Customers divided as more restaurants adopt kitchen service fee

Local News

It’s been nearly three months since some island restaurants added a new kitchen service fee to bills.

Since then, more businesses have done the same.

Viewers reached out to us using the Report It feature on our website, asking if a kitchen service charge on a restaurant bill is legal.

It all started after the Ninth Circuit Court ruled waiters do not have to share their tips with kitchen staff. Restaurants can add this fee as long as they are disclosing what it’s for.

The fee varies from restaurant to restaurant, but the money is meant for the people who are making your food.

“Every little bit helps,” said Van Ohumukini, a former cook.

Many people told KHON2 they would rather see a small fee go to the kitchen staff instead of all prices being raised.

“I think its appropriate,” said Honolulu resident Justin Francisco.

Gyotaku on King Street has a sign posted outside the door notifying customers that a four-percent kitchen service fee will be added to all checks. The sign also says that the owners believe all employees contribute to the overall dining experience.

“The service industry, especially restaurants, it’s not easy business. It’s hard work,” said Ohumukini.

Restaurants have options. They can add a flat kitchen service fee to the bill, add a line on the bill for customers to add their own tip for the kitchen staff, or they can raise prices altogether and eliminate tipping.

“I think the transparency is better because it gives you that option, the option to turn away as opposed to sitting at the table and realizing since I was here last time, prices have gone up,” Francisco said.

KHON2 brought up the kitchen service fee with Clayton Kamida, president of the Hawaii Employers Council. He worked with the Hawaii Restaurant Association to educate restaurant owners about their options.

“The service fee is not unlawful, so if consumers are unhappy with the fee, they can complain to management and talk to the restaurant about it,” Kamida said.

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