Harold's Chicken on Broadway in Chicago unleashed a wave of public backlash on social media last weekend after it slapped customers with a COVID-19 surcharge of 26%.
Restaurant manager Jacquelyn Santana told CBS Chicago that food suppliers raised wholesale chicken prices by 26% on Saturday "due to the COVID pandemic." She said a case of chicken wings that generally cost $60, jumped overnight to $90, forcing the wing shop to pass on the costs.
“We’re trying to keep other employees employed, including myself. We are just opening up so we really need to be able to makes ends meet,” Santana said.
She said the surcharge was dropped on Sunday after people bashed her store on social media for raising prices.
"We’re actually trying to figure out how else we can make up for those losses that we’ve had so far,” said Santana.
She said workers have already seen their hours reduced to keep the lights on during the quarantine. It appears cost-cutting measures are limited for the store manager at this time.
A receipt from Harold's shows a "Chicago City Tax 10.25%" and "Covid 19 26%" tax -- add that all up, and one customer was taxed 36.25% for a box of wings. People on Facebook were furious, and they said: "shame on you!!!!," "Unbelievable," and "crooks."
In Santana's defense, she needs to familiarize herself with the evolving situation at meat processing plants that have resulted in soaring food inflation to justify better why she passed the costs.
For example, spot beef prices quoted via USDA show an exponential rise during the pandemic.
The public must also be informed about the crisis is processing and how some restaurants or corner shops might not be able to eat the costs. To jog everyone's memory, more than a dozen top meat processing plants closed in the last several months due to workers contracting the virus, and other plants significantly reduced output as labor shortages developed.
US poultry production slumps as processors are hit with labor shortages.
A plunging in processing sparked soaring meat prices, with restaurants already battered by lockdowns, it seems, in at least one case, a jump in wholesale prices cannot be absorbed but instead passed along to consumers