WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - Restaurants in the DMV and across the country are still trying to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and some are adding an extra fee onto customers' bills to try and make up for it.
The National Restaurant Association released data in the late summer of this year that shows things just aren't back to normal yet for restaurants.
According to the data, 63% of restaurants reported lower sales from August 2021 compared to the pre-pandemic August 2019.
More recently nearly 80% of restaurants reported a decline in indoor dining because of the Delta variant.
The owner of Founding Farmers Dan Simons, who has seven restaurants in the area, says his fee is to help with benefits for his staff and to keep the business afloat.
Customers FOX 5 spoke with about the fee on Monday night had conflicting opinions.
"With a restaurant this size, I don’t think that’s a necessary expense that customers should have to pick up," says customer Alvin Grant.
"If that's part of what it takes, we're 100% into that," customer Leslie Nye says.
Simons says he hopes the fee is temporary. It has been in place for nine months and he says 95% of customers have paid it.
"It's been a vital source of revenue for us," says Simons.
If a customer asks for the 5% fee to be removed, it's taken off the bill, no questions asked.
Simons says transparency is important which is why information about the fee is printed on every menu and included in all reservation emails.
Of his seven restaurants, he says a few are still losing money every month, and a few are barely breaking even.
"We offer benefits like free mental health therapy and support, paid parental leave, lots of paid sick leave," says Simons. "If someone has symptoms at all, we pay them, they stay home. And for us to keep the business going, this fee generates vital revenue, so we can keep doing the things that are important to us, and I think important to our guests."
FOX 5 spoke with another restaurant that charges a similar 3% fee. They say it’s specifically to help buy personal protective equipment for staff and customers and they too hope to remove it soon.