Billionaire Restaurant Owner Wants Customers To Pay 'Minimum Wage' Fee

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“Just raise prices if you need to, don’t try to slip this in under the radar and then pretty much blame [it] on employees who need to make a living!”

Billionaire restaurant owner

A restaurant in Washington D.C., came up with a rather unusual way to meet its rising costs associated with higher minimum wage — it charged customers for it directly.

A customer, identified only as Brian, dined at the Oceanair franchise in D.C. When he received his check, he noticed an unusual line at the bottom of the receipt that read, “Due to the rising costs of doing business in this location, including costs associated with higher minimum wage rates, a 3 percent surcharge has been added to your total bill.”

He clicked a picture of the receipt and sent it to a local blog Popville in order to garner attention on the issue. As soon as the blog posted the picture, outraged customers started rolling in.

People on the blog said the tone in which the receipt was written was shifting the blame onto employees, as if they should feel ashamed of the recent raise in D.C.’s higher minimum wage.

“Just raise prices if you need to, don’t try to slip this in under the radar and then pretty much blame [it] on employees who need to make a living!” wrote one commenter.

While another one wrote, “I have no problem paying high prices to support better wages, but I do have a major problem with this sort of deceptive business practice. A third put it succinctly: “Take your political statement and shove it.”   

The minimum wage in Washington, D.C., rose from $11.50 an hour to $12.50 — which is still below an unacceptable pay rate.

The Oceanair restaurant is owned by the Landry’s, whose chief executive,  Tilman Fertitta, has been termed as “America’s richest billionaire” and stars on CNBC’s “Billion Dollar Buyer.” He also owns several other chains including Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Mastro’s, McCormick & Schmick’s and the Rainforest Cafe.

Fertitta has spoken several times about rising minimum wage. In 2014, he told CNBC, “I have no issue with raising minimum wage, but then the customer can’t say to us, ‘Why are you raising your prices?’” While talking to Fox Business, he called minimum wage a “training wage.”

Last month, Fertitta was all praise for President Donald Trump as he told CNBC that he thinks Trump is doing a “great job.”

The 3 percent surcharge is noted on menus of Oceanair in San Deigo and Boston. However, it has not been added to the menus in D.C.

“I didn’t see signage either, as we were seated in the back right of the restaurant. Also, nothing on the hostess stand,” said Brian.

However, the surcharge has now been removed from D.C.

The Washington Post reached out Landry’s for a comment on the incident. Tim Whitlock, senior vice president of operations and chief operating officer of the Oceanaire, said in a statement, “Due to the restaurant industry’s competitive market, we decided this was a temporary and nominal surcharge. The Oceanaire is committed to being transparent with our patrons and noted the surcharge on our menu, the customer’s bill and signage in the restaurant. In response to recent feedback, we have chosen to remove this surcharge effective immediately and will explore more traditional means to address the industry’s rising costs, such as raising menu prices.”

Another representative added that the surcharge will eventually be removed from all Oceanair franchises.

 

Thumbnail Credits: Reuters/Paulo Whitaker

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