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Atlanta restaurant tacks on health insurance fee to diners’ bill

An Atlanta restaurant has taken some hits for adding an unfamiliar fee to its customers’ bills.

JenChan’s Pizza and Chinese in Cabbagetown, Georgia, received hate on social media after a customer called out the restaurant’s 4% fee for employees’ health insurance on the bill.

The customer posted a photo of the bill on Reddit last month, which showed an extra $2.02 charge at the bottom.

It received over 2,000 comments and nearly 9,000 reactions, although the Redditor has since deleted the original post.

Criticism trickled in from others, with one Facebook user even commenting on a photo of JenChan’s owners — showing the married couple Jen and Emily Chan, plus their child — with these ominous words: “I’ve never seen a family that needs to be beaten up more, make that health care come in handy.”

The owners responded in a statement posted on Facebook on Dec. 29, 2023, writing that “everything seemed fine” when they served the customer in question at the restaurant.

They also pointed out that the health insurance charge is completely optional — and that any customer can opt out of paying it.

“We post it on the menu itself and the receipt to avoid this,” the restaurant wrote. 

“It has been on the menu for about a year now; we were inspired by another couple of restaurants here that do the same.”

JenChan’s Pizza and Chinese in Cabbagetown, Georgia was criticized for its 4% health insurance charge on bills. Neighbor in Need Reynoldstown

In Feb. 2023, JenChan posted on Facebook, “Our health insurance premiums for our employees went from $408 per employee to $650. Unsustainable. Congress? Bueller … “

The following notice is posted on the restaurant’s menu and bills.

“On your receipt you will notice 4% health insurance we implemented after our premiums more than tripled last year. Thank you for being a part of our efforts to ensure our staff can seek care for whatever mental or physical ailments they may face. We have appreciated all the positive feedback from you, thank you! Please know that we will be more than happy to remove this for you without hesitation.”

The restaurant also stated in the same Facebook post that other businesses handle rising costs by either shrinking their portion sizes or increasing their prices.

In an interview with Fox 5 Atlanta, Emily Chan said many people have asked why the owners haven’t folded health insurance costs into “the price of their fried rice.”

“We don’t want to do that,” she said. “We want to raise awareness. We want people to see that there’s a crisis.”

In its post, the restaurant noted that “this is a hostile climate for small business owners with rising food costs, taxes, inflation, you name it.”

The establishment also wrote, “We are just trying to keep our doors open and our employees’ health insurance covered, and we are doing it as transparently and honestly as we can. Because we do care.”

JenChan’s opened its doors six months before the coronavirus pandemic, which put a strain on business.

The owners claimed that they have yet to make an “actual profit,” and pointed out numerous other small independent Atlanta eateries that have not survived.

“If we didn’t do something, we would have [had] to cancel the insurance or close our doors,” the statement said.

“So, we do it because we are driven by passion and sentimentality and a desire to bring folks together around a table … It is in our bones. Hospitality is why we wake up in the morning.”

“We post it on the menu itself and the receipt to avoid this,” the restaurant wrote.  Yelp

The restaurant claimed that it refunded the angry customer’s entire bill over the $2.02 charge in hopes the person would remove the viral social post.

“Power companies, gas companies, phone companies, ticket companies … they all have a zillion charges tacked on that they aren’t so transparent about,” the Chans wrote in the same statement.

“We have one [charge] … and we are very clear about it. Why blast the small business?”

The family went on to encourage readers to “go blast the insurance companies making a killing with one-star reviews … but not the family-owned business trying to do their best.”

“We really are just trying to do our best.”

Fox News Digital reached out to the restaurant, which declined to comment.

Sean Kennedy, National Restaurant Association EVP of public affairs, weighed in on the struggle that small businesses face as they try to stay afloat.

“This issue really illustrates just how razor-thin profit margins are for restaurants and just how hard it is for restaurants every day to financially ensure that they can keep their doors open and serve their community,” he told FOX Business in a phone interview.

“What this restaurant is trying to do is add a benefit from its workforce that will allow them to retain and recruit more workers — and obviously, the labor challenge is a tremendous one facing every restaurant.” 

The average restaurant’s profit margin in the U.S. is between 3% and 4%, according to Kennedy of the National Restaurant Association.

“When restaurants try to innovate … they are facing a brick wall because their profit margins are so low,” he said.

Kennedy and the National Restaurant Association encourage restaurant owners to take note of JenChan’s approach to being transparent with the public.

Customers criticized the eatery for the unusual policy.

The third-highest cost facing restaurant operators today is credit card swipe fees, Kennedy revealed — while owners also must deal with inconsistent demand and “runaway” inflation in food prices.

“The restaurant industry continues to be under enormous cost pressures that are largely out of their control,” he said. “Right now, about 15% of restaurants are putting additional fees onto their [bills].”

While added charges won’t be popular with every consumer, Kennedy reminded restaurant-goers that these fees may be the only option for small business owners to keep their doors open.

“They’re doing everything they can to ensure that the customer’s meal is going to be as high-quality and low-priced as humanly possible,” he said. 

“If you want to put your business elsewhere and go to another restaurant, go for that — but at the same time, recognize that restaurants are operating under incredible cost pressures, and we are the last industry that really passes our costs on to our customers.” 

Kennedy added that the industry is asking for patience, support and understanding. 

“The restaurant consumer — they get to pick what’s going to happen here,” he said. 

“But their decisions are going to go a long way toward whether restaurants like this are going to have their doors open six months from now.”

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Written by SaleemBaloch

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