"I'll have a side of bacon and a police escort with my waffle, please." That is the case for the Underground Waffle House in Atlanta. Waffle House guests began paying a 20% surcharge in December, but not for service, it is for police protection. Last week (Feb. 15), the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported the surcharge. This week, Waffle House lovers are responding, while Waffle House corporate offices remains silent.
Does this mean that restaurants will begin to operate like airlines? a surcharge for security? Or a table by the window (or away from it in this case?).
Violence is no stranger to Waffle House. Food writer, John Orzersky puts it this way in the January issue of Time, "The chain has been in the public eye more than usual recently, the result of an unfortunate spate of violent crimes that have taken place there. But where else are they going to take place? A large part of America lives at Waffle House."
The Underground Waffle House opened in 2009 in the heart of downtown Atlanta and according to locals sees a brisk business. But since the restaurant location is open 24/7, in a high-crime area, added security is needed. A spokesperson for the chain told the newspaper that the surcharge is mostly for crowd control in a high traffic area, and for late at night when most other businesses are closed.
Some diners interviewed were ambivalent to surcharge. In the Atlanta Journal Constitution story, the two woman interviewed who paid the surcharge said they don't mind paying more if it means they are safe. Other diners told CBS yesterday in this video they are not happy with the surcharge. Guest have walked out and even cussed out the staff.
It's no secret that the same item, from the same restaurant chain, in say Nebraska may have a lower price than in Manhattan. Food costs, staffing, rent and location all play a role in the final price on the menu. But to add an overt surcharge is pretty gutsy move for a budget-friendly restaurant chain. It adds new meaning to "selection & price may vary."