Restaurant Nickle and Dimes Customers With “Minimum Wage” Fee

There’s good news across the country, as more states are raising their base minimum wages, recognizing that a wage that an employee can’t live on is of no benefit to the employee nor to anyone who wishes to sell something that requires disposable income. Unfortunately, not every restaurant is taking the change well.

Welcome to the age of the “minimum wage” fee.

Oasis Cafe in Stillwater, Minn., has decided to take their unhappiness with the change in pay for their staff straight to the customers, showing them in no uncertain terms that they are “forced” to charge them more now that they have increased their workers’ pay. Dubbing it a “minimum wage fee,” the restaurant has added a small service charge of $.35 on to each ticket, and they want to be sure you know that it’s the fault of those demanding a closer to living wage.

One Minnesota pundit calls the restaurant’s gambit “pettiness.” “[W]e have to wonder how many others will reflect, as we did, that thirty-five cents split between two diners at breakfast is too great a burden in the effort to make work pay,” writes Sally Jo Sorensen. Other locals are just as annoyed. “Wow! You couldn’t just increase your prices by 35 cents for two meals? Don’t you wonder how that makes your employees feel, making them look like the bad guys to their customers,” writes one person on a Facebook page showing a receipt with the “fee” added on. “Shame on you. (For the record, I took this photo off a friend’s FB page. I wasn’t a customer there, nor will I ever be now.)”

Oasis, meanwhile, doesn’t understand how their stunt backfired. “It certainly was not our intention to put our servers in a bad spot. We’re just trying to figure out how to offset what is a very real cost. Dividing a projection of how much our labor cost will increase by a projection of how many orders we’ll process seemed like a reasonable and transparent way to cover our cost increase. And while I think your “shame on you” comment was a little harsh…we appreciate and will try to use your input to get better…,” they responded. ”With regards to your previous comment about thumbing my nose at the law change…you’re right….part of my thinking was to shine a light on this matter…which I truly believe is in the best interest of both my business and employees!”

Oasis isn’t the only Minnesota restaurant putting employees in a hard spot over the minimum wage increase. A number of restaurants under two different holding company umbrellas are passing the buck — or taking it away — by making servers pay for credit card fees from translations as a way to blunt the restaurant’s own costs. These nickle and dime approaches to punishing workers who were hoping to earn a little more, and making the customer a part of the effort, is alarming some local workers’ rights groups. “We believe that the industry is over ­reacting,” Wade Luneberg, secretary/treasurer of MN State Council of UNITE HERE Unions, told the Star Tribune. “Putting [minimum wage] fees on tickets and passing the cost on to consumers directly is strange at best, and creates an ‘us against them’ mentality while ordering dinner.”

It could also be a matter of pennywise, pound foolish. Is the massive bad press that these restaurants are receiving worth the symbolic victory that comes from being able to state in a clear manner that the increase on the meal was brought to the customer not by the business owner, but because of a generous (or simply just) legislature? Or do the owners believe that they can rally their customers into petitioning the lawmakers to take back the increase?

It’s a gamble, and one that you would think restaurants that are posing to be so on the edge of fiscal disaster that they must pass a wage hike on to every customer or server wouldn’t want to undertake. Sort of makes you think the whole “fee” thing must be a ploy after all.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Eric Lees
Eric Lees3 years ago

"A Nonprofit Restaurant Falls to the Minimum Wage
Michigan’s jump to $8.15 an hour ended Tastes of Life—and the help it offered to those in need."

william Miller
william Miller3 years ago


Mary B.
Mary B3 years ago

The first paragraph says it all. "A wage that an employee can't live on is of no use to the employee or to anyone who wishes to sell something that requires disposable income."
If business people haven't grasp that fact by now they should not be allowed to own or run a business. They waste time, and resources, take up valuable space and keep this myth of job creaters being so necessary alive.

Charlie Rush
Charlene Rush3 years ago

Wanda, my dear ~ You appear to have a lot of pent-up anger in you, as do most all conservatives.
Calm down.

Whenever a person needs to portray herself/himself, as a 'tough' cowgirl, one has to ask, 'If a person IS that tough, why do they have a need to display it?'; it was always taught to me, that when a person believes in herself/himself, they have no need to convince other people.

Donna F.
Donna F3 years ago

I'm willing to pay a little xtra.

A. Marina Fournier

If the base pay the waitstaff (more than) earns is less than the minimum wage for that area, which is often the case, the waitstaff absolutely depend on those tips. If the local laws allow tipped employees to be paid 1/2 -1/3 the local MW, as is often the case & practice, doesn't matter much what the alleged full story is.

The waitstaff is usually the lowest hourly wage in the place, and often they still have to pool their tips to those who earn rather more than they do. I don't want to patronize that kind of place.

Regus S.
Regus Slantei3 years ago

Man, you just gotta luv Wanda the wonder-trollop. Wave a gun or some money around, and she'll get all hot-and-bothered defending her rightwing masters as they take a bad hit here on Care2.

Usually its about guns....but I am equally amused by her provocative version of rightwing econo-porn too.

Sheila M.
Sheila M3 years ago

Jane R - what a horrible person you are - NEWS FLASH - NOT EVERYONE can be a doctor or a lawyer - someone has to YOU your food, clean up your trash, etc. And FYI, you lowlife - NO one is saying pay them as much as an office worker - MANY of whom do NOT have a college education and many of whom are not making BIG bucks - what is being said is to pay FAIR & LIVABLE wages - and again, FYI, NOT everyone working at a fast food joint is a collage kid - many ARE supporting families. What POS you are - LOL, kids will drop out of scholl to work at fast food joint because the $$ is so good - lol, what jerk

Jane R.
Jane R3 years ago

The minimum wage has gone too far. Why should people with no education to get another job expect to be paid more than an office worker? If they really want to make a descent living they should get an education. As far as teenagers working in fast food establishments, they're not supporting a family and they get paid well enough for the work they do without this crazy increase in minimum wages. This will not encourage kids to get an education in order to make a good living. Kids will drop out of school because they can make a good living at a fast food restaurant.
As for passing the cost on to the customers, there's no way to avoid that. I just don't care to pay the cost of a burger these days, they cost way too much. I'll make mine at home and they will taste better.