United States? Should we then see surcharges with our dry cleaning or when we get our teeth cleaned? And could Miamians ever see an Obamacare surcharge at local restaurants?

We asked several Miami restaurateurs and chefs to weigh in on how they feel about an Obamacare surcharge. The answers are passionate and thought-provoking.

See also Florida Restaurant Chain Charging Obamacare Surcharge

Michael Schwartz, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Harry's Pizzeria, the Cypress Room, and Restaurant Michael Schwartz
I think it's bull. It's a business owner's responsibility to take care of their employees. We've complained about the health-care system for so long, and now it's time to fix it. The surcharge is the most pathetic thing. Maybe we should put a surcharge for utilities too?

Jamie DeRosa, Tongue & Cheek

I'm in favor of everyone having the right to health insurance, but I'm not sure this is the right answer. Also, what is the best way to handle this with the consumer? Businesses adjust pricing all the time -- inflation, livestock, utility cost increases, etc. As an operator, do I tack on the surcharge in the interest of transparency -- or simply raise prices to cover costs? It's a sensitive issue because of the political implications, but I do believe, fundamentally, our customers, people, want to know that the folks preparing, cooking, and serving them are well taken care of, as as are their families.


Ralph Pagano, Alba Seaside Italian and Naked Taco at the Dream South Beach

I think the taxing of the bill by 1 percent, while being a novel idea, is not what I would do. Here is my math: I don't like when the company I buy tomatoes (or any item) from charges me a "delivery fuel surcharge" or an "inventory fee." My feeling is that I buy what I buy for a price that I agree to, and that's that. I offer my employees health benefits. Sure, it costs me more money, but I would rather have 85 happy employees then 85 sick ones. Health insurance is a racket. The doctors are the ones bringing this whole thing to a head, and nobody says boo about it.The facts are, we are a society that has poisoned ourselves via bad food, bad booze, bad emissions, bad use of natural resources, bad weather, and bad ozone. It is all of our responsibility to be better. I offer insurance because I want a better employee who feels wanted, respected, and looked-after. I charge five bucks for a taco. Please help me change the world -- one taco at at time.

Aniece Meinhold, the Federal Food Drink & Provisions
This topic is a doozy. For small businesses like us, insuring our staff would be nearly impossible. It would cost us between $80,000 to $100,000 to insure our staff at our current employment level because they are all full-timers. Whether you increase prices or add a surcharge, someone ultimately suffers. In a midpriced, 60-seat restaurant such as ours, without a full liquor license to offset costs and drive additional business, every penny counts. We aim to serve the highest-quality ingredients at an approachable price. We are seasonal, local when possible, organic when possible, and utilize artisan products. All of this comes at a premium.

So our options are to (A) raise prices in order to generate additional revenues to cover the cost, (B) lower (read: sacrifice) the quality of our ingredients to lower certain costs, (C) cut jobs, or (D) add a surcharge to the consumer. A and D potentially affect the consumer negatively, possibly causing them to not return and can negatively influence future revenues and the perception of the restaurant. B affects the ideology and philosophy of the establishment, thereby forcing us to use inexpensive commodity ingredients furthering already-broken food systems, which is the antithesis of being sustainable, local, and supporting the local community. C affects the actual employee and general unemployment. It's a Catch-22.

I don't have an answer for this, but I can tell you it's not going to be easy. I think about the months of May, June, July, September, October, and November, when revenues are softer, then think about the $9,000 I'd have to pay to insure employees, and it makes me shudder. Where am I going to come up with the money? Which invoice comes first? Which vendor takes precedence? It's a scary reality. And if it's scary for me, a restaurant that is fairly busy and has regular patronage, what happens to those other guys out on side streets, in less visible neighborhoods, that don't have the support we do? It's certainly a huge burden to carry. This is clearly something that all of us who own our businesses need to think about.


Todd Erickson, Haven and Huahua's Taqueria

Obamacare is the law now, and since is is the law, it has become a cost of doing business, just like rent, gas, and water. I don't think it's appropriate to put a rent surcharge or a gas surcharge on a guest's ticket, so why would it be appropriate to add an Obamacare surcharge? Here on the Beach, we already have a resort tax on top of sales tax. Too many line items. The costs of doing business should be a part of the sale price.

Follow Laine Doss on Twitter @LaineDoss and Facebook.

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Location Info

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink

130 NE 40th St., Miami, FL

Category: Restaurant

Tongue & Cheek

431 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, FL

Category: Restaurant

Dream South Beach

1111 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, FL

Category: General

The Federal Food Drink & Provisions

5132 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL

Category: Restaurant

Haven

1237 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, FL

Category: Music


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19 comments
Ron E. Chits
Ron E. Chits

Mercy Mercy-Me do you own a gasoline powered conveyance? Do you retire to a domicile at days end to rest your head that you own? Guess what? You have to by law insure them.....now why would you not want to cover your health? Remember insurance is not for when shit is peachy keen but for when shit hits the fan

Ashley Sokol
Ashley Sokol

Who ever said that its illegal to adding gratuity to a check must not have worked in the industry at all? #stupid

Joe Spector
Joe Spector

Why don't they show me the cost of the food, rent, and phone too? They itemize this to make a political statement or get free publicity. Either way, I will never go there. I hope it backfires on them.

Leigh Bandy-Ramirez
Leigh Bandy-Ramirez

some one will have to pay for it… consumers and middle class are it.

Chris Anthony
Chris Anthony

First off it is illegal to add on a fee of this type, much like it is illegal to add in gratuity (it will be taxed, and a separate account is needed), second it will cost any business owner customers, more then 1/3 off all these places rely on much needed tourist dollars and they are not going to return to a place that takes it's political issues to their meal bill... word of mouth will do the rest of the damage from there!! Remember your competition will love your loss!!!

Tom Blazejack
Tom Blazejack

Pure propaganda (the fee was delayed for a year - does not even exist) and an abhorrent advertising scheme.

Joseph Panzarella
Joseph Panzarella

How to you expect business owners to pay for health care without getting more revenue? There is a cost to everything healthcare doesn't just magically get paid for. The money has to come from somewhere the business owner isn't going to make themselves go broke they have to either add a tax or just raise the overall price..

James G. Camp
James G. Camp

Mercy, it's like that for everyone ? When you pay $ 10 for a burger, you can rest assured that someone else got healthcare. Of course we pay for our own, but then again, others paid for that. ACA is one of the bigger wealth transfers the government is pushing. Doctors & insurance companies are the winners this time. Basically, inflation has to happen, no way around it.

djslip187
djslip187

That's not a tax, they are charging back the fee to the consumer and being honest about it. This way you see exactly what its going towards. Companies don't just absorb new cost without a thought as to how to minimize it. It always gets charged backed to the consumer. It's not a charity. This also allows them to keep the same staff without laying anyone off as you are paying for what you obviously voted for. It's a win, win.

Michael Malo Lauzardo
Michael Malo Lauzardo

That's not a tax, they are charging back the fee to the consumer and being honest about it. This way you see exactly what its going towards. Companies don't just absorb new cost without a thought as to how to minimize it. It always gets charged backed to the consumer. It's not a charity. This also allows them to keep the same staff without laying anyone off as you are paying for what you obviously voted for. It's a win, win.

Christian Meighan
Christian Meighan

The idiocy of the idea that extra costs are better hidden than a line item is actually mind boggling. But I guess if you really want to believe Obamacare is good and causes no harm then I see the pain for the true believers. You really want to believe Obamacare is free and magically gets paid.

Ariana Hernandez Reguant
Ariana Hernandez Reguant

Who are their "Full-time employees"? The cook? or most likely, the restaurant's CEO? Because waiters and waitresses seldom are, and they dont even make the minimum wage. I bet waitresses are paying from health insurance from their own pocket, even as the restaurant is charging the surcharge.

Mercy Mercy-Me
Mercy Mercy-Me

...So, now I have to pay for my own individual insurance whether I want it or not (as an independent contractor), AND the restaurant expects me to subsidize their employees? no no no no no. I don't think so. Employer's responsibility.

Lee Glick
Lee Glick

Funny how Tea Party thumpers talk so much shit about taxes, but then go ahead and create their own taxes. Hi kettle, its me, Black!

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