Some of you have asked why we are charging a 5% wellness charge and how the funds are being used.
We believe hospitality begins with a healthy team and a stable, equitable work environment. To ensure both, a 5% surcharge is added to all dine-in checks that supports free mental health resources for our teams and their families, access to health insurance, paid sick leave, and increased operating costs. It is not a gratuity. Our goal is to be transparent while maintaining the value and standards our guests have come to know and love. We appreciate your support and kindness.
All good relationships have communication at their center; we strive to be crystal clear in both our communication and our thinking. We disclose our 5% charge on all our menus (both printed and online), in every reservation confirmation email, and on our websites. There are so many industries that add unclear and sometimes seemingly hidden charges to bills, which we find frustrating and misleading. Just look at your cell phone bill for an egregious example of the difference between the price they advertise and what the customer ends up paying. Our goal is to be transparent and proactive about why we have added this charge.
We have created an FAQ below to answer some of the more specific questions we have received. We appreciate your understanding as we navigate what continues to be a challenging time for us and most full-service restaurants. The vast majority of our guests do not express concern about the charge to us, and when a guest does, we engage in conversation. If a guest would like the fee removed, we’re prompt with removing it from their check. We’re in the making friends business, the business of serving delicious food & drink, and the business of caring for our employees and our communities.
For us, all roads lead back to hospitality, sustainability, and our long-term commitment to American family farmers. To do these things, we need to ensure we stay in business. We promise to maintain our transparency as we continue to take care of our team, the farmers that we buy from, and you, our guests. We sincerely appreciate your support.
Michael Vucurevich & Dan Simons,
What exactly is this charge used for?
Why do you have this wellness charge?
Our original business model has been upended by the pandemic and its continuing aftershocks. We call it a wellness charge, because it is exactly that for our business and our employees. The only way for us to survive, and then thrive, is to increase our costs for our guests. Without changing and evolving our business model quickly, we’d be done for. This evolution and adaptation currently includes our 5% wellness charge, which helps us cover many new and different parts of our operations to ensure we stay in business and continue to employ and support our team members.
Our restaurants, as well as most full-service restaurants, were crushed by the pandemic and continue to face ripples and shockwaves in the aftermath. There have been times since March 2020, in all seven of our restaurant locations, where we’ve struggled to pay our debts and rent (even though several of our landlords have been helpful). We are still dealing with cash losses in some of our restaurants and have incurred debts that need to be paid. In all our restaurants, we face new and additional costs and supply chain difficulties due to the pandemic’s effects. The government’s support through programs such as PPP has ended, and no additional support is in sight. Throughout this time, we have paid our employees, supported free online therapy, provided paid sick leave, hosted free vaccine clinics for team members and their families, as well as donated food continuously to those in need, and maintained our commitments to buy family-farmed products.
Why not just raise the menu prices by 5%?
This question is logical, as is our answer. We want to maintain value for our guests while restructuring and evolving our business model in this new day. As menu item prices cross certain thresholds (ie, 19 to 21 or 29 to 30), guest buying behavior is affected, meaning that people may not select their first choice, but instead select an item priced well below – this trade, which can be from $31 down to $24 or $25, results in lower total sales, even though menu prices are higher. These decisions also affect ordering an appetizer, a second beverage, or dessert at the end of the meal. This means that in order to net the same revenue for the business through a price increase, we’d need to raise prices substantially (in the 15% to 20% range) more than 5% – costing diners more – which is why we see the 5% charge as win/win, as opposed to the even larger menu price increase which is lose/lose.