Popular central Florida sports bar chain Gator’s dockside has started adding a 1% Affordable Care Act surcharge onto its customer’s bills at eight locations, prompting a mixed range of emotions from customers and critics alike.
Although the employer mandate won’t start-up until December, Gator Group has already added the surcharge, claiming it helps to cover the compliance costs associated with preparation for the new law. On top of the health care cost, Sandra Clark, the group’s director, has said the company has hired an additional staffer and a consulting firm to ensure compliance and assist in tracking employee work information. In an effort to be transparent with its customers, “The owner opted to do this so the customer can see the cost increase themselves,” said manager Chayse Nail to the Huffington Post in a phone call.
A sign outside alerting customers of the surcharge states, “The costs associated with ACA compliance could ultimately close our doors…Instead of raising prices on our products to generate the additional revenue needed to cover the costs of ACA compliance, certain Gator’s Dockside locations have implemented a 1% surcharge on all food and beverage purchases only.”
About half of the company’s 500 employees are working full-time, and while Clark says she isn’t sure of the exact cost the company will spend on compliance, she’s estimated it to be $500,000 a year, with the surcharge hopefully bringing in $160,000.
Some customers have taken to social media to express displeasure with the new policy; a plethora of complaints flooding the company’s Facebook page. Still, Nail claims customer reactions have been fair, with very few people actually leaving the restaurant because of the charge, and some hailing it as an ingenious idea.
These Gator’s Dockside locations are not alone though. A Denny’s in Florida had in place a 5% ACA surcharge before reneging on the policy after serious backlash, and a restaurant in Los Angeles has caught the attention of many with an interesting policy, placing an optional 3% surcharge that they claim helps cover employee healthcare. The restaurant has said the charge is not a result of the ACA and it already provides coverage for its staff.
Either way, it’s clear restaurants are feeling the heat when it comes to employee health care costs, and they are determined to let consumers know that these costs directly affect them.