As widely reported, employers of all sizes are challenged in complying with the myriad of complex regulatory and compliance obligations under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).   As our blog readers are well aware, certain large employers, as defined in the ACA, must provide “essential health benefits” that meet the law’s standards to full time employees under the Employer Mandate by 2015 or face penalties. Companies have spent time and money on consultants and lawyers to understand how the ACA impacts their business and their bottom line. 

In response, some restaurants are finding unique ways to pay for the costs of compliance required by the ACA.  According to a recent CNN article, many restaurants, primarily in Florida, have added an “ACA Surcharge” (typically 1%) to the food and beverage purchases in the bill to cover these costs. Even though the “pay or play” provisions of the ACA do not take effect until 2015, or 2016 for small employers, these restaurants are starting to create a fund which will continue annually. According to the report, customers have been paying the surcharge without protest.

If restaurant owners decide to implement this surcharge, it is best to let patrons know about it either on a sign or verbally by their servers, rather than having them discover the surcharge when they get the bill.  Other restaurants may decide it’s better to increase food costs in order to recoup the increase in compliance costs.  Even more just may consider it to be the cost of doing business.