'Business support fee' chopped at Calgary Brazilian steakhouse amid backlash, threats
'We just wanted to be more transparent in the decision,' says owner Carolina Lopez
A Calgary restaurant owner has removed a fee added to customers' bills in an experiment that attracted a great deal of public feedback — mostly negative.
Carolina Lopez owns Minas Brazilian Steakhouse on 2nd Street S.W.
The restaurant added the "small business support fee" to bills on Oct. 1, to help cover the rising provincial minimum wage, which had just come into effect. Minimum wage in Alberta is now $13.60 per hour and will rise to $15 an hour next year.
Lopez said the four per cent fee was always optional for customers and was added to bills on a trial basis, one that only lasted a week as she removed the fee last weekend.
"We got to the point that the negative feedback could have put at risk the business and the people who work here," Lopez told CBC News.
While many people who reached out did have positive feedback and pointers for Lopez, she said she was forced to rethink the fee when negative criticism crossed the line into what she considered to be threats to her business and staff.
The backlash was also being dealt with primarily by her staff, which bothered her as well, she said.
"We definitely thought that we were going to get ideas, and we did," she said. "We did receive direct emails mentioning their support, and some tweaks that would have made how people received the news a little bit better. And of course, very many negative ones. But the ones that we received positively have definitely helped us."
Even though the fee has been done away with, Lopez said she is still stuck looking at what alternative course she will now take to cover rising costs.
"We just wanted to be more transparent in the decision and just raise awareness maybe about how hard it is to operate a small business," she said.