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Twin Cities Restaurants Tack On Fees To Offset Health Care Costs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Twin Cities restaurants are finding creative ways to offset their rising costs. It's not uncommon to find a new fee at the bottom of your check.

Adorned with a defiant deer upon high, Red Stag Supperclub separates itself from other restaurants both outside and in, where classy cuisine and cocktails blend together with a cabin-like atmosphere.

"All the good stuff that you'd expect in a supper club with a little modern flair," Owner Kim Bartmann said.

But the food choices on the menu aren't all that catch customers' eyes.

"I thought it was a little strange it was on there," said Curt Vanvickle, a customer.

The restaurant charges a 3 percent health care fee.

"Health care is a quality of life issue and everyone deserves to have health care," Bartmann said.

Bartmann owns nine restaurants in Minneapolis. She's been offering health insurance to her employees since the 1990s, a benefit that's getting more expensive.

"For the last several years in a row, my health insurance costs for the company have gone up 20-30 percent every single year," she said. It's why she added the fee a few years ago.

"I think it's a great idea, considering the state of health care in the United States right now. Not everyone has access to it," said customer Michelle Hulett. "So anytime an employer is willing to step up to the plate and offer that, I think it's fantastic."

"Everybody needs health insurance these days, so the fact that she's letting you know is fine," Vanvickle added.

Health care isn't the only reason diners are paying a little extra. At Devil's Advocate in downtown Minneapolis, customers pay a 1.9 percent employee benefit fee. It essentially covers the costs associated with their money transactions.

Bartmann said the list of businesses adding fees for health care and beyond is growing.

"We are under a lot of pressure. Our occupancy costs, our tax costs, our labor costs, the costs of our products are all going up," she said.

Some argue that owners should simply raise their menu prices instead of adding another expenditure at the bottom of the tab.

"I think the customer's gonna pay for it whether or not," Vanvickle said. "So it's just a matter of how (restaurants are) going about doing it."

Bartmann prefers not only stating there's a fee, but specifically explaining that it's for healthcare. Her customers appreciate it as well.

"I think it's an easier way to communicate one of our company values," she said.

Bartmann added that as Minneapolis and St. Paul move to a $15 minimum wage, more changes and discussions will happen in the restaurant industry on how to offset those costs.

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