Restaurant Charges Customers to Provide Health Insurance

By: Georgia | Published: Jan 17, 2024

In Atlanta, Georgia, JenChan’s, a family-run restaurant, is gaining attention for a unique policy.

Opened just six months before the pandemic, this establishment is now in the spotlight for adding a health insurance fee to customer bills. The aim of this charge is to assist the full-time staff of the restaurant with their health insurance needs.

The Health Insurance Fee Explained

The Daily Mail reports that when dining at JenChan’s, customers will find a 4% health insurance charge on their bills. This initiative, as explained by the restaurant, was introduced after the health insurance premiums for their staff more than tripled.

Close-up of a medical professional in a white coat standing with arms crossed. The person is holding a stethoscope in one hand, which is draped over the forearm. The background is a dark, solid color

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The restaurant has communicated this clearly to patrons, stating, “On your receipt, you will notice 4% health insurance we implemented after our premiums more than tripled last year,” emphasizing their commitment to staff well-being.

The Financial Impact on Employees

The implementation of the health insurance charge has had a tangible financial impact on JenChan’s staff.

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Emily Chan, the owner of JenChan’s, explained to Atlanta News First: “We’ve only done this for a year and a half, right? So, at the end of last year, we were able to cut a very small check, because that was it. There wasn’t a lot left over, but there was a little bit, to the employees who were on health insurance. well, this year, it covered every single thing, and it was $2,000 off, which means that 4% is just like it’s almost the perfect amount of money to cover everyone’s premiums.”

Addressing the Health Insurance Challenge

The health insurance fee at JenChan’s was introduced as a reaction to a wider crisis in health insurance affordability.

Cropped image of a person in blue medical scrubs with a blue stethoscope hanging around the neck. The stethoscope's chest piece is positioned at the center of the chest, and the person's arms are down at their sides

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“We feel like there’s a pretty huge crisis going on with health insurance. No one can afford it. Nothing has worked,” Chan told Atlanta News First.

The Backlash: Threats Over the Fee

However, this initiative has not been without controversy. The restaurant faced backlash, including online threats, particularly from a customer disgruntled over paying an additional $2.

A screenshot of a Facebook comment underneath a photo reading “I’ve never seen a family that needs to be beaten up more, make that Healthcare come in handy.”

Source: JenChan’s/Facebook

“They ate food here, dined in and said nothing while they were here and went online to spill some nastiness about not just the health insurance but physically threatening Emily and Jen and their kid online,” Sam Hammer, the lead bartender, shared with Atlanta News First.

Attempting Resolution

The Daily Mail reports that in an effort to de-escalate the situation, JenChan’s refunded the entire bill of the customer who made the threats.

A close-up, blurred photo of a person's hands holding a bill at a restaurant. The focus is on the hands and the bill, with the text on the bill not being legible due to the shallow depth of field

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The restaurant explained in a statement on Facebook, “We refunded your entire bill over that $2 in hopes that we can move on from this and maybe you will remove whatever post is invoking people to flood our site, Google, and Yelp, and our inbox with misinformation.”


A Lifeline for Employees

From the employees’ perspective, this initiative has been crucial. Hammer, who joined the restaurant in 2022, shared his personal story with Atlanta News First.

A chef wearing a striped apron and disposable gloves is plating food in a busy kitchen. The chef is using tongs to carefully place ingredients onto several white plates that are lined up on a counter

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“I don’t have money like that, and so I was just living my life without it, and finally found this job randomly. And I fell in love with the people and the place and because of them, I’m able to have health insurance. It’s a special thing. It’s not an industry standard at all,” he said.


Customer Support for the Initiative

Despite some criticism, many customers have expressed their support for JenChan’s policy.

A group of friends are seated at a restaurant table, enjoying a variety of dishes. A woman in the foreground is smiling as she bites into a sandwich, with others in the background engaged in eating and conversation. The table is full of diverse plates, including salads and pasta, with glasses of red and white wine

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Emily Chan reports a positive reaction from patrons who understand the rarity of health insurance in this sector: “It’s been pretty awesome, and we’ve been really busy this weekend just people saying, ‘Hey, I hear what you’re doing for your employees. I work in the restaurant industry, and we never had health insurance.'”


Local Community's Positive Response

In the Cabbagetown community, the response to JenChan’s health insurance charge has been largely positive.

Aerial view of downtown Atlanta, showcasing a mix of high-rise buildings and greenery under a cloudy sky

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“The locals in Cabbagetown were like, this is dope. We have no problem paying a little extra couple of dollars,” Hammer told Atlanta News First.


Sparking a Broader Conversation

Chan shared her hope that JenChan’s policy will spark wider discussions in the restaurant industry.

Inside a restaurant with modern decor, tables are set neatly with glasses and cutlery. In the background, a staff member is adjusting the settings on a table. Large windows offer a view of the city and a boat

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“I want people to talk about this. That’s why we have it as a line item, is because I feel like it’s worth a conversation. There’s an issue,” she expressed to Atlanta News First.


Commitment to Maintaining the Policy

Despite receiving some backlash, Chan is determined to continue with the health insurance charge.

A bustling restaurant scene with a long table where multiple guests are seated and engaged in eating and conversation

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Speaking to Atlanta Daily News, she said: “Not changing a thing. The only thing I would change is if Congress does something, then I can just take that line item off completely and not even worry about it.”


Potential Influence on the Industry

JenChan’s initiative has potential to influence other companies in the restaurant industry. By implementing a health insurance charge and receiving community support, the restaurant sets an example for others.

A chef's hand is captured in the act of sprinkling salt over a dish consisting of a fish fillet topped with a fresh green salad, set against a white plate with a vibrant red sauce. The chef is holding a white cloth in the other hand

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This action may inspire similar moves by other establishments, possibly leading to a shift in how the industry addresses employee health benefits.