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The Sneaky Way Dining Out Could Get More Expensive

As restaurants reopen post-coronavirus lockdown, patrons' bills might be notably bigger.
Money bills

It's difficult to imagine that any business has been hit harder than restaurant owners who have mostly shut down due to the coronavirus lockdown. Good news, however, is that as most states across the nation move to phase one of reopening, so too will many of your favorite eateries for dining in. But when the meal is done and its time to pay the bill, be prepared to see a bigger number than you might expect.

When your favorite dining spot finally reopens, prices are certain to go up, and most likely, at a considerable level.  There are simply too many challenging variables for restaurant owners to navigate, not least of which will be the considerable depletion of diners they can server during the "new normal" reopening.

According to a report by Restaurant Business, many restaurants are planning a "coronavirus surcharge" to help defray the additional costs that come from reopening their place of business under very strict CDC guidelines that make already thin profit margins even thinner. A number of restaurants are instead instituting COVID-19 surcharges on each check. That's right, paying extra for a meal post-COVID and it's likely something we are just going to have to deal with.

Consider a restaurant that, let's say, is designed to serve 50 diners at the same time. If social distancing requires that number to be cut in half, that means far fewer meals served, and yet the cost to manage a kitchen that cooks and cleans and serves their patrons will likely stay the same. Ergo, more revenue is needed per meal.

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From the report: "Chicago-based multi-concept operator Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, for example, recently added a 4% surcharge to delivery and carryout orders at all of its restaurants. The fee can be refunded, however, for any customer who requests it, LEYE President R.J. Melman said in a statement."

"The fees are a necessary step during a time when unanticipated costs have jeopardized the survival of our business," Melman told Restaurant Business, adding "Our industry has been dramatically impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic forced closures. In addition to the extreme restrictions that have been placed on our dining rooms, we are also facing additional costs of doing business—added expenses for carryout and delivery, providing PPE to employees, executing enhanced sanitation practices, and absorbing the greatest increase in food pricing since 1974."

Restaurants eager to open up post-COVID have to jump through a number of hoops to keep customers and staffers safe from the deadly contagion. In fact, going back to a restaurant after lockdown will almost surely look very different than before. But seeing how almost one in four restaurants likely won't survive the lockdown, paying a little extra to keep these places in business might not be the worst thing.



Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.

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