Appetizers
April 9, 2008
Where's the Governor Been Eating?

Is Gov. Schwarzenegger eating out less in Sacramento and more in San Francisco? As reported in today's Bee, the governor is urging state lawmakers to find imaginative new ways to draw in revenue without calling the sources taxes.

"Coperto," anyone? In Italy, you run into this term on dining bills; basically, it means cover or service charge. Since earlier this year the Italian restaurant Delfina in San Francisco has been appropriating "coperto" for a new surcharge levied on diners to help restaurateurs pay for a city-mandated health-care program. At Delfina, the coperto is a flat $1.25 per guest.

Other San Francisco restaurants are adopting similar tactics. A Sacramentan just back from dinner at the new Epic Roasthouse along The Embarcadero sent me a photocopy of his party's bill, which included a 4 percent "health care" charge of $14.42 on a total that without the levy would have been $392.37. "To provide the best health care for our employees a 4% health charge is included," noted the bill.

He dined with a San Franciscan who said similar additional fees are becoming common in the city's restaurants, with patrons often responding by deducting the cost of the health-care levy from the tip they otherwise would leave. If that's the case, don't expect such "copertos" to last for long. Inevitably, restaurateurs will respond to their additional costs as they always have, by raising across-the-board the price of their menu items, thereby not so obviously alarming guests.

Or, giving the governor any new ideas.

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