Jon Taffer Says California Should ‘Get Used to the $30 Burger’

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Mar 13, 2024

“Bar Rescue” host Jon Taffer has criticized California for passing new laws that target the restaurant business. According to Taffer, they shouldn’t have even gotten involved in how restaurants work.

Now, Taffer believes that many restaurants in California will have very high menu prices. This could lead to residents throughout the Golden State having to deal with paying as much as $30 for a hamburger.

California’s New Laws

California has already passed legislation that has impacted some eateries around the state. For the past few years, California’s lawmakers have worked on the FAST Act. The FAST Act is a bill that requires all fast-food chains in the state to pay their employees at least $20 an hour.

An aerial view of a street lined with cars and houses in California, by palm trees, and underneath a clear blue sky.

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This law will officially go into effect on April 1, 2024. However, fast food chains aren’t the only places affected by a new California law.


California Targets Restaurant Fees

California’s latest new law goes after “junk fees”. In October 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom successfully signed into law a bill that bans service fees and hidden costs.

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These junk fees are often seen at food restaurants, hotels, bars, some delivery apps, and throughout the entertainment industry. The new bill will go into effect on July 1, 2024.

Restaurant Owners Slam Law

This new junk fee law has resulted in various reactions. Many restaurant owners throughout the state have slammed the law. According to these owners, banning fees will harm their overall business.

A close-up view of condiments and items, such as Tabasco sauce and napkins, on a California diner table.

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They say that if they can’t charge these fees, then they will have to raise their menu and food prices. California residents could then see a surge in menu prices once the law goes into effect.

Consumers Champion the Law

While some restaurant owners don’t like this new legislation, many California consumers do. For years now, consumers have been frustrated when paying at a restaurant or when trying to buy concert tickets.

Two people talking while the focus is on a worker at a California eatery in the background.

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This frustration has occurred because they’ve often been surprised to see their total cost instantly skyrocket when checking out — all because of fees they weren’t aware of. Therefore, many consumers are happy with this new law.

The New Law Won’t Target all Service Fees

While various opinions have been formed since the passing of California’s new junk fee law, the legislation doesn’t completely ban all forms of service fees conducted at restaurants.

A window that says a California cafe is open for business.

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According to the law, service fees can still exist — but they must be disclosed. They cannot be hidden. Consumers must clearly be aware of these fees upon ordering.


Jon Taffer’s Opinion

“Bar Rescue” host and executive producer Jon Taffer has also recently voiced his opinion on California’s new law. While on Fox Business, he opened up about why he thinks California should’ve steered clear of ever getting involved with the restaurant business.

Jon Taffer speaking in front of a podium and a microphone while wearing a suit.

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According to Taffer, many restaurant owners only add on fees because they don’t want to raise menu items’ prices. Now, however, they may not have a choice.


Why Fees Exist at Restaurants

“A lot of restaurants have said, ‘I don’t want to raise menu prices, [so] I’m going to add some surcharges,’” Taffer said. “[Or], ‘I’m going to put a $2 surcharge on every [menu] item to cover my increased energy or food cost, [or] I’m going to put a $1 surcharge on there to cover my increased employee medical insurance costs.’”

Many people eating inside and outside of a Malibu, California restaurant.

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Taffer explained that this was why restaurants have recently resorted to hidden fees and surcharges.


Taffer Called Out California

While discussing why many restaurant business owners use surcharges or hidden fees, Taffer also took the time to publicly call out the Golden State for their new law.

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“I don’t believe that the state of California should be involved in the way that we go about doing our business,” Taffer explained.


Consumers May Pay More for Food

Taffer also took the time to talk about how eating out has begun to cost so much for many consumers in California — and around the United States. Because of this increase in food prices, and because of California’s new legislation, Taffer believes consumers may get used to paying more for food.

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“The consumer is starting, dare I say, to get used to the $30 hamburger,” he said.


Inflation Still Hurts Eating Out

Taffer also explained that inflation has raised the price of food items. This has subsequently raised the price of menu items in restaurants around the United States. Things that consumers used to pay a small amount for are becoming expensive.

A cafe building in San Francisco underneath a clear blue sky during sunrise.

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“Prices are incredibly high now — a hamburger in some markets cost what a steak used to cost,” Taffer stated.


Differing Opinions on Surcharges

Though Taffer believes that restaurant owners should be the ones deciding whether or not to use hidden fees, he has admitted that he doesn’t enact this policy at his own restaurants. Instead, when he needs to raise prices, he raises the menu item prices.

An up-close view of a California cafe window with curtains.

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“For Taffer’s Tavern, we chose not to go with surcharges, we just dropped it onto the menu charges,” he explained.