Restaurants add health care surcharge to tab

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you dine out at any of the Gator's Dockside restaurants in Jacksonville, you may notice a little extra added to your bill.

The chain of restaurants is adding a 1 percent surcharge to their checks, asking customers to help pay for health insurance it will be required to provide for employees under the Affordable Care Act.

The owners say the alternative would be cutting employee hours.

Glenda Thomas, who visits Gator's Dockside on 103rd Street for the oysters, good service and nice people says it's a small price to pay.

"We always have felt very welcome here," Thomas said. "We've been coming here for, gosh, probably a decade, if not longer."

The restaurant says the Affordable Care Act surcharge will help the company offset the cost of health care, which will be required for all employees by next year.

The owners of Gator's Dockside say this isn't political -- they aren't for or against the new federal health care changes -- they just want to follow the law and take care of their employees.

The average meal here is $15, so that means most customers would pay about 15 cents more.  Signs are posted around the restaurant making sure customers know about the new charge.

"Do you know how hard their people work? Fifteen cents? And you sit there and you're enjoying yourself?" Thomas says. "I don't have a problem with that."

Gator's Dockside rolled out the new surcharge in some of its central Florida restaurants last week and across northeast Florida just two days ago.  Managers say the surcharge won't cover the entire cost for 500 employees' health care, but it's a start.

"We're trying to be transparent about what our costs are by not raising their costs," said Sandra Clark of Gator's Dockside. "(We're) asking for a penny per dollar to keep our full-time employees going."