'America's richest restaurateur' adds 3% surcharge to bills so he can pay staff minimum wage

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Diners at a billionaire-owned US seafood restaurant have been charged extra so owners can pay staff the minimum wage.

The Oceanaire in Washington D.C. sparked outrage when it slapped a surcharge of three per cent on customers’ bills because of “rising costs”.

A note on one diner’s receipt read: “Due to the rising costs of doing business in this location, including costs associated with higher minimum wage rates, a 3% surcharge has been added to your total bill.”

The practice came to light after the punter contacted blog Popville to complain about the new policy, which he suggested was deceptive.

“This seems odd… instead of raising the price of the food, they charge a hidden tax that shows up on bill,” he told the website.

Others quickly piled in, with person commenting: “I have no problem paying high prices to support better wages, but I do have a major problem with this sort of deceptive business practice.”

Another wrote: “Just raise prices if you need to, don’t try to slip this in under the radar and then pretty much blame [it] on employees who need to make a living!”

The Oceanaire is owned by a company called Landry’s, whose chief executive Tilman Fertitta has been called “America’s richest restauranteur” by Forbes.

The policy has now been discontinued at the company’s restaurants.

A spokeswoman told the Washington Post: “Due to the restaurant industry’s competitive market, we decided this was a temporary and nominal surcharge.

“The Oceanaire is committed to being transparent with our patrons and noted the surcharge on our menu, the customer’s bill and signage in the restaurant.

“In response to recent feedback, we have chosen to remove this surcharge effective immediately and will explore more traditional means to address the industry’s rising costs, such as raising menu prices.”

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