So, I’m reading this LA Times piece that Andy Wang shared* about Healthy San Francisco. At first I just got all mad and vowed to smash The Times for being naive enough to poke their nose in my market.

Then I got to the part where they talk to Jennifer Piallat, who owns Cole Valley restaurant Zazie. As opposed to raising overall prices to help cover their employer mandate, Piallat tacked a straight up $1 surcharge on the menu. (I don’t think they’re the only ones who do this, but it’s been so long since I could afford to go out to eat I can’t remember. Do you guys know who else does this?)

Though her customers have largely taken it in stride, one woman demanded an audience so she could say how “truly offended” she was “that I have to pay a dollar to subsidize your employees’ healthcare,” Piallat recounted recently.

Piallat’s response? “While we’re being honest, I’m offended that you’re wearing a 4-carat diamond and complaining about a dollar.”

For (and we must admit to bias here, as several of our staff are on HSF and adore it) or against our local health care program, Jennifer Piallat sounds like sort of a badass, able to size up gemstones and make vaguely commie remarks all while refilling your coffee.

*look at me, name dropping with whom I share items in Google Reader. I am such a turd.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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  • bloomsm

    Zazie is the best (try the tuna nicoise…mmmm…). However, I would prefer that business owners keep the costs of doing business to themselves. I think those healthcare fees are purposely shown on bills so that members of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association can use public pressure to lobby against a healthcare mandate. The GGRA is actively pursuing litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the healthcare mandate. Do I need an itemized restaurant bill? No thanks. I might be equally disgusted about the obnoxious mark-up on wine. Must I be reminded of the healthcare crisis while I’m out relaxing, trying to have an evening out? No thanks. Not every moment has to be “teachable”. I’m there for the dinner, not the morality play. The diamond-studded diner in your story proves the point: a nice meal ends with an argument because the restaurant has to tell us what it pays for healthcare.

  • antfaber

    There have been a couple of restaurants that have quit the GGRA in protest over the lawsuit. If Zazie’s owner were really rad, she’s join them.

  • Eve Batey

    How’s this? Rad enough for ya?

  • Tim Ehhalt

    Agree regarding the Tuna Nicoise.

  • kl2real

    I can’t afford to eat out much lately, either. However, I’ve stopped going to restaurants that add a service charge (percent or flat fee) for health care. Can you imagine if every business itemized this cost of business? It’s tasteless and offensive. Pony up and pay your share, just like every other business out there. Raise your prices and charge an honest price for an honest meal. Since I ain’t wearing jewelry, I don’t mind saying Piallat comes off as a real, well, you know.

    Zazie is crossed off the list; Tuna Nicoise be damned!

  • cedichou

    I’m with kl2real there, all the surcharges really piss me off, and she would not have had the discussion with that diamond lady in the first place if she increased prices for appetizers and entrees each by 50 cents.

  • Greg Dewar

    Now, I get it, the surcharge is kind of an FU to the Healthy SF program…I mean, wouldn’t they just include that dollar in the prices and be done with it?

    However, Zazie also gave the Big FU to the GGRA, no easy task, and the fact they’re calling bullshit on an upscale neighborhood clientele who actively says “Fuck your employees’ health care” is fine with me.

    the surcharge thing could get stupid fast. I mean why not at “surcharge” for complying with the recycling/composting thing? or or or or…?

    that said, San Francisco you voted for this stuff you say you’re liberal and stuff, now pay for it. There’s no free lunch.

    (PS: zazie croque Monsieur ftw)

  • Jen Piallat

    Hi everyone– a little early morning google unveiled this page, and I’m so glad to have found it! Thought I’d throw in my two cents. Basically, I agree with all of you! I think it’s in poor taste to have the cost of business tacked onto a bill- so why do I do it? Our prices have topped out, honestly… there’s only so much people will pay for eggs before saying, wow, that place is freakin’ expensive. This cost wasn’t like most (for instance, SF charges me separate taxes for every table and chair… and for employing San Franciscans… and for having candles… it goes on and on). Health insurance for 32 people is really expensive! Average of $108,000/ year which is basically what we in the restaurant biz call “The Profits” on a good year. Increasing menu prices often backfires because people just order less, start splitting things, or start judging you as too expensive. Remember that our SF minimum wage goes up every January, and I don’t raise prices to absorb that, so basically that pesky thing called “The Profits” just keeps taking a hit. If I’d absorbed health care, we’d have been out of business within two years. No more eggs would be a sad state of affairs.

    And… Hey, Eve! I recognise you :). Thanks for the support- you are, indeed, RAD.