Two Buffalo-area restaurants have added surcharges to customers' bills in order to pay low-wage workers. Tipping and surcharges have become hot topics lately. I have seen many debates on social media about food delivery drivers saying they won't even take orders from people who don't tip upfront. That's a conversation for another day, but for now, let's talk about surcharges. Is it right for a restaurant to add a surcharge to help pay its low-wage workers?

Photo by Fraser Cottrell on Unsplash
Photo by Fraser Cottrell on Unsplash

Beginning in 2024, New York State Will Raise Minimum Wage

The minimum wage in New York will increase each year on New Year's Eve until it reaches $15 per hour. New York City and Long Island/Westchester workers already reached $15 per hour in 2019 and 2021, respectively. Around the rest of the state, the minimum wage increased on December 31, 2022. The hourly wage will increase by $1, from $13.20 to $14.20.

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On January 1, 2024, the minimum wage will increase to $16 in New York City and the counties of Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester. Around the rest of the state, the minimum wage will go up to $15. Then, in the following two years, in 2025 and 2026, the minimum wage will increase by $0.50 each year. In 2027, the New York State minimum wage will increase according to the Consumer Price Index. It will be tied to inflation, benefitting hundreds of thousands of minimum wage workers across the state.

Following three years of set growth in 2024, 2025, and 2026, beginning January 1, 2027, New York State will increase its minimum wage by the three-year moving average of the CPI-W for the Northeast Region. An "off-ramp" is available in the event of certain economic or budget conditions. Indexing the minimum wage to inflation will help to maintain the purchasing power of workers' wages from year to year.


Should Buffalo Restaurants Add Surcharges To Help Pay Workers Wages?

Two restaurants in the Buffalo area have added surcharges to pay low-wage employees. Mulberry Italian Ristorante in Lackawanna has added a 50 cents surcharge per customer. It apparently helps pay for the work that cooks, dishwashers, and other back-of-house staff members do, according to The US Sun. DiTondo in Buffalo also added a similar fee for customers. But DiTondo adds a 20 percent "food service" fee to each bill. The monies raised by the fee are split among all hourly workers.

While I completely agree that low-wage workers should be paid more since the cost of living is rising exponentially, it would seem that it is the responsibility of the business to pay its workers a livable wage. Do you think these surcharges are fair to customers?

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