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Restaurants turn to supply chain surcharge to survive higher costs

Taste of Belgium institutes 7.5% surcharge
PHOTOS: Inside Taste of Belgium's renovations
Posted at 5:16 PM, Dec 22, 2021

CINCINNATI — As supply chain issues linger, local businesses are feeling the impact. You may have noticed a "COVID" or "supply chain" surcharge on your restaurant bill lately.

At Taste of Belgium's locations across the city, they've had to implement a temporary surcharge of 7.5% to cover increased costs and challenges in getting the right supplies.

“The prices have been fluctuating so much and a lot of it is the prices have been going up,” said Jean Francois Flechet, owner of Taste of Belgium. “For example from our food supplier, we never know. It’s kind of like Christmas every day. When we unpack the truck, we never know what’s going to be in there. What is not going to be there. What item is going to be subbed. What the incremental cost is."

It hasn't gone unnoticed by patrons of the restaurant.

“I actually noticed after I paid, which is fine,” said patron Hannah Volz, who ate at Taste of Belgium Tuesday night.

She said she understood the need for the charge, but it did initially catch her off guard.

“I hadn’t heard of restaurants doing it yet. And I made a comment to my friend,” she said. “Just knowing everything that’s happening in the world with supply chain issues and staffing issues I can’t say I’m necessarily surprised. I understand.”

According to the Ohio Restaurant Association, restaurant owners across the state are trying to combat the cost of the supply chain disruption.

“Some people do put something on their actual receipt that there will be a surcharge for supply chain. That’s one way to go about it. Other restaurants are just changing their restaurant prices,” said John Barker, President and CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association. “Either case, restaurants are already in such a tight financial situation that they’re going to have to pass on those costs, because if they don’t, they’ll lose money.”

Barker is advising restaurant owners to prepare for supply chain impacts at least through the spring.

“(Supply chain issues are) not going to go away, because of the underlying issues for it. And that is just a lack of available workers up and down the supply chain, not just in restaurants, but in every industry that we’re aware of,” said Barker.

“It only takes a few people or a few products or a few shipments to be off to really disrupt an entire supply chain,” said Chuck Sox, with the University of Cincinnati’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business.

He predicts a return to normal by this time next year.

“I think by the end of 2022, things will be fairly normal… but I think a big component to answer that question is how quickly we get the pandemic under control,” said Sox.

Until then, Flechet is asking for customers to be patient.

“Most restaurants are still in survival mode,” he said.