Logan Square restaurant Fat Rice adding surcharge to benefit employees

Stacey Baca Image
Saturday, December 29, 2018
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Expect to pay a little more at one of Chicago's hottest restaurants. Fat Rice in Logan Square is adding a new tax that will benefit their workers.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Expect to pay a little more at one of Chicago's hottest restaurants. Menu prices will stay the same at Fat Rice in Logan Square, but the restaurant will now add a surcharge to every bill.

Starting January 1st, your bill will include a 4-percent surcharge. The owners hope this is a watershed moment for the entire industry, and they say it will solely benefit their employees.

"We truly believe that all members of our team and restaurant workers are integral and no more important or less important than the servers or the bartenders," said Abraham Conlon, Fat Rice's co-owner.

Conlon and his partner, Adrienne Lo, say they will use the surcharge money to pay for two missions.

"Our 4-percent hospitality provision is two-fold," Conlon explained. "Not only to provide health care for all of our employees, but also to provided higher wages for back of the house employees."

That means higher wages for employees you may not see, like the cooks and dishwashers. And the owners say their healthcare plan will split costs 50/50 with the workers.

"Honestly, most of our employees don't currently have health insurance. This is a big reason we are doing this. We are looking to make changes in this industry," said Adrienne Lo, Fat Rice's co-owner.

Added Conlon: "For critics who say healthcare is the responsibility of the owner, they're exactly right. This is our responsibility and that's why we are taking it on."

Fat Rice is among a handful of Chicago restaurants testing the surcharge. If you ask restaurant analysts, Chicagoans may see more restaurants add the extra cost.

"I think we'll see it selectively," said David Henkes of Technomic, a company that researches and analyzes the restaurant industry. "But selectively among restaurants that can afford to do it and have that cachet to be able to do it."

In exchange, the owners do plan to lower their suggested tip on every bill to 16, 18, or 20 percent, and some customers plan to cut back on tipping after hearing about the surcharge.

"Four percent increase - I will tip less. My own personal opinion," said customer Milton Mai, an Indiana resident who visited the restaurant during a Chicago visit.

Others customers see it as a benefit, a reason they would support Fat Rice in the future.

"I kind of respect it as a decision. It's bold. But, you know, I think it's an interesting way of trying to help people," said customer Dustin Nakao-Haider.

Customer Ulises Martinez agreed, adding that it would encourage people to work at a place where the owners care about their employees.

"It makes you want to work here. You feel like they care for you. You want to be at that job and show up and be energetic," Martinez said.

Fat Rice's owners plan to gauge customers' feedback, and they hope most will support their mission.