Restaurant Adds Security Surcharge: Would You Pay?


A Waffle House in Atlanta is adding a 20% surcharge to diners’ bills to pay for private security at its Underground Atlanta location. The restaurant says it’s adding the fee, reports WIS-TV in Columbia, because it uses off-duty Atlanta police&nbsp officers and that “the extra security costs them $160,000 a year.”

The restaurant, it should come as no surprise, is in a “high-crime area.”

Is it fair to have your customers pay for extra security if you choose to locate your business in an unsafe area? That’s an interesting question.

On the one hand, every neighborhood, no matter how much crime is or isn’t present, needs businesses that provide jobs. Every neighborhood has people living there who are honest, want to work and need food.

On the other hand, there’s something sketchy to me about tacking on a surcharge for security. Especially when you base how much I pay for security on how big my bill is.

If I eat more than the average customer, thus racking up a higher bill and a higher security fee, shall I reasonably assume that the security guard will situate himself near my table, so that I’m more protected than someone who just comes in for a cup of coffee?

If you’re basing my security fee on how much business I do, I don’t consider that an unreasonable question.

I’d have a problem with the restaurant charging a flat fee — say, $3 per person, regardless of what they eat, but I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with it as a percentage based on my final bill. And when you charge me for security more than what you expect me to pay your underpaid wait staff, guess what might suffer if I’m already tight on funds and didn’t realize going in that you were going to add to my bill!

Thanks, but I think I’d just eat in a “safer” neighborhood. How about you?

Your Turn:
Would you agree to pay a “security fee” to eat in a restaurant in a seemingly unsafe part of town? Do you think it’s fair to expect customers to foot that bill, or should it be just another “cost of doing business” that should be incorporated into menu prices without regard to how much a customer buys?

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.


  • If I’m bold enough to venture in the unsafe part of town, I’m not going to pay for security once I get to my destination. Also, this Waffle House being a high crime area doesn’t mean that particular establishment is at risk. In fact, without knowing a whole lot about the place, I’d be willing to bet it hasn’t had a whole lot of incidents, and I don’t think the undercover cops get all the credit for that. Maybe they should be helping to fund some OT for beat cops to keep the rest of the neighborhood safer.

  • @BruceSallan @patricksplace And back then I saw a guy get the crap kicked out of him by a group of punks.

  • @BruceSallan @patricksplace No, I just wouldn’t go. I’m too old for the “Underground” anyway. Been 25 years since I was last there.

  • Just a thought, if you pay the security fee and you get mugged could you sue the restaurant? Because now they have created an expectation of being safe since you are paying them for your protection.

  • I didn’t live back in those days in the ’40s or ’50s or whenever it was when you’d pull into a gas station and four guys would jump out of nowhere to clean your windshield, put gas in your tank, and air in your tires. That must have been something. That must have been back when people were customers, not consumers, and perks were part of the service.
    Maybe this restaurant should add a fee for all the ingredients they have to buy for all the food they serve. If they pay for some other company to clean the restaurant on a regular basis, are they expected to pay for that themselves as well?
    Seriously though, it seems to me that companies used to incorporate their expenses into the fees they charged for the goods or services they provided, whereas now they separate expenses into surcharges just so they can point at their prices and say, “no, we don’t charge any more than our competitors do, the goods/products are still as cheap as ever, you’re just counting the surcharges”. Yes, I AM counting the surcharges, thank you very much.

    • Afterthought: it might be cheaper for them to just serve police officers with a considerable discount, so that the cops will come there out of their own accord.

  • I’m not sure what I think of this but I would hope there would be a better way to pay for security rather than such a high surcharge!  I think I’d eat in a safer neighborhood, as well.  After all, you might be safe in the restaurant but you still have to leave to go home…

  • @sbhsbh @patricksplace well we pay a waiters surcharge (service charge) so what next? A chefs charge? Electricity charge? Carpet charge?

    • @14thefrog Sad thing is, this “security surcharge” is even higher than the typical waiter’s surcharge.

  • My initial response was the same as Add the additional cost to the price of food. Then I realized that since this is a franchise, that probably isn’t a possibility. Given their situation, I understand why this restaurant is doing what it is doing, but I won’t patronize a restaurant with such a surcharge (completely disregarding the fact that I wouldn’t go to a restaurant in a bad neighborhood anyway).

    • TammyL Interesting point Tammy. I didn’t know this was a chain. Do all chain restaurants and stores have to keep their prices the same though? In, South Africa, prices vary from region to region. To me that makes sense, as the cost to transport goods is different. National specials are of course the same.

      • danielalex_book  I don’t know what their particular franchise agreement is, but most chains require the use of the same menus. There might be regional differences, I simply don’t know enough to answer.

      • danielalex_book TammyL I think prices probably do vary from location to location. One of the things nearly every national restaurant commercial adds is “At Participating Locations,” meaning some franchisees don’t choose to participate in every deal being advertised. That alone suggests that there’s variance from place to place.

  • Hmmm interesting post Patrick.
    I see where you are coming from with the unsafe location.
    I probably (well actually don’t) would eat at a restaurant that’s in an unsafe location.
    In addition, I don’t agree with a surcharge.
    It should just reflect in the price of the meals.
    When one goes to Game (Game are a chain store in South Africa who have recently been purchased by Wallmart), Game doesn’t add 20% to the bill for rent, 10% for electricity, etc.
    It’s all priced in.
    I feel the problem with the surcharge (and probably the reason they are doing it) is the prices are lower, encouraging customers to order more food.
    It’s only at the end that a customer can see just how much extra they are going to pay.
    In addition, 20% is really high!
    What kind of guards are these?
    Secret Service, willing to take a bullet for you?
    I doubt that…
    In South Africa, we have come up with a different solution (they call it a solution, I call it a problem): car guards.
    Car guards can be found just about anywhere where there are car, and instead of being paid they pay the shopping center or where ever to be there, and people who use the parking bays ‘tip’ the car guards.
    One of the problems with this system, and this happened recently, is the car guards and CCTV team, teamed up, tampered with video footage and got people to steal cars.
    Sneaky business…

    • danielalex_book The guards are essentially off-duty city cops. 
      I’m afraid there’s always going to be people who find a way to cheat the system, but I suspect that in this case, the primary fear is armed robbery inside the restaurant, not the parking lot; that’s generally why a restaurant would hire additional security.

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