How much is health coverage worth to a gourmand?
In San Francisco, where fine dining is practically a competitive sport, restaurants are finding out as they grapple with how to pay for the citys new employer mandate while not alienating customers.
On Jan. 9, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the city an emergency stay allowing implementation of its employer mandate to help fund a citywide healthcare access initiative. The city aims to provide low-cost health services to its 82,000 uninsured residents through the program.
Businesses with 50 or more employees that dont provide health benefits started paying between $1.17 and $1.76 per hour per employee last month. Beginning April 1, businesses with between 20 and 49 employees will pay $1.17 per hour per employee to the city, or offer minimum benefits to workers.
The Golden Gate Restaurant Association, a trade group that is spearheading the legal challenge, says the fees will create economic hardship for restaurants, forcing many to close or relocate.
While some eateries are simply raising prices, others are trying more creative approaches. Delfina, a beloved Mission District Italian restaurant, has added a $1.25 per-diner coperto, or service charge. Each bill explains the charge as in support of Healthy San Francisco, includes the Internet address of the healthcare program, and a final Grazie!
Craig Stoll, the restaurants chef and proprietor, says that the scope of the city mandate is so huge that we had no choice but to impose the surcharge. We didnt raise (food) prices, but when our suppliers eventually pass on their added costs from the mandate, well have to.
The citys most influential restaurant critic, Michael Bauer of the San Francisco Chronicle, gave Delfina a rave review for the surcharge on his blog, saying it clearly spotlights the benefits and cost of this decision.