woman speaking in bed with hand up (l) woman greenscreen TikTok over image of receipt with finger pointing to Employee Health (5.00%) $4.75 charge (c) woman speaking in bed (r)


‘That’s the employer’s job’: Restaurant customer says she was charged 5% fee for ‘employee health’

'I've never experienced this before, and it feels weird.'


Allyson Waller


Posted on Jan 10, 2023   Updated on Jan 10, 2023, 11:54 am CST

In recent years, it’s become the norm for some restaurants to charge customers an extra fee, in addition to requesting tips, to help pay for employee health care costs. In places like Texas, Illinois, and Minnesota eateries have added surcharges to customers’ bills to help offset costs and contribute to employee benefits. Sometimes surcharges can range from 3-4%.

But not every restaurant patron is privy to the emerging trend, as seen in a recent TikTok video from user Ashley Nichole (@ashnichole_xo), who said she and her friend were individually charged a 5% fee for “employee health” after dining at the restaurant Osteria La Buca in Sherman Oaks, California. 

“We enjoy the meal, we get the check, we pay for our check and as we are like signing the tip and stuff, we notice something,” Nichole says in the video. 

@ashnichole_xo Is this normal?? #greenscreen #receipt #employeehealth #restaurant ♬ original sound – Ashley Nichole

She then shows a picture of a receipt that shows a surcharge of 5%, charging her $4.75 for “Employee Health.” 

“My immediate thought is, ‘What is employee health? What does that mean?’” Nichole says. “We run through a couple of options, and I’m like ‘you know what, I’m just going to ask.’” 

She claims she asked the restaurant’s hostess the reason for the charge, and the hostess said it was for employees’ health care. 

“And I’ve never heard of that before, ever,” adds Nichole, who also mentions she’s frequented the restaurant multiple times. “I had to find out, is that normal and have I been living under a rock and this is a normal thing? Or is this weird? Because I’ve never experienced this before, and it feels weird. But maybe this is normal elsewhere.” 

Nichole’s video currently has been viewed more than 120,000 times. Osteria La Buca has not returned The Daily Dot’s request for comment via media contact form about its surcharge policy. 

According to the New York Times, surcharges similar to what’s seen at Osteria La Buca began appearing around 2008, when in San Francisco, voters approved an ordinance requiring businesses with more than 20 employees to set aside funds for health care. The Affordable Care Act, which went into effect in 2010, requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees to offer health benefits

A 2019 survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only around 40% of establishments in “accommodations and food service” offer health benefits. 

Many commenters on Nichole’s video stated that they found the surcharge practice odd. 

“That should be illegal to charge customers for staff health care insurance,” one commenter said. 

“That’s weird,” another user wrote. “I’m in LA too now. I need to check my receipts. [I don’t know], I’m all for heath care for all, but that’s the employers job Lmao.” 

Some were a little more sympathetic to the practice, highlighting that at least the restaurant showed some transparency about the charge. 

“You will pay it one way or another,” a commenter said about employee health costs. “Their transparency is so you know they are giving staff healthcare. They could just upcharge food 5%.” 

The Daily Dot has reached out to Nichole via TikTok comment and Instagram direct message.

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*First Published: Jan 10, 2023, 11:53 am CST