Brevard County restaurant adding new 20% service fee to every check to avoid raising menu prices

Next time you go out to eat, check your receipt. There may be a new service fee you weren’t expecting.

A new trend is sweeping Florida. Local restaurants are either raising prices or finding new ways to stay afloat with rising costs of food and labor. 

Families will now see a new fee at Pizza Gallery and Grill and 28 North Gastropub, both located at The Avenue in Viera, which are part of the Higher Purpose Restaurant Group owned by Chris Conneen.

He says the new trend is "not very common here in Brevard County." At this time, he isn’t sure of any local restaurants taking up the new model.

A 20% service charge is now added to every check no matter the size of the party. 16-17% goes to the server with the rest going to the restaurant. The restaurant is letting people know about these changes. As soon as people sit down, cards are on the table outlining the hospitality fees.

Some people aren’t so sure about the change.

"They’re telling you it’s the inflation with the food that they’re having to pay for, but that shouldn’t affect the tipping at all," said Buenavista Boyland who says going out to eat is a rarity for her family because of inflation.

"As the cost of groceries are right now, I can’t afford to go out to eat right now much anyways, so if I go out to a nice restaurant and its crappy service – I definitely don’t want to have to pay a 20% tip, so no – I probably would void away from a restaurant that has that saying," added Garyn Munro who thinks service fees should be based off the quality of the service.

Conneen says people are confused about the changes, emphasizing the service fee isn’t a tip.

"This is the biggest rub that we’re experiencing from our guests. Guests are telling us that they don’t appreciate us taking away their right to tip. This is not a tip," he said. "This is a service charge where a restaurant owns that 20% service charge. It’s part of the sale, just like a pizza or a burger or a steak."

Dr. Kevin Murphy is a professor at UCF’S Rosen College of Hospitality and Management. He says this new model is growing in populated areas of the state.

"Restaurants are starting to use this as a way to retain wait staff to ensure they get a certain amount of gratuity and also to offset their costs from having to pay higher wages," Murphy said, also noting this is a more progressive approach to the traditional restaurant model.

Conneen says with this new service fee, they haven’t had to raise menu prices, servers are making more and support staff got a raise. Now, he says tipping isn’t expected anymore at his restaurants. It’s already included in the service fee.

"If you were a 20% tipper in the past, the cost to come to this restaurant is the same," Conneen concluded.