Serving Up Surcharges

Not on the menu

At a restaurant in Georgia, tolerance for children is not part of the menu.  The parents of even well-behaved children may be forced to pay an undefined surcharge, categorized as a fee “for adults unable to parent.”  This business practice has raised questions about how far restaurants or other service-driven businesses may go to tack on outrageous or unjustified costs, and whether this policy violates the rights of consumers.  Some view this policy as subjective and a way to trick patrons into paying for more than what they ordered.    

While some patrons have expressed natural disgust with this business practice, others have articulated a level of understanding that restaurant owners should maintain the right to run their businesses as they see fit.  Although the parenting stipulation that is advertised is subject to interpretation, additional surcharges listed on the menu are more concrete and may be perceived as potential consequences for activities that are frowned upon.  For example, a 3.5% increase may be expected for bills paid by credit card, a $3 upcharge may be applied if food is shared, and an 18% tip may be automatically included in the bill for large groups, those who are asking to split the check, and birthday parties.

The one price that is not necessarily clear is the surcharge for poor parenting.  In addition, the definition of what constitutes proper parental supervision is not advertised and is instead left to the discretion of the staff or owner.  One former customer commented on her experience, noting that she was proud of how well-behaved her children were at the restaurant.  However, she was shocked when the owner approached her table to complain that her children were too loud.  He threatened to add a $50 charge.  This practice may leave customers to consider if a surprise cost of subjective judgment impedes their rights as patrons.