Some restaurants adding 'inflation fees' to bills amid rising food costs

Posted at 6:27 AM, Mar 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-10 10:28:43-05

We have all felt the sting of inflation, and businesses and restaurants are constantly re-evaluating prices and practices to stay afloat.

One metro Detroit breakfast spot, The Fly Trapp in Ferndale, was forced to add an inflation fee to each check.

Genevieve Christopher started working at The Fly Trapp one month before COVID-19 closed them down. But they weathered the storm, switched owners, and now they're surviving. However, rising food costs are threatening to put them in the red.

"I mean eggs. We are heavily, heavily egg-based because we’re breakfast. Eggs are extremely expensive. Eggs, sugar, bread are super, super expensive, so we have to offset the cost somehow," Christopher said.

So, the restaurant decided to add an inflation fee. It's a 4% charge tacked on to each bill.

Joni Harris, a regular who immediately noticed when her total changed, said she had mixed feelings at first.

Matthew Buskard, the owner of The Fly Trapp, made a transparent post on a Ferndale community forum explaining the fee is to avoid changing food prices and having to re-print menus, which is also pricy.

"This may seem silly- why add a fee to every bill? First to help us cover the costs of the ingredients as they continue to skyrocket. With the fee- we can adjust it and remove it as costs decrease over time. If we were to reprint menus to adjust the costs each time we would spend so much money printing menus- and as a small operation we cannot sustain that. We are hopeful that this small increase will help us to ensure that the Fly Trap is here for another 17 plus years. We also cannot wait to delete this increase immediately once prices drop!" he wrote on the page.

However, University of Michigan Economic Forecaster Daniil Manenkov said we may not want to hold our breath.

"I doubt they are going to take off this inflation fee anytime soon," he said.

He said it's more likely the charge will increase, so consumers should expect to see more businesses adding fees and upping costs, which feels like a burden. But, he said it could be a blessing when you look at the alternative.

“A scenerio where food prices correct quickly downward features a severe recession, which I think is worse than having to live with elevated levels of food prices, but staying employed," he said.

It's only been three weeks since they debuted the inflation fee, and thankfully, Christopher said customers have reacted well to the charge.

"People have been pretty gracious, I mean they ask about it but no one is upset," she said.

Harris said the extra $2 or so is worth it.

“It helps them stay open I have somewhere to come have fun and hang out," she said.