Swiss cafes and restaurants ‘hike prices’ and add coronavirus surcharge

In order to cover the additional costs for the hygiene measures, some restaurants charge a coronavirus surcharge. Consumer protection groups also suspect hidden price increases.

Swiss cafes and restaurants 'hike prices' and add coronavirus surcharge
Some restaurants charge additional 'corona' fee. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Since the restaurants and bars have re-opened on May 11th, some venues are charging 2 francs per person as a contribution to the cost of the disinfectant and other protective measures required by the government, according to 20 Minuten. 

“We consider two francs per person to be a fair amount”, the manager of one Zurich restaurant told the newspaper.

The same practice exists in other parts of Switzerland as well. According to Lausanne’s daily newspaper, 24 Heures, two people reported that they “had to pay 2 francs per person as a contribution to the cost of hydroalcoholic lotion”. 

And in Ticino too a number of restaurants add an additional charge to the bill to offset the cost of protective measures.

But this practice is not illegal.

The Federal Price Supervisor, Stefan Meierhans, said that the free market principles and competition also apply in the catering sector. “The surcharges are not inadmissible”, he said.

He pointed out, however, that the restaurant must inform the customers of the surcharge and clearly indicate it on the bill.

If not informed ahead of time, the client has the right to refuse to pay the fee, according to consumer rights advocate Sara Stalder.

She said that the additional charge may actually backfire against the restaurant staff.

“With these add-ons, customers may waive the tip, which might have been higher than the surcharge”.

READ MORE: Swiss restaurateurs: Coronavirus rules in restaurants should be eased 

Stalder also said that some restauranteurs raise their prices in secret. “Customers will become aware of this increase if they notice that the price of their favourite dish has gone up.”

The hotel and restaurant association, GastroSuisse, makes no recommendations for or against the surcharges.

“Every owner is responsible for his own pricing,” GastroSuisse president Casimir Platzer told 20 Minuten.

“If they have to invest a lot of money in disinfectants and protective materials, they may have to adjust their prices”, he noted, adding that most restaurants in Switzerland don’t add on extra costs.

The restaurant sector is not the only one to add supplements for hygiene measures.

In a move that angered many clients, when hairdressers re-opened on April 27th, many started charging from 1 to 5 francs more to cover the cost of masks, disposable aprons and disinfectants used to prevent the spread of the virus. 


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REACTION: What do the Swiss think about the extended shutdown?

While some in Switzerland praised the government’s decision not to re-open restaurants on March 22nd, others expressed disappointment at extended closures.

REACTION: What do the Swiss think about the extended shutdown?
Restaurantds will remain shut for the time being. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Many in Switzerland were hoping restaurants would re-open on Monday, but the government decided to extend the closure until at least April 14th

“We must unfortunately continue to be patient”, Health Minister Alain Berset said at a press conference on Friday, adding that “we are simply trying to ensure we do not lose control”.

He pointed out that most neighbouring European countries were adding restrictions, not lifting them, “which is something we are trying to avoid.”

READ MORE: Switzerland to extend measures to fight Covid-19 ‘third wave’

The decision strongest sparked criticism from business associations.

“The disappointment of the hotel and restaurant industry is immense”, the sector’s umbrella group, Gastrosuisse, said in a statement.

“We hope that the Federal Council will finally adopt a reasonable approach to the pandemic. Otherwise, the restaurants probably won’t open at all”, said the group’s president, Casimir Platzer. 

That’s because “one in five establishments has already had to close its doors. And an additional 20 percent in the hotel and restaurant industry are about to do so”, he added. 

The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Directors of Health also disagrees with the government’s reluctance to fully re-open the economy.

“We regret that the Federal Council is easing much more cautiously than requested by many cantons,” the organisation said.

It particularly criticises the decision not to lift the home work obligation, or at least “the transition from the obligation to work at home to a recommendation to work at home”.

The association of business groups, Economiesuisse, partly understands the government’s decision, but also “regrets the maintenance of the obligation to work from home and the failure to open restaurant terraces”.

“Switzerland is paying the price for the delay in implementing a coherent screening strategy and in acquiring vaccines,” the group said.

Most political parties object to the decision as well.

For the Swiss People’s Party, “it is a slap in the face of the population, traders and businesses”.

Die Mitte / Le Centre Party “regrets that the Federal Council assesses the epidemiological situation, despite the change in strategy towards more screening and vaccination”.

As for the Liberal Party, “unfortunately, it appears that the Federal Council is not prepared to give real prospects to the population and to businesses”, it said in a press release. 

However, Liberal Greens praised the decision, saying “the Federal Council is showing firmness and responsibility”.

The Travail.Suisse trade union also considers the Federal Council’s decision “understandable, given the figures which have been on the rise in recent days. It is about remaining cautious”.

One government decision that is supported across the board is that 10 people are now allowed to gather together in private, up from five previously.

“It’s at least a little glimmer of hope as Easter approaches”, said Gerhard Pfister,  president of Die Mitte/ Le Centre Party.

READ MORE: Covid-19: What’s the outlook for Easter weekend in Switzerland?