Comfort fee

My wife has plans to meet some friends for lunch today and made a reservation with the restaurant requesting an outside table. The restaurant has an outdoor garden setting with a half dozen or so tables and free standing heaters. She received a text this morning that the restaurant is now adding a $6 ‘comfort fee’ for outside dining. I certainly understand the challenges restaurants are facing but has anyone seen this before?


Nope, and I’d cancel my reservation post haste.



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She did. There are plenty of other options, even with their intent to be outside.

Interestingly, though she received a text informing her of this fee, there’s no mention of it on their web site, FB page or reservation vendor.


Not this, but a local place has been adding an optional “Angel’s Share” to help defray higher costs without making the upcharge permanent. Does the restaurant explain the fee?

Everything that goes into operating costs more now. Some restaurant owners seem to hope this is temporary. Also restaurants have had to add outdoor spaces, patio heaters and umbrellas, hand sanitizer, and so on during this rotten pandemic.


If the outdoor heaters were propane-fueled (versus electric), I bet the fee is to pay for the propane which may not be a trivial expense for the restaurant over the course of the fall/winter, especially if a lot of people are electing to eat outdoors. Honestly I’d be willing to pay six bucks to eat outside. Or better yet, I’d bundle up and bring blankets and elect not use a heater (which we’ve done last year in the Boston area and more earth-friendly). Adult beverages and a positive attitude helped keep us warm.

ETA: At least the restaurant gave her a heads up beforehand, which I’m sure was fueled by people complaining.


Moreover, “Comfort Fee” is a stupid name for a surcharge. As digga wrote, there are additional expenses generated by outdoor seating, and I would guess that most guests who opt for o.s. would be wiling to pony up for the additional peace of mind. But call it something sensible, even Outdoor Surcharge, explaining the incurred costs. And, yes, announce it upfront.


^ Well, there’s also that.


I am in DC this week and had dinner at Founding Farmers who are charging a 5% recovery fee. We also saw this at Isle of Capri in NYC. It irritated me and i complained. i got a call from the restaurant explaining it. I thought it was ok if it went to the wait staff but the restaurant explained that they had fed their employees while they were closed, they were still running at a deficit etc etc. I suggested they do a better job explaining these charges and most of us wouldn’t mind paying them.


And then there’s this:

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I know that this is the Jersey board, but jeez. Way to take advantage. I works too go either. Sorry, ex NYer now Floridian budded in!

I know it’s the same but I’d rather the prices on the actual menu are just bumped 5%.


Completely agree. We’re all aware of the hardship the pandemic placed on restaurants AND about the rise in food prices. Bump the prices and add a line about updated pricing reflecting the current economic challenges (or something like that) and I won’t think twice about it. Don’t make your customers question/figure out your weirdly-named 5% fees!


Obviously, it’s anyone’s prerogative to go or not. But in Barcelona, Florence, Bologna, maybe London… terrace dining is charged a premium of 2–5%. Of course, said charge is listed on the menu, and is generally accepted procedure.


Residents are more than welcome
Bridal suite is occupied
Reasonable charges
Plus some little extras on the side!
Charge 'em for the lice, extra for the mice
Two percent for looking in the mirror twice
Here a little slice, there a little cut
Three percent for sleeping with the window shut
When it comes to fixing prices
There are a lot of tricks he knows
How it all increases, all them bits and pieces
Jesus! It’s amazing how it grows!
[–“Master of the House”, LES MISERABLES]


So I’m torn by this, but overall if I liked the outdoor space and was comfortable out there etc. I would probably pay it and not mind. Personally I prefer this vs. a menu/price increase, and trust me I know from experience, a “temporary” fee stated like this is intended to be “temporary”. Price increases regardless of their “temporary” intent, will become permanent once the cause for the spike subsides. Something like this should generally go away once the need subsides, if not you can easily question / dispute it.

While I totally get restaurants wanting to “make up” for lost profit etc. during the lockdown. The simple fact of the matter (I do not know this place specifically) however many restaurants are now making up for the losses given the outdoor mandates that have doubled many places capacity.

If you look at Red Bank for an example, most restaurants in town they have experienced anywhere between 10%-50% increases in capacity due to outdoor seating. While yes the $6. comfort fee seems “excessive” remember, they aren’t paying RENT for the space you are occupying. So yes you have the propane gas charge etc. - you don’t have any of your other CAM expenses.

So from my perspective if the space is “nice” and you are receiving a value for how they have it set up, I have no issue with it. I personally prefer it broken out as an additional fee, and if I were a fan of the place I would keep an eye out for if/when it goes away. If it doesn’t have a while I would certainly ask why.


I get that certain restaurants will charge a comfort fee but how about the other fees that we now accept and have becoming permanent?
Like debit or credit card fee?
How about I am not knowingly going to any restaurants that charge extra fees.
Plenty of excellent restaurants around that know how to scale their menu to avoid these “ hidden “ charges.


I don’t live in NJ, so I am only an interested third party and not a stakeholder. But if this type of thing sweeps, that would absolutely suck, and would frankly be just another example of the responsible citizens being penalized, while the ones that keep covid going enjoy life without restraints. It’s the deniers and the anti-vaxxers that should be made to sit outside and pay fees. I love the idea of restaurants that allow only vaccinated patrons to eat inside. Reward those of us being socially responsible. Win win win.


It just FEELS like nickel and diming. I completely get your point and obviously plenty of restaurants are struggling but either explain the charge on the menu or flat increase prices X%. Personally, I’d like a flat increase. My grocery bill is absolutely higher than it was 1-2 years ago. It makes sense restaurants would have to pass that cost to consumers.


Come to New York City. Them’s the rules over here.