It Turns Out More Restaurants Are Charging a “Wellness Fee” Than We Thought

9 December 2023

The practice of adding a wellness fee to restaurant bills is gaining traction, but it’s not sitting well with customers.

In a recent article, we highlighted the of a five-percent “wellness fee” at Founding Farmers, a chain restaurant in King of Prussia. This fee was intended to cover employee health and wellness costs, as well as offset price increases on items like napkins and silverware. However, it seems that Founding Farmers is not alone in implementing such a fee. FCM Hospitality, a prominent restaurant group in the Philadelphia area, has been charging a three-percent “employee benefit fee” since March. The emergence of these wellness fees has sparked controversy among both industry professionals and customers.

FCM Hospitality’s Wellness Fee:

FCM Hospitality, owned by Avram Hornik, operates several popular restaurants and bars in the Philadelphia area, including Morgan’s Pier and Liberty Point. Since March, the company has been adding a three-percent wellness fee, which they refer to as an employee benefit fee, to all checks. According to an FCM spokesperson, this practice has become more common in the industry and aims to provide a better quality of life for employees without significantly raising prices for guests. The money collected from the wellness fees is directed back to employees through employee programs, guaranteed wages, and weekly bonuses across all FCM locations.

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Concerns and Criticisms:

Despite FCM Hospitality’s explanation, many industry professionals and customers have voiced their concerns and criticisms regarding the wellness fee. Keith Taylor, a Philadelphia-area chef and owner of Zachary’s BBQ, argues that additional costs should be incorporated into menu pricing rather than added as a separate fee. He also raises concerns about the potential misuse of the funds collected through wellness fees. Taylor points out that dishonest practices can arise, citing the infamous Mario Batali scandal as an example. He further notes that consumers have taken to social media to express their dissatisfaction with wellness fees, highlighting a widespread pushback against the practice.

Customer Reactions:

Following the publication of our previous article on the wellness fee at Founding Farmers, we received numerous responses from readers, none of which expressed support for the concept. Customers believe that wellness fees are simply a way for corporations to shift costs onto consumers instead of addressing them internally. Some readers suggested that businesses should adjust their business models and raise prices if necessary, rather than passing the burden onto customers. Others argued that companies should prioritize their employees’ well-being and take a smaller profit instead of relying on wellness fees. Bartenders, in particular, expressed frustration, stating that customers already struggle with tipping and additional fees. The general sentiment among customers is that wellness fees are an unnecessary addition to already high prices and fees.

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The of wellness fees in restaurants, as seen at Founding Farmers and FCM Hospitality establishments, has stirred up controversy and dissatisfaction among both industry professionals and customers. While the intention behind these fees may be to support employee well-being, the practice has been met with skepticism. Critics argue that additional costs should be factored into menu pricing, and there are concerns about the potential misuse of funds collected through wellness fees. As customers voice their opposition to these fees, it remains to be seen whether more restaurants will adopt or abandon this controversial practice.

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