PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) -- The thrill and excitement of going out to eat again has turned to anger and outrage on social media, as word started to spread that restaurants in some states are charging a COVID-19 surcharge with every meal.
"I know they're hurting and that's why I'm trying to support local business and eat out as much as I can," said Sadie Baez of Phoenix. "But I don't think they need to charge us extra."
Restaurant receipts from Michigan, Missouri, Illinois and California all have an unexpected price hike on customer's receipts. A few cents here, a couple dollars there, all in an effort to offset the cost of meat and produce and a dramatic drop in restaurant revenue since the coronavirus crisis started.
Bret Frimmel is the owner of Uncle Sams, a popular, family-owned restaurant in Phoenix. Like most businesses, the past couple months have been tough, but he'd never consider adding an extra fee to his customer's tab. "It's insulting to me," said Frimmel. "It's insulting. You can't charge people because there's a problem. We face lots of different challenges being in business, but you never put in a surcharge. It's a tax and you can't tax people for going out."
Steve Chucri is President of the Arizona Restaurant Association. So far, he hasn't found any restaurants across the state charging customers a COVID-19 fee, and he hopes it stays that way. He said if the economy is slow to bounce back, raising prices on the menu is better than an unexpected surcharge.
"Surcharges in Arizona really haven't been a popular thing, or an accepted practice as they have in other states," said Chucri. "Restaurant understand that, and it would be an absolutely last ditch effort to accommodate a cost structure to do that. To me, right now is too soon to entertain surcharges in Arizona."