Lawyer launches class-action lawsuit against Italian restaurant chain for ‘deceptive’ $2 inflation fee

A Hawaii-based attorney is bringing a class-action lawsuit to a popular restaurant chain for implementing an ‘inflation fee.’

The $2 inflation fee is being added to patrons’ bills in a way that the attorney, Brandee Faria, characterizes as “deceptive.”

“Restaurants and corporations like to add on these fees that are supposed to look official and somehow required, and in fact it’s just a way for them to increase their bottom line and decrease their overhead,” Faria told Fox Business of the lawsuit she’s filed against Romano’s Macaroni Grill earlier this year.

Faria has received multiple complaints about the new tactic by the restaurant chain, citing her decades of experience with consumer class-action law on how she aggregated the grievances. The restaurant chain filed for bankruptcy protection in 2017 and is no stranger to lawsuits. In 2008, the Macaroni Grill had 230 locations across the nation, but now, as a result of a rapid decline in fortune, the Denver-based company clings on to just 41 remaining stores.

Faria claimed that the inflation fee is only the “tip of the iceberg” and that other establishments are finding different ways to mitigate the impact of inflation such as “kitchen service charges” that can amount to as much as 3% of the total bill.

“This is something that is much more widespread,” Faria said. “But the whole key to maintaining their ability to continue this is just by making it a nominal amount that nobody’s really going to grumble about it.”

Faria says that it’s not just the inflation fee itself but the way it’s presented to consumers that is truly onerous. She indicates that the consumer isn’t aware of the fees until after their meal is over, leaving them bereft of any option but to pay the bill in its entirety.

“Companies love to add on fees or surcharges, because at $2 or 3%, the average individual is not going to do anything,” she says. “What can you do at that point in time? You’ve already eaten the food.”

“It adds up very quickly,” she continued. “It’s just a systematic way in which restaurants are judiciously trying to raise their prices and increase their bottom line without losing any customers.”

The consumer only becomes aware of the up-charge when they receive their itemized receipt, and even then it’s placed in a manner that Faria describes as “egregious.” The charge, she said, isn’t placed near the bottom of the check where one would normally expect to see any additional fees. Instead, it’s situated at the top of the bill amongst the rest of the order.

“It makes it even more egregious and surreptitious. They’re obviously trying to deflect attention from the fee,” she said. “It’s the coercion facet of it that I find so offensive.”

She went on to suggest that if businesses were more transparent about the fees then there would be much of less an issue.

Stephen Levins, Director of the Hawaii State Office of Consumer Protection, agreed with the attorney, saying, “If a business is going to do that, they need to be upfront, they need to be transparent. And the actual so-called fee that they’re charging needs to correlate with some semblance of reality.”

Hawaii News Now was unable to reach the restaurant’s parent company for comment, but according to the news outlet, due to complaints all across the county, the restaurant may have dispensed with the fee.

Inflation continues to challenge businesses and consumers alike as they are forced to find new ways to contend with higher prices. Wages have risen 5.1% but fail to keep up with the inflation rate of 8.2% since last September.


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