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West Michigan restaurant adding $1 COVID-19 surcharge to bills

Other restaurants say "it’s not out of the realm of possibility."

HOLLAND, Mich. — When you pickup your to-go order from Goog's Pub and Grub in Holland, you will notice a new charge on your bill. It's an extra $1 "Covid Surcharge."

"It's plainly labeled on the receipt," said general manager Palmer White. "Its to help us get through this time, help to keep the lights on for us and our employees. Hopefully when this is all over we can just take it off."

The goal of the surcharge is to offset some costs. Local restaurants are relying on takeout and delivery sales, but that's still a fraction of the business they had before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

White said they want to be transparent with the charge. They did not want to raise prices across the menu, but needed to find a way to make up some lost income. 

"We’re in extraordinary times," said White, "Margins are razor thin, as costs rise. Beef prices have almost doubled. Our hamburger bun we’ve used for 16 years just got discontinued out of nowhere. So, we had to scramble to find a replacement that’s 15 cents more a bun."

Credit: 13 OYS
A Goog's employee serves a customer through the drive through window.

Goog's is currently selling their specialty cheeseburgers to customers through their drive-up window. It's been a way to still serve people, while remaining distant and safe. 

"I know other restaurants are doing similar things," said White, "we’re not the first, not the last, not the only."

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So far, White says the customer response has been mostly positive to the surcharge, and people understand the strange and difficult time everyone is facing right now. Adding the surcharge has not affected sales. 

"It really gives validation to what you’re trying to accomplish," said White. 

Other restaurants have not added the charge, but also have not ruled out the possibility. 

"It's not out of the realm of possibility," said Chris Andrus, co-owner of Mitten Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, "depending how long this goes on for. It’s hard to see more than a week into the future right now.

Andrus said they have not talked about adding a surcharge to orders. He said the community has been extremely supportive in this time, and that's the main reason they are staying afloat. 

Credit: 13 OYS
Pizza boxes and beer cans now fill the dining room of the Mitten Brewing Company.

"Last we checked, our customer tipping is so much higher than it normally is when we’re open," said Andrus. "So, that’s honestly keeping us open."

Mitten Brewing Company is selling their pizza and beer as pickup orders in a tent outside the Westside restaurant. They also offer delivery through GrubHub. 

However, Andrus said he doesn't fault any restaurant or business adding a surcharge or doing something similar. 

"I don’t think it’s a bad thing to do," said Andrus, "When you ask people to risk their safety to keep providing a service, I don’t think it’s out of the question."

Andrus also pointed out some issues in the supply chain that could change the business and other restaurants down the line. 

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"We’re going to start to see some pretty severe supply chain interruptions coming soon," said Andrus, "We’ haven’t necessarily seen it yet, but I’m seeing the warning signs when we order product, and checking commodity prices and shortages. It’s pretty frightening."

Mitten Brewing Company has also cut their staff to 20 hours a week, but paying them full time. That's so they can maximize their time safely at home, and keeping the business running. 

Credit: 13 OYS
The Mitten Brewing Company is selling their beer in cans with pickup orders.

"I think it’s a great time to be a small business in America, once this is all over," said Andrus, "because there will be such a pent up demand to reward companies that do the right thing and make the right moves for their staffs."

White also said he hopes the area's restaurants can all find a way to survive the difficult time. 

"West Michigan has such a great food scene," said White, "and hopefully we can save as many spots as we can. However that has to happen, I hope they figure it out."

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