New charge on dinner tab is in bad taste

The latest hidden mandatory add-on is a “health” charge added to restaurant bills. This scam cropped up first in San Francisco, but you can count on it to spread.

Chicago Tribune – By Ed Perkins

Nothing succeeds in the travel industry like a bad idea. The latest hidden mandatory add-on is a “health” charge added to restaurant bills. As far as I know, this scam cropped up first in San Francisco, but you can count on it to spread.

The rationale for this one is to cover the employers’ mandatory contribution to the City’s “Healthy San Francisco” health-coverage system. The charge actually is levied on employers, but at least some restaurants are adding a few dollars or percentage points to each customer’s bill to cover this charge.

The restaurants’ excuse for assessing this charge separately is to let customers know how much they’re paying for employees’ health coverage. That’s the same excuse hotels use when they add “resort” or “housekeeping” fees to unsuspecting guests’ room bills. It’s the same excuse airlines would use to exclude fuel surcharges from their advertised fares if the Department of Transportation would allow them. And it’s sheer nonsense. Employees’ health insurance is no less of a cost of doing business than rent, property taxes, food costs, security services and all the other inputs businesses require to operate. To single out health care for a separate surcharge is unwarranted.

The restaurants adding this fee self-righteously proclaim, “It’s not hidden; we print a notice on our menus.” But that, too, is nonsense: Presumably, restaurants could apply that same rationale for extra fees to cover the cost of electricity, heat or linen service. I haven’t seen any reports yet that San Francisco hotels are adding a similar charge. But hotels aren’t shy about piling on other fees and charges.

So far, I haven’t heard of “health” fees anywhere other than San Francisco. But, as noted, bad ideas travel fast, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it copied in one form or another by restaurants in other areas.

What can you do to avoid this fee? Presumably, not many of you would feel strongly enough about this minor scam to get up and walk out of a restaurant the minute you saw a notice about such a fee. And you probably wouldn’t feel like making a fuss when you’re paying your bill, either. But when you leave, you can certainly let the restaurant know that you resent this deception and that you won’t be returning…

About Hooters…

Hooters chain seeks buyer; could fetch $250M

New York Post – By JAMES COVERT

Hooters is rattling its cans on Wall Street.

The Atlanta-based “breast-aurant” chain — famous for the scantily clad waitresses who serve up its burgers and spicy wings — is beckoning prospective buyers, sources told The Post.

Hooters has recently shopped itself to a number of private-equity firms as sales have sagged with the recession, sources said. The closely held company, meanwhile, is in advanced talks with a Connecticut-based investor that has been granted certain rights of refusal on any potential transaction, according to one source.

An asking price couldn’t be learned, and North Point Advisors, a San Francisco-based investment bank that Hooters has hired, didn’t respond to requests for comment. A Hooters spokeswoman couldn’t be reached yesterday.

Some analysts estimate the chain might fetch more than $250 million despite the bumpy business climate. Hooters’ 450 owned and franchised restaurants, which are as far-flung as Australia and China, racked up more than $1 billion in sales in 2008, according to Technomic, a food-industry research firm.

Nevertheless, insiders said Hooters appears to be strapped financially. The chain’s comparable sales lately have suffered steep declines, according to one source, as the hobbled economy has deflated appetites for Hooters’ burgers-and-babes fare.

If an upcoming episode of the CBS reality show “Undercover Boss” is any indication, there may be management issues, too. In an episode slated to run Sunday, CEO Coby Brooks discovers a restaurant supervisor staging an eating contest for female employees, forcing them to bury their faces in platefuls of food without using their hands.

“Ladies, if you want to leave early today, you’re going to play my reindeer game,” the manager says, howling “Hoooo, doggie!” as the women eat.

To make matters worse, Brooks has had to repair damage from ill-advised side ventures initiated by his controversial father Robert Brooks, who died in 2006 after being part of a group that co-founded the firm in 1983.

Not least among them was Hooters Air, a passenger airline that was grounded in 2006 after a three-year effort to elevate the chain’s “hotties-in-tight-T-shirts” concept to the skies.

Insiders speculated that the bad fortunes of the Hooters Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas likewise might be a factor. The resort’s operations aren’t connected with Hooters, to which it pays a royalty fee for the use of its name. But the Las Vegas development was recently in default on $144.5 million in long-term debt as its losses widened and revenue plunged amid dwindling occupancy. Key creditors include investment vehicles owned by Hooters’ founders.

On the bright side, Hooters’ choice to seek a buyer now could signal that the restaurant industry has found a bottom, said Brad Ludington, an analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets.

France: Halal Takes Over

The Business Journal – From the Desk of Tiberge

In his weekly newsletter, available through subscription, Yves Daoudal discusses the implications of the decision by Quick, a French chain of hamburger restaurants, to serve halal meat in its restaurants. His is one of several recent articles that are focusing on the growing presence of halal foods everywhere in France, and the danger that very soon French people will be eating halal without knowing it, if that is not already the case.

I posted an article on Quick several weeks ago, but at the time I did not think it was a major news event, since halal is not a new phenomenon in France. But apparently the French are suddenly more aware of what the Islamization of their country really means, in terms of altering their traditional eating habits, and interfering in their daily lives to an intolerable extent.

Both Polemia and Riposte Laïque have published articles, and Marine Le Pen, appearing on French television, has been an outspoken critic of Quick, condemning in particular the tax the French people have to pay for halal, even if the taxpayers do not eat halal.

In his article Yves Daoudal refers to ETHIC, a management association founded in 1975 for the purpose of instilling in business leaders a sense of ethical responsibility and a value system based on that of socially conscious Catholics. Recently, ETHIC has vigorously defended Quick’s decision to serve halal food, declaring:

“This choice results quite simply from the encounter between supply and demand, and from a marketing decision. Whether this choice is in response to a particular taste, to the success of a foreign specialty, or to a cultural or religious tradition, it stems from the freedom to run a business. It is senseless to try to tell a merchant what he can and cannot sell. To raise an outcry over halal is extremely discriminatory.”

Daoudal points to the abandonment by ETHIC of its principles:

Today, it seems as if ETHIC is nothing more than a spokesman for free enterprise, pure and simple, combined with the “anti-racist” dogma. Reality is turned upside down, in the name of free enterprise. You are now free to do whatever you want, if you derive a profit from it, with no concern whatsoever about the common good.

Paradoxically, the Socialists, who in theory are opposed to the free enterprise philosophy, agree with ETHIC. The flamboyant Socialist Arnaud Montebourg has said

“Quick is not a public service. Quick is a private business that does what it wants with its products. No one is forced to eat at Quick.”

Neither ETHIC nor Arnaud Montebourg has the faintest impulse to reflect on the implications of Quick’s decision – if many potential customers are Muslims, let’s have a Muslim Quick. A Quick that admits non-Muslims on the condition that they bend to sharia law and that they too pay the tax on halal food that contributes to the construction of mosques and the spread of Islam.

It never occurs to them that when the process of Islamization, that Quick is contributing to in order to increase profits, is completed, we will be in a society where there is no longer any freedom at all. Free enterprise is thus the forerunner of Islam.

Naturally, the declaration by ETHIC was welcomed by the Muslim authorities. Dalil Boubakeur, the grand mufti of the Paris Mosque, reiterated the statement word for word: “There is nothing wrong with a business that chooses a market that appears to be economically in expansion. This is about free enterprise and the evolution of society. It is up to the company to decide what goods to offer the public.”

Ethical business leaders, the head of the Grand Mosque of Paris and the national secretary of the Socialist Party in charge of renewal, are all in perfect agreement. In the name of freedom, Islam must be imposed.

Another article from Polemia, also posted at Novopress, offers a lengthy exposé of the growth of halal in France over the past several decades. Due to the length of the article I can only give some excerpts:

In France, the consuming of halal foods, prepared according to Muslim religious procedures, was marginal until the early 1990’s. In his book l’Islam de marché (Commercializing Islam), Patrick Haenni notes that a few decades ago, the pious Muslim had to go hundreds of kilometers to buy meats he felt were appropriate.

Today it is the opposite. Many Frenchmen have to travel far to find authentic French foods.

Today halal is a three billion euro business in France. First, the butcher shops and ethnic grocers, then the larger multinational agribusinesses and finally the major outlets such as Carrefour, Auchan and Leclerc participated in this expansion.

According to Florence Bergeaud-Blackler, a sociologist at the University of Aix-Marseille, it is the third generation of North and sub-Saharan African immigrants that is promoting halal. They have a “very strong attachment, paradoxically even stronger than that of their parents”, for halal foods. Hassan Bouod, manager of an agribusiness in Marseilles, agrees: “Our young people are very proud of buying halal foods and want to consume this kind of meat, it’s psychological.”

The explosion of the demand for halal products is more proof, not of a successful integration into French society of Arabo-Muslim populations, but, rather of the return to the practices of the home country. But this re-rooting is not without problems: Like the Ramadan fast, the promotion of halal foods is no longer confined to the private sphere; rather it is extending into the public space, for two reasons: commercial interests and political pressures.

In an effort to make halal production profitable, producers are tempted to make everyone eat halal. Halal slaughterhouses must fulfill the following rules: the animal must be slit open while alive, without stunning, its head turned toward Mecca, by a certified practitioner. In order to avoid the added expense of two separate methods of slaughter (halal and “classic”) it is often easier to distribute halal meats in the “classic” market, without warning the consumer. This is widely practiced for poultry and lamb: the secular or Catholic consumer thus is financing, unknowingly and unwillingly, the spread of Islam in France…

Related Link:

TIME: Halal Burgers? Another French Brouhaha Over Islam

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