Waiter carrying food
A waiter carries food out of a kitchen Getty Images/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

A Texas restaurant owner’s decision to add a healthcare surcharge to customers’ final bill is getting a lot of mixed reactions online recently. Those who support it said that it is a great step in helping business owners care for their employees, while others argue that the cost of healthcare shouldn’t be passed on to consumers.

In an interview the KVUE ABC, Nathan Lemley and Sarah Heard, owners of Foreign & Domestic in Austin, said that the 3 percent surcharge they added to customer bills was to help cover the cost of giving his regular staff health coverage.

His employees responded positively to the move, noting that it helps a lot considering that most of them do not have enough savings and are not protected from any accident or illness.

Lemley noted that the surcharge is preferred over raising food prices, which meant increasing each item by a dollar. He added that it would cost the company more if food prices were raised—not to mention this method raised the needed funds the lowest. He clarified that all surcharges collected go into a dedicated account and is used solely for staff healthcare insurance.

Foreign & Domestic is not the first American restaurant to charge extra to fund employee health needs. Some food places in San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles. In fact, L.A. food businesses have been adding surcharges since 2013.

Their owners had said that the decision to do so was not politically motivated at all, given the arguments for or against Obamacare at the time. They said that it was merely to give employees solid healthcare backup, which they would otherwise not have given their average salaries and cost of living.

According to Indeed, the average salary of a restaurant worker in the U.S. is $10.87 per hour, as of April 2019. The highest pay, that of the food and beverage controller, is $36.92 per hour.

Los Angeles has the 44th highest cost of living in the world, with a single person costing $991.49 per month without rent and a four-person family costing $3,569 per month. This is way above what restaurant staff earn, thus justifying that the average American is not able to afford proper health insurance.