‘Kitchen appreciation fees’ becoming the norm in WNY

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Prices on everything from gasoline to groceries have been going up in recent months, and your restaurant bill may be next.

If you were planning or already have eaten out in the last few weeks, you might have seen what is called a kitchen appreciation fee added to the bill. It’s meant to support those who make your meal, and experts say it’s a trend that’s here to stay.

“Servers, hostesses and the bartenders in the front of the house who are waiting on the customers are able to receive tips. The back of the house and the kitchen staff can’t share in those tips. So, the idea to create some sort of kitchen appreciation comes from the idea that they want to also reward and incentivize those kitchen staff members who are also working very hard to provide you with a wonderful meal,” said President and CEO of the NYS Restaurant Association Melissa Fleischut.

Fleischut says in New York State, it’s against the law for tips to be shared with kitchen staff. So, this is a way to bring in and keep a more talented and dedicated kitchen help.

We reached out to local restaurants that have the added fees. Many wished to remain anonymous due to public push back, but they stress the fee is voluntary.

“On the restaurant side, I think it’s important for folks to remember to overcommunicate with your guests. If this is something that you’re trying to do explain what it is. Explain why you’re doing it, and always be willing to be flexible if it’s a real problem for your guest,” Fleischut continued.

Various posts on Buffalo/Niagara Foodies Facebook group attack the added fees. “This is getting out of hand,” one person wrote, but other posts have more mixed reactions. Several people News 4 spoke with Thursday say an additional 2-4% cost on the bill isn’t a bank breaker.

“I was a little confused at first so I had to ask the waiter and she kind of explained it to me. I understood it because everyone’s in these economic times and struggling so it wasn’t too bad and it’s not hurting me, so I just did it,” said Gio Amodeo.

“This new fee might help restaurants get more kitchen people that really want to work because they know there’s a shortage of people right now. So that might tip the scales a little bit. I mean we have the best food in the world here in western New York. So, I am looking forward to restaurants doing well going forward,” added Rimas Misteikis.

So if you see a kitchen appreciation fee on your bill in the coming days, ask your server about it if you wish to remove it, or if you want to add a few more bucks for those who craft your meal.

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