New California Law about Junk Fees and its Impact on Restaurant Prices

Minimum wage is $16/hr now. If waitstaff gets a full40 hours, that’s about $2,500 a month, before deductions. So call it $2,000 take home. That’s not much in the Bay Area. I’m not sure how to calculate tips but I imagine it would still be tough. And that’s why I guess servers everywhere are being vocal to patrons about tips. You know, they also want to eat after paying rent.

A modest 1-bedroom, safe area, no view, no garage is at least $2,600.

You can find in-law apartments for about $2,000.

(This is in San Francisco)

But…but…but…Jesse Watters says that fast food workers at $20/hour are making $100k/year…!

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Minimum wage was never meant to be a living wage.


That’s one of the fundamental problems - if you have to have multiple jobs just to survive, it will have a deep impact how you live with your family, raise your kids etc etc……


Capitalism doesn’t work for everyone.


Not sure what that has to do with anything.

Capitalism, in and of itself, does not mandate a certain wage for workers. The government sets certain legally required wage levels, and that regime could be capitalistic, socialistic, or even despotic.

The problem here is that people tend to now have equated minimum wage with living wage, which is just FUD mixed with ignorance.

Minimum wage was never meant to be a living wage; it still isn’t today.

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I think at least FDR thought of a minimum wage as a living wage.

The first minimum wage enacted by FDR (as part of the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933) was later declared unconstitutional.

And lest we take too much from one man, especially FDR, who threw Japanese Americans into internment camps.

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so , , , , when you graduate from college and take an ‘entry level’ job -
is that
$200k/yr = $96.15/hr
$300k/yr? = $144.23/hr

You don’t need to remind me about the camps, but that’s really a red herring.


As with all forms of societies, including capitalism, there are many shades of gray. I hope even in a heavily capitalism-leaning society we care about the well-being of others, their families and lifes to a certain degree.
In addition, many people who might not care about others/poorer people and think it is OK if they have multiple jobs just to survive, will be quite surprised how much AI/ML over the next 5-10 years will change also “high earning” jobs and that those people will be in similar situations in the not too distant future


This is a paid site but the title and subtitle says it all. This is one reason why the junk fee ban is going in place. Owner gets to administrate the fees. It was from Soliel Hos article, still locked.

If restaurantuers are wondering why there’s a labor shortage for some jobs, this and taking home $2,500 a month could be a reason.

Restaurants have relied on CHEAP labor in the US for a long time. Like I said, it’s cultural and that’s hard to change.

not surprised to see this push back: (from the Chron)

Many California restaurants have been preparing to remove automatic surcharges from customers’ bills to comply with the state’s new law that bans “junk fees” starting July 1. But at the last minute, state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would exempt restaurants and bars from the law.

If the new legislation passes, diners could continue to see the automatic fees they’ve come to recognize on checks, such as for mandatory gratuity, credit card processing fees or, as is common in San Francisco, for offsetting the cost of the city’s healthcare mandate.

there was a poll that accompanied the article:

Should junk fees be banned. Total readers submissions: 898


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Scott W co authored the new resolution ‘clarifying’ that junk fees don’t apply to restaurants, and this is the first time i have been on the other side of an issue from him. Generally he and i have been in agreement.

I am thinking of a longer post, but i don’t think people understand how much of the cost of eating out in ca is going to servers. Besides having a strong minimum wage, they get all the tips. I was at a new restaurant in RWC yesterday, and they don’t have servers at all. They have front of house maitred’ seating (like a boss traffic controller), they have qr code ordering (toast, and wifi if you need it, with a sign if you want to order from a menu flag someone down), runners to bring food, bussers clearing tables fast. Stations for water, tea, silverware, to go boxes. No rush to leave, no hovering, but no waiting for menus or server or anything.

They put the money into the decor, food, and lower prices. I can’t remember last time i spent so little and got so much.

We were also in and out faster. I bet they were turning tables 30 percent faster, and with a nicer feel than counter service (like zareens next door) which also has no servers.

Yeah, we tipped. The online payment system said tips 100 percent shared among all workers. Felt ok. No hidden fees, tip was extra.

Guess what? HUGE LINE. Especially families. Lot of tables (inside outside back patio).

Alpine inn uses the same model, and the same software (toast) which has good support for payments and split checks and tablet based ‘order from anyone you can flag down’ (not bussers tho, they don’t have tablets). Also a ton of tables lots of people family friendly.

I am sure toast isn’t cheap but there is no way it is even half what a server staff would be.

Maybe the age of servers is over?

Not sure if I would agree - I guess everybody goes to restaurants for different reasons. For us it isn’t about just getting in and getting your food asap to be able to leave fast but to have a long, slow dinner with food ordered at different time points and actually getting to know often the people behind the restaurants through interactions (over the years we habe met a number of great people working in restaurants and even met some of them
outside of work.) A place like Mazra, at least for us, is a fast-casual place but not really a place for a great dinner (similar to Zareens) and more a place for take out. So far we only had take out from
both place because of their fast casual approach.
I also wouldn’t call Mazra as having really significant lower prices. e.g. the duck plate or lamb shank at $27 and $30 are reasonable prices but not really low

I don’t think Mazra will be long on my list either, for the same reason Zareen’s isn’t, and yours wouldn’t. It’s got a nice energy, but more like a loud dining hall, less like an enjoyable experience. Fair to say, though, I’m on the cost unconscious extreme side of the scale.

The lines speak to this being a successful joint, and, I suspect, a successful model for lots of people. Although you call it “fast casual”, I don’t think there’s much that’s necessarily fast about it. No one is hanging over your shoulder. You can order a thing, then order another thing - toast makes that quite easy. I saw a lot of families - large tables, kids, multiple generations, although it was a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Same at Alpine Inn (Rosotti’s? Something with a Z? Let’s just call it Alpine inn). That place is HUGE. Lots of family tables. It expanded to the size of its kitchen - a little beyond, I think - and it’s a place for lingering. People take over picknick tables for hours, a bottle of wine, a pitcher of beer, and a flow of noshes and appetizers. I rarely go there myself, but did take a family group six months ago - crowd pleasing meal, pretty good quality, easy to order (different family groups rather seemed to like having their own checks). We would have been a bit of a load on a traditional server, and covered by an extra service charge, but not there.

What if Vesta moved to this model? Not having servers, tips to all staff? Would they be able to lower prices 20%? 10%? They’re already quite popular - nice space between tables, great vibe, not too loud unlike Mazra inside - would they get a bit of business back? I happened to run into the manager of Vesta on the side-street (main), we said hello, and I asked his opinion - he said super nice family, everyone’s hoping they succeed. Didn’t mention anything else :-), and he seemed to be either on break or preoccupied so I didn’t drill him on these questions. Maybe next time.

Regarding cost, although the lamb shank might be the same price in a “regular” restaurant, that was a pretty good lamb shank (we had it). The scallops were a small portion but great taste as a mezze for $14. The stuffed bread was a bargain at that price. I like being able to get out of a restaurant for less than $50/pp, and these days it seems like I’m usually well over $75 and starting to approach $100. Alcohol is a factor, they don’t have it, but I have in mind a recent visit to Hillstone in SF which has a nice location, but is also a chain. It has a lot of servers, and lunch was about $90/pp with no appetizers and no alcohol. There were surcharges, and I felt compelled to tip high due to the service. The place was pretty empty - the tourist trade can’t really take that load of price. It looks like I should have actually been at Fog City [Diner] a block away, it looked kinda closed but its hours are open for lunch.

We go more regularly to Cru, owned by the group that does Donata Enoteca, because we like the ambiance, they usually have some interesting wine, and very addictive pizzas in the Roman style instead of the super flat style. The salmon is probably my favorite. And jazz about half the time. The place is rarely half full, rarely has more than a couple people sitting out on the patio. One reason I like it - I never have to think twice if there’s a wait. They seem to usually have 2 to 3 servers, and unless one sits at the bar, there’s always a lot of waiting for food and service. We always sit at the bar.

Another example is probably Barrone (also by the Vesta family). It’s traditional counter serve, so you do get greeted and interact with a human. Prices there have seemed to creep up, but they also know their market - price insensitive people - but it’s also true the place is a bit of a graveyard after the lunch rush. Portions are always small, I go there for dinner when I’ve had a big lunch. In this sense, maybe I’m wrong, maybe it’s less about the service model and more about the individual restaurant picking their price point, table spacing, quality level and menu.

Another-another certainly in Fast Casual is Gott’s in Town and Country. I don’t go there because I simply think their burgers are sub-standard - see prior burger discussion - a bit on the thin and flavorless side. They don’t make up for it in beer selection or ambiance. They seem to get the family trade in the same way, but prices are a bit higher (they are in town and country!), and the place isn’t that busy. If I’m hungry and in T&C, you’ll find me at Howie’s.

I’ll still put a chip down on this form of restaurant, no server, large space, cut-above food, being a winning model in the coming years. We’ll see.

The polls are unsurprisingly yet restauranteurs continue to want to put surcharges on checks. Oddly they don’t seem to understand human nature despite having a business that serves one of the most basic human needs. People. don’t want to see that stuff while dining out.

It’s like if the HVAC company who puts in a new exhaust system in a restaurant sent a bill and on the bottom they listed overhead like healthcare, safety requirements and other standard operational things . I doubt restauranteurs would find it funny, ironic or anything but questionable…and like most people they’d ask WTF is this and why are you putting this on the bill? And like restaurants the first line staff would deal with the BS….waitstaff or billing. Just dumb stuff by restaurants. Polls with that much of a margin tend to have basic truth.

On a similar note, people dislike QR code menus and ordering…like 70% don’t like it., even tech savvy Gen Z. People understood during the pandemic. People kind of understand at fast food joints and even fast casual places…but they still don’t like them because there’s always questions that a static interface can’t handle. A google search shows many restaurants are ditching the QR code order and menus.

I can see how some situations or people don’t mind or prefer QR ordering and menus. If you have a family of 4 the QR menu might be better than having a kid look at a menu and then having waitstaff process things. That takes time. That same mom and dad at a nice restaurant on date night would be a different situation, and standard. Also in tech savvy Silicon Valley QR codes might be more acceptable. Otherwise I don’t think the preference for a printed menu will change. It’s been done that way for a very long time and it’s cultural.


Zot’s (Alpine Inn) in Portola Valley. Thanks for the memories! Menu very much upgraded from the last time I was three 3 decades ago!

Sad that so many at HO find it so easy to refer to those with different opinions (or no opinions) on this subject “stupid.”

It would have been simple to say others are ill-informed or just value other things in a different way. But so many have chosen to call others stupid.


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