COLUMBUS, Ohio — As many restaurants still work to recover from financial losses suffered due to the pandemic, inflation costs only seem to be making matters worse. Lately, some customers in the Columbus area have said they’ve been noticing added fees on their dining bills.
John Barker, president and CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association, said there’s a reason for that.
"I've been in this business for almost three decades and I've never seen the cost environment like I have right now,” Barker said.
Barker said food costs have gone up consistently for the last 17 months by 8-15%.
"We've never seen anything like that in history, so it’s just a lot of pressure on an industry that's still digging out from a pandemic,” Barker said.
Barker said labor costs have also gone up about 25% over the last three years.
"For our industry 25% in such a short period of time is unprecedented,” Barker said.
These financial impacts have forced some restaurant owners like Bob Szuter, co-owner of Wolf’s Ridge Brewing, to find other ways to mitigate those costs.
"We're all getting it from all different angles, and we're trying to do our economic part and not be too aggressive with what we charge,” Szuter said.
Szuter said they’ve increased menu prices by about 20-30% over the last couple years just to keep up.
"We haven't added any surcharges or any fees, that's something we've tried to stray away from,” Szuter said.
However, other restaurants in the Columbus area are taking that approach, like Pizza Cottage. Its website states its adding “a 3% surcharge instead of increasing menu prices.” It added the fee is “due to significant price increases for commodities as well as increased labor and operational costs.”
Restaurants like Forno in the Short North District have implemented a 3% transaction fee on all bills paid with a credit card. Szuter said he’s also been considering adding that type of fee.
"That is such a significant amount of what we pay, its 3% at minimum on everybody's check,” Szuter said.
Barker said the ORA is encouraging its restaurants that are implementing these fees to at least be upfront with customers about the additional charge, although its not required for them to do so. He said he hopes customers also return that consideration.
“I ask consumers to just be considerate and understand what's going on,” Barker said.