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Republique's Healthcare Surcharge Raises Eyebrows

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Photo by <a href="http://www.elizabethdanielsphotography.com">Elizabeth Daniels</a>
Photo by Elizabeth Daniels
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

Now open for just under three months, Walter and Margarita Manzke's hallmark restaurant, Republique, is coming under fire for its 3% healthcare surcharge added to every bill. KPCC reports that a few vocal Yelpers have complained of the surcharge that was instituted as a response to the requirement for companies with more than 50 full-time employees to provide healthcare. Everyone at Republique is entitled to sign up for an H.M.O., even down to the dishwashers, who are offered full-time status.

One Yelper writes regarding the surcharge:

"Needless to say... I didn't really feel that great about the mandatory 3% healthcare charge tacked on to the bill. I'd rather have used that money to go get a massage after sitting on those stools for so long."

Another complains:

"One interesting side note is the 3% surcharge on the check that apparently serves to provide healthcare for the employees. Something about this strikes me as tacky. Sure, I could take this 3% out of my 20% tip, but why put me in that position to begin with? A bit silly for such an otherwise upscale experience."

And finally, a more reasonable response:

"Lastly, they add a 3% surcharge to the bill for employee health insurance. I'm cool with that, but they should make it easy to not tip on the 3%. They warn you to do the math, but give me a break. Subtract 3% and then add 20%? Just feels like they expect you to say 'screw it' and tip on the entire total."

The practice has been common in the City of San Francisco, where restaurants collect an additional fee to apply to their employees' healthcare costs. However, a study by the Office of Labor Standards found that only a third of the fees collected, which amounted to $14 Million in 2011, actually went toward healthcare. It's that major discrepancy that's caused problems for the reputation of the healthcare surcharge.

But that's in San Francisco. Republique is hoping to make a statement not only offering the benefit, but guaranteeing that the 3% charge will allay medical costs, just like the 28-day aged cote de boeuf is indeed, aged for 28 days. Staff at the restaurant have said that only a handful of customers have openly griped about the charge, but hefty percentage of Yelp reviews have mentioned the fee. Should restaurants charge an extra nominal fee to help provide healthcare for their employees, or should they simply implement those costs across the rest of the bill?
·Health care surcharge riles customers at top LA eatery [KPCC]
·All Republique Coverage [~ELA~]


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